December 1, 2015

New Videos Can Help You Find African-American Family History in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has posted a series of new videos aimed at helping people trace their African-American family history with Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens' Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens’ Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

FamilySearch’s YouTube channel has published several new videos to help researchers better understand how to trace African-American ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau records. As we explain more fully in this article, the Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed and posted online for free at FamilySearch and at (Read the article we refer to above to see how you can help.) Now it’s time to teach everyone how to USE these records and to begin to share success stories. That’s the purpose behind these videos:

Telling a Story with the Freedmen’s Bureau with the Reverend Dr. Cecil L. Murray:

Research the Records of African-American Ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau with Kimberly Freeman:

Uncover Information about your African American Heritage wih the Freedmen’s Bureau with Judy Matthews:

Discover Stories from Your Ancestry with Insights from the Freedmen’s Bureau Project with John Huffman:

Use Freedmen’s Bureau Records to Demystify Your Family History with George O. Davis

Enrich Your Family History with Information from the Freedmen’s Bureau with Ambassador Diane Watson

Additional Resources

Free Database on Civil War Soldiers and Sailors  (African-American sailors)

Missing Birth Record? Here’s How to Track It Down (Special tip for African-American births)

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

New! Map for Freedmen’s Bureau Resources

thank you for sharingWho do you know that will want to learn more about the Freedmen’s Bureau and African-American family history resources? Thank you for sharing this article with them.

How to Share Family History with the Non-Genealogists in Your Family

How can you share family history stories and memories without boring your relatives? Catch this free video preview of a new Premium video class that inspires YOU on how to inspire THEM!

Inspiring Ways to Captivate the Non-Genealogist; how to share family history

If you are researching your family tree but haven’t shared it with your family in a way that sparks their interest, then you are only experiencing half of the joy of genealogy! And if your descendants don’t grasp the importance of their heritage, your hard work may tragically find it’s way to the city dump when you are gone.

military heritage displayDon’t just collect your family history and store it away in binders and files! In her newest Genealogy Gems Premium video, Lisa Louise Cooke shares several projects–displays, multimedia shows, crafts–even a sweet treat to eat! The World War II display shown here is just one of her ideas. She’ll inspire YOU on how best to inspire your family’s interest in your heritage.

Watch the free preview below on how to share family history with the non-genealogists in your life. ( Genealogy Gems Premium website members can watch the whole thing here (along with more than 2 dozen videos) as a perk of their membership. Premium website members also have access to our monthly Premium podcast and all archived episodes. Click here to learn more! And keep scrolling down to click on more blog posts with great ideas for sharing your heritage.

Additional Resources

Message in a Bottle: Why Not Make Your Own?

Top 10 Ways to Incorporate Family History into Your Family Reunion

My Name is Jane: Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing this post with others who will want a little more inspiration on how to share family history with loved ones. Just email the URL or post this article on your favorite social media channel.


Need a Genealogy Speaker? Here’s the Affordable Solution

Genealogy Gems for societies around tableDoes your genealogy society or library group struggle to keep finding engaging, expert speakers and fresh newsletter content? Genealogy Gems for Societies offers an affordable solution!

Genealogy Gems for Societies is a subscription service that lets small societies show any or all of our Premium video presentations during meetings. Lisa Louise Cooke is a nationally-ranked genealogy speaker who teaches these same classes to standing-room-only crowds at top conferences. Her inspiring videos pair traditional research skills and record sets–like newspapers, maps and more–with empowering technology tools, like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and more.

Member societies also have permission to reprint their favorite Genealogy Gems website articles in their newsletters. Our site is packed with over 1000 articles on research tips, record types, inspiring ideas for sharing family history, technology tools, genealogy industry news and more. What a boon for newsletter editors, who often go begging for someone to please write something to fill their newsletter pages!

Every year, we spend hundreds of hours generating all these videos and online articles. Now small societies can purchase the rights to use them for only $199 (US) for a full year!

Genealogy Gems is a Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) partner and societies that are members of FGS qualify for an additional discount.

“FGS is excited to be partnering with Genealogy Gems,” said D. Joshua Taylor, FGS President. “The opportunity to provide educational benefits for our member societies enriches the entire genealogical community as societies adapt and grow to meet the needs of today’s members. This partnership offers FGS members access to a wide range of resources for their members and we look forward to working with Lisa Louise Cooke.”

FGS members can sign in to the FGS website here to obtain a member discount coupon code.

Additional perks include:

  • downloadable and re-printable handouts
  • discounts on Lisa’s books for the entire society

Click here to learn more about Genealogy Gems for Societies. 

Genealogy Gems for Societies Video ClassesShare the great news! Do you know a genealogical society, officer or member who would LOVE to know about Genealogy Gems for Societies? Please share this post with them through your favorite social media channel. Your society board will be glad you did!

