September 17, 2014

Finding Places on a Map: Try This Little-Known Genealogy Tool

students_studying_for_class_300_wht_9362Do you ever get lost when looking for ancestral hometowns in Europe or other parts of the world? Boundaries change–national ones as well as regional ones. Place names change. Several little villages may all have gone by the same name over time. And darn those spelling and place name variants!

There’s a great online tool for finding places on a map. It’s the FamilySearch StandardFinder. Under the Place tab, enter the place name that’s got you befuddled. You’ll get a result screen that looks something like this:

FS placefinderWhat do each of those columns mean? We asked a Product Manager at FamilySearch and here’s what he told us:

Column 1:  The official name of the place.

Column 2:  Link/official name to the jurisdiction that the place exists within.

Column 3:  “Normalized” variant names (i.e. other names the place is known by)

Column 4:  General/high-level type (the type) of the place.  Div:  The more specific type (if applicable).  Code: The code for the general type.  FC:  The feature code (taken from NGA’s feature code).

Column 5:  The years within which the place existed (typically within the jurisdiction it belongs to).

Column 6:  The full official (standardized) name of the place and its jurisdiction.

Column 7:  Culture:  The generalized culture that the place exists within.

Column 8:  ISO code:  The ISO code (if applicable).

Column 9:  Geo code:  the “centroid” (or central spot) of the place specified as the latitude and longitude.

Column 10:  The permanent identifier of the place, useful for referencing the place within applications, systems, and products.”

A couple of these columns are a little technical for me, but I can still extract a LOT of information from these results! Place names, variant names, jurisdictions, lifespan of that location, latitude/longitude and all the possible places a possible location might be.

You’ll likely notice that there are Standard Finders for names and dates, too!

Historic_Maps_VideoLearn more about online strategies for map research with Lisa’s 2-CD series, Using Google Earth for Genealogy.

Genealogy Gems Premium members can also access video classes on geography for genealogists, including three classes on Google Earth and the newest video class, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.

Free App, E-Book Celebrate Constitution Day

holding_us_flag_stick_figure_pc_400_wht_2690Today the United States celebrates Constitution Day! On this date in 1787–225 years ago–delegates finalized and signed the historic document that became the U.S. Constitution.

In celebration, the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives has launched a free mobile app, e-book and even companion tools for teachers: lesson plans and teaching activities.

“Congress Creates the Bill of Rights” is described at the National Archives website, where you can download the e-book and teaching resources. The e-book is also available in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The app is available for download on iPad at the App Store.

A press release describes the app as “an interactive learning tool for tablets that lets the user experience the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights in the First Congress. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a one-stop source that includes the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and the Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, a ‘time-lapse’ display of the creation of the First Amendment, and more.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook presents a historic narrative focusing on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights and effectively completing the Constitution. Starting with the crises facing the nation in the 1780s, the narrative traces the call for constitutional amendments from the state ratification conventions, and takes the reader inside Congress as the House and the Senate worked to formulate a set of amendments to send to the states.”

Did you have ancestors who were at the Constitutional Convention? Contribute what you know at the Signers of the U.S. Constitution Project at Geni.com. The goal of this project is to build “single, documented profiles” of those who signed.

Get the Most out of Ancestry.com Shaky Leaf Hints

Ancestry Shaky LeafIf you’re an Ancestry.com user, you’ve seen those “shaky leaves.” They are automated hints generated when Ancestry.com thinks a historical record or tree matches an individual on yours.

Are you getting the most out of your Ancestry.com shaky leaf hints? Check out this video on YouTube–then keep reading!

In a nutshell: look at all the hints. Then keep searching.

According to the Ancestry Insider blogger, hints are only provided for the top 10% of Ancestry records. I asked our Genealogy Gems source at Ancestry.com about this. He did clarify that this means the most popular 10% of collections, which accounts for “a majority of the records.” But he also comments, “Hints are not meant to be an exhaustive method to flesh out all of the records for your ancestors. People should always search as well as use hints.”

After checking all the hints, I routinely find a LOT more by then searching records from an individual’s profile. Search from the profile rather than the main search screen so some of the other data you’ve already found (like dates and relationships and locations) will be included automatically in the search parameters. I think searching from the individual profile also makes it faster to attach records to your person once you’ve found them.

Click here to hear how one woman used Ancestry.com hints to discover a tree for the biological mother who abandoned her when she was five. You’ll also learn her inspiring message about how moving past her mother on her family tree has helped her move on with her life.

Family History Episode 45 – Genealogy Blogs Started by YOU–the Podcast Listeners!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 45: Genealogy Blogs Started by YOU!

