Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ancestral Quest Releases Major Upgrade ver. 15

Ancestral Quest (AQ) has been my go to genealogy software for many years. Their software originated from PAF and has always maintained a close connection to FamilySearch. Their latest update provides more great enhancements.

TreeTips: AQ has always been able to search other genealogy websites for hints. Previous versions have even allowed you to write your own code to search your favorite websites. But now it searches as you view your ancestor's name and tells you when hints have been found for MyHeritage, FamilySearch and FindMyPast. That's a potential 10 billion records! Each of their icons show up next to your ancestor's name indicating new hints have been found.

TreeTips Provides Helpful Hints

Memories Manager: FamilySearch has a gallery where people can upload their memories (photos, documents, audio clips, etc.) for their ancestors. AQ has a scrapbook where you can link your records to your ancestors. Now, with Memories Manager, you can sync these records between your FamilySearch account and AQ. You can even download and link records that others have uploaded. You are able to see the records from FamilySearch and AQ side-by-side and sync those files between the two.

Memories Manager

Enhanced Child View and Pedigree View: This new upgrade allows you to see even more information in the standard views. The Child View provides symbols to the left of the names that indicate if the person was married, had children, or doesn't have any information. The Pedigree View now provides up to 7 generations on the same screen. Previously the default view was 5 generations.

Enhanced Child View

Enganced Pedigree View - 6 Generations Shown

The enhancements provided in AQ15 make your research quicker by finding more hints and making syncing between FamilySearch and your files easier. For more information visit AQ's website and read more about the updates.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Making Family History Fun for the Kids

Fun? When was the last time you heard someone say family history was fun? If you have worked with some people beginning their research you might have heard them exclaim how much fun it was when they found a new record. But generally, people who aren't doing family history consider it a boring task, best left to the retired members of the family and definitely not for the children. What if I could tell you some ways to make family history research fun for your children? Would you try them? I hope so.

With the holidays upon us, there are many opportunities for family gatherings. These are the perfect setting to add family history to the discussion. Many of us are planning on travelling and need activities for the children to do during the long trips.

One activity you can prepare are word search puzzles. There are many online sites that help you develop your own word search puzzles. Discovery Education has a great word search generator. You can enter in words or names of your ancestors and it creates a puzzle. Below, you can see a puzzle I created using some general words that we run across during our research but you can use any variety of words to make it interesting for you and your children.

Word Search Puzzle from Discovery Education

Did you ever play Car Bingo when you were a kid? If you did, you probably remember finding license plates or road signs with the words or numbers you were searching for to fill in your Bingo card. Now, you can create your own Bingo cards with information about your family history by visiting the BingoBaker or the TeachingStuff website. Just fill in the squares with information that your children may find as you travel and connect it to your family history. In the example below I have included a few dates, places and names that they may find on license plates, signs, or other things they will see.

Example of Bingo Cards from TeachingStuff website

Do you have a bunch of family photos sitting around? Maybe you can create a matching game or jigsaw puzzle from copies of the pictures (don't use the originals). For the matching game you can make duplicate copies of the photos and attach them to card stock paper to make them sturdier. Shuffle the pictures and place them face down and have your child pick the matches. You can make it more difficult by using two different pictures of the same person as the marching cards. As your child picks up a card and turns it face up you can tell them who it is and maybe a short story to help them recognize the photo. Jigsaw puzzles are easy to make. All you have to do is enlarge a copy of a photo and glue it to a hard backing then cut it into interlocking pieces. If you want to get elaborate with this, you can attach the photo to a thin piece of wood and use a jigsaw blade to cut pieces.

How about 20 questions? As your child becomes familiar with their ancestors you can start playing 20 questions. One person thinks of an ancestor and the other asks yes or no questions to try to figure out who it is.

In today's world, kids are used to video games and the electronic world. It could be interesting to show them games that you played as a child, or games that their grandparents played. Get them outside after the meals and play freeze tag, follow the leader, or hide and seek. If the weather isn't suitable you can stay inside and play jacks, checkers, or hot and cold. I am sure you have your favorite games from your childhood that you can teach to the kids.

There are so many ways to work family history into your children's activities. Take the opportunity to learn more about your family history and pass it along to your children in a way that they will enjoy.

It's All Online, Why Should I Visit the Family History Center?

Good morning all. I decided to take some time off from work to catch up on my writing. It is a beautiful crisp 68 degrees this December morning (I love south Florida) and as we get into the holiday season the number of visitors to our Family History Center (FHC) is begining to drop off. As the Vero Beach Stake Family History Center Director, I have been working on ways to increase the use of our FHC and when I woke up this morning it hit me, I haven't written about the Center. I maintain a Facebook page for the Center, but how else should I be reaching out to prospective patrons?

I do hear from many people that there is so much information online that they don't feel the need to come to the FHC. As long as they are working on family history somewhere, I am happy, but they are missing out on the excellent resources that the FHC has available. So why should they visit the FHC? Here are just a couple reasons to visit your local FHC.

1) Expert Assistance: Our Center has 7 consultants available during the week. We are open to the public most Mondays and Fridays 10:00 am - 2:00 pm and Wednesdays 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm. We are also open for LDS members on Sundays during Sunday School hour. There are always at least two consultants available on Monday and Friday and on Wednesday and Sunday we have 5 or more consultants available to give personal assistance.

2) Equipment: We have 7 computers in the FHC and one printer/scanner. We also have several film and fiche readers. The printer/scanner can scan your family photos directly to your Gallery in FamilySearch.

