April 24, 2014

FamilySearch CEO Interview In Premium Podcast Episode 107

Dennis_BrimhallDid you know that the CEO of FamilySearch International doesn’t have a background in genealogy?

Dennis Brimhall is an experienced CEO–that’s why he was hired. But he admits that some folks even within his own organization weren’t sure about having him at the helm if family history wasn’t his personal passion.

Since then–only two years ago–FamilySearch has grown under Brimhall’s leadership. Dennis’ interest in family history has grown, too! Check out the interview in my Premium Podcast Episode 107, just published. You’ll hear how FamilySearch is reaching out to the 95%+ of the public who is not actively doing genealogy by focusing on the same things that caught Dennis’ interest: stories and photos.

In this episode we also explore a wonderful resource for Missouri genealogical research, and then we make tracks on some railroad history.

GG Premium MembershipNot a Premium member yet? You’re missing out! My website is packed with hours’ worth of Premium podcast episodes like this one as well as a full (and growing!) series of Premium videos. The videos are recordings of  some of my most popular presentations, and they’re available to Premium members 24/7 from the comfort of their own computers at the fraction of the cost of attending any major conference! They cover many of my most-requested topics: Google searching, Google Earth, Evernote, using the iPad for genealogy, hard drive organization and more! Check out the full list of membership benefits here.

Use A Family History Center to Access the Family History Library

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Those who just attended RootsTech 2014 probably wish they’d had more time for researching at the Family History Library. Others may have watched streaming sessions of RootsTech at satellite Family History libraries, called Family History Centers or FamilySearch Centers. Whatever the case, I’m guessing many of us wish we knew more about how to use the Family History Center (FHC) nearest us.

FHCs are great: they’re free, there’s usually one not too far from you, they are your personal portal to microfilmed content at the Family History Library, and you don’t have to be a member of the sponsoring LDS church. And as it happens, I’ve just republished a three-part series on FHCs from my original Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. All three episodes feature longtime genealogy researcher Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Family History Center in Oakland, California. Here’s a breakdown of topics covered in each episode. Click on each to see the episode webpage, where you can access the podcast and the show notes.

Episode 17:  Introduction to Family History Centers, their local holdings and how to order and use microfilmed resources from the Family History Library.

Episode 18: How to prepare for a visit to a local Family History Center, subscription websites you can use for free while visiting, and making copies in all forms.

Episode 19: Educational opportunities available through Family History Centers and Margery’s 7 top tips for getting the most out of your visit. Bonus: Margery shares inspiring stories of genealogy serendipity that happens when researchers come together in person.

Finding Naturalization Records: Where are the Women?

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

We’re nearing the completion of the enormous Community Indexing Project of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Records. Already finding naturalization records is a lot easier: we can search newly-created indexes to millions of naturalization records at FamilySearch.org. But often we don’t find the women we’re looking for.

Let’s look at why. But I’ll warn you, the reasons aren’t pretty. In the past, women had very few legal rights. None could vote. Married women had even fewer rights. Typically their legal identity disappeared when they married, enveloped by their husband’s. Married women did not handle legal matters in their own name, own property or keep their own money. Sometimes they did not even have legal liability for their actions. This was known as the legal principle of coverture.

In 1855, a law was enacted establishing that women who weren’t ineligible for other reasons (like race) were automatically made citizens when their husbands were naturalized. There was no extra paperwork or court costs. Their husbands’ papers (in combination with their marriage records) served as proof of the women’s citizenship, even though before 1906, you will not usually find the women’s names even listed on their husbands’ applications.

This represented a step forward for most married women, but not all. If a husband didn’t naturalize, the wife couldn’t naturalize without him. On the flip side, if a U.S.-born woman married a foreigner, she often lost her U.S. citizenship, whether or not she left the country. This problem wasn’t fully resolved until many years later; learn more about the laws and resulting paperwork in this article by the National Archives.

Naturalization laws were not applied evenly, and some women got their citizenship anyway. Eventually, as women won voting rights in various states in the early 1900s, men who applied to naturalize were sometimes denied because their wives, who would be granted citizenship and therefore voting privileges, didn’t speak English or meet other requirements. Men complained that their wives’ nationalities were getting in the way, a problem women had lived with for years!

Check out this interactive timeline on women's right to vote in the U.S.

Check out this interactive timeline on women’s right to vote in the U.S.

In 1922, women gained the right to naturalize independent of marital status. If their husbands were already citizens, they didn’t have to file declarations of intentions (the first step in the paperwork process), just a petition (the second step in the process). Otherwise, they had to fill out both sets of papers. Eventually even this link to their husbands’ citizenship disappeared, and they just filled out their own entirely separate paperwork.

My Great Grandmother’s Petition for Naturalization

What about unmarried women and widows? They could apply for naturalization, but in especially before the 1900s, they sometimes didn’t if they had no property. They could not vote and the law didn’t always treat them equally. They saw little benefit in investing the funds and time in applying for citizenship.

