Sunday, May 31, 2009

Plan Now For Future Genealogy Research

I really like when the large records sites like Ancestry announce their upcoming projects because it gives us a chance to do a little advance planning for our genealogy research.

Here's a list of record collections that Ancestry recently announced will be coming soon:

WWII Draft Registration Cards
Expected Launch: Just launched
Est. Name Count: 450k
Est. Image Count: 2m
Description: Adding draft cards for the state of Illinois. This is more of the Fourth Registration or "Old Man's Draft."

Alabama State Census, 1820, 1850, 1855, 1866
Expected Launch: Just launched
Est. Name Count: 1.8m
Est. Image Count: 61k
Description: This is a World Archives Project. Four census years, three before the Civil War, one just after.

1890 Census Improved
Expected Launch: Next week (end of May)
Est. Name Count: 6,000
Est. Image Count: 2,400
Description: First in series of monthly census updates. By the end of the year we will have 1790 to 1900 updated.

Addition of over 50 cities added to the U.S. Historical Newspapers Collection
Expected Launch: Next week (end of May)
Est. Name Count: 100’s of Millions
Est. Image Count: Over 5 Million
Description: Papers from over 50 new cities will be added. The full-text index and Advanced Image Viewer deliver highlighted search hits on every page.

Multiple Canadian Census Years
Expected Launch: June
Description: If you have Canadian roots you are going to love June.

Early City Directories
Expected Launch: June
Est. Name Count: 10 million
Est. Image Count: 280,000
Description: A large collection of city directories many before the 1850’s. This is a great historic collection that can complement and in many cases actually augment your census research.

Fun School Yearbooks
Expected Launch: June
Est. Name Count: 2 million
Est. Image Count: 266,000
Description: A large addition to our school yearbooks collection. Finding an ancestor in these books not only reveals fun pictures, they also often tell a story about their life, their times and their friends.

Want to get all the latest Genealogy Gems news first? Sign up for my free e-newsletter which will give you the latest news, podcast episodes & videos as well as my favorite "genealogy gem" research tips and websites.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

11 New Indexing Project at FamilySearch

FamilySearch added eleven new indexing projects this week—most international (Argentina, Canada, and France). Five of the projects are birth, marriage, and death records for France.

They are:
· Argentina Censo 1869—Jujuy Salta Tucuman
· Canada, British Columbia Births, 1854–1903
· France, Paroisses de Cherbourg, 1802–1907
· France, Paroisses de Saint-Lo, 1802–1907
· France, Paroisses de Coutances, 1802–1907
· France Registres Protestants, 1612–1906 [Part 1]
· France Registres Protestants, 1612–1906 [Part 2]
· Indiana, Blackford County Marriages 1811–1959
· North Dakota—1920 U.S. Federal Census
· Ohio Tax Records—3 of 4, Post 1825
· South Carolina—1920 U.S. Federal Census

Friday, May 22, 2009

Stephen Danko Has The Answers For You

Have you ever noticed small hand written numbers on the names of your ancestors on passenger lists from the early 20th century? They often go unnoticed along with the other tick marks and cross outs we commonly see on these documents. But those numbers - which somewhat resemble social security numbers - have meaning all their own. And Stephen Danko has the answers.

Genealogy Blogger and Lecturer Stephen Danko is my very special guest for a two part Immigration and Naturalization series on my podcast Family History: Genealogy Made Easy.

After giving a terrific presentation to my local genealogy society, Stephen and I headed out for a wonderful Italian lunch, and followed it up with an indepth interview on tracking down and utilizing some of my favorite genealogical records.

Stephen explains the meaning behind those cryptic passenger list numbers along with just about everything else you need to know about these rich resources.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Lincoln Letter Returned to the People

National Archives Celebrates Homecoming of Long-Lost Lincoln Letter

A ceremony at which a donor will present to the National Archives an original letter written by Abraham Lincoln in 1863. This letter, in President Lincoln's own hand on Executive Mansion letterhead, was originally part of the Records of the U.S. Treasury.
At some point in time prior to when the records came to the National Archives, half of the letter containing the substance of President Lincoln's letter was torn from the volume and ended up in private hands. The donor, who is a private collector, is giving this letter to the National Archives.