3) The FHC Portal: The FHC Portal is a collection of sites which you can access free from the Family History Center. This collection includes:
  • 19th Century British Library Digital Newspaper Archive
  • The American Civil War Research Database
  • American Ancestors
  • Ancestry
  • Findmypast
  • Fold3
  • Geneanet
  • Kinpoint
  • MyHeritage
  • Newspaper Archive
  • Paper Trail
  • ProQuest Obituary Collection
  • Puzzilla
  • and ArkivDigital Online

4) Trained Staff: We have been working to make sure all our FHC Consultants are properly trained. Through regular in person and online training, we are building a set of expertise that can provide you the help you need to find those elusive ancestors.

5) Record Access From Salt Lake: You can order microfilms and other records from the Salt Lake Family History Library and have them sent to your local FHC where you can take your time looking through them. It's much cheaper than flying out there for a record but maybe not as much fun.

6) Our secret weapon: Ok, if you come in on Wednesday you get me. Yeah, I know, now the doors will be busting down on Wednesday evenings.

7) Special Events: We are working on providing special events so the patrons get to know us better. Our first event of 2017 will be the Indian River Genealogy Conference. This is a free event scheduled for Saturday, March 18 (8:00 am - 4:00 pm). You can visit the Facebook site for more information on this conference. We are also planning for an open house and other events during the year.

8) In Home Assistance: For members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we can provide in-home assistance on your family history. All you have to do is contact one of our Consultants and set up a time. We will take the opportunity to get to know you better, figure out your research interests, and develop a research plan for you to achieve your research goals.

We welcome all visitors from beginners to experienced researchers. We are called to serve the members of our Church as well as the people in our communities. Our Center is located at 3980 12th Street, Vero Beach, Florida and our phone number is 772-770-2361. Come visit us and learn more about your family's history.

So, how do you find your local Family History Center? One way is to go to FamilySearch.org and click on the [Get Help] link. From there select [Contact Us] and enter your zip code. This will provide a map to your local Family History Center. Once you locate your FHC give them a call and let them know you are coming to visit them, I'm sure they will be glad to hear from you.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Death Records - Digging Up Your Ancestors

Good morning all, hope you are having a great weekend. Earlier this week I was invited to speak on death records at our German Genealogy Interest Group. The speaker following me gave a short presentation on the Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS). I figured I would write about my talk and add some of the resources that can help you fulfill the GPS this morning. This blog post will be a little longer than many of my others but it is packed with a great deal of information that I hope is helpful to you in your research.

We all use death records in our family history research. They are a great source of data but not all death records are created equal. One of my favorite sources for death information are the cemetery databases. Many of these databases are crowd source projects where people can contribute information, photographs, documents, etc. to build the information about a person or cemetery. The most popular cemetery database is Find A Grave. Find A Grave was founded in 1995 and currently has over 154 million burial records from around the world. This site is now owned by Ancestry and its records are searchable from Ancestry and FamilySearch. One thing I really like about Find A Grave is that many families are now being linked together on a page. The links allow you to search for other family members quickly and compile your list of names and dates. Also, I like the ability to search for family names in a specific cemetery, county, or state.

Another of the larger online cemetery databases is Billion Graves. Billion Graves is based around a smartphone app which allows you to take pictures, tag them with gps coordinates, and upload them to the cloud. Every record on Billion Graves has a geo-referenced picture of the headstone. Of course the location of the headstone is only approximate and depends on the quality of the satellite data at the time and the phone's gps system, but it does give you a good approximation of the location if you are visiting the cemetery. I like this app because it allows you to take around 200 pictures in an hour and, once they are transcribed, gives researchers a great deal of information. Billion Graves data is searchable on FamilySearch and many of the burial records are linked directly to the person on FamilySearch.

An older site, Interment.net, contains lists of cemeteries and names. This site was founded in 1997 and has about 6 million records. It is affiliated with GenealogyBank. The site can be useful but has significantly fewer records (only about 6 million) than either Billion Graves or Find A Grave. Also, there are no pictures on this site. Additionally, there is no search capability for individuals, all data are delivered as lists for a specific cemetery. The search functions on this site are for either GenealogyBank records or Google search results, not for the cemetery index itself.

Beyond these larger databases there are several smaller ones that could provide great results. For your ancestors who served in the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs has the Gravelocator database. I have found records from the Civil War, Indian Wars, World War I and II, Vietnam, Korea, etc., on this site. The database includes individuals located in national cemeteries as well as those who had military funerals or markers.

One of the original online genealogy databases, US GenWeb, also has a cemetery database called their Tombstone Project. This is a text list of of individuals buried in a cemetery. You can search for the cemeteries by location and go down the list of burials until you find your person.

One more cemetery site is found on AccessGenealogy. AccessGenealogy was founded in about 2000 and provides a database of cemetery web sites. It does not hold any information itself, but gives you a list of websites that have the information on your specific cemetery.

Now that you have used the various cemetery databases to locate your ancestor, you should have some information on his burial location, dates for death and birth, and possibly some additional family members. Now you can move on to the next set of records, the death records. The death certificates can provide a wealth of information including birth, death and burial dates and places, names of parents and their birth place, other relatives (spouse, children, witnesses), cause of death, duration of illness, and many more pieces of data which are essential to your research.

FamilySearch and Ancestry have great collections of death records available. However, actual death certificates may only be available for a short period of time for each state. For example, Ohio only has death certificates available online for the period between 1908 and 1953. After 1953 you have to rely on other records such as the Social Security Death Index or death certificate indexes. Prior to 1908 you might need to rely on individual county death rolls. Each state has a different set of years where data is available so I recommend looking at the FamilySearch Wiki to see what is available and where to find it. FamilySearch and Ancestry also have indexed records that provide the basic information from the original records. Additionally, Ancestry has a great collection of Probate Records. Many states also have online access to their death certificates. You might try looking at the state's Memory Project or Archives, or even their individual state vital records site. It might be difficult to find these additional site so I will give you another site which could help you in this search, DeathIndexes.com. This site is a compilation of links to national, state and regional databases which have death records. One little tidbit of information about death certificates: Have you ever noticed the numbers in the cause of death area of the certificate? Those numbers are the International Cause of Death (ICD) code. The ICD codes have been in use since the early 1900s and may provide additional information about the cause of death. If you want to find out what your specific code means, I suggest you take a look at Wolfbane's database of codes. Make sure you look at the specific range of dates that your record is in because the codes do change periodically.

