November 30, 2015

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online! Check out British newspaper articles, England and Wales electoral registers, Great Lakes crew lists, Kentucky divorces, Russian church records and US city directories.

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. More than 3.7 million new British newspaper articles are now searchable on Findmypast. The updates boost online content for 43 existing titles add 11 new ones, including papers for the cities of London and Dundee and local papers like the Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser For Buchan District and Wisbech Chronicle, General Advertiser and Lynn News.

ENGLAND AND WALES ELECTORAL REGISTERS. A century’s worth of Electoral Registers(1832-1932) are now browsable on Findmypast. This enormous collection comes from around 10,000 volumes and contains 220 million names. It “includes parliamentary registers, burgess rolls, parochial registers and county council registers. Electoral Registers are lists created annually of people who are eligible to vote and include their reason for eligibility, such as their residence or ownership of a property.”

GREAT LAKES CREW LISTS (US). Ship crew lists taken for vessels arriving ports in MichiganMinnesota and Wisconsin, covering parts of the 20th century, have been updated at According to one of the collection’s descriptions, in these lists you may find an ancestor’s name, length of service, position on the crew, age, nationality, when and where he/she signed on, the name of the vessel, its arrival and departure information and clues about the person’s citizenship/alien status.

KENTUCKY DIVORCES. Ancestry has a new index to Kentucky divorce records, 1962-2005. For over half a million divorces, the record includes the names of both parties, date and place of divorce.

RUSSIAN CHURCH RECORDS. More than 1.7 million digitized pages of church records from Tastarstan, Russia dating back to 1721 are now browsable for free on FamilySearch. According to the collection description, these include “images of births and baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials performed by priests of the Russian Orthodox Church in the republic of Tatarstan.”

US CITY DIRECTORIES. The second biggest database at Ancestry just got bigger. There are now well over 1.5 billion records in their collection of U.S. City Directories since 1822.

Thanks for sharing this post with anyone whose ancestors might be mentioned in these records!

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Here It Is! #1 of Top 10 Posts On Our Genealogy Blog

Top Ten Genealogy Coundown #1THIS IS IT! Our #1 blog post of 2015. Not surprisingly, it’s about how to secure your data on your trees, photos, sources and even DNA! 

Earlier this year, rumors circulated that Ancestry was up for sale. Our post about that rumor included tips about how to back up everything you’ve put on Ancestry–trees, source citations, images and even DNA results. That post from our genealogy blog circulated among thousands and thousands of Facebook friends! It was definitely our most-read post of 2015, thanks to those of you who helped share its tips with your friends.

keep your family tree secureHere’s the bottom line from that post: if you don’t already have up-to-date copies of everything you’ve put on Ancestry, download it now. From here on out, keep your master family tree not on Ancestry (or any other site) but on your own computer. If you do keep building your tree on Ancestry, download updated GEDCOM files regularly. That way, if Ancestry gets hacked, goes out of business or even dumps your data (it’s happened before), you’ve still got your tree.

Backblaze Genealogy Gems logosIn that same spirit, back up your own computer systems. Many of you have taken our advice to hire Backblaze to do this for you. Backblaze runs in the background of all Genealogy Gems computers, instantly backing up to the cloud every new or revised file we create, 24/7.  Including our master family trees, digital photos and genealogy document images! Lisa loves that their online backup security is second to none and costs just $5 a month. (Click here to learn more about Backblaze.)

top 10 blog posts trophyClick here to see all Top 10 Genealogy Gems blog posts for 2015–and enter to win a great prize! The contest ends TODAY, so click now to enter!





Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #5 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #5“This is huge!” That’s how DNA expert Diahan Southard summed up major advances at AncestryDNA this past year. Her post was huge, too: it landed the #5 spot on our Top 10 genealogy blog posts for 2015 countdown. See why! 

To those who have spent a lot of time doing genetic genealogy, bringing up the launch of significant updates to AncestryDNA earlier this year may seem like old news. But it’s not. AncestryDNA is still the only company with fairly advanced tools for integrating your genetic matches with your family tree. That combo is so attractive, they’ve already acquired more than a million samples in their current DNA database–a huge pond in which to fish for genetic matches.