With the exception of the half that remained in a volume at the National Archives, the contents of the letter have not been available to scholars or the general public. This will be the first time that the letter will be available to the media.

Archivist's Reception Room, Room 105
National Archives and Records Administration
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
9:30 A.M.
Thursday, May 28, 2009

Say It Ain't So, NBC

Yep, that's right. The new genealogy themed television series did not make the Fall 2009 lineup according to NBC. It is still on the hook for as a mid-season replacement.

'Nuff said.

A Lifetime of Home Movies On One DVD?

Several years ago I inherited a box of home movies that my grandparents shot. I scurried over to Ebay and picked up an old Kodak projector that could show them. It was exciting to see images flickering on the screen that I hadn't seen for decades.

But practicality dictated that they be converted to an updated format that could be more easily viewed. Back then it was a VHS tape, and that conversion was VERY expensive!

But today the VHS tape has already lost some of it's quality, and so the next step is to get them digitized. But even then it would take many DVDs to hold the dozens of hours of footage.

Well, hope may be on the horizon: the Nature journal has just reported that researchers have developed a new optical recording method that could make it possible for new data discs to hold 300 times the storage capacity as a standard DVD.

The new "five-dimensional" recording could find it's way to the commercial market offering us 1.6 terabytes (not mega, not Giga, but Tera!) of storage space on one DVD.

Read more about what researchers are up to at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fashion and Genealogy Rubbed Elbows in Raleigh

This last week, the News & Observer published an article reporting on the recent National Genealogical Society conference in Raleigh, NC.

It seems what caught the Raleigh paper's attention most was not the genealogical education opportunities or exhibit hall vendors, but rather the very unusual mix of visitors at the Raleigh Convention Center. The Raleigh Fashion Week event was being held upstairs while genealogists gathered on the lower floors.

My friend and fellow board member at my local genealogy society, Dorothy Stanton, was quoted in the article when asked if she had noticed the fashion folks said, "I did see a lot of young people walking around that didn't look like they belonged to our group."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jerry Seinfeld Among Ellis Island Heritage Award

Comedy, football and music are just some of the contributions made by immigrants and their descendants to the American landscape. And tomorrow, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. will be celebrating the efforts of some well-known figures have have made a major contribution to the American experience.

This years recipients of the Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards are:
Quarterback Joe Namath
Nobel laureate Dr. Eric R. Kandel
Comedian and producer Jerry Seinfeld
Music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan

The awards will be presented Tuesday, May 19, 2009 in the Great Hall at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Candice Bergen, Emmy and Golden Globe-winning actress, will serve as Host.

The Foundation’s database of ship’s passenger arrivals are available at the American Family Immigration History Center® and online at and include the arrivals of 25 million immigrants, travelers and crew members who came through America’s Golden Door and the Port of New York between 1892-1924.

Visit the website for more information on the Awards.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What Advice Would You Give?

I received the following article written by the author of a new book called Annie's Ghosts. The article is an interesting look into the mind of a non-genealogist.

What do you think about his interaction with the genealogist he looks to for help? What do you think about his reluctance to post his family tree due to it's "broken branches?" What advice would you give someone in his shoes?

Genealogy for the rest of us
A writer's guide to diving into family history
By Steve Luxenberg,
Author of Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret

I am not a genealogist. I am a storyteller.

The difference? Well, I’ll tell you a story.

In the spring of 2006, I was racing against a loudly-ticking generational clock, trying to find as many living relatives as I possibly could before their advancing age caught up with them. I was hoping that they could shed light on a long-ago family secret, one that my mother had created in the early 1940s and kept throughout her life. She had hidden the existence of a disabled sister who had been institutionalized for 30 years. Mom had died in 1999, her secret more or less intact. I was researching a book on her motivations for keeping the secret, and the consequences to her and those around her.

My working hypothesis: I had relatives I had never met, and I wondered whether their descendants might have some knowledge of my unknown secret aunt. Perhaps a bit of family folklore had traveled down their branch that had never made it down mine.