In recent episodes of this podcast, we’ve been talking about how and why to create a genealogy blog. In this episode I’m going to share some of the family history blogs that YOU—the listeners—have created. I’m hoping you’ll be inspired to blog by what others are doing, or that you’ll take note of any blogs that can help you or perhaps are relevant to your own family history. Being a community is what gives genealogists strengths and inspiration. Get your notepads out and get ready to jot down these terrific blogs!

Below are the blogs mentioned in the show. Most of them stayed active and have very recent posts! What a great thing to see the success they’ve had since getting started. There’s only one blog we didn’t find when we republished this episode: Teri’s blog on her Pomeranian ancestors.

Listeners’ Genealogy Blogs

Fermazin Family Ancestry by Nancy Peralta (NEW URL)

Leaves of the Tree by Kay Haden (NEW URL)

Are You My Cousin? by Lisa Lisson (NEW URL)

Kolbe Genealogy Blog by Michelle Kolbe

Finding the Flock—A Genealogy Research Blog by Sean Lamb

Gus’s Genealogy Blog by Gus Marsh

BELL family History – York W.A. by Graham Wilkie

New Genealogy Blogger Take-Away Tips:

  • Beginning is the most important step!
  • Writing up your brick walls and family groups is a great way to summarize in your mind where you are in your research, which often generates new leads.
  • Try posting more articles to generate content for the search engines.
  • Put your blog URL on message boards relating to your surname.
  • Have you lost track of someone else’s blog that is no longer at its old URL? Search for the blog, the blogger’s name and other keywords (surnames, topics, places) to discover whether it’s migrated to a new URL. That’s how we located some of the blogs above when we republished this episode.

Starting a Genealogy Blog Q&A

(Please note that features and layouts of blogging platforms change over time. These answers were current as of the original podcast publication date. If things have changed, use clues from the answers to find the current answer!)

Question: I set up my blog in Blogger. There does not appear to be any spell checker. How is your blog set up in terms of writing and editing?

Answer: Yes, Blogger has a spell check. When you’re in Compose mode, there are buttons across the top of the Compose box. You’ll see Font, Bold, etc. There you will find an icon “ABC.” That’s the spell-checker. Click it and it will run while you’re in Compose mode.

Question: How do I insert the name of the site as a link without typing out the name of the URL? The URL is somehow encoded in the name of the link.

Answer: When links are embedded in the text, this is called a hyperlink. Highlight the text or the name you want to send people to. Then in the Compose box, you’ll see a little button that looks like the link of a chain. Just click that and you’ll get a window in which you can type in the complete web address where you’re sending people (I always go to the webpage I want to link to, copy the full URL and then paste it.)

Question: I set my blog as available to all, but a search even for the exact name of the blog doesn’t bring it up in my search engine. Why is that?

Answer: You can do a couple of things in your blog to help search engines notice you, but the reality is that perhaps Google hasn’t yet “crawled” your blog. Google combs and indexes website every day, and perhaps they haven’t gotten to you yet. You can go to Google.com/addurl, and there you can send your blog address to Google and that will get it indexed much more quickly. Get lots of new posts up with specific words (surnames, locations and other terms about your family).

What I Believe We Must Do as Family Historians Today

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905

One of the most important jobs we will have as family historians is passing on to the next generation our memories of September 11, 2001.

I’ll never forget my daughter Lacey calling me from the top of the stairs on that morning. She was listening to the radio as she prepared for school. “Mom,” she said, “I think you better turn on the TV. Something is happening.”

And like so many in America and around the world, I turned on the TV only to be glued to it into the wee hours of that night, devastated by the evil appearing on the screen.

The quote at the beginning of this article is often mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill, but in fact, his statement to the House of Commons on May 2, 1935 after the Stresa Conference was even more thorough and extremely compelling:

SNAG_Program-0286

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

Learning from history and passing it on is key to our survival, as families, and as freedom-loving countries.

On this September 11 let’s pull our children and grandchildren close and be brave enough to share the reality of our experience. We, and future generations, need to remember.

God Bless America,
Lisa

PERSI Digitized Collections Gaining Ground

ebook ereader for Mac Digital Genealogy books at Google BooksJust over a year ago, we shared the news that the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) was migrating to FindMyPast.com. The big news was that this index to over 2.5 million names and topics in thousands of genealogy, history and ethnic publications would begin to link to full-text articles on FindMyPast.

Well, it’s happening. FindMyPast recently reported: “We’ve added images to the indexes of fifteen different publications in PERSI, including The American Irish Historical Society Journal (1898-1922), The American Historical Society’s Americana (1909-1923) and the Connecticut Historical Society Annual Report (1890-1923).”

Even better, it’s FREE to search PERSI at FindMyPast and view results. If you see something really compelling, you can pay for a-la-carte access (called PayAsYouGo credits) to a detailed indexed entry and any digitized content, or subscribe for full access. But you can least learn whether an article on your topic exists (like “Silas Johnson Methodist minister” or “Swinerton family Salem, Massachusetts”) and where it was published.

