Monday, February 20, 2012

Win a Family Tree University Virtual Conference Registration

Online learning program will give away one three-day pass for March 9-11 event in sweepstakes
And Discount Coupon Code Below!
CINCINNATI, February 15, 2012—Family Tree University’s Spring 2012 Virtual Conference will feature three days of online genealogy learning, with 15 downloadable video classes, live chats and discussions, daily contests and more. And one lucky genealogist will get to experience it all for free. 
Enter the Virtual Conference Sweepstakes at for a chance to win a free registration to the March 9-11 conference, a $199 value. You don’t have to travel across the country or even across town to participate: The conference takes place entirely online, with classes and discussions led by an all-star cast of genealogy instructors. Class topics include:
»        Using Steve Morse’s One-Step Site to Get Ready for the 1940 Census with Thomas MacEntee

»        Using Your iPad for Genealogy with Nancy Hendrickson

»        3 Cool Tools to Help With Your Newspaper Research with Lisa Louise Cooke

»        What’s in a Civil War Pension File? with Diana Crisman Smith

»        Online Resources for Polish Research with Lisa A. Alzo

»        Using Guardianship Records in Genealogical Research with Marian Pierre-Louis

For more details and a full list of classes, visit

Sweepstakes entries must be received by February 23 at 11:59 Eastern Time; the winner will be announced February 24.

Winning the sweepstakes isn’t the only way to get a bargain on a Virtual Conference ticket: Family Tree University is giving all readers of this blog $40 off registration. Enter coupon code LLCOOKE when registering.

About Family Tree University

Family Tree University is part of the Genealogy Community at F+W Media, Inc., which also encompasses Family Tree Magazine—America’s most popular family history magazine—the Family Tree Books imprint and the online store. These publications and products are devoted to providing engaging, easy-to-understand instruction that makes genealogy a hobby anyone can do. In addition to the virtual conference, Family Tree University offers more than 30 online genealogy courses and monthly live webinars.

Name That Tune - Family History Mystery Solved!

From the Genealogy Gems Mailbox:

Hi Lisa, You'll probably think I'm crazy, I love your podcasts, but I'm still catching up!!  In August I decided to listen to your current podcasts as you issue them, while still working my way through all your past podcasts.  I'm at number 59 and laugh to listen to you celebrate and sound surprised that you've reached a second anniversary, when I "know" that you've made it to 5 now!

Back in 2009. you ran a series of "Name that Tune" challenges, which I absolutely loved, I think I have old time music in my DNA.  It took me a day to recognize the "Missouri Waltz," I knew "The Dark Town Strutters Ball" right away; when I was little I named my doll "Honey" and always thought of those first lines "I'll be down to get you in a taxi, Honey...", I knew "I'll see you in my dreams" don't know if you are old enough to recall "Sing along with Mitch" when it was on TV, but we had all Mitch Miller's Sing Along albums and "I'll See you in my dreams" was among them.

Okay, so that brings me to the reason for this email.  In Episode 56, you celebrated "I'll See you in my dreams" and then played a brief 30 seconds of another tune, it was a violin instrumental.  Well as I said I've listened up to 59 and I've never heard the result for that last tune.  I think it may be "Thine Alone" by Victor Herbert.  It was from the operetta "Eileen".  Herbert was born in Ireland and emigrated to America, his more famous songs include "Ah Sweet Mystery of Life" and "The March of the Toys" from "Babes in Toyland" but he seems to have written hundreds of songs.

You had a loyal listener named "Jeannie" who called you with the names of the first 4 songs, I laughed at the similarity in our names, but anyway, I'm going crazy, did anyone else ever recognize that song?  If you go to iTunes, there is a good instrumental version of "Thine Alone" on the Album "The Music of Victor Herbert & Sigmund Romberg" performed by George Melchrino.  It is a lovely song.

I can't tell you how many wonderful memories those songs gave me!!  Yes, I am working on my Family History and really enjoy all your podcasts, videos, blogs and advice.  I did finish your Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast series, got to get to work on the Family Tree Magazine Podcast too!!

