17    May 20110 comments

Gen conferences: Information for all

Three genealogy conferences in two countries were on my schedule over the past 10 days.

Each conference provided food for thought, learning opportunities and practical information. Additionally, each event offered networking opportunities, and chances to meet others with the same interests.

On May 7, the Society of Genealogists (London, UK) held their Centenary Conference, a major event for this group founded in 1911. The world of family history and how we research hadn't changed much over the decades until rather recently.

Continue reading "Gen conferences: Information for all" »

28    Sep 20100 comments

MyHeritage: At a family festival

For two days, MyHeritage has been at a family festival with 50 computers and a team of 15 experts.

We are a major presence at this three-day event - the "One Family, Many Faces" family festival.

I spoke to quite a few families yesterday to learn why they visited to set up a family tree. The answers were interesting, as we all knew they would be.

This post originally appeared on the MyHeritage Blog (English), but here's some of it and a link to the complete

The team has been here for two days - a great experience - as MyHeritage is all about uniting families, whether it is discovering new relatives or building a family tree together.

Every computer and chair was filled about an hour after the festival opened (see photo above).

Crowds of people - families with many children - were learning how to start a family tree and how to begin researching their family history during 30-minute consultations.

This morning several families shared their stories:

Click here to read the complete post.

7    Sep 20101 comment

Family reunions: Remembering

Wouldn't you like to meet all those people you've discovered and who now appear on your family tree?

This is the time to start planning for next summer - the most popular season for such events - so here are some tips and resources to help you get together with your far-flung relatives in person.

For even more on family reunions, see  another previous MyHeritage Genealogy Blog post which provided more tips, resources and a 12-step "getting organized" outline to plan a family reunion.

Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to stay in touch with prospective family reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs, and then provide - post-reunion - photos and videos of the reunion for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't or couldn't attend the event to show up next time.

 "A Good, Sacred Memory From a Family Reunion," in The Huffington Post by Al Eisele expressed his feelings as he returned from his family's reunion of the descendants of his German immigrant grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Eisele.
1    Sep 20104 comments

Names: How do you say that?

They look at your name, stammer, and ask "how do you say that?" What do you do? 

Do you patiently spell it several times? Will you, as I often do, spell it out as in "D as in David, A as in Apple, R as in Robert".........

Do you break the name down into syllables for the other person? Do you give up and say, "Call me by my first name!"

People look at DARDASHTI and their eyes glaze over. "Is that two Ds and two As?" asks the person on the phone or in a store. I usually break it into three syllables: Dar-dash-ti. For TALALAY, strangers usually put the accent on the wrong syllable, and say Tah-LAY-lee, instead of TAH-lah-lie. To confuse matters, one family branch uses TALALAY in English, but pronounces it Tah-la-lay.

Continue reading "Names: How do you say that?" »

29    Jul 20102 comments

Heritage certificates: The way to go?

In a move that could be a real moneymaker - and thus an incentive to provide genealogical services - for many additional countries, Ireland will begin providing Irish Heritage certificates by the end of 2010.

There are some 70 million individuals worldwide with Irish heritage, and this seems like a great way to show it. The certificate may also provide travel and tourist discounts when the certificate-holders visit Ireland.

Continue reading "Heritage certificates: The way to go?" »

29    Jul 20100 comments

Make someone happy: Talk tradition

During this year's round of conferences and travel, I've been reminded more than once that creating contacts, asking questions and talking traditions can produce clues to our family history.

After reconnecting with someone whom I knew in California and who was now in New Jersey, I realized her husband's family's long connection to a small community, now a suburb of a larger city, in that Eastern state. My own family had a long-ago connection to the same community when it was much, much smaller, and more rural.

My great-grandmother's sister and her husband had settled in that small town soon after they arrived in 1905, although my great-grandmother and her family lived in nearby big-city Newark.

I took a chance and asked if the woman's husband, whose family had lived there from the early 1900s, possibly had known my relatives. It was very exciting to learn that my great-grandmother's sister had been the husband's  babysitter! Continue reading "Make someone happy: Talk tradition" »

30    Jun 20100 comments

Genealogists gone wild!

Genealogists are not normally a wild bunch. 

Our "happy dances" tend to accompany the discovery of new records for elusive ancestors.

Our "wild and crazy" moments happen as we help others find answers to their family history questions or help them locate hard-to-find records. We enjoy discovering the clues and pointers  in both unusual and ordinary places.

This week produced two interesting developments.

I'm in northern California - Silicon Valley - at the home of friends, as I rest from one conference and rest up for three more in quick succession with only a day between each, beginning this coming weekend.

So, along with continuing prep work for my presentations - and blogging - it's nice to get in some fun. Fun, to those of us who pursue our roots, can mean many things.

My friend Rosanne is a semi-retired reference librarian - and an accomplished genealogist. I went with her to her library one day last week. As we parked, I noticed this great license plate on the adjacent car. We agreed that the vehicle MUST belong to a genealogist.

A genealogist's license plate?