It’s fascinating how much we can learn as family historians about the status of women by the way they were handled in the records we research. The history of women in naturalization records reminds us to look past the paperwork to the reasons and intentions behind it. Unless we really understand the history of the laws and the culture at that time, we can’t be sure that we have exhausted all of the options.

 

 

 

 

Family History Episode 19 – Using Family History Centers, Part III

Family History Podcast Originally published 2009 Republished February 18, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-2009. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 19: Using Family History Centers, Part III

This is the final episode of a series in which we answer all your questions about Family History Centers.  My very special guest is Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Oakland Family History Center in Oakland, California.  She has over 35 years of experience working in Family History Centers, and is the perfect choice for our audio guided tour. In our first segment we’re going to talk about the educational opportunities available through the Family History Centers, including the new online Wiki. Then in our second segment, Margery will give you her Top 7 Tips for getting the most out of your visit to a Family History Center (click to the show notes, above, for those tips). Finally, Margery will inspire you with some stories of genealogical serendipity that she has experienced over her many years working at Family History Centers.

Links/Updates

Some Family History Centers are now called FamilySearch Centers. Many Centers have opened in public and private libraries in the past few years, not just in meetinghouses of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click here to find a FamilySearch Center/Family History Center near you.

FamilySearch Research Outlines

FamilySearch Wiki

Search the SSDI for Your Family History

custom_what_is_it_13222Are you tracing the family history of someone who lived in the U.S. during the 20th century? Check out a wonderful free database in the United States called the Social Security Death Index, or the SSDI. Keep reading for 5 FREE online sources for the SSDI, 7 tips for searching the SSDI and what you can do with SSDI info.

In 1935 the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and consequently more than thirty million Americans were registered by 1937. Today, the Death Master File from the Social Security Administration contains over 89 million records of deaths that have been reported to the Social Security Administration and they are publicly available online.

Most of the information included in the index dates from 1962, although some data is from as early as 1937. This is because the Social Security Administration began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits in 1962. Many of the earlier records back to 1937 have not been added.

The SSDI does not have a death record for everyone; and occasionally you may find an error here and there if something was reported inaccurately, but overall it’s a terrific resource! It’s especially great for many people who were missed in the 1890 census or whose birth predated vital records registration in their home state. Remember they just needed to live past 1937 and to have worked to have been included. So they could have been born sometime in the later 1800s.

5 FREE Online Sources for the SSDI

Several genealogy websites provide free access to the SSDI, including (click to go right to the SSDI at these sites):

On the Search page, enter your relative’s name and other details you’re asked for. Hopefully you will get back results that includes your relative!

7 Tips for Searching the SSDI

If  your relative doesn’t show up in the SSDI, even though you know they worked after 1937 and you know they have passed away, try these search tips:

1. Does the website you are using to search the SSDI have the most current version available? Look in the database description on the site to see how recently it was updated. Try searching at other sites.

2. Make sure that you tried alternate spellings for their name. You never know how it might have been typed into the SSDI database.

3. Many SSDI indexes allow you to use wildcards in your search. So for example you could type in “Pat*” which would pull up any name that has the first three letters as PAT such as Patrick, Patricia, etc.

4. Try using less information in your search. Maybe one of the details you’ve been including is different in the SSDI database. For example it may ask for state and you enter California because that’s where grandpa died, when they were looking for Oklahoma because that’s where he first applied for his social security card. By leaving off the state you’ll get more results. Or leave off the birth year because even though you know it’s correct, it may have been recorded incorrectly in the SSDI and therefore it’s preventing your ancestor from appearing in the search results.

5. Leave out the middle name because middle names are not usually included in the database. However, if you don’t have luck with their given name, try searching the middle name as their given name. In the case of my grandfather his given name was Robert but he went by the initial J.B. But in the SSDI his name is spelled out as JAY BEE!

6. Remember that married women will most likely be listed under their married surname, not their maiden name. But if you strike out with the married name, go ahead and give the maiden a try. She may have applied for her card when single, and never bothered to update the Administration’s records. Or if she was married more than once, check all her married names for the same reason.

7. Don’t include the zip code if there is a search field for it because zip codes did not appear in earlier records.

While most folks will appear in the SSDI, there are those who just won’t. But knowing where information is not located can be as important down the road in your research as knowing where it IS located, so I recommend making a note in your database that you did search the SSDI with no result. This will save you from duplicating the effort down the road because you forgot that you looked there.

What You Can Do with SSDI Information

Now, here comes the most exciting part of the SSDI: what you can do with that information. First, it usually includes a death date (at least the month and year) and sometimes a state and last known residence. Use this information to look for death records, obituaries, cemetery and funeral records. And use that Social Security Number to order a copy of your relative’s application for that number: the SS-5. Click here to read more about the SS-5 and how to order it.

