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!" »

27    May 20100 comments

Language: Speaking in tongues

Can't read Cyrillic? Problems with Persian? Trouble with Turkish?

Find help with free online language courses.

When Research Buzz mentioned several sites for free online language courses, I wondered how this could help linguistically-challenged researchers - including me.

I clicked here for the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Language Courses and found an extensive list of languages - from Amharic to Yoruba - with texts and audio tapes.

Since most of my personal research involves records written in Russian Empire Cyrillic, I wanted to see if I could brush up on my reading skills. Continue reading "Language: Speaking in tongues" »

13    May 20100 comments

Do you have the time?

MyHeritage has the time - a TimeLine and a TimeBook.

Not sure what these are? Read on for quick descriptions and video links to provide more information. I'm focusing on TimeLine in this post.

Timeline is an interactive feature demonstrating the relationship of history's main events to your family's important dates.

This is an important feature because each person's unique family history has always been impacted by worldwide historical events that caused very local effects.

One example might be an early 19th-century cholera epidemic, quite common at the time around the world and frequently fatal for young children and the elderly. Such epidemics may be responsible for many deaths noticed in historical vital records.

And, while regional and world wars covered a wide swath of territory, local events may have "encouraged" your ancestors to move somewhere less chaotic and more safe.

To truly understand the lives of our ancestors, we need to learn about historical events that may have effected them.

When I began my quest, I noticed that my great-grandmother's brother, Chatzkel Bank, had arrived in New York City in January 1913 and began working to bring over his wife, son and infant daughter. Continue reading "Do you have the time?" »

13    Apr 20101 comment

Children: Encouraging Family History Interest

Today's family history researchers see varying attitudes among their own children.

Some are disappointed and say their children have no interest at all in this journey of discovery; while others can point to an early curiosity in their children.

How can we encourage our children, regardless of their age, toddlers through young adults? Are there classes for kids? What techniques are available?

Instill in each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild a sense of their own family heritage. Share those family stories, the good and the bad of your own childhood. No matter how young, teach them, show them; remember that they are the future, for you, for me, for genealogy.(Page 2, Winter 2009 Newsletter, Young Genealogists Association)

One program that has drawn much attention is the annual Kid's Family History Camp, associated with the Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree conference and in conjunction with the Youth Genealogists Association. More than 150 people attended the 2009 kids' camp, which featured such topics as creating and preserving your family history, genealogy games, family history storytelling, genealogy merit badge, genealogy art and more.

Merit BadgeThe program is free and open to the public, for boys and girls ages 8-16. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. This year, the program runs from 9am-noon, on Friday, June 11, Jamboree's opening day, at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center (Burbank, California).

The SCGS program is also designed for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who are working on obtaining their genealogy badges. See badge requirements here. The camp is also a resource for students working on class "roots" assignments.

Students planning to attend should download a pedigree chart and a family group sheet and complete it as best they can.

For more information on this special program, and to download the various forms, click here.
Continue reading "Children: Encouraging Family History Interest" »

13    Jan 20100 comments

ResearchBuzz: A resource for resources

Genealogists love resources. Even better, are resources that list even more resources!

One such site is ResearchBuzz.com, established in1998. It covers the world of search engines, databases and other online information collections.

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Tara Calishain is, in her own words, "crazy about search engines and Internet searching for years." She writes and edits nearly daily updates on search engines, new data managing software, browser technology, large compendiums of information, Web directories whatever.

The bottom line for this site is whether a reference librarian would find it useful. Yes? Then Tara will write about it. She really makes an effort to build tools relevant to researchers and make them available on the site.

She's authored several books: Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research (1996,1968); Information Trapping (2006); Web Search Garage (2004), etc.

Among her most recent posts:

Thousands of Vintage Ads

Hats 1900Want to see more about the times your ancestors experienced? What they wore (like these great hats from the Paris 1900 Exposition Universalle)?

In the clothing and fashion category (from 1790-1900), find early text ads, drawings of items from the 1870s forward, fabrics, shoes, women's wear, custom shirts, wet weather footwear and sales, mens' clothing, cosmetics, hats, bathing suits, and much more - all organized by decade of publication.

There's a similar range for furniture.

Under transportation, see huge bicycles of the 1860s and the grand opening of an arena especially for bicycle riders! Bikes, motorcycles, trains, steam ships, early cars, cruises and trucks feature in some elegant advertisements.

Check out the food: bakeries, butchers, soups, kitchen appliances, chocolate, ketchup, cereal and other products, such as cleansers and maple syrup.

The ads come from various sources such as the Library of Congress, university collections, Flickr, and other sites.
Continue reading "ResearchBuzz: A resource for resources" »

23    Aug 20090 comments

Library of Congress: Much more than photographs

The Library of Congress, in Washington DC, is a major resource for many research projects.

I subscribe to its frequent updates and receive many peeks at what's new online.

