Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Online Family Trees — MyHeritage.com, Dynastree.com, GenesReunited.com

I have been using several family tree websites over the last couple months so I decided to discuss three of these sites in today’s blog. The first site is MyHeritage.com. This site is the product of a merger of MyHeritage and GenCircles. I really like some of the capabilities found on this site. First of all, it links to your photo albums on a variety of websites, including Picasa. I have been able to transfer family photo albums from my Picasa collection to this website with little effort. Additionally, this site has a real nice facial recognition program. It searches all of your uploaded photos, finds the faces and catalogs them. You can see all of the faces that the program thinks are the same person, unselect those that are not the same person, and enter the person's name as it appears in your tree. Once you enter the name of the person in the picture you will see the possible matches in your family tree and you can associate the pictures with the person in your tree. You can also move these tagged faces back to your Picasa, Facebook, Flickr or other photo site on the web. The tree view looks like your typical layout and is easy to move around in. If you used GenCircles in the past you will remember that SmartMatching was used to match your trees with the trees of other subscribers. This site keeps that capability and sends you periodic e-mails containing the links to other trees that have matches. You can also invite others to join you and collaborate on your family tree. Every time your friends and relatives add information you are notified so you can see how your tree is growing over time. 

Dynastree.com was previously known as ItsOurTree.com. This site is similar to MyHeritage.com in the way that it functions. This one is free to use but appears a little cartoonish in their layout. This site also allows you to upload your family pictures and match them with individuals in your tree but I haven't seen any facial recognition capabilities here. You can also invite friends to collaborate with you and help build your family tree. I know there have been several articles on this site in the last few weeks so you might want to check out the reviews by Dick Eastman http://tinyurl.com/6alyrs and Renee Zamora at http://tinyurl.com/67uv9a to see what they think of the site.

My wife has recently found what she considers to be one of her favorite genealogy sites. This site is called GenesReunited.com. They specialize in genealogies from the United Kingdom. This is a pay site so you have to make the conversion from pounds to dollars when you calculate the cost. She has had a great deal of success on this page finding other researchers who are working on her lines. She found a real interesting family line the other day and discovered that D. Todd Christofferson is a 3rd cousin on her Vickery line. She was happily surprised to find this link especially since she is a first generation convert to the church. Information is private unless you are invited to see the submitted trees. You can search the website for names and then request permission to see matches from the owner. Once you have permission to view the tree you can move it around on the screen to open up new generations. 

Now it’s time to search the web and climb your tree. Have a happy Thanksgiving and be sure to gather as much information from family for your research as you can (between bites and naps)!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

US, British Commonwealth & German Veterans Gravesites

I am a little late for Veteran’s Day but it is never too late to remember your ancestors who fought in the various wars including WW I and WW II. This article will focus on some online databases which can be used to search for veterans from the British Commonwealth, United States and Germany who died during these wars.

I received the idea to write this article concerning war veterans from a friend of mine at work. He has been searching off and on without much luck, for his grandfather and other relatives who fought for the British Army during World War II. He asked me if I knew of any sites where he could find information on these veterans and frankly, I didn’t know of any right off hand. I had been able to find my relatives who died during WW I and WW II online a few years ago. Many of them happened to be Germans who had mostly died in France during the wars and their cemeteries had been indexed. This made some interesting reading even though none of it was written in English. I had also been able to find records for many of my ancestors from the United States who had fought in these wars. But I hadn’t tried to find any British records even though most of my wife’s ancestors are of British descent.

Well, a little research later and I am able to say that I have found an excellent website that contains details about the veterans from the British Commonwealth nations including Britain, Canada, Australia and others, who died during these wars. The site is managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and can be found at http://www.cwgc.org/. This site contains the records of over 1.7 million men and women who died during these wars and the 23,000 cemeteries they are buried in. The search screen is very intuitive and the results include name, rank, serial number, date of death, age, regiment, nationality, and cemetery. A detailed view is also available which may include names of family members and a description of the memorials that commemorate these brave men and women. You can also see lists of the veterans buried in each cemetery if you are interested. There are also histories of some battles, videos commemorating some of these veterans and educational materials on this site. Many of these materials can be used as educational materials to explain what life was like during those times.