Whether FindMyPast doesn’t have an article digitized yet or you don’t purchase access to it, you can still order a copy. Just use the Allen County Public Library’s Article Fulfillment service: it’s only $7.50 USD for up to six articles, plus $0.20-per-page photocopying charge.

Family History Episode 44: Family Secrets in Genealogy

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 44: Family Secrets in Genealogy Records

Today’s episode is unlike any other I’ve done on the podcast. Today we are going to tackle some difficult subject matter: family secrets in genealogy. You know, none of us have a perfect family tree. In fact, I would venture to guess that at some point each one of us who are delving into our family’s past will come across some sad and painful stories. An ancestor abandoned at an asylum, incarcerated for acts of violence, or perhaps who committed suicide.

For Crystal Bell, my guest on today’s show, that sad and painful story was very close to her branch of the tree. In fact, the troubles lay at her parents’ door, and she bore the brunt of the chaos that was created. And yet there is tremendous hope that comes from Crystal’s story. She is a wonderful example of the freedom that can come from facing your fears and breaking down the mystery of a troubled past. It’s what I call the redemptive gifts of family history.

Crystal also shares some of the research strategies that her co-workers at Ancestry.com gave her for taking the next steps in finding her mother, who passed away under an assumed name.

Thoughts from Crystal on responding to the family secrets in your own tree:

“Hatred and resentment only make you look older. They have a great toll on your health. As far as I’m concerned, I can’t hate my mother and father because I don’t know their circumstances were. I can only try to determine their ancestors. I want to know who were my ancestors. Where did they come from?

I feel badly when people…just don’t want to know. I don’t want to die with that sense of abandonment. I want to move on, I want to get past the grief. I want to know who my people were. I just, for the first time in my life, want to experience a feeling of joy and happiness that I feel like I deserve.” 

Ancestry.com “Shaky Leaf” Technology

Crystal made connections on her Ancestry.com family tree by reviewing the automated hints provided on the site, known popularly as “shaky leaves.” Learn more about using these in this video.

MyCanvas

The MyCanvas service mentioned by Crystal is no longer offered by Ancestry.com. But it is still around! Learn more in my blog post about it.

Here’s a final thought for today:

We are not just defined by one relative, or the product of a dysfunctional family or parental relationship. We come from all of our ancestors….

The ones who did amazing things,

The ones who did everyday things,

And the ones who did wrong.

You deserve to know them all, and as the saying goes, the truth will set you free.

Family History Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy “Double-Dating”

If you’re not familiar with how the calendar has changed through history, you might be recording incorrect dates in your family tree!  In this episode, Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Regional Family History Center in Oakland, California helps us understand the “double-dating” we see in old documents and translate those dates from the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian system.

The Julian Calendar

In 1582, the Roman Catholic Pope Gregory learned that gradually the vernal equinox wasn’t coming on the “right day.” At the time, the first day of the new year was March 25. This explains why the name of September (“sept”=seven) translates as “the seventh month: and October (“oct”=eight) as the eighth month, etc.

So in 1582, the calendar changed in the four countries under papal authority: Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Polish-Lithuanian state. Gradually over time, everyone else adapted to what became called the “Gregorian calendar,” and is what we use now. But you might be surprised how long the Julian calendar was still used in some places: Greece held out until 1923.

Great Britain changed over to the Gregorian calendar is 1752—and so did its colonies. But here in the North American colonies we were affected by the change long before because we had people here from so many nations in which either calendar might be used.

The solution in U.S. colonial record-keeping was “double-dating.” Maybe you’ve seen a date that reads “3 February 1685/6.” That means it was 1685 by the old Julian calendar and 1686 according to the Gregorian calendar. You’ll see this double-dating used between January 1 -March 25, when the time frame overlapped. You might also see a single date with the abbreviation “o.s.” or “n.s” for “old style” or “new style,” or you might see those words written out. If it’s written in the new calendar style, of course, you don’t have to translate the date.

Why does it matter to a genealogist which style is used? If you don’t translate the date correctly, you’ll get confused about timing. The change from one calendar to the next involved dropping several days from the calendar in 1752, then renumbering the months. March was the first month of 1725, for example, and January 1725 actually came after it—that was the eleventh month! It will look like people have their will probated before they died, or they had a baby before they got married.

Top tips from Margery Bell:

  • If you don’t see double-dating in a colonial document before 1752, assume you’re on the old calendar. See a sample at George Washington family bible with birthdate. (Listen to the podcast to see how his birthday as celebrated today was translated out of that calendar.)
  • Some vital or church records may be written as “the second day of the third month.” If they were following the old calendar, we will “translate” that date incorrectly if we don’t know better. Go back and double-check the sources for your older dates. That includes making sure that any dates you copied from an index (if you couldn’t get to the original record) were indexed accurately.
  • FamilySearch has a lot of data from the IGI, the International Genealogy Index. These older records include a LOT of Julian calendar items but the IGI doesn’t indicate whether that’s true. If you see two different marriage records for the same couple married on two separate dates, translate them and see if one is perhaps the adjusted date and the other didn’t get “translated.”

