February 1, 2015

Irish Genealogy: Find Your Poor Ancestors in Ireland

Irish censuses Irish genealogy Irish family historyHave you ever heard of the “Irish Reproductive Relief Fund?” That name made me wonder what it was all about (and I was totally wrong). It was actually a program ahead of its time, and its records can help you trace your hard-working, poverty-stricken Irish ancestors. The records are now online for the first time at Findmypast, along with a new, easier-to-search version of the 1911 Ireland census.

“The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor’ – those most affected by poverty and famine,” says a press release from Findmypast.

“This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Potato Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world. Now anyone can go online and research individuals and families to find out more about where they lived, their financial situation, their social status and more besides.”

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said, “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

These new records complement an expansive collection of Irish records at Findmypast, including Irish Petty Sessions, Irish Prison Registers, Irish newspapers, Irish Births 1864-1958 and  over 800,000 Irish marriages dating back to 1619.. Another new online Irish record collection is the Clare Electoral Registers, which include early female voters.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a tip for Irish genealogy researchers from Findmypast: “The Ireland Census 1911 is an excellent starting point for anyone researching their Irish ancestors. Findmypast’s powerful search will for the first time allow family historians to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name – all making it easier than ever to trace Irish ancestors.”

 

Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader–From 1895?

School genealogy recordsIn years past, a five-hour graduation exam was required for eighth graders (around 13 years old) in many U.S. states. It made me wonder: are questions they asked still relevant today? How well would we score? Are we smarter than an 8th grader from 120 years ago?

A copy of an 1895 graduation exam from Kansas has become famous since being circulated online. We tracked down the original exam at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas.

Here’s the Geography part of the exam, which took an hour (taken from a transcription at the above website):

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A. [presumably North America]
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

The Smoky Valley Genealogical Society has posted a copy of the original exam, along with links to the answers, at the above link. Their site also comments, “Many people forget that Kansas is an agricultural state. 8th grade was as far as many children went in school at that time. It was unusual for children to attend either a high school or a normal school because they were needed on the family farms.”

Wonder how each of our forebears would do on it? Consider following up on an ancestor’s level of education (like from a census entry) by finding a copy of a textbook, exam or another document showing the kinds of things they would have learned? The free Google Books is a great place to start! I devote an entire chapter to Google Books in the brand new Second Edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Learn more about researching your ancestor’s education here at Genealogy Gems:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 98 answers a listener’s question about finding Yearbooks. Sign in to your membership to listen, or become a member today.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

You’ll never look at “8th Grade Education” in a genealogical document the same way again!

Will Your Descendants Want, and Expect this from You?

If you’ve ever watched the television show Forensic Files now on HLN, you’ve probably seen forensic anthropologists create a bust of clay from skeletal remains. The time-consuming process provides a way to visualize what the person may have looked like. It’s a tedious task, with a keen understanding of anatomy intertwining with artistic skill.

One episode stands out in my memory. A woman’s remains were found months if not years after her demise. A bust was created and photographs were taken to be distributed as a sort of mug shot. “Do you know this woman” was posted in the newspaper along with the photo, and sure enough a good friend of the woman identified her immediately.

maureen and lisaSo why talk about this on a genealogy blog? Well, in the most recent episode of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast (#119) published this week, Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, and I discuss the future of technology and genealogy, which lead to a conversation on 3D printing. Maureen described how she had a bust of herself printed 3D (which I’m sure her long-into-the-future descendants will appreciate! You can see it on the episode show notes page.) and that got me to thinking about the work of the forensic anthropologists. Shortly after our conversation, Maureen sent me a link on Facebook called History’s Mysteries posted by the carrier company UPS.

The UPS Compass webpage features a video documenting the efforts of the Maritime Heritage National Marine Sanctuaries, with the help of UPS, to identify the remains of two sailors from the USS Monitor that sank in 1862 during a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras. Sure enough, they had clay busts created from the skeletal remains in an effort to make the identification.monitor(Click the link above to watch the video. Then put your genealogy skills to work and see if you can help them identify the two sailors.)