There are many databases on the internet that provide information on US veterans. Most of you have probably heard of the Draft Registration Card indexes at Ancestry.com and KindredKonnections.com. But another site that I have used is the Nationwide Grave Locator run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. This site is located at http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/. The search screen is also very easy to use and it provides the details of veterans who have died since 1997. You can find the branch of service, dates of birth and death, and the location of the cemetery where the individual is buried.

While I am at it I might as well talk about the website that I used to discover my German war veterans also. This site is the Deutsche Gräbersuche Online and can be found at http://www.volksbund.de/graebersuche. The site includes records from 4.4 million veterans who died during the war. One thing to remember when using this site is that it is written completely in German. If you can’t read German, I suggest that you use one of the online services such as Google’s translator at http://translate.google.com/ to find your way around the site. This site asks you for your name and some other basic information before it allows you to search their records but all of the results are presented to you at no cost.

Have fun digging up your veterans!

Monday, November 24, 2008

National Day of Listening - November 28

November is an important month of holidays where we look back on our history and heritage. These holidays include Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. Veterans Day is the day we honor our veterans and the sacrifices they went through to make our freedom possible and we all know about Thanksgiving. That day of thanks and gluttony we all celebrate by worshiping the large bird, watching football and then taking a nap. Well, StoryCorps, an independent non-profit organization, with the help of National Public Radio, has declared November 28, 2008, the first annual National Day of Listening. They are asking us to take one hour of your day and record a conversation with someone important to your life. This could be a relative, friend, teacher or someone from your neighborhood. You can read more about the National Day of Listening by going to their website at http://www.nationaldayoflistening.org/. While visiting the site you can download a do-it-yourself guide, use their question generator to create a customized set of questions, and listen to interviews that are being shared by others taking part in this day. NPR will be airing some of these stories during their broadcasts all week long. So remember, take this time when you have family together to learn more about them and by doing so, learn more about yourself. Have fun!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Newspapers from Oceania (Australia & New Zealand)

We have been having fun looking at old newspapers online lately. Newspapers are a good source for information as you research your genealogy. They can provide hints about important events during the person's lifetime, and details on mariages, births, deaths, etc. Everyone probably realizes that the US newspapers can be found in several subscription places such as Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank.com. But where would you go if, for some reason, your ancestors happened to immigrate to Australia or New Zealand? Several of my wife's lines, the Bielefeld, LeBoeuf and Vickery sides, happened to settle in Australia and travel to New Zealand during the latter part of the 19th century. The sites I have listed below are all free to use and do not require a subscription.

PapersPast is a product of the National Library of New Zealand. It can be found on the web at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/. PapersPast contains more than one million pages of digitised New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. The collection covers the years 1839 to 1920 and includes publications from all regions of New Zealand. The site is very user friendly and allows you to perform searches by key words, date, region or publication title. One of the things I love about this site is that the pages have been converted to OCR so you can copy the text as the computer interpreted it, directly into your text editing program or genealogy software. Of course the computer is never 100% correct in its interpretation so you will have to compare the OCR against the digital image.

If you have Maori ancestry you can view the Maori newspaper collection at http://nzdl.sadl.uleth.ca/. Look toward the bottom of the page to find the link to Nuipepa: Maori Newspapers. This site is written in Maori but does have English translations of the site however, the newspapers are all in the Maori language. It covers the Maori newspapers published during the period of 1842 to 1932

Australian Newspapers Online is a product of the National Library of Australia. This site is currently in beta and can be found at http://ndpbeta.nla.gov.au/. This site has digitised images of various newspapers from all regions of Australia during the period of 1803 to 1954. As in PapersPast, the Australian Newspapers Online compares the OCR text alongside the digitised image however this site has some very cool options that I had not seen before on other sites. First of all, you can correct the OCR text online for others to read. That means that any corrections you find will be permanently included in the online record. Additional options include the tagging of images and the ability to leave comments concerning the article.

These are all very user friendly sites and give us an idea of how online newspaper archives should perform. I know that Australia and New Zealand aren't always the hottest locations for genealogical research, but for those of us who have links to the land down under, these are great sites.

