September 3, 2015

Go Digital! in the New Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 183

GGP 183Digitization tips for old home movies and photos. Online storage and computer backup tips. The Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Pamela Smith Hill, the editor of the new Laura Ingalls Wilder biography, Pioneer Girl.

These are all highlights of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 183, newly-published and available for your listening pleasure on our website, through iTunes and the Genealogy Gems app.

Kristin HardingA special feature is an exclusive interview with digitization expert Kristin Harding from Larsen Digital. She is passionate about getting old photos and movies safely digitized and into storage we can access in the years to come!

As always, you’ll hear from fellow genealogy lovers who have written in with comments and questions. Diahan Southard returns from her summer break with a great new DNA story that settled an old scandal involving U.S. President William G. Harding.

So tune in and enjoy the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 183! Then why not share it with a friend who may like it, too? Thank you!

Need a Genealogy Speaker? Here’s the Affordable Solution

Genealogy Gems for societies around tableDoes your genealogy society or library group struggle to keep finding engaging, expert speakers and fresh newsletter content? Genealogy Gems for Societies offers an affordable solution!

Genealogy Gems for Societies is a subscription service that lets small societies show any or all of our Premium video presentations during meetings. Lisa Louise Cooke is a nationally-ranked genealogy speaker who teaches these same classes to standing-room-only crowds at top conferences. Her inspiring videos pair traditional research skills and record sets–like newspapers, maps and more–with empowering technology tools, like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and more.

Member societies also have permission to reprint their favorite Genealogy Gems website articles in their newsletters. Our site is packed with over 1000 articles on research tips, record types, inspiring ideas for sharing family history, technology tools, genealogy industry news and more. What a boon for newsletter editors, who often go begging for someone to please write something to fill their newsletter pages!

Every year, we spend hundreds of hours generating all these videos and online articles. Now small societies can purchase the rights to use them for only $199 (US) for a full year!

Genealogy Gems is a Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) partner and societies that are members of FGS qualify for an additional discount.

“FGS is excited to be partnering with Genealogy Gems,” said D. Joshua Taylor, FGS President. “The opportunity to provide educational benefits for our member societies enriches the entire genealogical community as societies adapt and grow to meet the needs of today’s members. This partnership offers FGS members access to a wide range of resources for their members and we look forward to working with Lisa Louise Cooke.”

FGS members can sign in to the FGS website here to obtain a member discount coupon code.

Additional perks include:

  • downloadable and re-printable handouts
  • discounts on Lisa’s books for the entire society

Click here to learn more about Genealogy Gems for Societies. 

Genealogy Gems for Societies Video ClassesShare the great news! Do you know a genealogical society, officer or member who would LOVE to know about Genealogy Gems for Societies? Please share this post with them through your favorite social media channel. Your society board will be glad you did!

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Ancestry Publishes HUGE Collection of U.S. Wills and Probate Records

US Wills and Probate Ancestry More than 100 million people are mentioned in Ancestry’s newest database of U.S. wills and probate records, an exclusive collection spanning over 300 years. To celebrate, Ancestry is offering free access through September 7.

This morning, Ancestry launched an enormous–and enormously significant–new online records collection. According to its press release, “More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.”

Wills and estate records are one of those record types that have been less-accessible online. First, the records themselves are not easy to digitize or even index. They are often thick files, packed with various kinds of documents that may be fragile and of varying sizes. Several people may be mentioned throughout the file, but finding and picking out their names to put in an index is time-consuming.

Furthermore, the U.S. has no central will or probate registry. This happens on a county level, generally. Compiling a centralized database from all those county offices or archives is a huge undertaking.

According to the Ancestry release, “Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records.”

Better yet, “the documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.”

Todd Godfrey, VP of Global Content at Ancestry, loves the fact that wills and probate records can reveal not just names, dates and family relationships, but stories. “Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors…providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

Learn more about this collection in Finding Your Family in Wills and Probate Records (Ancestry’s new in-depth guide) or click here to search the collection. Great news for those without Ancestry subscriptions: The U.S. Wills and Probates collection is free to access on Ancestry, along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, through September 7 (10pm MT).

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Resources: More Great U.S. Records Online!

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

NEW! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy 

US State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

state censusesThe 1915 New Jersey State Census was recently released on FamilySearch. What a great opportunity to remind everyone about valuable U.S. state-level censuses taken between federal censuses.