That’s why Diahan’s popular post on updates to AncestryDNA and DNA Circles is still newsworthy. As she explained, “This is really the first time a DNA testing company has so fully integrated genetics and genealogy.  We can now find cousins in the database who do not share our particular genetics, but who do share some of the genetics of our common ancestor.”

DNA for Genealogy Quick Reference Guide Bundle by Diahan SouthardBefore doing any DNA test, we always encourage genealogists to do their homework. Different tests should be used for different genealogical questions. Each company offers unique tools, perks and sometimes drawbacks for genealogy customers. Unexpected results and unpredictable encounters with genetic relatives may be difficult for some. Diahan’s Getting Started: Genetics for the Genealogists laminated quick guide can help you find your way. Her other guides include those specific to AncestryDNA and autosomal DNA (the type of DNA they test at Ancestry). Click here to check them out–and see a great value price to bundle her guides.

Once you’re ready to try an AncestryDNA test, click here to purchase, and you’ll support the free Genealogy Gem blog and podcast. (Thank you!)

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #7 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #7The Social Security Applications and Claims Index was one of 2015’s most important new online resources for U.S. researchers (keep reading to see the other). No wonder it made the #7 spot on this week’s Top 10 genealogy blog post countdown!

This summer, quietly released a major addition to its U.S. record resources. We already rely on the Social Security Death Index to help us find 20th-century relatives. But so many of us have lamented at how limited is the info in that index, and how expensive to order the original application when there’s no guarantee we’ll find the person’s parents names (which are requested on the form).

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims IndexI’m guessing that’s why Lisa’s post on Ancestry’s new Social Security Applications and Claims Index made the #7 spot on our genealogy blog countdown this week! This enriched index adds parents’ names and more to millions of SSDI indexed entries. Click here to read more about it and search the index.

Want to read about another top database for U.S. researchers that was recently released? Click here!


Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 blog posts–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, kindly donated by our friends at Family Tree University. You’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.


Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #8 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #8It’s no surprise to find another DNA post in the #8 spot on our Top 10 genealogy blog post countdown. The topic: understanding your AncestryDNA matches.

In this post, Genealogy Gems resident DNA expert Diahan Southard takes on a confused question sent in by a listener, who didn’t understand why certain people were showing up in her AncestryDNA results.

This post explains SO beautifully a couple of key concepts:

  • the difference between your AncestryDNA genetic matches and the DNA Circles/New Ancestry Discoveries that pull from both your genetic results and your family tree; AND
  • three reasons someone may show up in your AncestryDNA matches as a New Ancestry Discovery–and which one of those scenarios actually helps your research.

confused by AncestryDNA matchesSince running my own autosomal test through AncestryDNA a few months ago, I find myself coming back repeatedly to Diahan’s series of posts to help me better understand and use those results. I know I’m not alone, since three of Diahan’s DNA posts made our Top 10 this year! (We covered #10 yesterday.)

Click here to read the above post, and click here to find a list of all DNA-related posts on our genealogy blog.

AncestryDNA product image new_1f_screens2If you’ve done your homework and decided that an AncestryDNA test is what should be next for your family history research, thank you for purchasing one by clicking here. Your purchase supports the free Genealogy Gem blog and podcast. (Thank you! YOU are a gem!)



Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #10 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy blog posts Coundown #10I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!

Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3  of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!

I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.

genealogy blog posts countdownWhen I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.AncestryDNA common matches tool

In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…

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

…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.

Top 10 Genealogy Gems Blog Posts: Share and Enter to Win!

top 10 blog posts shareWe are celebrating our 1000th Genealogy Gems blog post with a list of our Top 10 Posts. Share this post on Facebook and you could win an inspiring family history writing video!

I can hardly believe it. This month, the Genealogy Gems website will reach a milestone 1000 blog posts! Thank YOU for your emails, phone calls and comments at conferences. I often share your success stories and use your feedback to bring you more great content.

Below is a list of our most-read posts so far. Did you miss any? Keep reading to learn how to win a a great family history writing prize by sharing this post on Facebook!

Our Top 10 Blog Posts

1. Ancestry Up for Sale? By far the most-read post in 2015! We weren’t just talking about the sale rumor, but sharing advice on saving your Ancestry trees, sources and DNA, which everyone should do.

2. Best Genealogy Software: Which You Should Choose and Why. This is my spiel on why you should keep your master family tree on software at home–not on your favorite genealogy website. It includes my top picks for family tree software, including free options.

