July 7, 2015

Free Records at Ancestry Now through Sunday

free records at Ancestry.comFree Records at Ancestry are available now through Sunday July 5, 2015.

(Use our convenient social media buttons at the top of this post to get the word out to your genealogy friends!)

Ancestry is inviting you to “Discover your American story this 4th of July” by making available their “13 Colonies Collection.”

You can now search more than 160 million birth, marriage, death, and divorce records plus their newly released Virginia collection.

Click here to check out the full list of free records at Ancestry that you will be able to access.

Don’t forget to use our convenient social media buttons at the top of this post to get the word out to your genealogy friends!

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124: Ancestry, Book Club Interview and More

Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 124If there’s a theme for Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124, it’s travel! (Which works for us here in the U.S., where we are enjoying summer vacations.) Our ancestors sure traveled, and sometimes a paper trail followed them. In this episode you’ll hear Contributing Editor Sunny Morton’s interview with Phil Goldfarb, author of two volumes on U.S. passport applications. More episode highlights include:

  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsThe exclusive Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of our featured title, The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist);
  • Another tip for photographing headstones on your trips to the cemetery, whether your own relatives’ or for sites like BillionGraves;
  • Follow-up tips on saving your data at Ancestry and navigating the remodeled Ancestry website;
  • An easy, inexpensive family history craft that would be perfect for a family reunion this summer.

liesHere’s a teaser from our conversation on passport applications: People lied on them, including those who became famous. Clara Barton lied about her age and Harry Houdini said he was born in the U.S., when he was actually born in Austria-Hungary. Also, passport applications can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival in the U.S., the ship they arrived on and the court and date of naturalization.

Did you know that Genealogy Gems Premium members have access to our full archive of Premium podcast episodes, as well as hours’ worth of exclusive video tutorials on genealogy research skills, using online records and harnessing powerful technology tools like Google searching, Google Earth and Evernote for genealogy? Click here to learn more about Premium membership for yourself or for your genealogy society or library.

As always, our Genealogy Gems flagship podcast remains free, thanks to your support and purchases you make through the links we provide (like for the books we recommend on this page).

3 Things This Gems Follower Loves About the New Ancestry Site

Ancestry what I love about the new siteRecently we reported changes in the Ancestry.com site, now available to all U.S. customers. Genealogy Gems follower Nora then emailed us with three things she loves about the new Ancestry experience, and her instructions for merging facts related to the same life event. Below are her comments; I’ve added screen shots for the sake of illustration that don’t pertain to Nora’s ancestors.

“I’ve been playing around with the new version of Ancestry.com, and have the following comments:

Yes No Maybe Ancestry1. YES, NO, MAYBE SO. “I LOVE that in the “hints”, it now asks you if the facts match your ancestor, and you have “Yes,” “No” and “Maybe” options.

In some cases, it is clearly not your ancestor, but sometimes you just aren’t sure. If you click “Yes,” you get the usual screen where you compare the items in the record to your tree and decide which points you want to use as “preferred” before you save the source to the individual in your tree.

If you click “No”, the hint gets put in the “Ignored” list. Yes, you could always go back and review these again, but you had to dig through all the entries that clearly did not relate to your ancestor. With the addition of “Maybe” there is now an “Undecided” list.  If you think it is possible that this is your ancestor, but don’t yet have any additional information that would support an unconditional “Yes, save this to my ancestor” reaction, you can click “Maybe.” Then, when something else shows up in your research that supports that hint, you can search back through the “Undecided” list under hints for that ancestor, and maybe go ahead and save the info to them in your tree.

Ancestry LifeStory viewTHUMBS-UP ON LIFESTORY VIEW. “I quite like the LifeStory view, especially as it gives the option to remove items you don’t want to include. For instance, the 1860 U.S. Federal census shows my ancestor as residing in New York, NY.  She was actually visiting her parents with her firstborn, a toddler son named for her father. Her actual home at the time was in California.