Along with everyone who has U.S. roots, we love the federal census! We just wish there were more of them. Well, we can’t go back in time and make the federal government take more censuses. But we CAN turn to the many state census records.

In State Census Records, author Ann S. Lainhart tells us 3 reasons for seeking out state censuses (and colonial and territorial censuses that preceded them):

  • They fill in gaps between federal censuses, and particularly the long gap left by the missing 1890 census.
  • They may not be closed to the public for as long.
  • Different questions may have been asked than on the federal census.

For example, FamilySearch just announced that it’s added more than 2.7 million records from the 1915 New Jersey Census  to its free online collections. “New Jersey records…was a popular settling point for millions of immigrants during the heyday of US immigration from 1892 to 1924,” states a press release. These records include “the names of each member of the household, location, gender, birth date (month and year) and birthplace.” New Jersey took censuses every 10 years from 1855 to 1915: FamilySearch has 1885 and 19051895 is at Ancestry.

Actually, MOST U.S. states took some kind of census in the past. Ancestry’s wiki has a full list of U.S. colonial, state and territorial censuses. A lot of these are online at Ancestry and/or FamilySearch; a Google search of the state, year and “census” will lead you to these.

Resources

Census Records series in Episodes 9-11 of the free Family History Made Easy podcast

A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

1950 Census Substitutes: What to Use Until its Release Date

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Compare Look-Alikes in Your Family with Free Facial Recognition Tool

Who are the look-alikes in your family? A new free facial recognition web app compares your pictures to see just how strong those family resemblances are!

family look alikes

Recently I saw an article online that practically begged me to read it: “22 Photos Which Prove That Your Genes are Amazing.” It shows a series of “photographs of people who, despite belonging to different generations within their families, are as alike as two peas in a pod.” (Take a look! Those photos are pretty cool!)

lookalikes grouped togetherOf course, that got me thinking about the look-alikes in my own family, and I had to find and compare their pictures. I came across these two sets of look-alikes. Unfortunately, their faces are not posed or angled the same direction, but when I look at those faces, I am struck by their physical resemblance to each other.

That got me wondering…is there a free online tool that will let us use facial recognition technology to compare two faces? I got Googling…and there is!

Microsoft’s Twins or Not facial comparison web app recently launched. It’s so new they’re still refining it. But it works and it’s super easy to use. I fed in my first two lookalikes and the results came up as a 58% match: pretty astounding for a three-degree difference in blood relation (from a grand-daughter two generations up to her grandmother, then one person over to her sister). The second match wasn’t quite as strong: just 39%. That’s still pretty striking for four degrees of difference on the family tree!

I was curious about how the look-alike relatives shown in that article would rank in Twins or Not. So I clipped a couple of photos from there and ran them through. Below is the stunning result: a 100% match (which is no surprise–these babies are SO alike).

This kind of service is trending in mobile apps too (even for your pets!), though most of the available apps help you find your celebrity look-alike.twins or not test

Who are the look-alikes in your family? Why not take a screenshot of your results at Twins or Not and share it with us–and on your favorite social media site?

Resources

Tools to Highlight Your Great Genealogy Finds

“My Name is Jane:” Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Use Forensic Genealogy Tools: New Technology Sheds Light on History

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World’s Oldest Message in a Bottle: Why Not Make Your Own?

world oldest message in a bottleMSN recently reported the surfacing of perhaps the oldest known message in a bottle. If YOU sent one, what would it say? Warning: craft idea ahead!

British scientist George Parker Bidder set afloat a flotilla of 1,000 bottles in 1906. According to MSN, the vessels were “designed to float above the sea floor in attempts to study ocean currents. All of the bottles contained a postcard that listed instructions in English, German and Dutch to return the note to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, in exchange for a shilling. When most of the bottles–not all–were found a few months later, Bidder was able to confirm his theory that the deep sea current flowed west in the North Sea, a body of water that borders Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.”

Then recently, a newly-discovered bottle came ashore on the beaches of Amrum, a German island in the North Sea. The woman who recovered it did get her shilling–which had to be purchased from eBay.