Now that you have specific dates for the death and the location of death, the next death record I try to find are the obituaries. The obituaries are found in the local newspapers. Remember to search the newspapers from the location of the event, the location where the person lived at the time of death, and the location where they were born. You may want to search the larger regional newspapers for mentions of the death also. I like to check multiple newspapers since you could find additional information in each newspaper. So, where do you look for newspaper articles?

One great database is the Library of Congress' Chronicling America Historic Newspaper Collection. This site has a collection of newspapers from across the country between 1789 and 1922. Another site that I use often is Genealogy Bank's Obituary Collection. This is searchable to Genealogy Bank subscribers but is also available for free from the FamilySearch website. If you cant't find your local newspaper on these sites, I suggest looking at Wikipedia. This link to Wikipedia has a list of online newspaper archives from around the world. Some of the papers are free while other have subscription fees. There are also several sites that compile lists of obituaries, some are for specific regions such as Elmer Spear's Genealogy Corner (Ohio and Southeast Georgia/Florida) and the Rutherford B. Hayes Library (Ohio). If you want to find obituary records for your region, I suggest looking at GenealogyBuff Obituary Collection. This is a site which compiles links to websites that have obituary collections. For more recent obituaries I suggest looking at the Tributes and Legacy websites. Both of these sites collect obituaries from funeral homes around the country. Sysoon also has a collection of death records. Sysoon is a wiki which starts out from death records compiled by the Social Security Death Index and then allows users to add additional information to fill out the data. One last tip, if you visit Cyndi's List she has a set of obituary and death collections that are very useful.

I hope that these resources provide you hours of research fun and result in new discoveries for your family. Have a good weekend.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Using BLM Land Patent Maps for Family History

Hello everyone. Fall is finally in the air. The temperatures here in Florida are falling into the low 60s at night and the pool is too cold to swim in. With the cooler temperature the grass grows more slowly and I hope to have a little more time to work on my family history and on blogging. One of the things I have been working on lately is using more mapping tools to help people locate ancestors. I have occasionally written about maps in my previous blogs but I wanted to discuss something that happened last week in our Family History Center.

One of our family history consultants was searching for an ancestor in the panhandle region of Florida. She has had a hard time finding anything on this person. Previously, we had found his land grant on the BLM Government Land Office Records database. This database includes more than five million land title records beginning as early as 1820 as well as many land surveys and field notes going back to 1810. We searched for her ancestor, Willie Kite Vickers and found that he had a land grant in Section 23, Township 1S, Range 12W in Bay County, Florida. His parcel included the southwest quarter of Section 23, approximately 160 acres.

GLO Records Results for Willie Kite Vickers
After seeing the results we looked at the original Land Patent image.

Land Patent Record for Willie Kite Vickers
From the land patent we learned that Willie received the patent on 28 March 1906 and we could see a full description of the land he received.

The next tab, Related Documents, leads to some further information including the plat image and surveys.

Survey Information for Township 1S, Range 12W in Bay County, Florida
We were able to copy the map provided by downloading it as either pdf, jp2 or sid formats. Most everyone has Adobe or another program which opens pdf files. JP2 files are jpeg2000, while SID is the MrSID format and not all graphics software can open those file formats. For most people I would suggest sticking to the pdf format. After I downloaded the image I opened it in my graphics software so I could draw out the property boundaries of his land. I use a free program called paint.net which is available online.

Willie Vickers Land Grant - cross hatched area
Then we searched the Related Documents tab to see who else received land patents in this same area. As we search through the 3 pages of other records she saw a last name that was familiar. It was the name for James V Sewell.

Related Documents - Other land owners in this area
Looking at James' land patent we discovered that he had land in Section 22. His land is listed as the NE1/4 of the NW1/4 and NW1/4 of the NE1/4 of Section 22.

James Sewell's land patent (Cross hatched Section 22) and Willie Vickers land patent (Section 23)
When we map the lands received by Mr. Sewell along with that of Willie Vickers, we see that they were neighbors. This discovery has led to some further investigation which is still ongoing. Hopefully we will break through this brick wall with the discoveries coming from this mapping exercise.

I encourage each of you to look into the possibilities of using maps in your research. They are a great tool and provide spatial information that the usual paper records may not.

Good luck, and keep researching.

Friday, October 14, 2016

French Archives

Good morning folks. I decided to take a vacation day today to catch up on some things around the house. Last week we were struck by Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 hurricane. We lucked out and the hurricane stayed just offshore as it made its way up the Florida coast. Our damage was minimal but that put me about a week behind on the typical housework items like mowing the yard. So, as I am waiting for sunrise I decided to write another short blog post.

Yesterday I attended our monthly German Genealogy Interest Group meeting. This was the first meeting of our year. We start in October and have meetings through May while the snowbirds are here and then take off the summer months. One of the members began asking about archives. As you may remember, I started a series of posts on archives in Germany, France and the Netherlands a little while ago. She was interested in the archives for the Alsace region. After her question I decided to provide more information on the French archives that I have been able to find.

In 1791, after the French Revolution, France was divided into departments which are the local divisions of government. Today, there are 96 departments in France and 5 overseas departments. Each of the departments is distinguished by a two digit number as shown in the map below. These departments have their own archives, and many have smaller local archives. Many of these archives are online.