Up next, read:

Get Started: How to Find Your Family History for Free

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Family History

How to Find Your Family Tree Online

Best Genealogy Software

RootsTech 2014: Must-Have Tips for Visiting the Family History Library

One of hundreds of drawers of microfilmed genealogical records at the Family History Library.

One of hundreds of drawers of microfilmed genealogical records at the Family History Library.

RT-Blogger-badge-150sqWhether you’re going to RootsTech next week or not, at some point in your genealogical research you’ll want to use the Family History Library (FHL). The FHL, located in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, has 6.875 billion historical records on microfilm, which contain an estimated 20.6 billion names. That’s a lot of ancestors!

The FHL and its sponsor organization, FamilySearch International, are busy digitizing and indexing all those records, but it’s going to take some time. And some of those records may never be digitized because of publication rights limitations or other issues. So you should know how to access all those great microfilms!

Yesterday I republished Episode 16 of the original Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. It features a great interview with Margery Bell on using the Family History Library. The show notes have updated tips on using the online catalog.  Click here for some must-have tips on preparing for your visit. You’ll get a lot more out of your limited time in the library if you know exactly what information you’re looking for and where you’re going to look for it!

 

New FamilySearch Indexing Website Launches

FS Indexing screenshotAre you a FamilySearch indexer, or have you considered joining this worldwide volunteer effort? FamilySearch has just launched a new website that’s all about making indexing EASIER.

If you’re already an indexer, here are the highlights of the new site, according to FamilySearch:

  • Getting started with indexing just got easier. With an easy-to-navigate Overview page and an all-new Get Started page, the new website is the perfect introduction to indexing.
  • Looking for more indexing help? Check out the completely redesigned resource guide. Now called Help Resources, this page guides you to the help you need.
  • Find projects you want faster. In the old indexing website, you had to scroll through over 200 projects, now you can click on an interactive map and filter the project list based on language and country.

But wait, there’s more! According to FamilySearch, “The change in the indexing website is just the first step in a total redesign and improvement of the indexing experience. The coming year will see the all-new indexing program become more integrated with FamilySearch.org, bringing indexing to your Internet browser, enabling indexing on tablet devices, and much more.”

They plan to announce more at RootsTech next month, where there will be a session on FamilySearch indexing and where the FamilySearch booth will have hands-on opportunities to try out the new system. (Haven’t registered for RootsTech yet? Register here! Early-bird pricing has been extended until Monday, Jan. 27.)

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P.S. WHY INDEX?

Indexers for FamilySearch have already generated more than a billion names that are free to search at FamilySearch.org. The company’s press release points out that improvements to the indexing site have in the past accelerated the pace of indexing and they expect that to happen over the coming year, too.

 

Here’s my favorite tip for the researcher who wants a little more out of indexing for themselves. Use indexing to become more familiar with different record types. Do a few batches of naturalization records, border crossings, church registers, etc., from different places or time periods, and you’ll quickly become more familiar with that record type. You’ll also become more adept at reading old handwriting, picking out the genealogical details from the legalese and other skills that will help you in your own research.

Family History Episode 13 – Genetic Genealogy and Photo Sharing

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast

No episode! But lots of good updates. Keep reading….

UNLUCKY Episode 13: Genetic Genealogy and Photo Sharing

Episode 13 of the original podcast reviewed genetic genealogy and photo sharing products that are either now longer offered or are outdated. This episode is not being republished with the series.

Fortunately, lots of advances have been made in both genetic genealogy services and photo sharing and tagging. Recently I interviewed Dr. Turi King, who used DNA to identify King Richard III. That interview is on my Premium Podcast (available by subscription) and talks about what DNA can tell us–and what it can’t. Another interview you might enjoy is with Bennett Greenspan from Family Tree DNA, featured in Premium Podcast Episode 92.

Premium_Podcast(Not a  Premium Member? Check out all the great membership benefits–including members-only premium podcast episodes, full access to the premium podcast archive for an entire year, video recordings of some of my most popular classes and even premium videos that teach you some of the most important skills for 21-st century genealogists.)

Below are links to some of the top services for genetic genealogy and photo sharing. In addition, remember that Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and other genealogy sites have excellent photo-sharing services for those who don’t mind sharing their images with the public.

Links

Genetic Genealogy

23andMe

Ancestry DNA

Family Tree DNA

Photo Sharing

Flickr

Photobucket

Picasa

Family History Episode 12 – Post An Online Family Tree

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published 2009

Republished December 31, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

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

Episode 12: Post Your Family Tree Online

In this episode we focus on posting your family tree online. There’s no use in re-inventing the research wheel! By posting what you know about your family tree online you can easily connect with others who are researching people in your family tree. You can share information, collaborate and even get to know distant relatives.

Updates and Links

A few things have changed in online family tree services, including the 2013 acquisition of Geni.com by MyHeritage and the end of GeneTree. Check out these great sites for creating free family trees (you will need to create a free login to use these sites):

Ancestry.com

FamilySearch.org

Geni

MyHeritage

Mocavo