Thank you so much for all you do!
Jean Goggins

Dear Jean,
No, no one ever dad identify that song - until now!  I totally agree after listening to "Thine Alone" on iTunes that is the song.  I'm so glad you emailed me about it!  In fact I was just talking about that "name that tune" series and the old reel-to-reel that of Grandma and Grandpa in my recent presentation  Genealogy Blogs and Podcasts 101 that was streamed live on the RootsTech website (and is still there on video - part of the Saturday Recap). 

I'm so glad you're enjoying the podcasts.  Thanks for writing and solving this family history mystery!

Indiana Genealogical Society Annual Conference

February 20, 2012 –Fort Wayne, Indiana: The Indiana Genealogical Society (IGS) is holding its annual conference on April 28, 2012 at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Debra S. Mieszala is the featured speaker. Her talks include:
·        Lessons from a Snoop: Collaterals and Associates
·        Bringing Our Soldiers Home
·        Digging Through Documents Word By Word
·        Patently Unique: Locating Patent Records, Onlineand Off

A second track of sessions features:
·        What’s New with FamilySearch with Michael Hallfrom FamilySearch
·        Finding Indiana Records and Research inFamilySearch with Michael Hall
·        Becoming an Expert on Using Ancestry with ACPLlibrarian, Melissa Shimkus
·        Writing a Book Using Family Tree Maker andMicrosoft Word with Curtis Sylvester, President of the Allen CountyGenealogical Society of Indiana

Registration is $30 for IGS members, $40 for nonmembers and$45 at the door. Registration forms and online registration are available at

Spend the day learning from experts, researching in thecountry’s second largest genealogical library and collaborating with othergenealogists.

Come a day early to join the IGS pre-conference and gainresearch time in the library. Topics on April 27, 2012 include:
·        Indiana County Genealogists Show N’ Tell
·        Social Media for Our Societies
·        Ask the Experts Panel

Registration for the pre-conference is only $5 or $7 at thedoor. Find out more at

About the IndianaGenealogical Society
Formed in 1989, the Indiana Genealogical Society strives tohelp preserve and publish materials relating to the people who settled thestate. IGS has been at the forefront of efforts to make Indiana’s historicalrecords more accessible to the public by indexing and digitizing records. IGShas more than 500,000 records on its website, representing all 92 of Indiana’scounties. Learn  more about IGS at   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Open-Source Genealogy Database of Name Variants Announced

Here's the latest from Ancestry:

",, and announce an improved approach to finding variant names in genealogy searches.  Up to now, most genealogy websites have had to rely upon Soundex to return variant names in response to searches. These approaches often miss variants that should be returned, or include variants that aren't very similar.,, and have created an open-source database of name variants that is free for any website or genealogy software developer to use. Tested against pairs of names provided by, it reduces the number of missed name variants by over 25% in comparison with Soundex.

How you can help: A large portion of genealogical expertise involves learning variant spellings for the surnames in your tree. By adding your variant spellings to the database, searches on any website that uses it will include your variant spellings automatically. You can review and add variant spellings here: 

In addition, we need people to review the changes that others have made to the database, to make sure that we have multiple pairs of eyes reviewing the names that are being added and removed. You can review changes that others have made here: 

More information about the project can be found at:"

RootsTech Announces Winners of the Developer Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of the of the #RootsTech Developer Challenge:
First Place: Jimmy Zimmerman, NoteFuser
NoteFuser connects your Evernote® notes to or person records. It also allows you to easily create Evernote® powered research logs and other notes with one click.  Make sure you watch the NoteFuser Demo video on the homepage
Second Place: Brooke Schreier Ganz, LeafSeek
LeafSeek helps you turn your genealogical or historical record collections into searchable online databases. LeafSeek includes features such as built-in geo-spatial searches, pop-up Google Maps, Beider-Morse Phonetic Matching, name synonyms, and language localization to help you turn your spreadsheets of names and dates into a full-featured genealogy search engine.  Check it out at

Third Place (tie): Brigham Young University Computer Science Department, 20 Minute Genealogist
20 Minute Genealogist is a site that will visualize your family tree using your credentials.  You can see who in your tree needs work and instantly link to FamilySearch and Ancestry to search for the missing information.  Sign up to be a beta tester at

Third Place (tie): Ellie Rasmus, Facetree
Facetree has been developed as a way of using genealogical data from GEDCOM files as context to improve the accuracy of face recognition.