What role did UPS play? They had the task of transporting the busts from the lab to the unveiling at the military ceremony. Any disruption of the soft clay would dent and alter the bust. I couldn’t help but wonder if 3D printing could have made the task of moving and distributing copies of the busts easier. It’s a fascinating technology. And who knows, perhaps 3D busts of ancestors will be as common place as our old photos are today. Do you think your descendants will want, perhaps even expect, to have 3D printings of you? Share your thoughts on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page.

3dYou can learn more about 3D printing here in the article called A New Industrial Revolution: The Brave New World of 3D Printing.

 

 

 

Evernote for Genealogy: Use a Research Checklist Template Like This One for Australian Family History

australia_400_wht_12238Do you use Evernote for genealogy, or are you planning to?

Genealogy Gems listener Michelle Patient sent us a link to her Evernote template for family history research in Australia and New Zealand. Better yet, she gave us permission to share it with all of you!

This template is a blank checklist you can use for every ancestor you research. On the checklist are all the different record types you might check: each type of vital record, census, land record, electoral roll, etc.l, along with the various repositories that should be visited or contacted. Why not create a similar temple for the countries you research, if you don’t have Aussie or Kiwi roots?

This is just one way Evernote helps you track your family history research. Learn more with my get-started-fast Evernote for Genealogy “cheat sheet” quick guide (click here to order for Windows or Mac).

Genealogy Gems Premium members can also enjoy a year’s worth of unlimited access to my complete series of genealogy how-to videos, which now includes a mini-series on specific Evernote tasks for genealogists as well as these full-length classes:

  • Making Evernote effortlessHow the Genealogist can Remember Everything with Evernote (Beginner)
  • How to Organize Your Research with Evernote (Intermediate)
  • Making Evernote Effortless (Intermediate)
  • Collaborative Genealogy with Evernote
    (Intermediate) 
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan
    (Advanced)

That’s just a peek at what Genealogy Gems Premium membership offers: click here to learn more!

RootsTech / FGS 2015: Free Sessions at Our Booth and PRIZES!

OTB_RT_14frontBack by popular demand! After fabulous response last year, Genealogy Gems will once again be sponsoring “Outside the Box Sessions,” a series of FREE mini-presentations at Booths 1240 & 1242 at RootsTech 2015.

Our popular sessions help you think outside the box (and have fun and get free swag while you’re at it). Lisa’s sessions will include:

  • Tech Tips for Newspaper Research (Thursday at 12:00);
  • How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy (Thursday at 4:00);
  • Google for Genealogy: What’s NEW! (Friday at 11:30 and Saturday at 2:00);
  • Google Strategies for Common Surnames (Friday at 12:00);
  • Win Prizes! Google Earth Genealogy Game Show (Friday from 5:30-6:30-perfect “Happy Hour!” activity);
  • iPad Tips and Tricks (Saturday at 10:00);
  • Evernote Tips and Tricks (Saturday at 12:30).

FREE EBOOK: Attend any session and receive our free ebook of handouts for all sessions!

2nd editionClick here for the full schedule and the Grand Prize entry form (which also gets you the FREE Outside the Box e-book with all session handouts). Drop this entry by Booth #1242 and say hello!

Lisa will also be signing copies of her brand new book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition!

We are again partnering with The Photo Detective Maureen Taylor and Janet Hovorka (author of Zap the Grandma Gap), and Family Tree Magazine.

Here’s a look at the fun we had at NGS last year:

By the way, our RootsTech partner Family ChartMasters is celebrating the release of its NEW pocket guide, The Chart Chick Insider’s Guide to Salt Lake City: Everything A Genealogist Needs to Know Outside the Library. Click here to get a FREE pdf travel guide to Salt Lake City and, if you like, order the book for only $9.95 (pre-order for pickup at RootsTech and pay no shipping, or add on $5 to have it sent to you).

Social Network Your YDNA with Surname Projects

DNA YDNA genetic genealogy social networking Family history organizations and studies based on individual surnames have been around for years. They are now integrating YDNA research into their efforts. Use surname projects to enhance your paternal DNA research!