Genealogy Gems Mailbox

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistDon in Oklahoma writes in to ask about how to record the last names of women, and how those names affect Ancestry’s Family Trees to seek out corresponding genealogical records.

Women should be entered in family trees with their maiden names. Then they are linked to men they marry in family trees, and that’s how you can determine their married surname. I double-checked with the Ancestry Insider blogger about Ancestry searches. He says that Ancestry “shaky leaf” hints search on both a woman’s maiden name and all her husband’s surnames. Thanks for that extra tip, Ancestry Insider!

 

Scanning Old Photos: Tips from a Genealogy Gems Listener

Dickson photo propertiesThank you to Genealogy Gems Premium member Scott Scott D. in Roswell, Georgia, USA, who recently sent in these hard-won tips for scanning old photos:

  1. I start with the assumption that I want to preserve order of my pictures. I also am not so worried about the filename since I can use tags within the photo for details.
  2. I use an Epson scanner.  After years and years of having a dozen scanners, I find the Epson software the easiest to use. It can scan multiple photos from the bed at one time, and it will automatically name photos according to whatever scheme you give it.
  3. When I scan, all of the photos are named Surname-Sequence-Side-Version-description. So, I have photos from my Bailey family named bailey-0310-f-v00.tif for photo number 310 in the Bailey group, front side, version 0 (which I use for the initial scan).  Next to it is bailey–0310-f-v01.jpg. Every time I change the photo and save it, I increment the version number.  No old version get thrown away. The back of the photo is bailey-0310-r-v00.tif.  Nearby these is bailey-0305-f-v00-Viola-1950s.jpg, which adds a bit of description. But, since it’s at the end, things always sort correctly.
  4. For documents, I use almost exactly the same scheme, but instead of just f and r for front and rear, I use p00 for page number of the document.  If I collapse a set of tif pages into a pdf, I just use the first document number for it.
  5. Finally, I use tags inside the pictures for surnames, places, names, etc.  Turns out Windows Explorer is actually quite handy at allowing you to edit photo tags without having to have any other programs. [He notes that, at least in Windows 7, his experience shows that the Windows Explorer search function does search the tags in the metadata.  To create tags, just right-click on the image. Click Properties. You'll see a box like this the one shown to the left of the photo in this post. Click "Tags" and enter the keywords you'll use to search for this photo.]

ipad_store_imagePrefer to use your mobile device to scan old photos? Learn about great apps for capturing family history images in my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

Old Photo Solves Genealogy Mystery

Dickson back of photoRecently Genealogy Gems Premium member Scott Dickson of Roswell, Georgia, USA, sent me this great story about how an old photo helped him break through a brick wall on his family tree:

“Lisa,

You talked about discoveries through revisiting old photos. The first day I ever went to a library to research, back in 1989, I found my grandfather’s grandfather in the census.  That’s the last concrete fact about the Dicksons I had found until this spring.  I traced my g-g-grandfather John H. Dickson all over Alabama, Mississippi, and finally Arkansas.  But he died relatively young and never owned anything, so there were few records. Everywhere he lived, however, there was a family close by that really looked like his sister and her husband. I could never prove it, though. I researched them (the sister’s family), but could not document a connection.

Until I was re-scanning photos this spring.  The old ones were done 20 years ago at too-low resolutions, without the backs, etc.  So I was starting over.  One photo was my great-grandfather Robert H. Dickson Sr with another old guy.  My grandmother had written on back the names.  George Williams and Robert H. Dickson Sr.

My granddad had added “cousins”.  That was the clue that cracked it open.  The only way for George to be Robert’s cousin was for him to be George Collier Williams, son of Mary Dickson & Lorenzo Williams.  Mary was the one I always suspected was the sister to Robert’s father, John.  There were no other cousins down any of the other lines that would have been named Williams and would have been the right age.  Mary and John were for sure siblings.  That puts John into a family and I can continue to make progress.  New doors are open!  So, while it might not be a notarized will naming relations, for me, it’s the connection that I have been looking for for 25 years!

Thanks for your shows.  I continue to enjoy them and get inspired.”

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story with us, Scott! It really can pay to go back and LOOK at the backs of all our old photos. And always put clues from various records together! Though the back of an old picture and an old census record may not seem like matching puzzle pieces, in this case he found that they were!

Learn more about scanning your old family photos in this companion blog post, in which Scott shares his best tips.