I had the beginnings of a family tree on my dad's side, courtesy of a cousin who had emailed me a version, but none on my mom's side. So I started to construct one, but got no farther than I had in junior high school, when an enterprising teacher had assigned us to create family trees for a class project. When I had asked Mom back then for the names of my grandmother's parents and siblings, she had just shrugged. That was the old country, she told me, as if that explained everything instead of nothing. Mom, born in the United States, professed no knowledge of my grandparents' early life in Russia or Ukraine or Poland (it was a mystery to me then), or whatever part of Eastern Europe we once called home.

According to a medical record that I had obtained, my grandmother was one of 10 children. I knew none of them. I knew none of their descendants. I just needed one name, and then I could pursue the genealogical trail, perhaps to someone alive, but if not, perhaps to a document, or a photo or some other clue that might lead me deeper into the story of Mom's secret.

Through painstaking work with passenger manifests, I had managed to learn the likely spellings of my grandparents' last names when they left Russia before the first world war. They were born in a small town near the old Austro-Hungarian border, a town that had changed hands several times in the course of the 20th century. Did the town's birth and marriage records still exist? If they did, would they yield the information I needed to trace the living descendants of my grandmother's nine brothers and sisters?

I consulted a genealogist with experience in obtaining records from the archives of Eastern European countries. He gave me a crash course in what I needed to do. The more he explained, the more daunting it sounded -- and the more expensive. He suggested that I purchase every record with any connection to the family names I already knew.

Worried that I would be overwhelmed with information, I asked whether it would be better to start with the smattering of the records that seemed most relevant. "I'm not a genealogist," I told him. "I'm not trying to build a family tree. I'm writing a book, and I'm trying to find out the things that will help me tell the story.

"His genealogical ears couldn't believe what I had just said. "How could you not want to know it all?" he said, his voice reflecting his amazement. "How could you pass up the opportunity?"

I felt sheepish. "I'm interested, of course," I finally said. "But right now, the story is what I'm after."

Genealogists and writers are like distant cousins: They resemble each other, but it's easy to tell them apart. I'm in awe of the discipline that genealogists bring to their craft. I admire their dedication to a well-understood (if unwritten) set of rules for pursuing, finding, sifting, confirming and verifying information, before they connect the dotted lines between a ggf (great-grandfather, in genealogist parlance) and a second cousin once removed. As a writer, however, I'm wary of becoming a member of their club.

No need to be daunted, however. Genealogists are a welcoming bunch. They not only love company, they invite anyone to join their growing numbers, and millions have taken trips down the genealogical trail. The sudden accessibility of information online, such as census and immigration records, has made it possible for anyone to make a stab at researching their family origins, often without leaving the comfort of their living room. Amateurs like me vastly outnumber the professionals., which calls itself "the No. 1 source for online family history information," claims nearly 1 million paying subscribers and says that online visitors have created more than six million family trees since that feature was introduced three years ago.

You won't find mine there. My tree, with more broken branches than sturdy ones, exists only on paper, two pages taped together to accommodate the bits and pieces I had collected. I constructed it as an aid for interviewing a long-lost cousin, and then kept it on my desk as I wrote my book.

It was a huge help, a reference that I used so often that it became a bit tattered. Some day, I'll go back to it. I'll try to flesh out a few of the bare branches. I might even take a risk, and order some of those records from Eastern Europe. I'm curious, after all.

But not just yet. I have to finish this new story I'm working on.

©2009 Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret

FamilySearch Update: New & Completed Projects

New indexing projects added this week are:

  • Austria, Wiener Meldezettel

  • Germany, Mecklenburg 1890 Volkszählung, Div 24-38

  • Indiana, Adams County Marriages, 1811-1959

  • Indiana, Allen County Marriages, 1811-1959

  • Mississippi—1920 U.S. Federal Census

  • New York 1905 State Census

  • UK, Warwickshire Parish Registers, 1538–Present
Recently Completed Projects
  • Montana—1920 U.S. Federal Census

  • Nebraska—1920 U.S. Federal Census

  • New York 1892 State Census

  • Rhode Island 1925 State Census

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Boy Oh Boy Have You Been Busy, I Tell Ya What!