G'day mates!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ward Service Project

I know this is not genealogy related but I just wanted to post a story about a service project that our ward took part in. We have gotten quite a bit of press concerning this both locally and in the Church News. I was one of the coordinators of the project. We managed to have over 100 people come out and we did an incredible amount of work including landscaping, clearing trails and constructing a 30' bridge. In total we completed about 600 hours of service in this one project. Stories have been posted at the following sites:

http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/55645/Service-goal-met.html
http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/111508/ner_355724970.shtml

You can see pictures of the project here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/milesmeyer

Family Reunion Ideas on a Budget

Have you ever been responsible for organizing the family reunion. If you have, I am sure that you found out pretty quickly that these can be expensive endeavors. Here are some tips to help keep costs down. 

We just had my wife's family reunion last month. This is a rotating event where one family has the responsibility each year to coordinate it and then it moves to another family for the next year. Right before the family reunions my wife and I usually cram a years worth of genealogy research into a few weeks. Two years ago I printed family books to pass out (I paid $10 for three 100 page books - had store discounts for printing). Last year we scanned all of the family photo albums and passed out cd's with the pictures to everyone (cost of cd's 5¢ each). This year my wife compiled a family tree that, when printed, stretched over 30 feet long (cost for printing $0 - we know a local blue printing company). Each year we bring along our laptop computer and set it up for the family to see their genealogy in PAF and so they can edit it with new information. This helps us keep up on the many changes that have occurred over the year. 

Next year it is our turn to host the reunion so what do we have planned? We plan on taking a sampling of our famous and not so famous ancestors, print their pictures on our home printers, place them in frames and display them on the tables at the reunion. To save money, search for frames during sales at home craft stores such as Michaels, Hobby Lobby or Garden Ridge. Sometimes you can find the frames for under $2 each during these sales. Printing 8x10 photos at home could cost less than $1 per page depending on the printer you have. At the end of the reunion the family can take some of these with them to use in their own home.

Where will you have your reunion? There are many places that can be selected to have reunions. We usually try to keep the events affordable and have a limit of about $2,000 each year. Our reunions are attended by 50-75 people so that is about $30 per person. That includes the facility rental and food. Past reunions have been at Fraternal Order of Police facilities, subdivision club houses and a local zoo. Generally the use of your local club house is fairly cheap and may already be included in your home owners dues. The rental of the zoo facilities may be more expensive. I like to have events at local parks. We have a nice city park in our area. This park has a community center with kitchen, swimming pool, play ground, 9-hole golf course, soccer fields, tennis courts, fishing pier, boat dock and several miles of trails. How much do you think this would cost? Well, it is $50 for clean-up and $25 per hour. There is a minimum of 3 hours rental so that is $125. We will probably go for 6 hours for a total of $200 with all of the activities included (except greens fees for the golfers). Now all we have to do is work on the southern fried catering or maybe it will be pot-luck.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My First Blog

Hi there everyone. I have decided to catch up with the times and start my own genealogy blog. I am turning 40 soon (next week) and have a reputation for my expertise in technology but I have not been utilizing all of the resources that are currently available. Just a few months ago I set up my Facebook profile and now I have almost 60 people in my friends list, many of them well known genealogy bloggers. A few weeks ago I added a profile to LinkedIn. And now I will be starting my blogging life. We all know how hard it is to keep a journal, so we will see how this goes.

I have been using the internet for a long time, have developed many web pages, have taught classes on how to use the web for research and some of my materials are being used in various places across the world. I am glad that I have been of help to others doing their research. I greatly appreciate all of the other genealogy bloggers out there for their help and inspiration, including:
Renee Zamora at Renee's Genealogy Blog (http://rzamor1.blogspot.com/)
Dick Eastman at Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter (http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/)
Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider (http://blog.familytreemagazine.com/insider/)
Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings (http://www.geneamusings.com)
Randy Ragan at Treasure Maps Genealogy (http://amberskyline.com/treasuremaps/)
and many others.

Now that I have mentioned some of the blogs that I use frequently, I hope that what I post will be fresh and not just a rehash of what you can find on the other blogs. This blog will contain results of my family's research as well as any discoveries I make that are useful to the genealogy world as a whole.

If you want to see examples of what I have written in the past please check out my Family History web site at http://milesmeyer.googlepages.com. I have copies of my newsletters, lesson plans and many other things located there. Please feel free to use these as you like, just make sure to give me credit somewhere for all the work.