Who else but a genealogist would have the abbreviations (BMD) - for birth, marriage and death records - on their license? Continue reading "Genealogists gone wild!" »

24    Feb 20085 comments

Writing on the Wall is a good thing!

Click to view photo in full size

There are many ways to let people know you are searching for a specific family: Submit information to specialized ethnic or geographic genealogy sites, join discussion groups or send letters to everyone you find with your name.

The Southern California Genealogical Society (Burbank, California) has a good idea.

The SCGS has just launched a free Virtual Surname Wall that anyone can inscribe with their unique names and origins.

It's simple (and free) to write your names on the Wall, and more than 1,000 people from around the world have already joined in. To see if any of your surnames of interest are listed, click on the link "Search the Virtual Surname Wall," at the SCGS homepage.

Once you're there, search by surname, location, Submitter ID or any combination of these parameters.

Features: The site is a "begins with" search, which means that if you search for the last name TAL, you'll also get TALALAY, TALL, TALMADGE, etc.. There are also good search tips.

To enter your names, click on the link "Add Your Surnames." For each name submit the following information:

1. Surnames including spelling variations
2. Geographic area where they lived or the migration path, indicated like this example, Paris -> New York. SCGS asks that geographic information be listed in this order: city, county, state and country. Abbreviations such as two-letter codes for US states should NOT be used to avoid confusion.
3. For time frame, DO use abbreviations (such as approx., abt., or ca.) to indicate approximate timelines.

Visitors may submit as many names as they desire. Each entry screen accepts up to 10 names, but visitors can enter multiple screens. If a message appears saying "the survey has already been completed," just click "take the survey again" and continue adding names.

The Wall is not limited to just California; researchers from around the world are encouraged to submit their names of interest.

I am also impressed by the privacy options offered. Submitters' contact details are not displayed online, and submitters have the options to allow the SCGS to release only an email contact, or full details, or to have SCGS serve as the intermediary in the event they receive an inquiry regarding a possible connection. This is a reassuring way to deal with differing comfort levels.

Participation is voluntary and free and the society asks submitters to let their colleagues, friends and family know that they can also write on the Wall.

As entries are added to the database, the Virtual Surname Wall will become a more valuable resource. And with the publicity this innovation is garnering, check back often to see if you find a match.

Some statistics prove it is catching on: On Friday, January 18, there were some 1,500 visitors and about 5,000 page loads. However, as the genealogy world learned about the Wall - thanks to the genealogy bloggers, the following Monday saw nearly 6,000 visitors and almost 21,000 page loads.

There's also a handy widget that shows where visitors live. Go to the site, scroll to the bottom right hand corner for a world map showing red dots, which represent visitors to the site since January 9; click for a larger version.

Readers in California and neighboring states might be interested in the SCGS Jamboree, set for June 27-29. This excellent regional conference grows every year; some 30 experts will speak this year. Last year, about 1,200 researchers attended; more are anticipated this year. To learn more, go to the SCGS homepage; click on the Jamboree link to learn more about the program, the speakers and for registration details. SCGS has also launched a Jamboree conference blog; for more information.

Good luck in your quest. I look forward to reading your questions and comments.

25    Mar 20073 comments

Surf’s Up: Searching for Family

The Internet is an amazing place, continually collecting information from people around the world.

The sheer amount of information can be overwhelming, as we discover family pages, cemetery data, photographs, family trees and more documents.

If you consider yourself a good online researcher, you can go directly to Yahoo or Google or other general sites. However, the mass of information returned can be impossible to get through, much could be irrelevant to your genealogical quest, but you might turn up an undiscovered gem or two.

Who among us hasn't Googled themselves and watched in wonder as our lives seemingly scroll down the page? There is so much in cyberspace, but how do we find relevant data?

As discussed in the past few articles, spelling is a major problem. For some people, the trouble is very basic - they can't even spell "genealogy." To see how many people are in the same boat, search for geneology, geniology, geneaoplogy, geneologie, genlogy or other even more creative forms on the major search engines and note how many times the error pops up in various websites.

Search engines are what we work with, with specific techniques and tips to access the desired data. If you organize a good search, you'll limit the junk, and focus on useful information.


There are general search engines and indexes, genealogy search engines and indexes, and specific ethnic resources.

General Search Engines and Indexes

These include Yahoo, Google, About.com and others, online encyclopedias, library sites, newsgroups and message boards to name a few. It doesn't hurt to search each one, but be prepared for much irrelevant information.

Genealogy Search Engines and Indexes

These include the massive compilation of sites at Cyndi's List, and other sites like Distant Cousin, Genealogy Pages, GeneaLinks, Genealogy Home Page, Gengateway.com, Genealogy Search, and Genealogy Portal, About.com's focused genealogy pages. These sites offer links to other listings of links and resources. While these are free, don't forget Ancestry.com which is a subscription for-fee website with masses of databases, links, resources.

Additionally there is the Ellis Island Database, and also Steve Morse's One-Step Pages for navigating, many US and Canadian sites, and many ethnic-specific resources including Jewish, British, European, Eastern European and those farther afield.