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WDYTYA 2015: Summer Episodes Begin July 26

JK Rowling WDYTYAOn Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 9pm EST, Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA 2015) returns to TLC in the United States for more great episodes:

  • TLC will air the U.S. premiere of J.K. Rowling’s episode, where the best-selling author sets off to uncover her maternal French roots. She finds that a family war story might not be what she thought when military records reveal a surprising twist.
  • Tom Bergeron, who is aware of his French Canadian roots on his paternal side, but wants to know what brought his ancestors to North America. He goes as far back as his 10x great grandmother to find the answer.
  • Bryan Cranston, who comes to discover an unfortunate pattern amongst the men in his family.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin, who sets out to learn about her mysterious paternal great grandparents, whom her father, regretfully, does not know much about either.
  • Alfre Woodard, who strives to find out more about the paternal side of her family, and explores how her surname came to be.

While you’re waiting for Who Do You Think You Are Summer 2015 to kick off, enjoy this unseen footage from the J.K. Rowling episode on the old WhoDoYouThinkYouAre website and these fun interviews with genealogy television industry leaders:

Using Evernote for Genealogy: The New Web Clipper

Evernote web clipper for Safari and Chrome new and improvedDo you use Evernote for Genealogy? Genealogists everywhere are singing its praises and it’s a regular feature here on Genealogy Gems. Well, Evernote just got a little better today.

Evernote has just released a new web clipper and it oozes with awesomeness. It works with Safari, and may be the catalyst for reluctant Windows users to finally say goodbye to Internet Explorer and make the commitment to Google’s Chrome web browser.

My favorite feature (so far) of Evernote’s new web clipper is easy to spot.  The Screenshot clipper that was once only available using the desktop app is now built right into the browser web clipper. You gotta love it!


evernote for genealogy web clipper screen shot










But it doesn’t stop there. Once you have clipped the desired web content, there are a load of new annotations you can add to highlight what’s important to you.

Watch the video to see it in action:

Here are some key features:

  • The Evernote Web Clipper has been updated on Chrome, Opera, and Safari. You’ll need to restart your browser once it’s updated.
  • Clipping from Gmail, LinkedIn, YouTube and Amazon has been customized to allow you to clip only the parts of the page you want. It saves as a clean and clutter-free note. With Gmail, Web Clipper includes any email attachments.
  • You can share clips right from the new Web Clipper. You can even embellish clips with text and visual callouts.
  • You can assign clips to notebooks and tags right from the clip screen. The more clips you save, the better Evernote gets at predicting where you want it saved.

Click here to get the Web Clipper.
Ultimate Evernote Education abbreviated


How to Get Started in Evernote, and the Ultimate Evernote Education

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote be my Digital Archive?

www.geneaogygems.comWho do YOU know who wants to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy? Please share this post with them by email or through your favorite social media channels.

DNA for Family History: Free Genetic Genealogy Videos Now on YouTube

Getting started in genetic genealogy videoTwo interviews by Lisa Louise Cooke with Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard are among the latest videos at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. These free, quick chats can help you along your genetic genealogy path.

How to Get Started Using DNA for Family History Research

3 Genetic Genealogy Misconceptions and Answers to Your DNA Questions

These two videos are among Lisa’s video interviews recently featured on the FamilySearch blog. They were done at RootsTech 2015, along with Lisa’s interviews with Mary Tedesco, Italian research expert and co-host of Genealogy Roadshow, and Hudson Gunn from BillionGraves.

Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesLooking for more in-depth education on DNA and family history? Click here to watch a free, full-length RootsTech presentation by Diahan Southard. And consider which of Diahan’s laminated quick DNA reference guides can help you take your next DNA steps, whether you’re just getting started or scratching your head over your test results:

  • Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Getting Started Genetics for the Genealogist
  • Mitochondrial DNA for the Genealogist
  • Y Chromosome DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Ancestry: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist
  • Understanding Family Tree DNA: A Companion Guide to Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist.


Technology United These Long-Lost Siblings 90 Years Ago!

radioIt’s common to hear of long-lost relatives who rediscover each other online or through DNA tests. But nearly 100 years ago, another new technology–the radio–united a pair of long-lost siblings 40 years after one ran away.

This newspaper article reports that Alonso Jones’ children were sitting around one day in 1926 listening to the radio. Then they heard the announcer say, “Alonso Jones, wherever you are, listen…Your sister wants to see you at Worthington, Ohio. She has not seen or heard from you in forty years. You were born at Antiquity, Meigs County, Ohio, at the time of the Civil War….”

“You were reared by Captain William Roberts, an Ohio River flat boat man. You went with him on a produce boat when you were a boy and ran away while the boat was lying at the bank in Arkansas.” The article reports that the man telegraphed his sister and arranged to meet her.  What a great story! And what a great family history find for anyone researching Alonso Jones or his sister, Mrs. Robert Eakin, or his guardian, William Roberts!

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at

This article illustrates two fantastic tips for newspaper searching.

FIRST, I originally found this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, digitized at Ancestry. I was struck because the story was about people from Ohio and Arkansas–not Salt Lake. As we still see today, local news stories of the past were often reported in other cities. When searching digitized newspapers, don’t automatically discount search results that otherwise seem right but appear in out-of-town papers. 