Because I entered the census info on Ancestry, her LifeStory suddenly included “current event” items for New York in the years between the 1860 and 1870 censuses. While these are appropriate in her parents’ records, they are not applicable to her, as she returned to California and her husband.

EASIER TO MERGE FACTS. “On each ancestor’s Facts tab, it is now so easy to combine duplicates of life events that came from different sources! I’ve been doing editing there and then syncing with my Family Tree Maker tree. The page shows the list of facts for the individual, the list of sources for that individual’s facts, and the list of immediate family members.

For the ancestor [mentioned] above, there were four separate marriage “facts.”  All of the documentation of the marriage date came from other members’ trees. Two of these trees had the information entered in exactly the same format, so they were both linked to the same fact. The other three trees each had the information entered slightly differently from any of the other trees. In order to consolidate down to just one “fact” with multiple “sources,” I did the following:

  1. Chose which “fact” I wanted to keep (in this case, it was the one with the most detailed information about the event). I’ll call this the “Master Fact.”  My “Master Fact” was showing one source.  The “duplicate facts” were showing 2, 1, and 1 source respectively.
  2. Clicked on the first “duplicate fact.”  This drew a connector line to the associated “sources.”
  3. Allowed my mouse to hover over the associated source, and clicked on the EDIT button that appears. At the top of the resulting screen, it listed the “facts” that this particular source is currently associated with. Below, it listed all the other “facts” for the individual.
  4. In the lower list, I clicked the plus sign next to the Master Fact that I wanted to keep. This associated the current “source” with the Master Fact.
  5. Next, in the upper section, I checked the “X” next to the “duplicate fact” that I intended to delete.  This unlinked the current “source” from that “fact.”
  6. I repeated these steps for all the “sources” associated with the “duplicate facts.”
  7. Lastly, I went back to the Facts tab for this particular ancestor. My “Master Fact” was now showing 5 associated sources, and each of the “duplicate facts” showed no associated sources. I was able to click on each “duplicate fact,” select “Delete” from the “Edit” menu associated with that “fact,” and wind up with just the “Master Fact” for my ancestor’s marriage. Doing this really cleaned up the LifeStory view without having to “hide” a bunch of entries.”

Thank you, Nora! I appreciate hearing from you about the “gems” you’re finding in the new Ancestry site experience–and especially thanks for those instructions on associating several sources with the same life event.

podcast logo 180The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 has tips for backing up your Ancestry data (not just your tree, but sources and DNA), as does this blog post. Make sure you’re always backed up, whether your data lives online or on your home computer. I rely on Backblaze as the official Genealogy Gems backup data provider. Click here to learn why

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week seems to be all about U.S. records: newspapers, military and railroad employees.

U.S. NAVY SURVIVORS. A new collection with nearly 2 million records from case files of Navy approved pension applications (1861-1910) is now searchable on Fold3. These include Civil War survivors and later Navy veterans.

U.S. NEWSPAPERS. Over 450 historical newspaper titles for all 50 states (1730-1900) have been added to GenealogyBank. Over 160 of the papers date to the 1700s. Notable are an Ohio (Northwest Territory) paper from 1795, a New Orleans paper from 1803 and a Detroit paper from 1817.

PENNSYLVANIA NEWSPAPERS. Notable recent additions at Newspapers.com include nearly 400,000 pages of the Wilkes-Barre Record (1881-1949PA) and over 400,000 pages of the Standard-Speaker (1961-2000, Hazleton, PA).

U.S. RAILROAD RECORDS. Ancestry subscribers can access the Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Records, 1935-1970. The line passed through Wisconsin, Minnesota, SD, Iowa and Nebraska. The collection includes Social Security numbers (born before 1912) and applications (with parents’ names), birth and death date, residences and occupational details.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Google search tip: Though no longer actively digitizing and indexing newspapers, Google News Archive can help you locate online content for specific newspapers. Click here to access its alphabetical listing of newspapers. You can also enter keyword-searches in the search box on that webpage for all the newspapers listed here. There’s an entire chapter on the Google News Archive and what it can still do for us in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, fully revised and updated in 2015.