Departments of France

These archives have important collections of records for your genealogy research. I have been able to use several of them for research that I have done for others. You can see my previous posts concerning the Paris, Haut Rhin, Bas Rhin and Moselle archives. My goal this morning is to provide you with a link to a comprehensive list of the French archives that I have been able to find online so you can further your French research.

The national archive for France can be found at http://www.archivesdefrance.culture.gouv.fr/. Once you arrive at the National Archive you can find a list of the departments. Each department lists their main webpage, contact information including e-mail, hours of operation, and any regional or local archives within the department boundaries. You can find the department archives list at http://www.archivesdefrance.culture.gouv.fr/annuaire-services/departement/. The archives also have a specific set of pages for genealogy research - http://www.culture.fr/Genealogie. In case you can't read the French pages, there is an English translation of the pages available by clicking in the upper right corner of the pages for the English link.

If you want to learn more about the departments and other political regions of France this link is a great resource (http://www.map-france.com/departments/).

Hope you have luck and let me know if you find any discoveries in these archives.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

German Census Records - Where Do I Find Them?

Good morning! I have been wanting to post more stories to my blog but keep forgetting what the topics are. Maybe one day I will start writing notes to myself to remind me what I am thinking about. So, since I couldn't remember what I intended to write about, I figured I would take an old presentation and discuss that.

As I do my genealogy research and teach others how to do their research I rely heavily on the US Census records which are widely available online. As we start to go back to the original immigrants this resource becomes less helpful and we need to begin looking for records from their homelands. Many regions have great church records available in the digital collections online but finding good census records is more difficult. In my case, I need to find the records for several German states. As you look for the German census records you are told by many that those records don't exist or they were lost in the war. In some cases that may be true, but not always.

Last year I was privileged to hear a talk from Dr. Roger Minert at RootsTech2016. He had spent a great deal of time researching the German Censuses, looking in the corners and boxes of various archives, and compiling what is actually available. Earlier this year he published a book compiling the results of his research. This book, German Census Records 1816-1916: The When, Where, and How of a Valuable Genealogical Resource, is available from Amazon.com for under $35 or you can see if your local library has a copy by looking it up at WorldCat. In the book, he describes the history of German censuses and the status of the census for 34 German states.

Did you know that some German states held censuses every three years? Or that Prussia had 16 censuses between 1818-1864? Or that the German Empire held 10 censuses between 1871-1961? Just like in the US censues, the amount of information in each German census has increased over time, beginning with the haushalts bestandsliste which only records heads of household and number of residents in the earlier censuses and ending with the urlisten which provides information for each resident in the household.

But where are these records kept? Most of the censuses (~85%) are held in city and town archives. The remainder are held in state/federal archives (~5%) and regional archives (~10%). You can find some of these records in digital format on FamilySearch.org. A very few are available online in various archives. But since many are in regional archives you might need to visit the fatherland for the time being until those are digitized and made available.

How do you know where your family was from in Germany? Well, prior to 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was just a consolidation of various states with constantly changing boundaries. The best way to determine where your family may have been from is using maps from their time. The Meyers-Orts und Verkehrs-Lexikon or Meyers-Ortz Gazatteer from 1912-1913 includes the farthest extent of the German Empire. This Gazatteer can be found on Ancestry. The search is by letter and is found in the Browse This Collection box to the right of the search page. But remember, everything is written in German. If you have trouble reading the original German version of the Meyers-Ortz Gazatteer it has been translated to English at www.meyersgaz.org.

Example of a page from the Meyers Gazatteer.
So far, I have only found a few examples of the German censuses digitized and searchable online. They consist of the following:

Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1867) - FamilySearch - Ancestry - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1890) - FamilySearch                  - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1900) - FamilySearch Ancestry - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1919) -                        - Ancestry

In addition to those listed above there are a few sites in Germany that have census indexes. The Arbeitskreis Volkszahl-Register claims to have 3,188 censuses with over 1.7 million individuals indexed. The Arbeits-Gemeinschaft Genealogie Schleswig-Holstein website has an incomplete index for a variety of censuses from Schleswig-Holstein region including 1803, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1855, and 1860.

If you are interested in reading up on the older German census records, there is a good article by Rolf Gehrmann at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/papers/working/wp-2009-023.pdf.

I hope these tips help you in finding your ancestors in Germany. Viel Gl├╝ck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

October is Family History Month (Again)

Welcome back. I just returned from a week in West Virginia for work related training. It is always nice to get up there because it is cooler and they have topography. Here in Florida it is hot, humid and flat. While I was there I worked on adding another 200+ graves to BillionGraves. I try to add cemeteries when I travel. You might want to consider a random cemetery trip the next time you are on the road.

Now that I am back I have a bunch of projects to work on, least of which is the burned out compressor in our AC unit. But back to genealogy where I am organizing a conference for March, preparing my talks for several upcoming conferences, helping to organize a genealogy society in Second Life, starting a Facebook Group for our local Family History Center, and much more. With October being Family History Month, I hope to get a few more projects completed and hope to be posting a couple more articles to my blog (if all works out).