My Message in a Bottle Experience
A few months ago, I discovered for myself that the tradition of sending out messages in bottles was still alive. While participating in a local Lake Erie beach cleanup near my home on the east side of Cleveland, a member of our group discovered a bottle. Someone gave it to me. Inside were several letters written fairly recently. As I scanned them, I gradually realized they were all love letters to a baby who had passed away. We gently put the letters back in the bottle and the bottle back in the water. But I haven’t forgotten it.

Does the idea of sending a message in a bottle appeal to you?
It doesn’t have to be a pain-filled message cast on the waters, though that might be a therapeutic way to say goodbye or “I miss you” to loved ones. Another option is a happy letter, placed in a cute bottle and given right to a loved one (I suppose you could float it in their sink at home!).

I found this cute how-to craft on YouTube that could inspire YOUR message in a bottle. What would you say? To whom would you send it? Where would you launch it, and how would you hope it would be found?

For more craft ideas, check out our Pinterest page on Family History Crafts & Displays or click to read the blog posts below.

Resources

My Name is Jane: Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Old Objects Become New Again: Heritage Jewelry with Found Objects

Family History Photo Display with Mementos

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Take a Guess: How Many Pictures Do People Take Each Year?

Hint: it’s a LOT. What will you do with your share?

organize digital pictures

Mylio estimates that every smart phone owner will snap at least one picture per week–and many will take a half-dozen per day. That adds up fast! Mylio’s conservative estimate is still mind-boggling: “If only one billion people have cameras or phones, and take less than 3 photos per day/1,000 pictures per year, that’s….1 trillion photos captured every year.”

How to organize digital pictures

A thousand pictures per year are a lot to keep organized and safe! These days, many people don’t even bother printing most of their pictures. That means photo organization and storage largely becomes a digital issue. Here are some tips for keeping track of YOUR thousands of digital pictures:

  • Identify one digital storage device as a permanent digital archive. I prefer a device that is in my physical possession, allows me to easily work with photos and can be backed up by a computer backup service. For many people, this would be their home computer.
  • Regularly upload photos from your phone or camera to your permanent digital archive. Don’t wait until your device is full! You may miss picture-taking opportunities and you risk losing all recent photos if your camera/phone is stolen. When you upload images, take a moment to tag each batch with an event identifier: “picnic at Aunt Ferns house” or “back to school 2014.”
  • Check to see whether your camera/phone automatically encodes pictures with the date and location. If not, add this information to metadata of your images, along with any additional memories or captions. Note: some people disable the GPS location feature on photos for security reasons. If you do, consider adding metadata back in to your photo manually after sharing images on social media.
  • Organize your images in digital folders. I do this by year and month. (See Resources below for advice on organizing photos on your computer hard drive.)
  • Have a reliable backup service and/or plan in place for your digital archive. I rely on Backblaze, a cloud-based computer back-up service, which is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. Their service is only $4.99 per month–a small price to pay for continuous backup of ALL my data.

Resources

How to Organize Your Hard Drive video for  Genealogy Gems Premium members, OR listen to a free 2-part podcast series (episodes 32 and 33) on this topic.

Dropbox v. Backblaze: Does Cloud Storage for Genealogy Replace Computer Backup?

What To Do if a Scrapbook Gets Wet (or Photo Album or Pictures)

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4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy

The Library of Congress (LOC) is a dream destination for many U.S. genealogy researchers, but most of us can’t get there in person. Here are 4 ways–all online–to access the mega-resources of the Library of Congress for genealogy.

library of congress genealogy

 

 

digital archive, world digital library

1. World Digital Library: for the bigger picture

The Library of Congress is home to the World Digital Library, “a collaborative international project led by the Library of Congress. It now includes more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures.

What can be useful to genealogists? The World Digital Library’s Timelines of U.S. History and World History work together with interactive maps on the same topics. The worldwide and historically deep scope of digital content can help you explore your deep cultural roots in another place. The History and Geography Section offers great visuals and includes (small but growing) sections on biography and genealogy.