 

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post

confused by AncestryDNA matchesOpening your AncestryDNA account to find a New Ancestor Discovery can be a bit like the experience my nine-year old had at the beach today. He noticed something unusual in the sand on his way down to the beach and excitedly used his hands to unearth the treasure. However, it turned out to be a Captain Hook figurine long lost by another (likely much younger) beach-goer. His initial excitement quickly dissipated. He was disappointed as he had clearly found something he did not need or want.

I have heard from many of you that are confused and disappointed with Ancestry’s attempts to merge your genetics and your genealogy. Keep in mind that AncestryDNA matches are only using your genetics. Your DNA Circles and your New Ancestor Discoveries incorporate your linked tree into your genetic test results.

genealogy gems podcast mailboxLisa recently forwarded me a comment from Kate that perfectly illustrates the confusion I’m talking about. “We had DNA done thru Ancestry,” she writes. “The results [have] made me seriously question what they are showing me. I believe they are using my tree to show me results that are more vague than they are revealing. The latest example they show is a person not related by blood. This family is related by name only (my uncle’s spouse).

“My results from Ancestry show that they use my tree to make matches. Just checked the web page for DNA results. They show numerous matches….Three or 4 contacted me because they were convinced they were related by blood when they may have had a remote tree connection. They contacted me because the DNA results showed they were a 3rd or 4th
cousin, when in fact they would only be a 3rd or 4th cousin in my tree.”

I can see why she’s confused. First, let’s review what an AncestryDNA New Ancestor Discovery (NAD) actually IS.  NAD’s are based on the DNA Circle idea created by Ancestry. Remember that a DNA circle is when Ancestry can identify a shared genetic AND genealogical connection between three or more people. Using various standards and measures, they name an ancestor as your connection. This is the ancestor I affectionately call our Party Host. This is the ancestor who passed his or her DNA down to all of their descendants, like tickets inviting them to this party in the future. So, everyone who holds a ticket, AND who has honored that party host ancestor by placing their name in their pedigree chart, is listed as a guest in the form of a DNA circle connection. (Click here to read a blog post about this concept.)

The New Ancestor Discoveries just take that one step further.  The NAD is an attempt to find ticket holders who have not yet taken that extra step and added that important Party Host ancestor to their family tree. The NAD is like a nudge, inviting us to double check our family tree to see if this particular ancestor might need to be added. It is important to remember that a NAD comes only after a DNA circle has already been formed, and there could have been errors in that formation. So the very first thing you need to do with a NAD is to correspond with circle members and double check that the Party Host of the circle, their common ancestor, is correct. Then we can move on to evaluating the NAD.

Ancestry admits on its help pages that there are three reasons why you might get an NAD, and only one is “right” in the way you and I might view it.

NADhelpFigure1The “right” answer comes when the DNA circle was drawn correctly, the Party Host properly identified, and your DNA connection is strong to two or more members of the circle. You are then able to verify through traditional genealogical methods that you are an actual descendant of the Party Host, holding that coveted ticket, shown in blue in this modified image from the AncestryDNA help page.

There are two other alternatives.

NADhelpFigure2First, you are related to the NAD Party Host (the New Ancestor that was discovered) via marriage. In this second example from Ancestry’s help page, we see that your ancestor was married twice. The members of the DNA circle are descendants of her other marriage. Remember, that you do not share DNA with every member of the DNA circle. In this case, you share the purple DNA with a few members of the circle. But there are other members that share the blue. So the super computers at Ancestry first put all the blues together in a circle with the Party Host at the top. Then you come along with purple DNA that matches a few in the circle and their supercomputer erroneously assumes that you too must have been invited to this “blue” party, but in fact, the blue/purple members of the circle are double booked.  They have been invited to both the blue and the purple party.

How can you fix this?  If you can identify your purple Party Host, then you can add that person to your tree, and the trees of your DNA matches and likely then a new DNA Circle will form with the purple Party Host at its head, and the blue NAD will disappear.