FamilySearch Launches Mobile Indexing App

FamilySearch launched its much-anticipated mobile device for indexing. The device will expand the capability of volunteers to help make the world’s historic records searchable online.  The mobile device app works on Apple iPads, iPhones, and Droid smartphones. 

 To download the free app, search for the FamilySearch Indexing app in the Apple app store or Droid Market store online.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Brightsolid Enters US Genealogy Market With

Here's the latest from brightsolid. Stay tuned to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems YouTube channel for my interview with Brightsolid's CEO Chris van der Kuyl:

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH. brightsolid, a leading online provider of historical and genealogical content, announces its entry into the US genealogy market with the launch of a ground-breaking, "pay-as-you-go" site:

The new site will let customers search all US census records from 1790 to 1930 and is the first dedicated to US genealogy by British-owned brightsolid. It will also house the 1940 US census records, when they are released later this year.

What makes it unique to the market, however, is it's the first genealogy site in the US to give customers access to census records on either a pay-as-you-go basis or via the subscription model that is currently the only choice offered by other sites.

The new site is being launched as an early beta version, with brightsolid inviting user feedback and suggestions.

Every visitor to will be able to search for free. Customers wanting to view documents, and download them to their computer to keep and access later, will then have the option of either buying a subscription in the conventional way or buying pay-as-you-go credits, starting at $7.95. Pay-as-you-go customers will be able to buy further credits at any time, giving them the freedom to spend as much or as little time and money on their research as they want.

"The launch of is just our first offering to the US market", says Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of brightsolid. "It will be followed later this year by the launch of, which will be our flagship American brand."

brightsolid is proud to be part of the 1940 US Census Community Project, a joint initiative with, FamilySearch and other leading genealogy organizations, which aims to make the census searchable as quickly as possible after its release this April. The completion of the project will allow anyone to search for their ancestors in the 1940 census for free online.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Genealogy RPAC Group Responds with Petition to Possible SSDI Removal

The following press release comes from RPAC c/o Federation of Genealogical Societies:

February 7, 2012
Genealogy Community Responds To Efforts To Remove Access to Social Security Death Index and Other Records

February 7, 2012– Austin, TX: The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) – a joint coalition of international genealogical societies representing millions of genealogists and family historians – announces the launch of its Stop ID Theft NOW! campaign with its We The People petition posted at

Call To Action For IRS To Do Its Job
Each year, fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults are filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The current target is the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) or Death Master File since this file, as found on numerous genealogy-oriented websites, could possibly be the source of identity thieves acquiring a deceased person’s Social Security number.

The IRS could close the door to this form of identity theft if, in fact, it were to use the Death Master File for the purpose for which it was created: to reduce fraud. If returns claiming a tax refund were screened against the Master Death File and matching cases identified for special processing, the thief should receive a rejection notice for the filing.

Tax Fraud and Identity Theft: Genealogists Are Not To Blame
The House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security is proposing to completely shut down use of the SSDI by genealogists as well as other industries such as banking and insurance that rely upon its information. Such an attempt is short-sighted and runs counter to the original purpose of the SSDI: to actually combat fraud.

Loss of Access to SSDI Affects More Than Genealogists
The SSDI is accessed by many different companies, non-profits and other entities besides individuals researching their family history. Forensic specialists utilize the SSDI when reuniting remains of military veterans with their next-of-kin and descendants. Law offices, banks and insurance companies utilize the SSDI to resolve probate cases and to locate heirs.

All of these entities would be required to spend more money and more time leveraging other resources of information when the SSDI has served this purpose, uninterrupted, for over a decade.

RPAC Petitions Obama Administration
The We the People petition, now posted at and accepting signatures, has a simple yet effective mission:

Take immediate steps that would curtail the filing of fraudulent tax refund claims based upon identity theft from recently deceased infants and adults.

No need for lengthy hearings in front of a Congressional committee. No need for filing statements for or against any House action. No need to waste time and effort which could be directed to more pressing national issues. In fact, the National Taxpayer Advocate in 2011 issued suggestions which do not require additional legislation but can be implemented collaboratively between the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA) almost immediately in time to impact the current tax filing season.

About Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC)
The Records Preservation & Access Committee (RPAC) was formed to advise the genealogical community on ensuring proper access to historical records of genealogical value in whatever media they are recorded, on means to affect legislation, and on supporting strong records preservation policies and practices.