Here are some suggestions on what you can do in October to celebrate Family History Month:

  • Register for RootsTech 2017. Did you know that RootsTech registration is now open? RootsTech will be held February 8-11, 2017 in Salt Lake City. They have reduced early bird rates of $159 for the conference pass, $189 for the RootsTech + Innovators Summit pass, $69 for the Getting Started pass (Thursday-Saturday), one day passes for $49, and free Family Discovery Day passes for Saturday. This is an incredible conference and I plan on being there again in 2017.
  • Join in on a free live genealogy webinar conference. BCG will be hosting a day of free webinars on October 7 (9am - 5pm Mountain Time). Speakers will include Ann Staley, Judy Russell, Pamela Boyer Sawyer, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, and David McDonald. For more information click here
  • Do some sourcing. WikiTree is hosting a Source-a-thon on October 1-3. The purpose of the Source-a-thon is to focus on the trees that have been contributed without sources. Participants will be eligible for prizes during hourly random drawings. Currently, the prizes include annual subscriptions to MyHeritage, FindMyPast, Ancestry, Fold3, Newspapers.com, and GenealogyBank; DNA kits from FTDNA; subscriptions to online courses; books, magazines, gift certificates, t-shirts; a 4-day pass to RootsTech 2017, and many other items. WikiTree is a free community based family tree which offers you the ability to write wiki page profiles for each person in your tree. Register, get a number (I am #354) and join with the other Sourcerers for a fun weekend of random genealogy. For more information on this event, and to register, click here.
  • Record a cemetery. Find-a-grave is hosting their Find A Grave Community Days on October 7-9. Join Findagrave.com in helping to preserve your local cemetery information. Use their mobile app to record the headstones in your local cemetery, post stories to your social media sites, or join with a scheduled meetup. More information on this event can be found by clicking here
  • Win a vacation. Geneabloggers is sponsoring a free 7-night stay at Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites in Salt Lake City. Imagine winning a full week in Salt Lake to do your research and see the sights of the city. I love visiting Salt Lake but every time I have gone it has been in February. The registration is free, no purchase required. All registrations must be received by 2:00 am CDT, September 26, 2016, For more information click here
  • Join a Virtual Genealogy Society. We are starting an online genealogy society called the Second Life Virtual Genealogy Society (SLVGS) in Second Life. Second Life is a virtual world with free basic subscription fees. The SLVGS is meeting monthly with our next meeting on Sunday, September 25, at 8:30 pm Eastern Time (6:30 pm Mountain Time). We meet at the Just Genealogy fire pit. For more information about the organization, click here
  • Do your DNA. Have you thought about adding your DNA to one of the many sites out there? DNA can be a powerful tool in finding your cousins. With Ancestry.com's DNA kit you can see how you are related to the matches as well as seeing your ethnicity results. And you might just get included in the next season of BYU's Relative Race.  Use this link to get 10% off your DNA kit from Ancestry.com. 
  • Find out something new. If none of those things interest you, you could just spend some extra time getting to know your ancestors through additional research. FamilySearch's mobile Memories app now allows you to record an interview with your relatives. Use this app to record a conversation or scan your family's photo albums and then upload the information to FamilySearch.org. For more information on the Memories app click here.

With all of these ideas you won't have any time to do the other things around the house (cleaning, dishes, cooking, etc). Just tell your family you are celebrating Family History Month and if they get hungry give them the phone number for Pizza Hut. Have fun celebrating!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The US Census - Beyond the Names - Mapping Your Ancestors

Welcome back and thanks for your continued support of my blog. I am back at it again and thankfully I have some time off work to get back to more blogging. My previous blog post was about using the US census to discover immigration records. This post will be about using the census to map your ancestors.

I have always found it interesting to see where my ancestors lived and I like to compare present day photographs with the historic photos to see how the areas have changed over time. A few years ago my family took a day trip and visited Fernandina Beach, Florida, the location where my wife's 3rd great grandparents settled when they immigrated from St. Heliers, Channel Islands. The town still has its historic town center with all the buildings turned into tourist shops and restaurants. But since we hadn't been there for a couple years we were amazed at how much things had changed in just that little time. How much must it have changed since the 1860s when they immigrated there?

Back in 2011, I wrote a blog titled Mapping Your Ancestors. That post talked about some of the tools that you can use to compare areas over time. But how do you use the census records to see how people migrated and how areas have changed?

Each census provides basic information that can help locate your ancestors' general locations. For example, my wife's 3rd great-grandfather Corydon Bloomfield Reeder moved frequently during his life. We first find him in the 1850 census. Based on that census, we know he was born in Ohio but was living in Monroe Township, Delaware County, Indiana. During the 1860 census he is listed as living in Umatilla Crossing, Lower Umatilla Precinct, Wasco County, Oregon. The 1870 census has him living in Cayuse, Umatilla County, Oregon. In 1880, he is living in Thomas Fork Valley, Uinta County, Wyoming.

Now I can map these points to see where he lived. This is a simple task that can be done with a spreadsheet and Google Maps. First, create a table with the dates and locations in your spreadsheet program. You can use MS Excel or try Google Sheets as a free replacement.

Example of location spreadsheet

I only included the locations from the census records in the example table above but you can add as many locations as you have. For example, you can add locations from tax records, children's birth records, marriage records, etc to complete your map.

Once you have the spreadsheet complete you should save it as a csv file which can be imported into your mapping program such as Google Maps or Google Earth.

Map for Corydon Reeder

For the map above I have added several more sets of data to the census data. This includes land grants and marriage records. In Google Maps each type of data can be colored a different color. When you click on the pin the data from your spreadsheet for that point is shown. This is a great method to show how people have migrated over time.

But what if your family didn't migrate and they stayed in the same place all their life? Well, there are tools for that also. One thing you can do if they were landowners is find plat maps for the region. One of my favorite sites for plat maps is Historic Map Works. They do charge for downloads and printed maps but you can search their map database for free and see the maps you need.

1860 Plat map - Jackson Township, Auglaize County, Ohio

1880 Plat map - Jackson Township, Auglaize County, Ohio

1898 Plat map - Jackson Township, Auglaize County, Ohio

The three plat maps above show the same parcel of land and its ownership. In 1860 this land was owned by G. H. Severin and consisted of 90 acres. Mr. Severin was actually George H. Severin. In 1880 you can see that the land was owned by the G. Severin Heirs and consisted of 110 acres. In 1898 the land is owned by Catherine Severin. Catherine was my great-great-grandmother. Her first husband was William Severin, the son of George H. Severin.  You can also see that sometime between 1860 and 1880 the Severin family acquired some land to their northwest corner from either J. Wente or H. Heitkamp. The changing land holdings can give us clues as to marriages, deaths, and other events. For example, we know that George Severin died between 1860 and 1880 since the land is owned by his heirs in 1880. Also knowing who the neighbors were can give us clues as to how well they knew each other and why certain families married.