SECOND, curious about this story, I used Lisa’s search strategies from her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox to search for more information about the people mentioned in the article. I got a hit on a possible match for the riverboat caption. I also found that the Google News Archive had this same article in The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg, Florida (shown above). The copy above is much clearer to read and slightly different. For these reasons, it can sometimes be worth looking for duplicates of news articles and/or obituaries for your relatives.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersWant to learn more? Genealogy Gems Premium members can also listen to Premium podcast episodes GGP 36 and 3GGP 37 about newspaper searching (Lisa talks about Google News Archive in episode 37). Or get the ultimate scoop in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers! It’s packed with inspiring family history finds in the newspaper and all the tools you need (online and offline) for finding your own.

Using the NEW Internet Archive for Genealogy? Free Video Tutorials!

Internet Archive homeAre you using Internet Archive for genealogy? Internet Archive is exactly what it sounds like: a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, and more.

Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive offers:

  • over 150 billion web pages (archived in the Wayback Machine),
  • about 240,000 movies,
  • over 500,000 audio items (including over 70,000 live concerts),
  • over 1,800,000 texts, 1600 education items, and over 30,000 software items.

There’s no way we can show you in a single blog post how to find everything you’d want for genealogy on Internet Archive, from family histories to all the U.S. censuses (search from the home page on “Census of the United States” plus the year) , to a digital book collection from the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Its resources are so huge you can easily get lost or distracted: you start by looking for something related to your ancestors and find yourself listening to an old radio program.

Your best bet is to schedule yourself an hour to just start browsing! (Try not to get TOO distracted by the movie and audio archive, unless this is where you want to be. Maybe pick something and start listening, then open a new screen and keep searching for family history goodies.)  Lisa has already zeroed in on some items: “I searched within the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center collection on Internet Archive and found a couple of old digitized books about Huntingdonshire, England that I can’t wait to comb through in search of Cookes!”

Before you start digging, we recommend this series of free new videos by Internet Archive. The site has changed over the past six months–great news especially for those who access it via a mobile device. Our Tip: We’d start with these short videos, in this order:

email thisWhat will YOU find on Internet Archive for your family history? Share your discovery on our Facebook page or email us at with what you’ve found!

Free Video: How to Read a Faded Tombstone Without Damaging the Stone

Tombstone editRecently I heard from listener Tom, who is trying to document Civil War veterans from Washington state. “I am taking pictures of their headstones,” he says. “I currently use just a spray bottle and soft brush to wash away the 100 years plus of dirt so I can better see and photograph the inscriptions. Do you have a better way to clean and photograph or maybe rub the headstones?”

I don’t recommend tombstone rubbings because each time a genealogist does that it wears the headstone down just a little bit more, causing deterioration.

However, I have a better solution for how to read a faded tombstone. I created a free video based on an article I wrote for Family Tree Magazine. It’s called Grave Transformations and you can watch it for free on Family Tree Magazine’s YouTube channel or just watch below. The idea is that instead of touching the headstone at all, you can simply manipulate your photographic images of it instead! Watch the video and you’ll see those faded letters come back into view. It’s pretty cool!

Family History and Genealogy on YouTubeDid you know the Genealogy Gems You Tube Channel has over 70 free videos on a wide variety of genealogical topics? Click to go to our channel’s home page. Be sure to click the SUBSCRIBE button on the channel so that you won’t miss our new videos when they are published!

Link Your Home Movies to Your Family Tree

figure_at_3d_movie_800_13404More old home movies are being digitized and more historical footage is coming online. Do you know how to integrate these with your family tree or blog? Wouldn’t it be great to show that you found great-grandpa in four censuses, the SSDI and a 1937 news reel showing him driving his fire truck? (That really did happen to me. Click here to read about it and see the footage.)

Here a few ways you can share your old family footage online:

1. If you have have a free Google account, then you have a free YouTube channel! You can upload old footage as well as movies YOU make of still images. Then you can use the Share > Embed feature to include the video on your own genealogy blogs. Click here to watch an inspiring video Lisa made about her ancestor, a nurse in training.

2. If you have Legacy Republic digitize your old family movies, you can upload them through your Legacy Republic account into your FamilySearch family tree. (Click here to watch a video about how it works.)

3. Add an online video source citation to your Ancestry tree. Create a new source in an ancestor’s individual profile. The Source Citation section asks for any URL related to this citation. Enter the URL. Then it asks whether you have media items to attach. You will be walked through the process of uploading video from your own computer. If you choose the option to record a video, Ancestry will access your computer’s microphone and camera and record you speaking for up to 12 minutes.

tv_film_icon_400_wht_15178 (1)Wish you knew more about how making or finding family footage? Learn more here:

  • Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to access a Premium podcast and video on how to create your own family history video (learn more about Premium membership here).
  • Click here to watch Lisa’s free YouTube series about blogging your family history or click here to listen to free Family History Made Easy podcast episodes about genealogy blogging (episodes 38-42).
  • Learn about finding and using old film footage on YouTube and other websites in the updated-for-2015 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (there’s an entire, expanded chapter on YouTube that inspired my own find of that 1937 newsreel).