NADhelpFigure3BasicThe other situation that many of you are seeing, especially those of you with ancestry from small communities, is demonstrated in Figure 3 of the Ancestry Help page, reproduced here.  As you can see, this one is much more complicated.  (In fact, the colors I added aren’t even quite accurate, as not all descendants of the blue NAD have the same blue, but rather different shades of blue depending on the segment they received- but this is a story for another post!)

The short of it is, the members of the previously established DNA circle share one single ancestor with each other, but they share multiple separate and distinct ancestors with you. Looking at this chart it seems very clear, but remember, in the database we only see you and the people you match.  We cannot tell from the DNA shared which piece came from which ancestor. So, it is very important to check and double check the pedigrees of those in the circle to identify additional shared lines.

The short of it is, these NAD’s are following the guilt by association rule, but in fact, you could be innocent.  Just keep in mind the simple principle that you DO share a common ancestor with those members of the circle that you share DNA with.  You do NOT necessarily share common ancestry with those in the circle that you do not share DNA with.

The key is to take these NAD’s for what they really are: research suggestions.  Keep your expectations low, and then you will be pleasantly surprised when you are able to verify a connection.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesReady to learn more about DNA testing for family history? Click here to watch two video interviews in which Lisa and I chat about genetic genealogy.

My DNA quick reference guides can get you started on your own DNA research, or help you unpuzzle and maximize results you don’t fully understand. Click here to see all six guides: purchase them individually or as value-priced bundles.

 

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 180 is Ready!

podcast logo 180The free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 has been published!  Click here to enjoy an episode about big names, like Ancestry and Google and FamilySearch. And big numbers, like the possible price tag for Ancestry at auction, AND small numbers, like the small price of a new handheld computer.

In this episode, we’re also talking about researching on road trip tips, an important online Civil War database, a leading Canadian digital archive and EXCLUSIVE tips for using FamilySearch’s free digitized book collection, which now tops 200,000 titles. Because we’ve gotten so much demand for it, we’re also sharing tips for backing up your data at Ancestry–not just your tree but your sources and DNA, too.

Nathan Goodwin logoThis month we also feature a meaty excerpt from our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, author of The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist). (Premium subscribers can catch the full interview in Premium episode 124, to be published soon.) He tells us how he got started. We talk about the plot and characters and the challenges of creating genealogical mysteries with dangerous consequences for the present and more!

Mixed in with all this news and how-tos is an assorted cast of listeners-with-questions and an inspiring story about long-lost siblings reunited by radio. Enjoy!

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? This week we cover burials in Cleveland, Ohio; an Oakland, CA newspaper; travelers to the U.S. via Canada, early Vermont pioneers and a register of WWI soldiers’ mothers and widows.

CLEVELAND (OH) BURIALS. The Cleveland Catholic Diocese has posted an index to burials. According to the site, “The following cemeteries have been uploaded into the centralized database: All Saints, Northfield; All Souls, Chardon; Resurrection, Valley City; Holy Cross, Akron; Holy Cross, Brook Park; and St. Joseph, Avon. Work is ongoing on the following cemeteries: Calvary, Cleveland; and Calvary, Lorain.” Registration is required but it is free.

OAKLAND (CA) NEWSPAPER. Nearly 400,00 pages of the Oakland Tribune spanning a full century (1874-1975) is now online at Newspapers.com. Oakland is in Alameda County and became an early terminus for the Transcontinental Railroad.

TRAVELERS TO U.S. VIA CANADA. Nearly 100,000 records appear in a new Ancestry database, U.S., Passenger and Crew Lists for U.S.-Bound Vessels Arriving in Canada, 1912-1939 and 1953-1962. “This collection contains forms, or passenger lists, submitted to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) by airline captains and shipmasters,” according to the collection description. Records are included for the ports of Montreal, Quebec; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Vancouver, British Columbia; Victoria, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario and Quebec Ports.