In less than three years, members of the largest genealogy website have added more than 1 Billion people to 10 Million online family trees in less than three years time.

That's a tremendous amount of valuable content - both to Ancestry and to genealogists. A whopping example of "Web 2.0." Boy oh boy, have you been busy!

According to Ancestry, "Since July 2006, millions of people have built family trees on, some growing their trees to amazing heights. The largest tree includes almost 280,000 people. Another tree has almost 17,500 photos. And one user has shared her tree with more than 260 people."

Have you posted your family tree online? If so, has it furthered your research substantially? Share your experiences by leaving a Comment on this post.

To learn more about posting your family tree online, listen to the following Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episodes:

Episode 12 featuring Kenny Freestone who's responsible for family trees at Ancestry

Episode 13 featuring more on online family tree resources with Photoloom and GeneTree

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Gem of a Chat with A Genealogy Guy

My guest on Episode 65 is George Morgan, co-host of the Genealogy Guys Podcast.

George and I will be collaborating in a few weeks at the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree as panel participants at the Son of a Blogger Summit. So I thought it would be fun to have him on the show to not only hear more about it, but also just to get to know George a little better.

In our chat you'll hear how he got started in his own research, what keeps him motivated to keep going, and what family history has meant to him on a personal level.

Want to get all the latest Genealogy Gems Podcast news first? Sign up for my free e-newsletter which will give you the latest news, podcast episodes & videos as well as my favorite "genealogy gem" research tips and websites.

And as my big thank you to you for signing up I'll send you my 20 page e-book entitled 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian!

Friday, May 8, 2009

What You'll Find at the New Kansas City NARA Location

Washington, D.C. . . . In May, the National Archives at Kansas City will open a new location in downtown Kansas City, MO, in the revitalized Adams Express Building near historic Union Station, in the heart of thecity's growing cultural district.

The new facility will be dedicated Memorial Day weekend, May 22-23,2009. Highlights will include an official dedication with remarks byActing Archivist of the United States Adrienne Thomas, an open house and history/genealogy fair, and a speech by Clifton Truman Daniel, former President Harry S. Truman's oldest grandson. Performances by the312th Army band will precede and follow his remarks. Tours of the new facility and exhibits, It's Big! and The Kansas-Nebraska Act, will be available, along with family activities. For more information see

National Archives at Kansas City
One of 13 Regional Archives, the National Archives at Kansas City will hold:
Federal records from:
  • Missouri
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Select material from Minnesota and the Dakotas

Original records of:
  • the U.S. District Courts
  • U.S. Attorneys
  • Bureau of Prisons
  • Steamboat Inspection Service
  • Bureau of Indians Affairs
  • Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Army Command and General Staff College
  • National Parks Service

Also microfilm publications of many of the nation's most significant records.

Treasures of the National Archives at Kansas City include records relating to:
The milestone Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision
Wild West showman "Buffalo Bill" Cody
President UlyssesS. Grant
Walt Disney

These are among the 50,000 cubic feet of records in its holdings.

For more information about National Archives programs and exhibits, goto

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Few Thoughts on I Remember by Footnote

Today stepped deeper into the arena of social networking with the launch of I Remember, a Facebook application aimed at helping Facebook users connect and share memories of loved ones.

By taking I Remember to Facebook, has found a way to extend beyond the genealogy niche and reach out to those who may have never visited Footnote or attempted to research their family tree.

About it's new product, Foonote say "Few events in life generate the emotions and memories as does the passing of a friend, family member or colleague. However, without the appropriate tools and forum to preserve and share these memories, a loved one’s legacy may be lost. Now with I Remember, Facebook users can create a meaningful experience to honor those individuals that had an impact on their lives."

There will likely be varying opinions as to whether I Remember is the appropriate tool to preserve memories and honor loved ones. But often changes are made in small steps, and I think a step into I Remember for a non-genealogist may just be the step they need to gain further interest in their ancestors.