For Jewish resources, there are a host of sites, beginning with JewishGen www.jewishgen.org, and continuing with Jewish Records Indexing-Poland, Jewish Webindex, Cindy's List - Jewish, Harry Leichter's Jewish Genealogy list, Judaism 101 - Hebrew Alphabet, JewishLink.net
Jewish Calendar, Jewish Migration Histories Timeline, Sephardic resources, Holocaust research, Avotaynu's Consolidated Surname Index, and many others.

And as good as all of these are for a variety of reasons, you'll have to search each one individually, which can be tedious, for hundreds of searches for each family of interest on as many websites as you can find.

MyHeritage's Megadex

Wouldn't it be great to search, at once, hundreds of genealogically relevant websites? MyHeritage thought so, and now you can search for all the names and their variations in some 1,200 genealogy-specific databases, with only one simple click at MyHeritage Research - a focused genealogy search engine.

For each search, click on up to 10 spelling variants at a time, save searches to avoid backtracking or duplication, and schedule automatic searches to alert you to new data.

It queries Websites, databases, archives and message boards; covering all gtypes of genealogy records including census records, family trees, immigration records, military records, medical records, cemetery records, court, land and probate documents, and other informational sources, such as newspapers, telephone directories, and more.

And because MyHeritage has a team of dedicated genealogists, they are always looking for new sources to include, and which automatic searches will pick up. For the current list of databases, click here.

Click here to start learning about MyHeritage's super search engine Megadex™ which will help you find richer information about your ancestors.

For example, if you are searching for Williamson, you'll also need to search for Williemson, Williamsen and Williamsohn, because names have evolved and the names are written differently in various languages and countries. Other errors or variants in spelling may be due to hard-to-read handwriting, transcription, transliteration and typing.

Soundex is a phonetic system that's been around since 1918 and assigns numbers to letters, enabling a "sounds alike" method, but not all databases work with Soundex. Conducting a Soundex search means you will retrieve many false positives which are irrelevant. And it may not pick up Villiamson or Wilhelmson, which would be relvant.

Megadex was invented by MyHeritage to overcome these challenges. It shows you the most common spelling variations, and allows searching for a subset of variations in a single, one click search that covers most major genealogy databases on the Internet (as well as those which do not support "sounds like").

Go to the search screen, type in a name:
Click to view photo in full size

When you click, you'll get a screen with multiple choices. Check off the ones you want to search first (up to 10 at a time):

Click to view photo in full size

As the search is performed, the results for each database will show up, and you can select which ones to look at. You receive a long table of results, and can start working immediately on them without waiting for the entire table to load.

There are two very convenient features: You can save each search, which helps eliminate duplication or back tracking of work already done and you can also schedule automatic searches to find new results, as databases are updated frequently.

Why don't you try a search now? How many hits did you get? Were they useful? Readers are invited to write in and comment on their experiences with Megadex. Let me know if you've encountered any problems.

23    Mar 20070 comments

Names: Ethnic naming patterns

If you are searching for names from particular ethnic, religious, cultural and social communities, do some investigative reading. The clues in articles and on websites may provide more information for your quest.

Here are some quick tips for various groups. There are many other useful sites to be found with some patient Internet searching.

Readers are invited to let us know about other useful sites. I look forward to reading your comments and questions.

Excellent article on the permutations, categories and much more.

Good article on given name patterns and surnames.

Unusual patterns, farms, homesteads, patronymics and matronymics.

Detailed name categories: occupations, locations, physical characteristics, saints, objects, regional diminutive, suffixes.

Interesting site detailing ancient names and meanings, and naming patterns for children.

JEWISHGEN, for many resources on Jewish names.
Check the numerous InfoFiles, Family Finder and other resources.

A good explanation of confusing naming patterns concerning the usage order of paternal and maternal family names, given names and more.

ncludes first names, farm names, Sami ethnic minority, immigrants and more sources.

A good compilation ofPolish naming customs including German, Jewish and Ukrainian.

Traditions and information on Norway, Denmark and Finland, with more resources.

Early naming practices, such as patronymic, clergy, nobility, crafts, emigrants and more.

Vietnamese naming practices.

For a host of other interesting articles, click here :

ASIA (Mongolia, India)
BYZANTIUM (Roman Empire)
EASTERN EUROPE (Croatian, Czech, Hungarian)
ENGLAND (many articles)
FRANCE (Paris, Breton, Brittany, Occupations, Given Names)
GERMANY (many),
ISLAM/MIDDLE EAST (place names in Spain and Portugal, Jewish, Andalucia)
IRELAND (several)
ITALY (Pisa, Renaissance, Jewish Rome, Jewish Milan)
LOW COUNTRIES (Flemish, Frisian, women)
SCANDINAVIA (language, Finland, ancient)
SCOTLAND (several)
SPAIN/IBERIA (Andalusia, Catalan, Valencia, 15th-16th century, Portugese, Moorish place names)
WALES (10th, 13th, 16th centuries, women, Cornish).

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