While the LOC's historical photos are excellent, there is certainly much more. But if photos are what you need, it's a great place to start. Click here and search by names, towns, occupations and other keywords.

1860 YoshiikuAnd it isn't only for American resources.

Are you researching a Japanese ancestor who may have been a famed artist? The Prints and Photographs Division offers more than 2,500 online digitized Japanese woodblock prints and drawings (late 17th-20th centuries) by such artists as Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Sadahide, and Yoshiiku. Although they've been online for some time, searching was a problem because of the lack of descriptions. Now all the images have Japanese and English titles and subjects, making searching and identification much easier.

According to the catalog description, the illustration (left) is an 1860 print by artist Ochiai, Yoshiiku (1833-1904). It shows a flute-playing Russian woman and an Englishman holding a rifle. It Includes Japanese translations of English words such as kome/raisu (rice), mugi/beruri (barley), cha/chi (tea).

As for the entire print and photo collection, it currently numbers more than 14 million images, including photographs, fine and popular prints and drawings, posters, and architectural and engineering drawings. While international in scope, the collections are particularly rich in materials produced in, or documenting the history of, the United States and the lives, interests and achievements of the American people. And, of course, since America is a nation of immigrants from around the world, there are global connections in its resources.

The LOC is also using technology to enlist the help of online participants. In January 2008, it launched a pilot project on Flickr, the popular photosharing Web site. The public was invited to tag and describe two sets of approximately 3,000 historic photos.

This project was welcomed in a big way. In the first 24 hours after the launch, 1.1 million views were recorded on the project and 3.6 million views a week later. In March 2008, LOC began loading an additional 50 photos each Friday. As of October 2008, LOC Flickr photos average a half-million views per month and since the project began, there have been 10 million-plus views. The LOC blog reported in May 2009 that viewers can find more than 1.2 million pictures in the digitized collections in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog at the Library of Congress website.

What else can a researcher find at the LOC? Acording to more than 20 updates I've already received just in August (and the month isn't over yet!), here are some of the subjects: Historic Newspapers, additions to "Chronicling America," longevity of digital documents, "100 years ago" features (tennis for young girls and other topics), lectures, staff appointments, the August 2009 Digital Preservation Newsletter and more. Other alerts feature videos and webcasts.
Continue reading "Library of Congress: Much more than photographs" »

28    Sep 20080 comments

Recording your data: Charts and templates

Now that you've started researching your family history, have you wondered about the most efficient way to record all this wonderful information?

Of course, you are entering names and data into your MyHeritage.com online Family Tree Builder software. But you would like other helpful information to assist in recording family information.

If you don't want to scribble down information while visiting a cemetery, there are cemetery transcription forms. While working with censuses, transcribe the information onto a blank form for the correct year (questions asked vary by year). Keep track of your research so you won't find yourself duplicating work in the future. There's even a research log, which will help to remind you what questions you need to answer and what sources might hold the required information.

There are several useful sites which offer free downloadable templates and blank genealogy charts, research logs and other very useful documents, and even that research question sheet, like this:

Click to view photo in full size

Some are available as PDF files or as Word documents; some are free in one format with a minimal charge for another.

These charts are useful for projects by researchers of all ages, from children to professional genealogists.

Here are some possibilities.


This site offers 20 different kinds, including three, four, and six-generation family trees, trees with and without graphics, trees with room for photos, traditional trees and ones suitable for kids. Download and print for free in PDF form (requires free downloadable Adobe Readert) or a for-fee ($4 each) fully editable MS Word.doc version.


This site offers three free family tree charts, such as traditional family tree charts, fan and pedigree charts. The forms require the free Adobe Reader to open and use. It also offers free interactive census forms, free genealogy forms such as pedigree charts and family group sheets, a genealogy relationship calculator chart and more.


The US television program site offers free PDF format charts for pedigree, family group record, research questions, research log, source notes, record selection guide, an instructional video index.

If you need large family charts for family celebrations or reunions, for use indoors and out, try Heartland Family Graphics.

Their offerings range from wall-size charts (up to 37 feet long), specialty papers, vinyl banners for outdoor use and acid-free paper for archival preservation. Check the site for prices.

Family Tree Magazine

The magazine also offers free forms and charts. traditional forms plus those for note-taking, cemetery transcription and others.

Another option for printing large charts

I frequently prepare large family charts for gifts and family celebrations. I take the family tree on a flash drive or CD to an engineering blueprint office. The charts are enlarged and printed on heavy-duty long-lasting blueprint paper (there are several types). The cost is reasonable and the waiting time only a few minutes to a few hours, depending on how many other projects are in line.

An additional advantage is that the shop's owners, staff - even other customers waiting to pick up orders for architects and engineers - become interested in what I'm doing when they see the results. They ask questions on how to get started on their own family histories. Family history is so much more interesting than construction plans!

