Saturday, September 29, 2012

Confused by Original Records, Image Copies, and Derivatives?

Elizabeth Shown Mills has produced a “Quick Lesson” on original records and derivatives that is well worth a good read.

She explains the differences between originals and various derivatives (such as certified copies, clerk’s copies, transcripts, extracts, and more). She then helps guide the reader through an understanding of the “quality” of each. The salient point she makes is that an exercise in good judgment on our part is always necessary. While there are principles we need to follow in the evaluation of our sources, there are few hard and fast rules. Her article is filled with examples of this.

The article is a bit long and the topic is technical…and the whole discussion is essential to good research evaluation.

You can find the article at Evidence Explained | QuickLesson 10: Original Records, Image Copies, and Derivatives

Thursday, September 27, 2012

TA View of Really Big Online Genealogical Databases

James Tanner writing is the Family Search TechTips blog gives us an informative take on really big online genealogical databases. heads his list (as one might suspect), but he goes on to list a total of ten.

He includes a little about each one and then goes on to give some tips about searching them. You may find some new ideas in the article, but if not, it gives a good over-view of the “big hitters” in the on-line genealogy world, as well some great refreshers on how to deal with them.

You can find James’ article at The Ins and Outs of Really Big Online Genealogical Databases

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New York State Archives

The website of the New York State Archives is a treasure trove of information in itself, but now it has entered into an agreement with that makes it even more accessible.

If you go to the home page and then click on “Find Family History Records,” you are taken to a page where you can use to do a search of many records sets from the state archives. You have to register for a free account, but the instructions are clearly explained on the site.

Note, this does not give you unlimited access to Ancestry, but it does give you free access to this part of it. If you have an subscription, the New York Archives contributions are already included in any Ancestry search you do.

Start your exploration at New York State Archives Homepage

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A One-Name Study May Be For You

A one-name study is research into the genealogy and family history of all persons with the same surname and its variants. It differs from other genealogy pursuits in that all of the people in the study need not be related.

This may be an advantageous line of research for you, because one of your missing links could be revealed. If you are new to the idea of this approach, the Guild of One-Name Studies has a website that can point the way to various on-going one-name studies as well as give you additional information.

Check it out at The Guild of One-Name Studies

Friday, September 21, 2012

FGS Seminar Features D. Joshua Taylor

The 3 November 2012 all-day seminar offered by the Florida Genealogy Society features D. Joshua Taylor, the internationally recognized genealogy researcher, author, speaker and featured expert on the television show “Who Do You Think You Are?”

Taylor's subject area,
“Becoming a 21st Century Genealogist," will include these topics:. Going Digital: Organizing Your Research Files Electronically
. New Tools & Ideas in Research
. Legends & Fairy Tales: Finding the Roots of Your Family Legends
. On & Off the Net: Locality Searching

The cost for FGS members is $35 and $40 for non-members.  The seminar will take place at the University of South Florida (Tampa Campus), Marshall Student Center, Room 2708 (Plaza Room).

For more information, visit the website:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Unique Brickwall Solution

The GenealogyInTime Magazine has an article about a study of marriage ages for men and women in the United States that leads to an interesting way to infer a missing birthdate for a spouse.

The article provides a graph and chart that shows, for different time periods, the typical age difference between husband and wife. So, if you have nothing else to go on, this gives you a way to form a working hypothesis about the birth date of one spouse if you know the birth date of the other. It won’t necessarily be precisely accurate, but it will give you a date to guide your research efforts.

You can read the article at Marriage and Age Differences .

The study itself was conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Library and Archives Canada on YouTube

The Library and Archives Canada now has its own channel on YouTube. They only have ten or so videos posted at this point, but more are sure to come. Among those available, you can watch a video on seaching the website as well as one giving an orientation of the physical archives, and another is available on the subject of immigration.

If you have a YouTube account, this is a channel you will want to subscribe to. Check it out at

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Your Interviewing Job Never Stops

Of course we all know the importance of interviewing living family members to get the memories of their experiences and other family members. But we need to realize that the job of interviewing never stops…even for those we have already interviewed extensively. New information we get can be just the key needed to unlock even more memories in the person’s mind.

William Dollarhide, writing for Leland Meitzler’s Genealogy Blog, makes this point very well. He gives some personal examples of interviewing successes as well as lessons learned. It is well worth the read, and you can find the article at If You Never Ask the Question

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Family Trees on

If you sign in to you will see a link on the search page to “Trees.” You may also have heard of an opportunity to search “Family Tree” on the website. Well, those two “trees” are not the same. The first is visible to all users of the website, and the second you have to register and sign in to see.

If this is a bit confusing, James Tanner in his Blog Genealogy’s Star, attempts to un-confuse us. He explains the difference and gives step-by-step instructions on how to get access to both (whether you are a Church member or not). It is easy to do and something you want to do to get the most from the FamilySearch website.

You can read James’ piece at Genealogy's Star: Signing in to and Family Tree

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Soldiers and Sailors System Has a New Look

Those of you interested in finding Civil War ancestors are probaby familiar with the Soldiers and Sailors Database managed by the National Park Service. But are you aware that the website has gone through a complete make-over?

