March 6, 2015

We Dig These New Genealogy Records Gems every Friday!

We dig these gemsEvery week, we see so many new genealogy records posted online! We highlight major resources in individual blog posts. But sometimes smaller or regional collections catch our eye, too. We’ll round these up for you in a post like this on Fridays.

Watch for the genealogy records that your ancestors might appear in–but also watch for the kinds of records that may be out there for your kin, which might help you break down your family history “brick walls.”

PRISON RECORDS. Kingston, Canada, Penitentiary Inmate Ledgers, 1913-1916, are now available on Flickr. According to GenealogyCanada.blogspot.com, “The ledger includes frontal and profile mug shots, the inmate’s name, alias, age, place of birth, height, weight, complexion, eye colour, hair colour, distinctive physical marks, occupation, sentence, date of sentence, place of sentence, crime committed, and remarks of authorities.”

CEMETERY HEADSTONES. The Canadian Headstone Photo Project is now also searchable at FamilySearch.org. The original site with over a million headstone photos isn’t new. But some people don’t know about the site, and its search interface isn’t as pretty or flexible. So we think it’s nice that FamilySearch is hosting that data, too. According to FamilySearch, the collection is still growing. “This collection will include records from 1790-2013. The records include a name index of headstone inscriptions, courtesy of CanadianHeadstones.com, which is a family history database of records and images from Canada’s cemeteries.”

HISTORICAL PROPERTIES MAP INTERFACE. The state of Delaware in the United States has launched an updated version of its CHRIS (Cultural and Historical Resource Information System) GIS tool. Use this interface to explore houses, districts and National Historic Landmarks in your ancestor’s Delaware neighborhoods. Maybe a place they lived, worked, shopped, worshiped or attended is still standing!

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Use the “numrange” search operator in Google to locate records from a particular time period. Do this by typing the range of years to search (first and last year) into your Google search box, with two periods in between (no spaces). For example, the search “Kingston Penitentiary” 1900..1920 brings up the ledgers mentioned above.

This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.

 

RootsTech Roundup, Writing Family History and More in the Newest Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 176

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryThe newest episode of the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast–episode 176–has published and it is PACKED with gems!

Lisa begins with her own in-depth comments on RootsTech 2015. Whether you attended or didn’t, I think you’ll find her front-row analysis of the world’s biggest family history event pretty interesting! I appreciate her insight that RootsTech isn’t just about teaching people to do family history. It’s about motivating and inspiring their legacy-building efforts. I have sometimes felt a lack of that at conferences myself: I get a lot of how-to but not the energizing “why-to” that I sometimes need myself.

I join Lisa to talk about the Genealogy Book Club and MORE great reads for family history lovers. We’re still reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, which offers up a history lesson about the thousands of neglected children who were shipped off by train to rural homes in the U.S. and Canada. In the context of an unlikely friendship between an elderly orphan train rider and a modern teenage girl in the foster care system, we learn how much of a child’s identity comes wrapped up in their family’s backstory. Lisa and I also talk about writing family history using different voices. I recommend books written in a few different voices, or styles.

Another great segment in this episode is the topic of yDNA research and surname studies. Genetics is re-invigorating those “one-name” groups that explore their common surname heritage. As in every episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll get some great tips and learn about online resources you may not have seen. You’ll hear from our listeners and readers with questions and comments. And we hope you’ll respond with your own! Click here to listen to the podcast and read the show notes.

New Interactive Exhibit Brings Family History to the Public: FamilySearch Discovery Center

FS Discovery CenterWouldn’t it be great if you could bring your loved ones to a state-of-the art, museum-quality interactive exhibit that introduces them to their own family history?

Now you can! A “prototype” FamilySearch Discovery Center was unveiled yesterday in downtown Salt Lake City in conjunction with RootsTech 2015. Visitors are handed a tablet computer and sent around to seven stations. At each they dock their tablet, which has their FamilySearch login programmed, and experience different aspects of history with their own family history data.

You can see your family’s international migration through the generations; superimpose yourself in historical costumes from several nations; check out the history and popularity of your first and last names; and enter a “time machine” with 3D historical re-creations of ancestral kitchens throughout the years. One of my favorite stations was one I almost skipped: the personal history interview in a private booth. You choose your life season, from child to senior, and a virtual interviewer appears on the screen and asks you a series of questions, which are recorded. All the data is later sent to you through your FamilySearch/email accounts.

For now you can only experience this in Salt Lake City. But this exhibit is meant to be replicated in major venues, and indeed has been booked for at least two so far in Seattle and Philadelphia, says FamilySearch CEO Dennis Brimhall. He chatted with me as I toured and confirmed that they are experimenting with this exhibit in different sizes and scales. He hopes to see versions of the FamilySearch Discovery Center one day in museums, libraries, archives, and heritage centers around the world. “We haven’t done a really good job of bridging the general public into family history,” he admitted. This exhibit concept is a big step toward changing that.

As for myself, I love what they’re doing. I would love even more to see them customized for regional audiences, which it sounds like is part of the plan. If you’re in Salt Lake, it’s absolutely worth checking out. Just bring your relatives–preferably the ones who are now the LEAST interested in family history!

Find Genealogy Apps with the FamilySearch App Gallery

custom_app_icon_15153Do you ever wonder whether you’re missing something when you browse iTunes or Google Play  for genealogy apps? Well, FamilySearch has created a space JUST for family history apps: The FamilySearch App Gallery.

According to a FamilySearch press release, the gallery helps people “more easily find the right application from FamilySearch’s many partner applications, or services, to enhance their family history efforts. With just a few clicks, patrons can now begin to search partner apps to find those that meet their specific need.”

For example, you can search the App Gallery by:

  • what the app does (family tree software, find ancestor, photos and stories, charts and tree views and tree analyzing);
  • platform (web, windows, Mac OS, Android, iPhone/iPad and Windows phone);
  • price (free for everyone, one-time payment, subscription, or free trial);
  • language (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and more);
  • and FamilySearch compatibility (reads from FS, updates into FS or FS account not required).

Remember, the nature of apps is usually very specific. The BillionGraves for Android (or iOS) app, for example, lets you image and index gravestones for the BillionGraves website. But you may not have ever come across some of these apps before–and may find them very useful for your current or future research. For example, Historic Journals lets you run your own indexing project with your own  group. You can tag, index, share or archive historic documents in a public or private environment.

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryI’m pleased to report that the Genealogy Gems Podcast app for iOS and Android are in the FamilySearch App Gallery! In case you don’t already know about the Genealogy Gems Podcast app, it brings the free Genealogy Gems Podcast to your smart phone or tablet along with exclusive bonus material. And in January the app celebrated it’s 5th anniversary! In addition to getting access to the show, you’ll also receive access to special features like PDFs with tips and ideas from the show; Genealogy Gems wallpaper; bonus audio and video content; the ability to follow the show on Twitter; and call-in audio comment feature (iPhone only). (Not all features available for all episodes.)

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueWhile the FamilySearch App Gallery is a great resource, it isn’t a comprehensive home for ALL family history related apps. And a lot of genealogy-friendly apps aren’t categorized as such in Google Play or the App Store. Learn more about TONS of apps to further YOUR family history in Lisa’s book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse. This book introduces you to the tablet/iPad way of “thinking” (it’s different than how you use a computer). It gives you an in-depth look at over 65 genealogy-friendly apps, 32 fabulous tips and tricks and links to online videos where you can watch things for yourself. Got a tablet? No problem–apps available in Google Play are included, and the tips include clues about features to look for in your brand of tablet.

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

The Genealogy Industry: $2 Billion–and Growing!

cfl_light_with_plant_growing_out_800_wht_13136Recently, Forbes magazine called family history a “2-plus billion dollar industry that is expected to grow to nearly 3 billion by 2018 (ifla.org). Any investor will tell you that any market described with the word ‘billion’ is a market well worth pursuing.”

The article goes on to describe how FamilySearch International has been quietly spurring growth in the genealogy industry. The nonprofit genealogical organization has made its API (application program interface) available to other developers at little to no cost, allowing for partnerships and app development. FamilySearch’s big annual conference, RootsTech, hosts an Innovator Summit that “offers developers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs access to the latest content and resources that provide insight on family history data, services and inspiration for current and future projects.”

“FamilySearch is no longer being quiet,” they conclude. “They are ready to start knocking doors on a massive scale. In fact, at the industry’s biggest world-wide conference, RootsTech 2015, FamilySearch will be holding a Shark Tank-like competition in front of a 3,000 person live audience.”

“The RootsTech Innovator Challenge is the first of its kind with $25k in prize money and judging by seasoned investors, family history industry leaders, and live audience(s),” explains a statement from FamilySearch sent to Genealogy Gems. “Family history is attracting big partnerships while providing lucrative opportunities for smaller developers to solve complex problems and appeal to the consumer masses.”

like buttonDo you have a great business idea that serves the genealogy market–or do you know someone who does? Share this blog post  with them! More brilliant and creative products and services for genealogists is GOOD for US!

RootsMagic 7 is Here!

RootsMagic 7RootsMagic 7 has just been released! It’s the latest version of award-winning software that’s been described by Family Tree Magazine as  “probably the best all-around genealogy program.” I agree: that’s one reason RootsMagic is also a longtime sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast.

Before we tell you all the great features of RootsMagic 7, why are we talking about genealogy software when there are so many online options for building your family tree? Because you should keep your master tree with your own files, not trust it to even the best genealogy websites. Read more on that topic here.

RootsMagic software is known and loved for its ability to help people research and share their family trees. Its innovative features include:

  • the ability to move people from one file to another with your mouse,
  • a SourceWizard to help you document your work,
  • the option to create a Shareable CD to give to family and friends,
  • the ability to run RootsMagic off a USB flash drive when you are away from home
  • the ability to synch with FamilySearch.org (they’ve actually won an “Easiest to Sync” award from FamilySearch).

What’s New in RootsMagic 7?

RootsMagic 7 adds many new features while making existing features even easier to use. New features include:

  • WebHints – The industry’s only multi-platform record hints, providing automatic hinting from both FamilySearch and MyHeritage.
  • MyRootsMagic – New accounts that let you easily publish and maintain multiple online trees.  Your trees can be public or private (password protected).
  • DataClean – Quickly find and fix possible problems with names and places.
  • File Compare – Compare any two RootsMagic databases for a side by side comparison.  Easily transfer people, names, events, notes, sources, or media between the two files.
  • QuickGroups – Instantly add or remove an individual from multiple groups at once.
  • Plus dozens of other enhancements and features.

RootsMagic 7 is now available online or by calling 1-800-766-8762. New users can purchase it for $29.95; users of previous versions of RootsMagic and its predecessor Family Origins can upgrade for $19.95.

Want to try out a freebie version first? The popular  and FREE RootsMagic Essentials software has also been updated. RootsMagic Essentials contains many core features from the RootsMagic software and the two products are fully-compatible with one another, in case you decide to upgrade.  Click here to give it a try.

 

NEW! Nova Scotia and South African Genealogy Records on FamilySearch

world_flags_moving_300_wht_7675Among the 3.7 million+ records new on FamilySearch this week are two updates that caught my eye for international regions that need more record sets online:

Nearly 1.4 million images are now browsable in a newly-posted collection of Nova Scotia, Canada, probate records dating from 1760-1993.  According to FamilySearch, “This collection includes records of probate proceedings from Nova Scotia. The records include estate files, inventories, wills, administrations and other records related to probate. Most of the records are dated from 1800-1940, but coverage varies by area.”

Nearly 400,000 digitized parish registers for the Church of the Province of South Africa (1801-2004) have now been indexed. FamilySearch describes the collection as “digital images and partial index of parish registers of the ‘Church of the Province of South Africa.’ Since 2006, the church has been officially known as the ‘Anglican Church of Southern Africa.’ Original records are contained within the collection of the William Cullen Library, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The Church presently includes dioceses in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, South Africa and Swaziland. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.”

I hope these datasets can help your South African genealogy or help you find your Nova Scotia kin.

MyHeritage Library Edition: Now at Family History Centers

MyHeritage Library EditionMyHeritage has launched the MyHeritage Library Edition™ for libraries and other educational facilities around the world. Among the first to sign up for this service? The Family History Library.

MyHeritage Library Edition™ is now available for free at every FamilySearch family history center and Family History Library in the world. FamilySearch operates more than 4,700 family history centers in 134 countries. The centers are dedicated family history spaces, open to anyone with an interest in genealogical research. Visitors enjoy free access to historical records and personal assistance from staff to help them in their search for information. (Find a Family History Center near you.)

Here are some highlights to MyHeritage Library Edition:

  • Record content: access to billions of historical documents, millions of historical photos and other resources in thousands of databases that span the past 5 centuries.
  • Language diversity: Available in 40 languages–the industry’s most multilingual family history search engine.
  • Powerful technology: Automatic handling of translations, synonyms and spelling variations of millions of names in multiple languages AND unique Record Detective™ technology that recommends additional records for each record discovered.
  • Remote Access: Library members can use the MyHeritage Library Edition™ either at their local library or in the comfort of their own home using remote access.

See a video tutorial here for MyHeritage Library Edition.
Ask your local public or university library to subscribe!

1865 New York State Census Now on FamilySearch

New York State Census 1865Good news for those who had relatives in New York in the 1860s: the 1865 New York State Census is now searchable online at FamilySearch.org.

Just five years earlier, the 1860 U.S. federal census counted nearly four million people in this its largest state. New York claimed two of the three biggest U.S. cities: New York City and Brooklyn, with a combined population of over a million.

According to FamilySearch, “This collection contains most of the 1865 New York state census records still in existence. Ten schedules were filed for each locality, including population, marriages, and deaths schedules. The population schedule included the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member. Most counties are covered, but some records were destroyed. The record is a printed form that was filled in by hand by the enumerator. The records are usually arranged by county and town.”

Several counties are missing from this dataset. But it’s got a hefty 2.5 million records, over 60% of the population as counted in 1860. So check it out if you have Empire State ancestors!

Didn’t know New York conducted state censuses? Check out these additional resources:

  • Ancestry.com has a database of New York State censuses for 1880, 1892 and 1905. The 1892 census is especially critical because of the 1890 U.S. federal census is almost entirely lost.
  • Learn more about U.S. state censuses and other special censuses in Episode 10 of our Family History Made Easy podcast. (This episode is the second of a three-part series on using census records: click here for the full list of episodes of this step-by-step free genealogy podcast.)