3. Four Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy. A lot of you are interested in the Library of Congress’ online resources for digitized photos, newspapers and how-tos for archiving your family history. Read all about it!

4. Free Google Earth for Genealogy Class. The conference lectures I give on Google Earth for genealogy are so popular that I created a free video that everyone can watch from home. Click on the post, and you can watch the video, too.

5. AncestryDNA Review and Breaking News: Updates Launched. Our own DNA correspondent Diahan Southard penned this popular post on AncestryDNA’s ground-breaking integration of our genetics data and our genealogy trees.

6. Seven Free Google Searches Every Genealogist Should Use. Are you getting the most out of free Google search technologies? Scan this list and see what’s missing from your search strategies!

7. NEW! Try This Now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. For U.S. researchers, this was the blockbuster database of summer 2015. Millions of parents’ names, birthplaces and more now beef up this go-to Social Security database–its’ far better than its sparse predecessor, the SSDI.

8. Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches? Read This Post. Another hit from DNA expert Diahan Southard! A great explanation of how to use your New Ancestor Discoveries on AncestryDNA.

9. How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator. It’s a simple, easy online tool, shared in response to a listener’s question.

10. New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA.

win this prizeWill you please share this post on your Facebook timeline to help me spread the word about the “gems” you can find on the Genealogy Gems blog?

Here’s a little extra incentive: Use the hashtag #genealogygems and SHARE THIS POST ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE BY FRIDAY (November 20, 2015), and you’ll be entered in a contest to win the Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download. It’s presented by Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton and donated by our friends at Family Tree University. Of course you’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.

media_icon_like_400_wht_9163Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping me celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsNew genealogy records online this week includes civil registrations for Italy and the Philippines, Irish vital records indexes, Pennsylvania veterans’ files and even 20th-century U.S. merchant marines databases. Which may include your relatives?  

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Digitized (not yet indexed) civil registration records for Forlì-Cesena Forlì (1800-1815, 1866-1930) and Imperia Ventimiglia (1806-1913) are now free to view on FamilySearch. Records for each locale may vary, but in addition to civil registrations may include marriage banns, memorandums and marriage supplemental documents; annotations to death records and other miscellaneous records.

IRELAND VITAL RECORDS. Indexes to birth records (1864-1914), marriage records (1845-1939, but begins 1864 for Roman Catholic marriages) and death records (1864-1964) are now available to search at

PENNSYLVANIA MILITARY. Ancestry has posted a new database of Pennsylvania, WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948 WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948 and updated its Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Application Files, WWII, 1950-1966 database.

PHILIPPINES CIVIL REGISTRATION. About 1.8 million indexed images of Manila civil registrations (1899-1984) are now free to search on FamilySearch. This represents a partial index (just the births for 1900-1980).

U.S. MERCHANT MARINES. Ancestry recently posted two new 20th-century databases on merchant marines: the WWI-era U.S., Lists of Merchant Seamen Lost in WWI, 1914-1919  and the longer-spanning U.S., Merchant Marine Applications for License of Officers, 1914-1949.

share celebrate balloonsThank you for sharing these new genealogy records online with fellow genies and society members! We appreciate you helping us spread the good news. Didn’t find the records you’ve been pining for? Click here for a Google-based strategy on searching online for genealogy records.


How to Approach a Genealogist about an Error on an Ancestry Family Tree

how to approach a genealogist about a family tree error Ancestry

Is someone else’s Ancestry family tree causing a pain in your own tree trunk? Here’s a way to approach it–nicely!

Scott is a new Genealogy Gems listener and he recently dropped me a line about a problem that just a few–ok, nearly every–genealogist has at some point come face-to-face with: an error on an Ancestry family tree. Scott writes:

“I recently found your podcast and have been listening with great interest. I really appreciate your experienced, informed, yet common sense approach to genealogy. Because of this common sense approach, I felt you would be a great source of advice for a dilemma I am having.”

This Genealogy Gems listener went on to describe coming across a family tree in the Ancestry forest that included his family line. It featured good research that mirrored his own and some additional that gave him hints that lead to even more branch extensions. “The only problem is, there is a critical error in her research: the starting point that she uses for that whole line is incorrect.”