The 1860 and 1870 census records for George Severin list his location as Jackson Township, Auglaize County, Ohio. Additionally these censuses list his real estate values. In 1860 his real estate was valued at $2,800. In 1870 the census lists his real estate value as $3,000. So there was a $200 increase in his land value between these censuses. Was that when he acquired that additional acreage? We would have to look at land records to find that out.

The censuses during the 20th century provide additional detail on locations. I especially like the ones that have house addresses. You can use Streetview on Google Maps to see what the place looks like today and see if their home is still standing. But I especially like using real estate sites such as Trulia and Zillow. Why is it useful to use current real estate information in your research? Well, let's take a look at some examples.

In the 1920 census, my great-grandfather Ray Westerheide is listed as living at 317 Nassau Street, Dayton, Ohio. His occupation at this time was as an assembler at Delco Lights. From one of the real estate sites we get the following information:

Trulia.com results for 317 Nassau St., Dayton, Ohio

You can see the homes here are probably the original homes from when Ray lived there. They are typical shotgun style homes. The one on the right appears to have been updated with a second floor added. But it appears that his home is no longer there. We also get information on the current neighborhood and home values.

By the 1930 census, Ray had moved to 122 South Frankfort Street in Minster, Ohio. Ray was the manager of a Kroger grocery store at this time.

Trulia.com results for 122 S. Frankfort St, Minster, Ohio

From this information you can see that the house was built in 1924. So I might be able to assume that Ray and his family were the original owners of this home. His family consisted of Ray, his wife, and their 6 children so they probably needed the extra space provided by this home.

So, from the information I found in the censuses I was able to develop all of these maps to get a better idea of what the area was like when they lived.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The US Census - Beyond the Names - Immigration

I am taking a few days off of work to get things done around the house but there is only so much you can do outside when it is over 90 degrees and the humidity is so high that you start sweating as soon as you step out. So, after mowing part of the yard I needed to come inside where the air conditioning works. And while I am inside I figured I would put together another post to my blog.

I see many people using the census to discover family members but often they don't bother to look at the actual document. They focus on the indexed information and are just interested in the names. A few years ago I had a talk about mining the US censuses to write your family's story. In that presentation I focused on the additional items in the census. I spoke about family composition, land ownership, employment, economy, and immigration.

Immigration information is one of those things that many beginning researchers have problems finding. The censuses have a wealth of information about immigration if you know how to find it but we always need to be weary about the information and realize that it may not always be correct. Use it as a guide to discover more information that leads to a final conclusion.

Beginning in the 1850 census each person in the census has a birth place listed. Knowing the birth place for the individuals in a family can help you find an approximate date for their immigration. Below is the 1860 census for my 3rd great-grandparents Ferdinand and Appolonia Gayer.

1860 US Census, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio

From this census I can see that Ferdinand was born in Baden, Germany. Below that there are several family members listed as "Do" which stands for ditto. The last person in this family born in Baden was Magdalena who was age 7, meaning she was likely born around 1852-1853. The next child, Catherine is listed as being born in Ohio. Catherine is 5 years old, so we can assume that she was born around 1854-1855. From this one record, which doesn't list immigration information directly, I was able to determine that the family probably immigrated between 1852 and 1855.

To find more information I then went to the 1870 census.

1870 US Census, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio

The 1870 census lists Magdalena "Mag" as 18 years old and being born in Baden. Catherine is listed as 13 years old and born in Ohio. This gives me a range of 1851 to 1857 as the possible immigration date. Notice that neither daughter aged the expected 10 years during this census so my approximate immigration date has grown a bit.

The 1880 census isn't as much help because the children are getting older and many have moved out of the family home. But I can still get a little information from it.

1880 US Census, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio

In the 1880 census only Ferdinand and his wife are listed as being born in Baden. All of the other people in the household were born in Ohio. But I do see Catherine, she is now listed as Catherine Carity, a widow, aged 24. Based on her age and the fact that she was born in Ohio, we know that the family had to immigrate before 1856.

So, what have I found out about the Gaier family and their immigration from these early censuses? First of all, I know that Ferdinand, Appalonia and several of their children were born in Baden, Germany. Secondly, I know that they most likely immigrated in the mid 1850s, probably around 1853 or 1854.

Next, I looked at the 1900 census. Between 1900 and 1930, the census should list the immigration year for each individual.

1900 US Census, Loramie Village, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio - Ferdinand Gaier

In the 1900 census I found Ferdinand Gaier, age 90, born in Germany. He is living in the home of his daughter Magdalena who married Joseph Rice. Remember, Magdalena was the last child born in Germany before the family immigrated. The columns after the birth locations should have the immigration information. Just my luck, the enumerator failed to record the immigration information for this family. So, that means we need to check on the other children who were born in Germany to see if the census records their immigration year.

1900 US Census, Granville Township, Mercer, Ohio - Charles Gaier

The 1900 census for Charles Gaier lists his immigration year as 1850. That is a little bit off of what I had figured but still within the typical margin of error on a census.

What about her brother Valentine? I was able to find Valentine in the 1900 and 1910 censuses.

1900 US Census, Loramie Village, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio - Val Gaier

1910 US Census, Loramie Village, McLean Township, Shelby, Ohio - Val Gaier

Val's 1900 census lists his immigration year as 1952 while the 1910 census lists it as 1953. Both of these dates seem to fit with what I know about the children in this family.