VERMONT PIONEERS. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has a new index online of Early Vermont Settlers to 1784. The collection description states, “This database contains modified Register-style genealogical sketches of every identifiable head of household who has been proven to reside in the present-day borders of Vermont by the year 1784. A list of children, their spouse(s), and all their vital records will accompany each sketch. We have noticed that the head of household occasionally dies outside of Vermont and many of the children live west of Vermont in New York, Ohio, and states westward. This database currently contains 34 sketches, 5,700 names and 2,700 records.”

WWI U.S. MOTHER’S PILGRIMAGE. Ancestry has updated its database of mothers and widows of U.S. soldiers killed in World War I and buried overseas, and were invited by the War Department to visit their loved one’s burial place. “Each record provides the name of widow or mother, city and state of residence, and relationship to the deceased. Additionally, information regarding the decedent’s name, rank, unit, and cemetery is provided.”

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. This week’s findings include a major Cincinnati newspaper collection, Cuban genealogy resources, a burial index for New York City and records for a mental hospital in Surrey, England. Might any of the collections below include your ancestor? Check out our weekly Google search tip at the end of the post, too–it’s about finding images associated with the records you come across.

CINCINNATI NEWSPAPER. Subscribers can now search over a quarter million pages from The Cincinnati Enquirer (1841-1922) at Newspapers.com. This collection covers 80 years of history for one of the largest inland cities in the U.S., which was a major landing spot for Ohio River travelers and home to thousands of German immigrants.

CUBAN GENEALOGY COLLECTION. The Digital Library of the Caribbean now offers access to the Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza Collection of Cuban Genealogy. According to the website description, the collection “includes thousands of books, handwritten and typed letters, photos and other primary documents relating to Cuba and Cuban genealogy, collected over four decades by Felix Enrique Hurtado de Mendoza….: rare 17th and 18th century books, long out-of-print publications and periodicals that few, if any, U.S. libraries hold in their catalogs. Additionally, thousands of unpublished family genealogies and manuscripts make this collection particularly significant.” Read more about the collection in this article, where we learned about it.

NYC BURIALS. One of New York City’s oldest and largest cemeteries has put up  a free database with thousands of burials, among them Civil War soldiers, former slaves and more. Green-Wood cemetery has about  Green-Wood currently has more than half a million burials dating to 1840. Those who find an ancestor in the database should consider ordering a search of Green-Wood’s archival records.

UK HOSPITAL RECORDS. Over 11,000 Surrey, England Mental Hospital admission records (1867-1900) have been newly digitized and published by Ancestry, in partnership with the Surrey History Centre. Each record contains the patient’s name, gender, marriage status, occupation, residence, religion, and their reason for admission (diagnosis).
check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s your weekly Google search tip: don’t forget to look for images associated with the types of record collections you find! Where one record exists, another may also. For example: search “Surrey England mental hospital,” and then when the results come up, click “Images.” You’ll find tons of photos of that hospital, some of them quite old. You can further filter these (or any image results) under Search Tools. Most commonly when searching for old pictures, I will choose “Black and White” under the Color tab (which naturally limits results to mostly older photos) or “labeled for reuse” under the Usage Rights tab (more likely to find images I can publish). This tip is brought to you by The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke: the fully-revised and updated 2nd edition is packed with great search tips like these!

The 1910 Census in Puerto Rico: A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

Puerto Rico census screenshot

Sample census detail image from Ancestry.com.

Imagine taking a standard U.S. census form, translating it into Spanish, administering it to a newly-American population whose racial identity is highly politicized, translating the results back into English and trying to make sense of them 100 years later.

That’s what happens when you’re looking at 1910 census in Puerto Rico.