The search screens are new and several new categories for research have been added. In addition to information on soldiers (both Union and Confederate), sailors, cemeteries, prisoners, battles, and units; now you can find information on politicians, activists, spies, noted civilians, and more.

As before, the site is still a work in progress with only two POW camps and two cemeteries detailed, but the new site has much to offer.

Check it out at

Don't forget that PGS offers a class on finding your Civil War Ancestors, in which use of the Soldiers and Sailors Database is covered in detail. Check the class calendar frequently to see when it is being offered next. < >

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Aerial Photos of Britain

Here is a great website for those researching British ancestry. It is a collection of aerial photographs of Britain taken from 1919 to 1953. It is useful for getting the “lay of the land” where your ancestors may have lived.

The interface is slick. The home page presents a slide show while the location of the scene is shown on a map to the right of the slide. If you choose the link to browse images, you are presented with a map of Britain with the photographed areas marked. You then drill down until you have the photograph you want.

There is lots more to the site, and you can find it at Britain from Above | Rescue the Past

Friday, September 7, 2012

History and Value of Family Bibles

William Dollarhide, has an article in the Genealogy Blog about family bibles. He starts with a brief but interesting history of Bible publication starting with Gutenberg in 1454, and then moving to Martin Luther and King James I.

Bibles are treasures to genealogists, and Dollarhide explains why by outlining it’s place in family history, education, and legal matters. He gives an example of tracking down a family Bible from his own family. That process of finding the family Bible is the focus of the article.

This is a valuable and informative article. You can find it at Who Has That Family Bible?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How Rich (or Poor) Was My Ancestor?

You may have noticed the dollar value of property, real or personal, listed in some census records—for instance the 1860 US Census. You may also have then wondered what that translated into today’s dollars.

That sounds like a rather straight forward question, but it apparently is not. Harold Henderson in the Midwestern Microhistory Blog gives an explanation of some of the problems in determining present value, and he also gives some suggestions on how to get an idea of the relative worth of your ancestor’s holdings.

Check it out at Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog: My ancestor had $1000 in 1860 -- was he rich?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Don't Forget Those Artifacts

In our research we usually concentrate on looking for documents such as birth and death certificates and marriage licenses…they are, after all, the stuff of genealogy. We also thrive on finding old photographs because they help us identify ancestors and sometimes even relationship among ancestors.
But what about old cameras, old books, furniture, eye glasses, desks, tools, and even houses? Those also can have a value to us genealogists although we don’t always stop to think of it. They can carry family history that is just as important to us in giving "life" to our ancestors as those documents that we spend so much time trying to find. And just like photographs, they can stimulate memories from the living members of our families that might never see the light of day without such a prompt.

We genealogists become antique collectors because we are commentators of family history. Antique dealers treasure such items because of their monetary value; we treasure them because of the stories and history about our families that they carry…their value to us is intrinsic. An old corncob pipe may not be worth very much money, but if we know that it belonged to our great-great grandfather, and that it was his chief pleasure to sit on the porch in the evenings and smoke it while telling stories with the family after working the farm all day, then it has great value.

Other items that may have value to your family are those associated with ancestors’ hobbies or jobs, such as nurses’ uniforms or scissors, pocket watches or cuff links, dried flowers or pressed ones, etc. The list is virtually endless. Often it just requires us to change our focus during our research to recognize the genealogical values of such things.
My family, for instance, treasures a small marble topped table that belonged to my great grandmother. She, as a child, as well as her children and her children's children all, at one time or another, did their arithmetic homework on its top. They wrote directly on the marble with a pencil and then erased their figures to begin again, making the top dull and even wavy in spots. The table is valuable because of the history it carries…because of the role it played in the life of our family, and its imperfections add to the value.
Even houses can hold genealogical value. Parents and grandparents may have wonderful childhood memories about living in a specific house. Another set of stories that might be connected with a house deals with when it was first purchased. Our homes typically are the most expensive possessions we have, and committing to such an obligation for the first time usually impresses itself indelibly on our minds. Those types of memories deserve to be recorded and even amplified with appropriate photographs. They give a broader and deeper understanding of our families and the lives they led.
Treasures of this type are probably scattered with members of your family. A brother may have an old family desk; a cousin may possess a hall tree that once was a great grandparent’s. And of course there is always our own basement or attic that can hold an item waiting to be discovered.

Once an item is found and we discover the story associated with it, don’t forget to write that story down and also record when, where, and who told the story. And when you are recording the story and its source, don’t forget to describe the object that started it all, its location, and take a picture of it as well. Completely documenting sources applies equally to documents and artifacts alike. An excellent source to guide source documentation is Evidence Explained: Citing history sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Second Edition) by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., Baltimore, 2009.
The Pinellas Genealogy Society offers a class on documenting sources that may be of value to you. Check the website at for more information.

So broaden your field of view during your research and consider family possessions as well as documents. The result will be a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the lives your ancestors led.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Search Tips

James Tanner in his Blog Genealogy’s Star has come through with another great article. This time he shares with us his “rules for optimizing online searches for genealogical information.”

We have all seen lists of search tips, I’m sure. Most genealogy sites even provide a link to a “how to search” page. But James’ seven rules are not of the common variety. He includes items like don’t get distracted, stick to it, and know when to stop.

This is worth your time, and can be found at Genealogy's Star: Navagating the Maze