Russell Wilding, CEO of describes it this way, "A big challenge with gathering memories and stories together is getting everyone to contribute and share in one place. Facebook helps eliminate that barrier by bringing millions of people together on a daily basis. The I Remember application simply leverages Facebook’s successful platform so friends and family can participate in remembering people that meant the most to them.”

And I think that's really the heart of the issue. When companies like and bring family history into social networking platforms like Facebook the joy of genealogy has a way to reach the masses. And that's a good thing.

It also helps build valuable content on it's website. When you post on I Remember in Facebook you are simultaneously posting on Footnote. It will be interesting to see whether users fully grasp that concept and how they feel about it. However, this is definitely the trend when it comes to the Internet. And for Footnote it gets everyone who dabbles with I Remember one step closer to A savvy business plan!

Footnote describes how it works this way:
"Using I Remember, Facebook users can share stories, upload photos, post comments and add facts about an individual. These facts will automatically generate a timeline of the individual’s life and a map detailing important places and events. Further, shared information will undoubtedly spark more memories. Soon a robust page can be created through the simple efforts of a few people coming together. For an example of an I Remember page, click here."

I gave I Remember a whirl today and created a page on Facebook (and therefore Footnote) for my grandmother Pauline Herring. As a lone contributor I found myself wondering how much I really wanted to add because it very quickly started feeling like I was just duplicating the effort I had put into my own genealogy database.

So I decided to invite my cousin Carolyn who is on Facebook and is the niece of Pauline. That's where I ran into the first bug - the Invite window didn't work properly and wouldn't allow me to type in a friends name. I imagine these problems will be quickly fixed by Footnote. But for now I will have to manually invite Carolyn to contribute to Pauline's page and see if it emerges as a "robust" profile of our ancestor.

To learn more about the I Remember application, go to

Monday, May 4, 2009

WDYTYA TV Series Premiere Is Finally Set

Although Lisa Kudrow's new reality TV series Who Do You Think You Are?  (which NBC now refers to this genre as "Alternative Series") has been officially slated for premiere this Fall 2009.  

It's been an on again off again ordeal for the new genealogy themed show which is fashioned after the hugely popular British series by the same name.  We will cross our fingers and hope that it will be worth the wait.  

The series will feature celebrities who discover their family history with the help of producers and researchers.  Episodes that are already in the can will feature Sarah Jessica Parker and Susan Sarandon as well as the Executive Producer herself Lisa Kudrow.  

Stay tuned to this blog and the Genealogy Gems Podcast for more information on the series this summer.   The best way to do that is to sign up for the free Genealogy Gems e-newsletter which will give you the latest news, podcast episodes & videos as well as my favorite "genealogy gem" research tips and websites.  

And as my big thank you to you for signing up I'll send you my 20 page e-book entitled 5 Fabulous Google Research Strategies for the Family Historian!  

Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What's buried in your yard?

Here's an interesting read on the history of the Time Capsule from the Library of Congress

Interested in even more Time Capsule trivia? Check out the Capsule Contents website.

Spring into History

Here's a wacky look at the onset of Spring 100 years ago today from Chronicling America at the Library of Congress website.

This old page from the New York Tribune newspaper includes "several photographs of the seasonal antics of squirrels in the city, the New-York Tribune (New York, NY) celebrated Spring's arrival by highlighting "the little fellows" and their popularity among city dwellers. The photograph captions include the interpretation of squirrel etiquette, thoughts and various behaviors... Read more about it!"

Friday, May 1, 2009

Test your knowledge of pandemic history...

While there is much concern about the current outbreaks of swine flu, history once again reminds us that we have survived difficult times before.

The 1918 Flu Pandemic was one of those times.

In fact, let's test your knowledge of flu history:

True or False: The influenze epidemic of 1918 killed more people than died in World War I.

Hard as it is to imagine, the answer is TRUE.

According to the National Archives, World War I claimed an estimated 16 million lives. The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. One fifth of the world's population was attacked by this deadly virus.

Within months, it had killed more people than any other illness in recorded history.

Learn more by visiting the National Archives 1918 Influenze Exhibit online.