Scott believes he has very good documentation and support for his claim. In fact he notes that she even has a document attached to her tree that supports his case that she has made an error.

“My dilemma: How do I appropriately connect with her to let her know that she has made an error? This individual has made a concerted effort to research and cite, and does it better than almost all the others on that line have done. I want to let her know so she can dedicate and direct those wonderful skills in the right direction, but I want to do it in a considerate way. Everyone makes mistakes of this nature – I sure have!! What is the best way to make an initial contact that exposes an error?”

If you participate in Ancestry’s online family trees then you have probably faced an Ancestry tree error. Let’s be honest: Genealogists can grow quite cynical about the intentions of others when they see so many trees lacking sources, and errors within trees. It’s frustrating to run into. Interestingly, in Scott’s description of his situation he’s already demonstrated the approach I would Genealogy successrecommend. Here’s what I told him:

  • You’ve assumed the best (not the worst) about her approach to the research
  • You want to help
  • You know that everyone makes mistakes

I would weave that into the following approach that I like to take with any situation, genealogical or otherwise, where I need to approach someone about incorrect work:

1. Start with a compliment.
“I’m so impressed by all the work you have clearly accomplished so far….”

2. Address the problem by assuming that they are ultimately interested in accuracy.
“I wanted to make you aware of something I found which I believe changes the conclusions about this particular family line. I think you’ll find this as interesting as I did….” This approach, by the way, doesn’t say ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ but rather it says the facts and data are right and you’re guessing they will be as interested in the facts as you are.

3. End with a sincere compliment or expression of appreciation
“Again, I’m so grateful that you have shared your tree online and I look forward to hearing from you”

And finally, when addressing an error on an Ancestry family tree, as with all things in life, we have to manage our expectations. If you don’t hear back, or get a negative response, just know that the other researcher may be emotionally invested in their findings in a way you’re not aware of, or may no longer be actively working on it, and not have time to revisit it right now. (For all we know, their spouse could have just gone into the hospital.)

Bottom line: An error on an Ancestry family tree is a pain in the tree trunk. Focus on placing your accurate tree online, fully cite your sources, and move on, knowing that you are offering other researchers who come across both trees an alternative.

Online tree out of controlMore Resources for Your Family Tree

Don’t Lose Control When You Post Your Family Tree Online

Why Use Ancestry for FREE if You’re Not a Subscriber

Start Your Free Family Tree


We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems  Our review of new genealogy records online this week includes the 1939 Register for England and Wales; church records for Illinois and Kyiv, Ukraine; New York naturalizations and Mexican vital and church records. Which of these may name your family members?  

ENGLAND AND WALES POPULATION REGISTER. The 1939 Register is now online at Findmypast, as we blogged about earlier this week. Click here to learn more about this crucial record set for those researching English and Welsh families.

FLASH SALE! Receive a 10% discount off 300 credits on Findmypast now through Friday 13thNovember 2015 at 11.59pm GMT using the code 1939REG10. Click the graphic below to have the discount automatically set up for you.

(When you use our links and graphics you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast – thank you!!)


ILLINOIS CHURCH RECORDS. Ancestry has updated its collection of United Methodist Church records for 87 counties in central and southern Illinois. The collection now spans 1824-2009, bridging record gaps like the lack of government vital records in the past and privacy restrictions for more recent records. Click here to search for baptisms, marriages, deaths, family migrations and more. These records are for congregations that are no longer in existence.

MEXICO. For October, Ancestry announced the addition of “more than 250 million Mexican birth, marriage, death, and church records—plus U.S. census, border crossing, and naturalization records.” click here to search Mexican records on Ancestry–through Monday, October 9, access to these collections is free.

NEW YORK NATURALIZATIONS. Ancestry’s collection of naturalization records for New York (1882-1944) have been updated. click here to search for immigrant ancestors who may have naturalized in New York, which welcomed millions of immigrants who may have done this paperwork during that time.

UKRAINE CHURCH RECORDS. You can new browse a new collection of Orthodox church records for the Diocese of Kyiv, Ukraine (1734-1920) on FamilySearch. These include duplicate records of baptisms/births, marriages, and burials/deaths created by church officials for civil authorities. Click here to view these records for free (sign-in may be required).

Please help spread the great news! Thank you for sharing these new genealogy records online with your genealogy societies, fellow researchers and family.

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