I stumbled on this story when my dad, a FamilySearch indexer, called my attention to a current project to index previously-missed parts of the 1910 census. A lot of the missing data was for Puerto Rico. The forms are in Spanish. My dad asked my help translating some of what he was reading, since I speak some Spanish. He was concerned that the computer was interpreting some of the abbreviations in English when they were likely Spanish abbreviations. I looked into it and what I found reminded me of these lessons:

Puerto Rico 1910 1920 census instructions

From “The US Census and the Contested Rules of Racial Classification in Early Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico,” by Mara Loveman, in Caribbean Studies, 35:2 (July-Dec 2007), 3-36. Click image to go to the paper.

Always read the record itself and seek to understand it. Don’t just rely on the index! The published images of this census on Ancestry interpret “B” in the race column as “Black,” but a little research (thank you, Google Scholar!) reveals that the census takers entered the race in Spanish–so “B” was for “blanco” (read about it in this academic paper).

When you see someone’s race change over the course of a lifetime, consider the historical context. Puerto Rican census data from the early 1900s “show a population becoming significantly whiter from one census to the next” because of “changes in how race was classified on census returns,” says the same paper. Not only were there changes in the official instructions, but the enumerators increasingly didn’t follow them. In fact, on several thousand census entries in 1910 and even more in 1920, “individuals’ racial classifications were manually crossed out, and a different ‘race’ was written in. These post-enumeration edits, it turns out, were done by a select group of Puerto Ricans hired to supervise and ‘correct’ the work of fellow Puerto Rican enumerators.”

google toolbox bookThis little historical trivia is not so trivial if you’re wondering why your ancestor may be identified by a different race than you expected. Learn more about finding academic papers like the one quoted here in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. Her book shows you how to search Google Scholar for gems like this that make your family history more clear!

 

The New Ancestry Site: New Features, Mixed Reviews

Ancestry new site screenshotAncestry’s new site is now available to all U.S. users–across browsers, mobile devices, and the PC/Mac divide. It’s more than just a cosmetic or branding overhaul. The way Ancestry explains it, many changes boil down to helping users find family stories and improving their mobile experience. And while using the new site is still optional (see below), there are good reasons to start using it now. Mostly because the old site will be going away–possibly along with data you enter in it from this point forward. Many users adapt without much thought; for others, these changes are painful.

Ancestry logo new site“The new Ancestry experience was based on extensive research of problems our users are facing and their current needs,” states an FAQ on Ancestry. “We surveyed and interviewed thousands of users and found that new and long-time users wanted to be able to find and write their family stories. Based on this information we decided to provide more powerful storytelling features (LifeStory), coupled with tools to make research easier (updated Facts view) as well as organize media efficiently (Gallery)….Also, “the new experience was designed to work better across all mobile devices. You’ll be able to see the media gallery, Historical Insights, and LifeStory, too. More improvements for the mobile experience are planned.”

If you’ve been using Story View, the news is mixed. The new LifeStory feature is the next generation of Story View and “is better integrated into the overall profile page.” But Story View is going away–and as of June 1, “if you edit a Story View, the information will not be changed in the new LifeStory.” Also, the current FAQ says that Ancestry still hasn’t decided whether to transfer data from the Story View to the LifeStory.

Ancestry expert Crista Cowan explains the updated Facts view in the new Ancestry site: “Just like before, you will find the facts you’ve discovered and entered about the life of a person in your tree running down the page like a timeline. You will also find that the parents, spouse and children of the person are on the right-hand side of the page just where they have always been. The big change you will discover is that the sources that support those facts and relationships are now front and center.” Read more from her blog post here. The comments on that post and on the original announcement are great places to read the mixed opinions about the new site.

Below is Ancestry’s video about the new site:

Users can currently opt in or out of the new site (click Classic Site or New Ancestry on the username drop-down menu), but that option will go away soon. If you’re still on the fence about using the new site, read Ancestry’s FAQs about the changes, especially those that affect what changes you make from this point forward. Here’s a detailed list of the planned feature roll-outs, along with the estimated dates for them.

Ancestry for saleHave you backed up your Ancestry tree lately? It’s a good idea to do it regularly. We found ourselves reminding people how to do this recently in the wake of news that Ancestry may go up for auction. Read our how-to post here.