Have you downloaded free charts? Which ones have been the most useful? Have these forms helped you organize your research? I'd like to hear from readers.

6    May 20084 comments

New Jersey records online

Do you have family in New Jersey? Or did your ancestors live there? The Courier-Post newspaper has placed online - with free access - links to many useful databases for family historians and genealogists. You may just find information on your "missing" links.

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New Jersey, 1846

The nation's largest death registry is the Social Security Administration's Death Master File, known by its acronym of SSDI, is an index of more than 80 million names that has helped countless families trace their roots back to the 19th century. It is is now available on DataUniverse, a free public records search offered by the Courier-Post newspaper in New Jersey.

The index is searchable by name, last residence, year of death or birth, and Social Security number.

To access the data, click the Courier-Post Online.

Although updated frequently and holds deaths from 1937, it does not contain everyone who died since then, such as those who did not have a Social Security number, those whose deaths were never reported to the Federal government, and other reasons. The majority are people who died from the 1960s onward when records were computerized.

Not in the database is President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the creator of Social Security, is not because he died in 1945. But Harry S. Truman, Ronald W. Reagan and even Elvis Presley are in the searchable files.

There is a link to order (for a fee) the original social security application documents which can provide many genealogical facts, including address at application, place of work, parents' names, birthdate and birthplace.

The newspaper's collection also offers free access to millions of government records, including New Jersey convicted criminals (if you're looking for your family's black sheep!), public school performance reports, public employee salaries and overtime, property sales and ownership (1999-2006), and links to medical and consumer information on the Web.

Other information provides information on teachers, police, firefighters, retirees, university employees, college entrance scores, campaign contributions and more. Depending on the records, data is searchable by name, address, town or other parameters.

It is definitely worth a look, and it is free.

I look forward to hearing your comments and your experiences using this database.

5    Apr 20086 comments

UK Censuses 1841-1901 online

Find My Past is a family history and genealogy website based in London, England, with more than 550 million family history records recently announced its plans to bring UK Censuses 1841-1901 online at WorldVitalRecords.com (a service of FamilyLink.com, Inc.).

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While the UK site focuses on those geographical records, many American researchers should look at these records as well. While many UK immigrants resettled in the US, the UK was also a transit point for immigrants from Europe and points farther east.

Some families and individuals stayed for a few generations or just a few years before moving on to North America. It is always worth searching new record collections to see what mysteries of history might be discovered.

Already added to the site's World Collection of Records are the 1861, 1881 and 1891 censuses.

Find My Past also offers access to the outbound Passenger Lists which now run from 1890-1960. There are now 24 million passengers recorded in this time period.

The company worked with the UK's National Archives and some 125 people worked for more than a year to scan in 1.1 million individual pages.

The outbound passenger lists cover many destinations - not only to the US. Although all seven decades of the passenger lists are free to search, obtaining images and transcripts requires a subscription - sometimes there are good deals, so check the FindMyPast site.

I look forward to hearing from readers who have located family records at the site.

3    Apr 20082 comments

GenealogyBank keeps growing

Go to GenealogyBank.com

GenealogyBank.com is an offering of NewsBank Inc, which has been providing information to researchers in education, the military and the government. It now offers extensive genealogical material and exclusive content to researchers to access at home.

Modern and historical resources include obituaries, historic newspapers, military records, social security records and much more. Both historical and modern collections are updated frequently; the Social Security Index is the only SSDI site updated weekly.

Components include:

Historical Newspapers 1690-1977: more than 112.3 million articles, obituaries, marriage notices, birth announcements and other items published in more than 500,000 issues of more than 2,400 historical U.S. newspapers. Updates are made monthly.

Historical Books 1801-1900: Find the complete text of more than 11,700 books, pamphlets and printed items - all published in the US before 1900 - including genealogies, biographies, funeral sermons, local histories, cards, charts and more. Also updated monthly.

Historical Documents 1789-1980: Readers can locate military records, casualty lists, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow's claims, orphan petitions, land grants and much more including all of the American State Papers (1789-1838) and all genealogical content selected from the U.S. Serial Set (1817-1980), from more than 136,000 reports, lists and documents. The site is now digitizing documents for January 1938 and there are monthly updates.

America's Obituaries 1977-current: These records offer researchers essential information such as names, dates, places of birth, death, marriage and family information. The collection includes more than 26.9 million obituaries for the 20th-21st centuries, and includes obituaries from more than 1,000 US newspapers. Content is added daily.

Social Security Death Index 1937-to-current: Many online sites have the SSDI, but only GenealogyBank's database of more than 81.3 million death records is updated each week.

During February, the total of documents reached 220,763,095; new newspaper content was added from 24 states, and 4.1 million records and documents were recently added.

The site offers one of the best trial subscriptions - only $9.95 for a 30-day trial.

I look forward to reading your comments and learning if readers have found documents of interest for their families.

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