 

2. Chronicling America: for finding ancestors in the news

The Chronicling America newspaper site, hosted by the Library of Congress, catalogs U.S. newspapers and provides free access to more than six million digital newspaper pages (1836-1922) in multiple languages. Run searches on the people, places and events that shaped your ancestors’ lives. Results may include:

  • Advertising: classifieds, companies your ancestor worked for or owned, store ads, runaway slaves searches and rewards and ship arrivals or departures.
  • Births & deaths: birth announcements, cards of thanks printed by the family, obituaries and death notices, funeral notices, reporting of events that led to the death, etc.
  • Legal notices and public announcements: auctions, bankruptcies, city council meetings, divorce filings, estate sales, executions and punishments, lawsuits, marriage licenses, probate notices, tax seizures, sheriff’s sale lists.
  • Lists: disaster victims, hotel registrations, juror’s and judicial reporting, letters left in the post office, military lists, newly naturalized citizens, passenger lists (immigrants and travelers), unclaimed mail notices.
  • News articles: accidents, fires, etc. featuring your ancestor; front page (for the big picture); industry news (related to occupations); natural disasters in the area; shipping news; social history articles.
  • Community and social events like school graduations, honor rolls, sporting and theater events; social news like anniversaries, church events, clubs, engagements, family reunions, visiting relatives, parties, travel, gossip columns, illnesses, weddings and marriage announcements.

With Chronicling America, you can also subscribe to receive “old news” on many of your favorite historical topics. Sign up for weekly notifications that highlight interesting and newly-added content on topics that were widely covered in the U.S. press at the time. (Click here to see a list of topics.) To subscribe, just use the icons at the bottom of the Chronicling America home page.

3. Flickr Creative Commons  – Library of Congress Photostream for old pictures

LOC ElectionFlickr Creative Commons describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.” Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. The (U.S.) Library of Congress photostream has thousands of photos and a growing collection of front pages of newspapers.

Tip: The Library of Congress isn’t the only library posting cool images on Flickr Creative Commons. Look for photostreams from your other favorite libraries and historical societies. (Use the main search box with words like “Ohio library” and limit results to groups. You’ll see who’s posting images you care about and you can even follow them!)

4. Preserving Your History video for archiving your family history

LOC scrapbook videoThe Library of Congress has a FREE video about how to create and properly preserve digital or print archival scrapbooks.

It’s a 72-minute video by various experts with a downloadable transcript on these topics:

  • Basic preservation measures one can do at home for long-lasting albums and scrapbooks
  • Pros and cons of dismantling old scrapbooks and albums in poor condition
  • How to address condition problems
  • Preservation considerations for digital scrapbooks and albums
  • How to participate in the Library’s Veterans History Project.

Also check this out: the Preserving Your Family Treasures webpage on working with originals at the Library of Congress website.

More Resources

The Library of Congress is Your Library, a four-minute video introduces the Library of Congress and gives a brief history.

VIDEO: Exploring LOC.gov, a three-minute video highlighting the Library’s online collections and providing searching techniques.

How to Find Stuff at the Largest Library in the World, a 5-minute introductory video showing how to use subject headings, research databases and other helpful tools to find books, photos, sheet music, manuscripts and more at the Library of Congress or other locations.

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We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

AMERICAN LOYALIST CLAIMS (U.S., U.K., CANADA). A database of claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission (regarding British subjects in North America who remained loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War) has been updated at Ancestry. “These documents include books of evidence and memorials given by witnesses, accounts of losses (which can provide detail about places and possessions), evidence of claims, correspondence, indentures, and other documents collected over the course of these examinations.”

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 5.8 million new newspaper articles are online at Findmypast. According to the site, “This includes 22 brand new titles and additions to a further 94 publications. The new titles come from all over England, Scotland and Wales and include newspapers from Edinburgh, Liverpool, Sheffield and Wolverhampton. The largest of the new publications is Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser which contains over 939,000 articles covering 1805-71….Over 1 million articles were added to London Evening Standard. There were also substantial updates made to Falkirk Herald, Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. Original naturalization records from the state of California, 1887-1991, have been updated at Ancestry. “Most pre-1906 naturalization papers contain little information of biographical or genealogical value….There are, however, wonderful exceptions, so it is worth seeking pre-1906 naturalizations. Records created after 1906 usually contain significant genealogical information.”

DUTCH EMIGRANTS TO CANADA AND U.S. A new Ancestry database captures information on Dutch emigrants who relocated to the U.S. or  Canada between 1946 and 1963. “Details from those lists are included in this database. You may find name, birth date, place of origin, arrival year, destination, sponsor year, religion, relation to head of household and family size.”