The genealogical community works together through The Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), which today includes The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS) as voting members. The Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), the American Society of Genealogists (ASG), ProQuest and serve as participating members.
To learn more visit

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Newham Council’s burial records available on Deceased Online

Another large important London cemetery added to growing database

From the Deceased Online press release:

Newham Council will be helping both local people and family history and genealogy
researchers worldwide to find their ancestors in this fascinating and historical area of East
London. Newham, the borough which hosts many of the Olympic Games main venues, joins
a growing number of councils to have placed burial and cremation records on, the UK’s only central website for these statutory records.

Newham manages West Ham Cemetery (located in Forest Gate), created in 1857 as one of
London’s first publicly-owned cemeteries following the Metropolitan Burials Act of 1852. The
Act was introduced as at that time London’s small burial grounds were overcrowded causing
serious health problems and lacked good management and accountability. All of the burials
since its opening were manually catalogued and these have now been digitised and indexed
for the Deceased Online website.

Deceased Online allows users, free of charge, to search the national database by name of deceased, date, and location. If relevant records are found, the online user has the option to purchase access to these to view, print and/or download.

In its 22 acre site, West Ham Cemetery comprises over 180,000 burials over its 150-year
plus history and Deceased Online will have a range records for all of these. Initially these
will comprise computerized records, details of grave occupants and scans of burial registers
which will enable online searchers to establish information about the deceased. In addition,
there will also be maps indicating the section within the cemetery where the each grave is
located thereby helping researchers to establish almost exactly the place where an ancestor
is interred.

Deceased Online is also adding records from over 50 Scottish burial grounds and cemeteries.

To start searching, go to

RootsTech Registration Winner Shares Her Conference Experience

It's hard to believe that another RootsTech conference has come and gone. It was a whirlwind weekend packed full of genealogy, technology, and live social networking.

While at the conference held at the gorgeous Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City I managed to squeeze in interviews with the movers and shakers in family history between the classes I was teaching. (You can view the video of my Genealogy Podcasts and Blogs 101 presentation that was streamed live at RootsTech which is part of the Saturday Recap video on the RootsTech homepage.)

In this first video I'll introduce you to one of the 4,000 genealogists and technologists that attended the event. Carol is a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener and winner of a free RootsTech registration that we gave away on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Facebook fan page.  In this interview, Carol shares her experience and what she learned at this innovative event.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Does Martin Sheen Search on Ancestry? Who Do You Think You Are? Season 3 Debut

Martin Sheen's enthusiasm for this recent Who Do You Think You Are? journey bubbled over during a recent telephone interview with the media. I asked him what he thought was the #1 reason folks should research their family history search - he identified personal enrichment as the key. But it was another reporter's question that generated a surprising answer:

Question: "Before your experience with "Who Do You Think You Are?" were you were aware that there were family history resources like that online?"

Answer: "In fact I have watched the show. I am a big fan of the show...And so when they asked me I said yes without hesitation because I don’t own a computer and I'm way behind on these new methods of gaining information"  In fact, he want on to say he had never used a computer.

Did I hear him right?  Wait a second - in one of the opening scenes of his episode which I previewed this week, Martin sits at his dining room table in front of a computer and narrates the scene to say he's going to go on Ancestry to start his search.

But isn't everything on TV true? 

This little event was a healthy reminder that Who Do You Think You Are? is first and foremost entertainment and storytelling. And it executes this goal expertly. It's a captivating show that thankfully continues to inspire newbies to consider the possibility of exploring their own family tree.

The footage of  the fabricated search is also a healthy reminder that not everything we see is true. And this can be applied to our own family history.  It's tempting to take in every detail of a newly found old photo as an accurate representation of our ancestors.  And yet, our ancestors often donned outfits that only saw the light of day a few times a year.  And careful inspection of a carte de visite can reveal that the background is actually a drape over a shrubbery hedge in the front yard of the old homestead.

No spoiler alerts here as I have no intention of spilling the beans on what you will see tonight.  I will say that it will likely generate some lively discussion among genealogists, but you will certainly be entertained and inspired to keep at the important and satisfying work of family history investigation.  Just be sure to keep the salt shaker close by for when you need those few grains of salt.