Now, knowing that the family probably immigrated in the range of 1852-1854 I can look to see which port of entry was most likely at that time. Many German immigrants arrived on the east coast in New York and traveled west to Ohio. Others came in through New Orleans and traveled north up the Mississippi River to Ohio. If they arrived in New York, they would most likely have come through Castle Garden.

Searching through the Castle Garden database I was able to find Ferdinand Geiger and family listed as arriving on 13 January 1854 aboard the ship Carolus Magnus from Le Havre, France.

Carolus Magnus Passenger List - 13 January 1854

Passenger List for Ferdinand Geiger and Family

So, starting with a few hints from the census records I was able to deduce the immigration dates for this family.

One last hint. Did you know that you can also discover citizenship information in the US censuses. Some of you probably already know that the 1900-1940 censuses list the person's naturalization status (AL=alien, PA=first papers, NA=naturalized) and the 1920 census lists the year of naturalization. But did you know there are some hints in the earlier censuses also? Even though the 1820 and 1830 censuses don't list all the individuals by name, they do list the number of individuals in the household who were of foreign birth and who were not naturalized citizens. Also, the 1870 census has a column for "Male Citizens of the US of 21 years of age and upwards." If a person was of foreign birth and this column is checked he would have been naturalized prior to 1870.

I hope these ideas help you find more information on your immigrant ancestors and as always, remember that census records provide clues to approximate dates, not the exact dates. However, knowing how to use those clues can lead to more discoveries in your families.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

WolframAlpha - A Computational Knowledge Engine

Hello all! Summer is coming to an end and all the kids are going back to school. That could be a good thing for us genealogists who want that extra free time to do research, or it could mean more time trying to remember how in the world to do fractions and binomials. Whichever it is for you, I have a suggestion for a site to try. It is WolframAlpha.

WolframAlpha is not your typical search engine, it is a computational knowledge engine. What does that mean? Well, it doesn't search the web for hits and provide you a list of websites to look at. WolframAlpha tries to give you answers to your questions. You can choose from a variety of topics including Places & Geography, People & History, Dates & Times, and many more. It even has a Genealogy section but that doesn't show up on the homepage list.

On typical search engines, like Google, we are trying to find information on specific relatives such as where they lived, is there an obituary, where are they buried, is there a ship's list, etc. You can't do that kind of search on WolframAlpha. But you can do some interesting things. Maybe you remember when I wrote about RelativeFinder I mentioned that my only famous relative was Paris Hilton. My great-grandfather's brother's wife's first cousin is Paris Hilton's great-great grandmother. Well, what does my relationship look like for this? I asked WolframAlpha to map out great-grandfather's brother's wife's first cousin great-great granddaughter.

WolframAlpha relational mapping. My relationship to Paris Hilton.
Isn't that cool? It can calculate the relationship, determine blood relation, number of generations removed, and at what generation you have common ancestors.

What about dates? I have an obituary where the weekly newspaper was written on Thursdays. The first Thursday in May 1912 was on May 2nd, but the obituary says the person died last Friday. What was the date that he died? I can never remember if a month had 30 or 31 days so I usually search for a clendar from 1912 to do my look-up. But WolframAlpha can do the calculation for you. Just type in Friday before 2 May 1912 and see what happens.

WolframAlpha date calculator.

The calendar results give you the date, Friday, 26 April 1912, but there is more. You can find date formats, how long ago that was from today (in this case the person died 104 years, 3 months and 25 days ago), what day of the year it was, nearby holidays, time of sunrise and sunset, phase of the moon, etc.

Have you ever gone to the cemetery and found a headstone with the date of death and the person's age? Let's pretend the headstone says the person died 5 April 1914 and he was 76 years, 6 months and 28 days old at the time of death. How would you calculate his birth date? In WolframAlpha you write it as a calculation 5 April 1914 - 76 years - 6 months - 28 days.

WolframAlpha computational calendar.
The result is that he was born on Thursday, 7 September 1837, and died on Sunday, 5 April 1914. Oh yeah, it even tells you the day when you provide it a date. It also provides the results in a variety of calendar formats including Jewish, Islamic, Chinese and Mayan and you find out he was a Virgo. Further down on the page it provides additional information like other historical events on that date.

What if I wanted to know the weather in a certain place on a given date? I decided to see about the weather in Dayton, Ohio on 4 July 1962. Was it a nice day for the celebrations? Did it rain? The results give min and max temperatures, conditions, wind speed, humidity, hourly results for temperature, cloud cover, humidity, pressure, wind, sunlight intensity, ranges of historical temperatures for that date, and much more.

WolframAlpha weather data.
One thing I like to do is see how much a dollar was worth compared to today. Several censuses provide the value of personal property such as their house, their annual income, or the rent they were paying. Let's suppose the value of their home in the 1940 census was $5,000. What is that worth today?

WolframAlpha value calculator
From this, we see that the $5,000 house in 1940 is equivalent to $87,810 today. We can also see the inflation factor and a graph showing how that value has changed over time.

Another fantastic thing you can do with WolframAlpha is find out a tricky word. What I mean by this is when you are reading the handwriting, or someone "accidentally" punched a hole in the document and you can only read a few letters of a word and you need to figure out what it said. You do this by typing in the letters you can read and putting an underline in for the missing letters. An example would be b__g__s. I just chose these letters at random to see what it would come up with.

WolframAlpha word suggestions
The list is fairly long. Now all you have to do is look through it to find something that fits. Would it be badgers, baggies, or bangles? Pretty cool, and it helps with your crossword puzzles when you are stuck.

Can WolframAlpha help me with finding out how common a surname is? Of course it can. However, some of the surnames in my family, such as Westerheide and Aufderhaar, don't come up in the search. So I tried a more common name, Meyer. You do the search by typing in the last name Meyer.