ENGLAND AND WALES PROBATE CALENDARS. Findmypast subscribers now have access to an index to the Principal Probate Registry system for England. In these indexes, you can find the deceased’s name, death date, address, occupation, marital status, spouse’s name, names of executors/administrators and beneficiaries and their occupations and the size of the estate. Use this data to request a copy of a will from the National Probate Registry.

U.S. QUAKER RECORDS. A substantial Ancestry database of Quaker meeting records (1681-1935) has been freshly updated. According to the site, “Quakers recorded a variety of details in their monthly meeting minutes which can be searched by name, location, and event date; or browsed by state, county, meeting, and record type….This collection marks the first time a major collection of Quaker meeting records has been made available online with a comprehensive index.”

sign up newsletterSign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

A new tool at AncestryDNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

AncestryDNA common matches tool

I have been up since 5:30 with plenty of goals and ambitions for today. But I got distracted. Distracted by a new tool at AncestryDNA that is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open.

The new tool AncestryDNA Common Matches tool is hiding between the “Pedigrees and Surnames” filter and the “Map and Locations” filter on your matches’ main match page. The Common Matches tool pulls out the shared 4th cousin or higher matches between two people.

Let’s take a look at how this might work for you.

2015 8 ICWDeniseLet’s say you have a second cousin, Denise, that you have already identified in the Ancestry database and you know your common ancestral couple is Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  You want to gather others who share DNA with both you and Denise. Those individuals then have a high likelihood of being related to Joseph and Louise in some way.

So we click on the “Shared Matches” button on Denise’s page and find that Mike, Spencer, and Wendy all have DNA in common with you and Denise.  After reviewing pedigree charts, you are able to determine that Mike is related through Louise’s sister and Wendy is related through Joseph’s brother.  Note that Wendy’s actual relationship to you is not 4th cousin, as it is shown, but she is actually your 3rd cousin once removed. Remember that the relationship given is not always the exact relationship of two people who have been tested.

2015 8 ICWSpencerBut what about Spencer? Spencer, unfortunately has not yet linked his family tree to his Ancestry account or answered any of your queries about his family tree. I am sure he has just been busy. Or he doesn’t know his family tree. Or his computer was captured by aliens or smashed by his two-year-old grandson just as he was about to click “send” and reveal how the two of you were connected. Whatever the case may be, up until this point you haven’t heard a peep from Spencer and therefore had absolutely no way to figure out how Spencer was related to you.

But now you know that he is somehow associated with the Joseph and Louise Mitchell family because he came up as In Common With (ICW) you and Denise.

We can take this one step further and ask Ancestry to show us who has DNA ICW you and Spencer.  You can see here that while Mike still remains, Wendy has dropped off the list.  Now there are two possible explanations for this: The first is that Spencer is related through Louise’s parents, John and Sarah, and that is why he is not sharing DNA with Wendy.

The other, less likely, possibility is that Spencer is related through Joseph’s parents Louis and Mary, but doesn’t share enough DNA with Wendy to be detected on this test.

While this information is helpful, it still hasn’t completely solved the case. The first thing you should do with your new-found knowledge is start sending more pointed questions to your matches. Here is an example message you might send to Spencer:

“Dear Spencer,

I was just playing around with the new AncestryDNA Common Matches tool and I see that you are related to a few of my other matches that connect through Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  Louise’s parents, John and Sarah Marsh, were both born in Mississippi in the 1840’s and Joseph’s parents Joseph and Mary Mitchell, were born in Tennessee in 1856 and 1863 respectively.

Do any of these names or places sound familiar to you?

I am looking forward to working with you on this connection.

Your DNA Cousin, Diahan”

Assuming this garners a response, you can then work together to find your connection. If his budget is not allowing for a new computer at this time and you never hear from Spencer, the key to figuring out how he is related to you may be in the new match, Beth, who is ICW you and Spencer. If you can figure out how Beth is related to you, you will know Spencer is related in a similar way.

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA quick guide setSo, what are you waiting for? Head over to AncestryDNA and start growing your genetic family tree! For a little more guidance, I suggest you purchase my set of two laminated quick guides, “Understanding AncestryDNA and “Understanding Family Tree DNA.” This set is very affordable and will specifically help you at two navigate your results at two of the leading genetic genealogy testing companies.

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