Surnames are the flagships of our genealogical research. We name our files after them and we tag our research with them. We wear our last names proudly on pins and necklaces and T-shirts.

But surnames can also be misleading. Illiteracy, language barriers, and just plain carelessness led to misspellings and alterations, not to mention those ancestors who blatantly changed their name to avoid detection.

The advent of YDNA testing has changed the way many genealogists view surnames and their role in their genealogy. Because a man’s YDNA is the same as the YDNA carried by each of the ancestors in his direct paternal line, the YDNA can act like a filter, clearly indicating which men with a particular surname, or variant, truly share a direct paternal line.

So how has YDNA testing affected family organizations that do surname research? I asked Debbie Kennett, a regular contributor to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki and Facebook page who is also involved with the Guild of One Name Studies. The Guild of One Name Studies was established in 1979 to promote public understanding of one-name studies and preserve the information obtained by those studies.

“Virtually every common surname is now the subject of a DNA project,” says Debbie, including “just over 500 Guild members who are running a DNA project. That number has jumped up considerably just in the last couple of years.”

The quality of those projects varies. Debbie tells us that a quality YDNA project includes three elements: “presenting the DNA data, recruiting people from different countries and also correlating all of the genealogy information.”

Jean Morrison, a member of the Morrison surname project, says that because of DNA testing, “identifying where in Scotland this family originated prior to coming to America ca 1728 has become a realistic goal. The Morrison Q Group has identified through Y line testing at 111 markers, 22 individuals with an MRCA (most recent common ancestor) within eight generations.” In plain English, this means that a definite YDNA pattern has been associated with her Morrison surname and with a common ancestor eight generations back.

Noel and Ron Taylor were two early adopters of YDNA testing for their Taylor family project. Their first samples were submitted to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in 2000. The former president and currently the head of the board of trustees for the Taylor Family Society, Noel says that using DNA “caught the attention of many people in our organization….It renewed great interest in the hearts of many people who had been doing research for many years [who may have] lost interest and were somewhat discouraged.” The Taylors have made significant breakthroughs with their DNA testing. They have connected several Taylor lines back to a common ancestor, verified their paper trails, and even found a line of Hodges that were actually Taylors!

It appears that YDNA is becoming part of the research plan for most family societies. But Debbie tells us that there is still much room for improvement in her organization. “Not all Guild members are running [DNA] projects. We have something like 2,700 Guild members so we are still not at the stage where the majority of Guild members are running projects.”

Besides The Guild, other organizations have been created to assist genealogists with their surname research, including a new organization just launched in November. The Surname Society’s goal is to “to build a collaborative environment where members are encouraged to develop their own approach to the investigation of their surname.”

Kirsty Grey, chairman of the Surname Society, says that DNA testing has taken a front seat role in the research of one of their founders as well as several early members. “DNA is one of the many strands of family history research (and to a greater extent, surname studies) which can connect individuals, often where genealogical research cannot.”

That really is the bottom line. DNA, especially YDNA, can tell you things about the surnames in your pedigree that you can’t learn in any other way. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to jump on the YDNA bandwagon and see what your DNA has to tell you.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsI can help you! Check out my series of quick guides (purchase all 4 laminated guides or the digital download bundle for the best deal):

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Family Tree Builder for Mac! New Genealogy Software for Mac

Family Tree Builder for MacMac users now have their own version of the popular free Family Tree Builder software offered by MyHeritage.com. Says Daniel Horowitz at MyHeritage.com, “It’s free to download, easy to use and includes all of the main features of the windows version!”

“There have been frequent requests by our users to run Family Tree Builder 7.0 on the Mac operating system,” states a recent MyHeritage press release. “Many of our users have switched in recent years from Windows to Mac and wanted to continue using Family Tree Builder.”