WolframAlpha name search
As you can see, Meyer is the 163rd most common name in the US with  a frequency of 1 in every 1,802 people. There are about 150,000 people with this last name and they are predominantly white. There is more information as you go further down the page, including famous people with that name.

There is much more that WolframAlpha can do to expand your genealogy research. Take a look at their examples page and try it out for yourself. They even have a mobile app available for Genealogy and History searches.

Have fun and continue learning about your ancestors.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Family History Research Today - it's not your Grandma's Research

Welcome back! I have had all sorts of ideas floating through my head on what to write about but just haven't had the time recently. Currently, I am working on setting up the first Indian River Genealogy Conference, scheduled for March 18, 2017, managing a Family History Center and preparing training opportunities for the family history consultants since I was just called as the Vero Beach Stake Family History Center Director, helping to organize a new virtual genealogy society on Second Life called the Second Life Virtual Genealogy Society (SLVGS), and just doing my usual things. Isn't it great to be ADHD? But with all that going on I decided to take off work today and do some things around the house, including adding a new blog post.

So, what have I been thinking about lately? As you can see, I was writing some posts about various online archives in Europe. Before that I was writing about some of the apps that have been developed for FamilySearch. But today I began to think about how genealogy research has changed over the 20 or so years that I have been working on it. I grew up in the computer era. My first computer was a RadioShack Tandy CoCo color computer. You used a TV screen as the monitor. The modem was a telephone you placed on a cradle, the hard drive was a cassette recorder, and I had a 9-pin dot matrix printer with spooled paper. Now we all walk around with cell phones, tablets, and touch screen computers. Our printers have built in scanners and we can make color copies of photographs, take pdf and jpg images of our documents, and a large portion of the records we need to start our research are online and available for us to research at the push of a button, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have been spoiled by all of this technology, but we do need to realize that only a small portion of all the records are available online. There are many other records out there that we are under utilizing because they are stored on shelves or boxes in a storage room in the basement of a courthouse or the attic of some long lost relative.

In the old days, some of you still remember, we had to take road trips or fly to our homelands to find records. We would search through page after page of records looking for that elusive name or date. Today, many of our records have been indexed by volunteers or contractors, and we have the capacity to use optical character recognition (OCR) so many typed records are now transcribed by computers. Just look at all of the newspaper archives that are opening up online (Fulton History, Chronicling America, Genealogy Bank, and so many more). One of my favorite places to search for newspapers is Wikipedia. Did you know that they have an ongoing project to list the available newspapers at their List of Online Newspapers page? If not, you may want to check it out.

Also, today family history is a collaborative project. Sites such as FamilySearch have one tree where researchers from all over the world can work together building a more detailed record of our families, contributing copies of the documents and photographs that they have in their possession. Social media sites have also been taken over by family history researchers. How many of you use Facebook as a research tool? The number of Facebook groups dedicated to genealogy research are growing exponentially. There is even a list of all the Facebook groups dedicated to genealogy posted on the web. Another rapidly growing genealogy resource is Pinterest. You can search projects, posts, photographs, and other items on Pinterest and you can store your photos there also. Have you thought about setting up interest areas on Pinterest that focus on your interests? A friend of mine, Becky Jamison, has been blogging about a site called Trello. Trello is a site that helps you organize your records in such a way as to tell a story. I suggest that you look at Becky's blog and search for Trello since she has several posts describing how she is using it for her research.

The internet is growing so rapidly that no one person can know where all the necessary records are located. Through collaborative research we will be able to have a more complete story of those who have come before us and really get to know who they were. I challenge each of you to find a seldom used site, get away from the big sites, take the plunge in social media, find new cousins, and build collaborations to increase your research capabilities.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and discovers some of those branches and new leaves that we all know are on our trees.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Algorithmia - Colorize Your Photos Automatically

Welcome back, it has been a few weeks since my last post. I have been extremely busy at work over the last couple weeks working on a tight deadline. If you don't know, my real job is as a supervisory biologist for the US Fish & Wildlife Service working on the Everglades Restoration Project. My job focuses on making sure that proposed projects do not harm endangered species. The past year and a half I have been working with a team to make sure that the Cape Sable seaside sparrow doesn't go extinct in the near future. The population dropped about 25% this year from an estimated population of 3,200 down to an estimated 2,400 individuals. This species is showing signs similar to what was observed in the Dusky seaside sparrow that went extinct in 1987 and the Florida grasshopper sparrow which is now down to less than 200 individuals. I think working with highly imperiled species gives me a better prospective of why I do family history research, I don't want to see these rare artifacts and stories disappear any more than I would want to see one of our rare species disappear. Now that I have given you something to think about, I will provide you with another review of a product that I recently tried out.

I was reading Dick Eastman's blog about the Algorithmia web site. He was talking about how this site can colorize your old black & white photos. For most users, this site is free but if you have a large number of photos there may be a charge. After reading the review I thought this might be an interesting site to try.

The Algorithmia site is accessed at http://demos.algorithmia.com/colorize-photos/. Your photos need to be accessible by a web link. So I tried some of the photos that I have posted to my other blog (http://ourancestories.blogspot.com/) and from Facebook. You don't need to set up an account in order to use the colorize feature. The accounts seem to be for developers who want to contribute code to various projects they are developing.

Here are the results for a few of my photos:






Generally the photos I have provided above look ok. Some pictures work much better than others. Some of the colors are way off, like the red area of the suit jacket in the last two colorized photos. Many of the black & white photos just came out in a sepia tone or the sepia photos came out a bit more brown. Overall, it is an interesting site to play with, and depending on your photos, has the potential to bring new life into your family history. But for the purists, it probably isn't something you want to do to all your photos.