January 31, 2015

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.)

RootsTech 2015 Entertainment: Donny Osmond and More

AJ JacobsRootsTech 2015 is known for being all about genealogy and technology. however, in an effort to broaden its audience in 2015 it will feature some heavy-hitting entertainers from outside the industry: best-selling authors, singers, dancers and even the cast of a (family-friendly) college comedy TV show.

The lineup includes:

  • Friday keynote: A.J. Jacobs, author of four New York Times bestsellers, editor at large at Esquire magazine, and a commentator for NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. He is currently helping to build a family tree that connects the entire world and will host the Global Family Reunion on June 6, 2015, which he hopes will be the biggest, most inclusive, most entertaining and most educational Family Reunion in history. Jacobs has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Dr. Oz Show, Conan, The Colbert Report and many others.
  • Donny OsmondSaturday keynote: Donny Osmond, singer, actor, television series host, best-selling author (his autobiography entered the UK bestseller chart at #1), commercial spokesman, motivational speaker, and even a racecar driver. His more recent roles include Gaston in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on Broadway; a special correspondent for Entertainment Tonight; and a Dancing with the Stars champion (2009). Today, Donny performs at the Flamingo Las Vegas alongside his sister, Marie, in their show “The Donny & Marie Show” which earned “Best of Las Vegas” by the Las Vegas Review Journal three years in a row.
  • Saturday evening: The cast of BYUtv’s popular comedy show Studio C and other popular entertainers (TBA) will host the closing event (at 5:15pm).
  • Friday evening: the sights, sounds and dances of various world cultures will entertain crowds in the the expo hall, which will have extended hours (until 7:00). 

Registration is open for RootsTech: click here to learn more.

English Parish Boundaries: A Little-Known Online Tool

English parish map from FamilySearch.org.

English parish boundaries: map on FamilySearch.org.

Did you know that FamilySearch has an interactive map to help you find English parish boundaries in 1851?

Daniel Poffenberger, who works at the British desk at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showed me this map gem. He says this map was about 7 years in the making!

Before you click through to the map, you should know:

  • Use the main Search interface to search by a specific location.
  • Click on layers to indicate whether you want the map to show you boundaries to parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses and more.
  • Click and drag the map itself to explore it.
  • Wales is also included here but the Welsh data doesn’t appear to be entirely complete (try it anyway–it might have what you need).
  • The map isn’t yet permanently operational. It does go down sometimes, possibly because they’re still working on it.  It doesn’t print easily. It’s suggested that if you want to print, you hit “Ctrl-Print Screen” and then paste it into Word or another program that accepts images.

Click here to see the FamilySearch England & Wales 1851 Parish map.

Genealogy Video

Want to learn more about using maps? Premium members can check out my video, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115 Features 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastIf you’re a Premium member on our site, you can now access Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 115, “Newspapers, Evernote, DNA and a Heartwarming Story.”

This episode is PACKED with news and ideas YOU can use to move your family research forward now. Here are some highlights:

  • 10 Cool Things You Can Do With Evernote when you’re traveling (you have to hear these ideas–they’ll save you a lot of fuss on the road)!
  • Great advice on what to keep on your hard drive v. what to keep on Evernote;
  • A conversation with a listener who reunited lost heirlooms with the right family–the advice I gave her and how it went;
  • An interview with Genealogy Gems’ resident DNA expert Diahan Southard on a recent news story and its impact on genetic genealogy;
  • A recent news story about Canadian birth brothers who were reunited–but are still looking for their sister;
  • Updates on two great online tools, PERSI on FindMyPast sites and the FamilySearch Standard Location Finder; and
  • an update on content at the British Newspaper Archive and some great U.S. newspaper history trivia.

Not a Premium member yet? You’re missing out on the “plus” content in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episodes! Click here for more on becoming a member. Our low annual membership rate is, we think, the best value in genealogy education out there. You don’t just get access to these meaty podcasts: you get unlimited access to Lisa’s online video classes for an entire year. Check it out!

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.