Here’s some additional information from MyHeritage:

  • The current version is called Family Tree Builder Mac Extension. It uses a system for porting Windows software to Mac called CrossOver by CodeWeavers. Once installed, the software will run directly on Mac computers (does not require Windows or any additional setup or configuration). The minimum OS version supported is OS X.
  • Family Tree Builder’s main features run the same in Family Tree Builder Mac Extension, including Sync with MyHeritage, Smart Matches™, Record Matches, the consistency checker, charts, etc. Major features work the same as on Windows, and the file formats are the same so you can transport Family Tree Builder projects between Windows and Mac.
  • Several minor features aren’t yet available: maps, formatting in notes (e.g. bold, italics, etc.), book reports (though they can be created online), and display of right-to-left languages. Everything else works the same as on Windows.
  • MyHeritage is “in the advanced stages of developing a native Mac version of the software, with the look and feel that Mac users will appreciate.”

You can download the software here.

custom_software_box_12041Do you keep your master family tree on a website somewhere or on your computer? Lisa is a firm believer that you should keep it yourself. Click here to read why and learn more about various options for genealogy software for Mac and Windows.

“When You Are Fostered, You Don’t Know Who You Are:” Scottish Birth Siblings Reunited

Orphan Train  Book ClubRecently we announced our featured book title for the first quarter of 2015: Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. A major theme in this book  is what happens to a child’s identity when he or she is separated from parents and kin.

With this story fresh on my mind, Lisa sent me a story from The Press and Journal (Aberdeen, UK) about Irene Robertson from Scotland. Irene grew up never knowing much about her birth family. Her mother had released her into foster care but never allowed her to be adopted, so she stayed with a foster mother until she was an adult.

Over the years she wondered whether she had birth relatives out there somewhere. It was painful. “When I saw programmes on the TV like Who Do You Think You Are? I couldn’t watch them,” she told The Press and Journal. “I couldn’t watch people meeting their relatives, I would just start crying. I so wanted it to be me.”

When she was nearly 70, a charity called Birthlink helped Irene locate her niece and, through her, her brother. Their reunion over the phone, and then in person, felt to Irene like coming home. “The minute I spoke to him he said, ‘You sound just like family’ and that’s all I wanted to hear really,” she told the paper. “That’s great. He made it very easy. I mean somebody called me ‘Sis’. What a feeling that is, it was just amazing.” Read  the full story about these birth siblings reunited and see a picture of them in the The Press and Journal.

genealogy book clubJoin our “virtual book club” in reading Orphan Train, a novel about two people fostered out in the U.S.–one an orphan train rider and another a teen in today’s foster system. In March we welcome author Christina Baker Kline to the Genealogy Gems podcast to talk about the experiences of her characters in Orphan Train–feelings that might very well resonate with Irene in Scotland.

(Note: when you use our links to shop for the book you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Book Club and Podcast. Thank you!)

 

 

 

Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

money_tree_PA_500_wht_3903Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

Google Earth for Canada and Genealogy

canada_flag_perspective_anim_150_clr_2301Awhile back, Barbara from Courtenay, British Columbia, sent me an excellent question about using Google Earth for Canadian genealogy. Then she sent me an excellent answer before I had a chance to answer it myself! Here’s what they were:

Question: “I live in Canada and a lot of the Google Earth articles involving land plats can’t be applied in Canada. The prairie provinces do have a similar land survey system, with townships, ranges and meridians. I found a website where these can be converted to coordinates that Google Earth will recognize.  However, this particular website would like to be paid for providing this information (legallandconverter.com). Do you know of any way these numbers can be converted without paying?”

Answer: “I have some good news!  My very smart son found a free website, prairielocator.com, which will give you the coordinates of Section, Township, Range and Meridian for the Canadian prairie provinces. It doesn’t cover quarter sections, but that’s okay if you know which one your ancestor was on. Please pass this along to your Canadian fans or Americans who have Canadian ancestors (there are many, I know).”
Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistThank you, Barbara–and a special shout-out to your son for finding that resource to help genealogists use Google Earth for Canada research! Here’s my two-cent’s worth: I just peeked at PrairieLocator.com and I see the site also has an app for the iPhone: Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPhone,
and an app for the iPad Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPad