October 4, 2015

FED UP with Family Secrets!? Adoption and Genealogy

Do family secrets make your genealogy research more difficult? More intriguing? Here’s how one listener feels about the secrets in her husband’s family history (and a nice resource on adoption in Ireland).

brick wall family secretsRecently we heard from Kate, a longtime Genealogy Gems Premium member. “Our first visit to my husband’s family was in 1998. I was eager to learn about who is who in the family. We were told that a woman was raising her sister’s child who was born out of marriage, but we can not talk to anyone about it. The daughter supposedly did not know she was adopted. SHH! We were told other things we must keep quiet about. We did our best to do as they wished.

Today on Facebook an old photo was posted with my husband’s paternal grandmother. Again, curious, I asked who is ???????. Was messaged in a private message. ‘(She) was adopted by my husband’s grandparents.'” Neither Kate nor her husband had ever heard of this person. Her father-in-law had never mentioned this person.

“My husband’s father left Ireland in the late 1920s,” she explains. “This may have happened after he left but he communicated with his family. He did not go back to visit until about 1956. Maybe that is part of this.”

But she thinks “there must be more to this” than just a secretive family culture. She “looked up Irish adoption and found legal adoption is relatively new to Ireland.” She shared this overview of Irish adoption policy and hopes it will be helpful to others.

“This secrecy is so difficult to deal with.  How do you deal with this issue? This was very common in my mother’s generation. How long do we maintain these secrets?”

family secrets brick wallUnfortunately, Kate’s frustration is all-too-common. Family secrets can feel like brick walls our own families build that keep us from understanding them. My experience is that it’s not usually about us as researchers. I think pain or protectiveness toward a loved one are often behind someone’s desire to keep a story out of the limelight.

Everyone’s perspective may differ slightly–there is not “one right answer” to this issue. And the need to reveal secrets for someone’s safety or well-being may at times trump all other considerations. But generally, here’s what I do when someone trusts me with a secret from the past. First, I thank them. Then I ask what I may do with that secret. Are they ready for me to help tell the story now (even to a small audience)? Are they ready to write it down (even in a sealed letter to be opened at a later date)? I try to understand and show respect for their reasons and feelings, even if they’re different than my own.

Over time, my respect and patience will pay off: in my relationship with that person, in my ability to understand the family better, and maybe–eventually–in that person’s willingness to let the story be more widely known. Many people reveal stories in stages. Telling it to me may be an important step toward full disclosure. I may continue to encourage (but not nag) them to share the story.

That may never happen. If that’s the case, I have to redirect my interest to family stories that can be told without risking relationships with loved ones. It’s hard sometimes. As descendants, we want to know the truth. As researchers, we are hungry for answers. I’m glad the “fruit” on my family tree ripens at different stages. There’s always a ripe family story or memory ready to be harvested. Meanwhile, I’ll keep an eye on that family secret–the unripe fruit–so if it does ripen, I’ll be there to harvest it.

Additional Resources

Family Secrets in Genealogy: Crystal’s Story in the free Family History Made Easy podcast (episode 44)

Annie Barrows Talks Family History and “The Truth According to Us

Family Tree Etiquette: Online Private v. Public Trees

thank you for sharingThank you for sharing this post with others who care about family stories, family secrets and what-to-say-when. It’s one of our trickiest challenges, that’s for sure!



“Help! Why Is My Ancestor Listed TWICE in the Census?”

It’s a common problem to not find your family history in the census AT ALL. But what happens when you find them listed TWICE?

Ancestors Listed Twice in the Census

Donna recently wrote in with this head-scratching question: “Lisa, I love your podcast, and have been to several of your presentations, and lots of your webinars. You make everything seem like it is all within my reach. So when I came across this issue, I thought you’d be the perfect one to ask advice from.

“Like most of us…citing my sources has not always been the best.  So I decided to go back and redo my files, making sure that I have all the sources cited.  In looking at my husband’s family, I have found something weird.  Usually, I find that family is not included in the census, but have you ever found it where they are listed twice?”

She transcribed both 1910 census listings for Fred Dierks’ family with me, both in Whitman County, Washington (one in Harper Precinct and one in Colfax City). Then she wrote, “Not all the kids are in both households, but the younger ones are in both.  And both censuses are enumerated by different people. What do you make of this? What was the protocol for counting the same families in different locations? My family is from the South and I usually find them missing from censuses, not having them show up twice! How would you cite this?  Would you choose one and forget the other?  Or cite them both?  Or…?”

Really? An ancestor listed TWICE in the census?

Yes, this is very possible, and I have a case in my own family. Just this weekend a gentleman came up to me at a seminar and told me about a case in his family, and that his grandmother had birth certificates in not one, or two, but THREE different locations!

In the case of the census, there are a variety of reasons why you might find an ancestor listed twice in the census: owning more than one piece of property, living in one location and working as a domestic in another, or moving during the census-taking period, for example.

Without seeing the documents I can’t speak to Donna’s case specifically, but here are some suggestions for anyone who finds an ancestor listed twice in the census:

census informant 1940 census1. Look at the date each enumeration was taken.

2. For later censuses, look at who provided the information. In the 1940 census the informant is indicated by a plus sign with a circle around it. If there are two entries, each with a different informant, that might explain why the family didn’t realize they were counted twice. Unfortunately, in earlier census records it typically isn’t indicated who provided the information. (Click here for the census enumeration instructions for 1910, the year in question here.)

Ancestors listed twice in the census Meadow St

The street name (Meadow) shows up on one of this family’s listings in the census. Image from the 1910 census at Ancestry.com.

3. Compare the neighbors’ names and the street name in each listing: are they the same (evidence that both were taken at the same physical location) or different (evidence of different physical locations–or different routes taken in the same neighborhood that only overlapped by that household). This census image shows that the family lived on Meadow Street; the other listing doesn’t say (page backward to find the street name). But the next-door neighbors in both listings are different.

4. Look for an address for the family from that time period from another source, like a WWII draft registration card or city directory. Which census listing address matches up with it?

5. Look at local maps from the time period and census enumeration district maps (FamilySearch has many in this browsable collection). Did your ancestor live on the boundary of a census district and inadvertently get counted twice by different enumerators?

Google may be able to help map this last problem. I searched “1910 map Colfax WA” and found the 1910 plat map shown below on the left. Meadow Street is marked, but Almota Street (the next cross-street listed further down the census page) isn’t marked. A modern Google Maps image shows the intersection clearly, and I can compare them using the bend in the creek and the intersection of Lake St and Thorn St. Comparing this neighborhood to census enumeration district maps may help determine whether in fact these were overlapping census enumeration districts.

Colfax Washington map

1910 plat map from Washington State University Digital Collections. Click to view.

For Donna and others of you out there finding multiple census entries for your ancestors: you’re not alone! Here’s an interesting conversation on Ancestry about other genealogists who have experienced duplicate census entries. And here’s a fun page about famous people enumerated twice in the census.

By the way, be sure to cite both sources. Thanks for the question, Donna! You’re a Gem!

More Resources for Mapping Your Family History at Genealogy Gems

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

1940 Enumeration District Maps

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (all-new 2nd edition newly revised in 2015!) teaches skills like the ones used above for searching for modern and historical maps in Google, Google Maps and Google Earth.

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. A Genealogy Gems Premium website membership required–but you can watch a clip from it for free below:

thanks youre a gemThank you for sharing this post with your friends and genealogical society members! Just copy and paste the URL into an email or share the post on your favorite social media site using the social media icons on this page.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: Delaware land records, French censuses, British directories, Irish newspapers, Spanish municipal records (to the 1300s!), and U.S. passport applications. With whom should you share the great news?

We dig these gems

DELAWARE LAND RECORDS. Ancestry has added a new database of Delaware land records, 1677-1947. According to the database description, “Delaware is a state-land state, meaning that following the Revolutionary War, it continued to grant property within its boundaries, as it had in its Colonial days. This collection includes the recorded transfers of property by grant or by deed. Most Delaware land had been granted by the time of statehood, so in the years following the Revolutionary War, you will find deeds recording the transfer of lands between private parties as they were transcribed into the registers of the county recorder of deeds.”

FRANCE CENSUSES. Find half a million indexed entries and associated images for the Dordogne Census of 1876 and about 30,000 names from the Haute-Garonne Toulouse Censuses (1830-31) in new free collections at FamilySearch.org. Records may include names, age, occupation, nationality, household position and, in the second, address.

GREAT BRITAIN DIRECTORIES. Findmypast has added 122 British almanacs and directories that include “trade directories, county guides, almanacs and general directories. Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants.”

IRISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 724,000 new, fully searchable newspaper articles have been added to Findmypast. According to the site, new additions span 1836-172 and include a national publication, The Evening Freeman. “Five newspapers have also been added to with supplementary articles. They include substantial updates to Belfast Commerical Chronicle (135,813 new articles), Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser (61,194 new articles) and The Pilot (17,721 new articles).”

SPAIN MUNICIPAL RECORDS. Over 400,000 indexed records and digital images have been added to a free database of Barcelona civil registrations, censuses, military records, and other miscellaneous records (1387-1950) at FamilySearch. Additional browse-only records are also available.

US PASSPORTS. Over a million indexed names have been added to a free image collection of 200 years’ worth of U.S. passport applications (1795-1925) at FamilySearch.org. This dataset is still being indexed; browsable images are available at that link, too. This collection overlaps with content already available (by subscription) at Ancestry.com.

Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

Remembering the stories of our veterans–both the living and the dead–is an important way we can all honor their service and sacrifices. Here we offer four ways to do that.

heroic rescue artifactsIn our countdown to Veterans Day, we are honoring veterans and recognizing efforts of those who help document their lives and legacies. How might YOU put yourself in the right place at the right time to preserve a veteran’s story?

  1. Collect and preserve the stories of living veterans. Use a tool like the free StoryCorp app to record a veteran’s story. Invite a story-preservation organization like  Witness to War to a veterans’ reunion near you, or upload combat-related photos to their site.
  2. Collect “orphaned heirlooms” you may come across and return them to their families or to a museum or archive where others can appreciate them. For example, a garbage collector rescued more than 5000 WWI artifacts from the trash bins he collected. Another rescuer spent years tracking down the heir of heirlooms found in an attic. A third found a lost dog tag and returned to it the family.
  3. Take images of veterans’ grave markers and upload them to sites like Find a Grave or Billion Graves. Be sure to include in your photo(s) clear images of military markers. This makes it easier for descendants to find and honor their own. For example, last summer, FGS and BillionGraves invited the public to post War of 1812 grave markers on BillionGraves. Why not keep up that effort?
  4. Document and display the stories of veterans in your family or community. Lisa created a beautiful display

Here at Genealogy Gems, we {heart} veterans and honor their service. Veterans Day in the U.S. is coming up. How can you honor the veterans in your family or community? We’d love to hear about your heroic experiences doing that! Tell us about it on our Facebook page with the hashtag #CountdownToVeteransDay or contact us with your story. How many days until Veterans Day?

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 DiscoverFreedmen.org. (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.

Google Alerts for Genealogy: “Not What They Used to Be?”

Google Alerts

Do you ever feel like Google Alerts aren’t what they used to be? Or have you never used them? It’s time to revisit your strategy for using Google Alerts for genealogy!

Google Alerts are customized, automated Google keyword searches. You can set them up to constantly search the Internet for new mentions of your ancestors, their hometowns or anything else.

The key to Google Alerts is that they tell us about NEW material. After an initial barrage of results, you may not see anything for awhile, especially for very specific topics. Don’t get discouraged! Google Alerts are long-term strategies for finding family history. And Alerts will at least let you know as soon as someone puts something new online–which won’t happen if you just do your own searches every so often.

If you haven’t gotten results for a while, consider modifying your keyword search terms. Set up multiple searches, if you feel like that might help!

All editing of alerts is done in the Google Alerts dashboard. Here’s how to edit a Google Alert:

1. Go to Google Alerts and sign in to your account.
Google Alerts edit2. Locate the alert you want to edit in the alphabetical list and click the Edit icon that looks like a pencil (shown here).
3. Make the desired changes in the edit window.
4. When you’re done, click the Update Alert

How to use Google for GenealogyGoogle Alerts offer genealogists a rare opportunity to get more done in less time. That’s why in the 2nd edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (totally revised for 2015!) I devoted an entire chapter on how to use Google Alerts effectively for genealogy. In that chapter, I suggest several different types of alerts you may want to create. For example, with what businesses, churches, schools and other organizations were your ancestors affiliated? Create alerts with their surnames and the names of these organizations. You’ll find several more suggestions in that chapter that will help you get the MOST out of Google Alerts!

Additional Resources

How to Set Up Google Alerts for Genealogy

A Fabulous Use for Google Alerts (Finding Homes My Great-Grandfather Built) in the FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 146 (listen and/or read the show notes)

Google Alerts for genealogy and family historyWho else do you know who should be using Google Alerts? (Like, just about everyone?) Will you please share this post with them? Just copy and paste the URL into an email address or share with your favorite social media platform, like Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you!




RootsTech 2016: Open for Business!

Are you ready for RootsTech 2016? It’s ready for you! Registration is now open. The Genealogy Gems team will be there, and here’s what we’re teaching.RootsTech 2016

Registration for RootsTech 2016 is now open! RootsTech has staked its territory as the most-attended annual genealogy conference in the world. It caters not just to seasoned researchers but beginners and even entire families. So mark your calendars and make your reservations: RootsTech 2016 will be held February 3–6 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to FamilySearch, “Attendees can expect a full lineup of inspirational keynote speakers, over 200 educational classes, exciting hands-on activities in the expo hall, and entertaining evening events, all designed to help celebrate families across generations!”

What’s new for RootsTech 2016?

RootsTech 2016 dashboardHere are some highlights for what to expect this time around:

  • Classes will now start earlier in the week, on Wednesday February 3, with the first class beginning at 1:30 p.m.
  • Attendees can now use a new scheduling tool to build, edit, and print their class schedule at RootsTech.org after they register (shown here). You can keep editing your schedule as you please. The online tool will sync with a mobile app that will be available later this year.
  • The Innovator Showdown will be back and even bigger than before. Innovators of all kinds in any industry are invited to compete with their latest hardware and software apps and services. The top six finalists will be invited to demo live onstage for over 23,000 people. The audience and a panel of renowned judges will decide the winners!

Genealogy Gems at RootsTech 2016

Future Panel LisaGenealogy Gems listeners and readers will see some familiar names on the speaker’s list, including Genealogy Gems owner, producer and podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke, Contributing Editor Sunny Morton and our resident DNA expert, Diahan Southard. Watch for more announcements of the sessions we’ll be teaching, both formal sessions in classrooms and “Outside the Box” sessions at our booth in the Exhibitor hall.

What else to know

Early-bird pricing is available now for full passes starting at just $149 and $169 for the RootsTech plus Innovator Summit pass. Passes for the Getting Started track start at $19 for a limited single day and $39 for a limited 3-day.

Registration for Family Discovery Day is also now open. “The event takes place on Saturday, February 6, 2016, and is designed for families and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the LDS Church are invited to register as families and  groups up to 10 at a time. This free one-day event includes devotionals, classes, interactive activities, and entertainment to help families and members discover, preserve, and share their family connections. Event details, including speakers and classes, will be made available soon at RootsTech.org.”

Resources for Your Family History Trip to Salt Lake City

Use Your iPad for Genealogy Research at the Family History Library

New Interactive Family History Exhibit in Downtown SLC

Genealogy Conferences: Live or Virtual? Which is Better for You?

Must-Have Tips for Visiting the Family History Library in SLC

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Find Your Family History in World War II: WWII Yearbooks

Many of us are interested in learning about our relatives’ World War II military service. One important–but little-known–resource may be a military yearbook.

WWII yearbooks

Several years ago, my husband was given several mementos of his grandfather’s service in World War II. Among them was his 1942 yearbook of the 302nd Engineer’s Battalion at Fort Jackson, S.C.

WWII yearbook coverI had never seen anything like this. Its opening pages state, “This is a pictorial record of military engineers preparing for war. As such, it will be cherished by this command in the years to come.” Pages are filled with photos of military exercises, particularly building and blowing things up. There are pages with a brief history of the battalion, group photos with individual names by company, the unit fight song, and behind-the-scenes photographs of inspection, off-hours entertainment, eating and a mock battle.

“All branches of the [U.S.] military generate yearbooks, and have done so since before World War II,” writes military historian and genealogist Eric Johnson in a 2014 issue of Ohio Genealogy News (45:3, pages 20-21, quoted here with permission). “Types of yearbooks include: training centers (boot camps), service schools, academies (U.S. and private), ROTC summer camps, senior officers’ schools, overseas deployments to a war zone or for a naval cruise to foreign ports.”

Eric says the first step to locating WWII yearbooks relevant to an ancestor’s service is to learn the “dates of service, when and where a person attended boot camp and service schools, and where a person was stationed (land or sea).” You can learn this from their military discharge papers or (beginning in 1950) their DD Form 214.

Three places to look online for WWII yearbooks are:

1. Google. A search for “302nd Engineer Battalion” brings up several websites, organizations and lists that may point me to a yearbook and teach me more of the battalion’s history and activities.

2. WorldCat, an enormous multi-library card catalog, with the name of a battalion or regiment and the phrase “military yearbook.” If you don’t find anything, search the unit name a little differently or more broadly. If you find a yearbook at a library, see if you can borrow it through interlibrary loan or (more likely) get copies from its pages.

3. eBay. This huge online auction site specializes in rare items like military yearbooks. Set up an eBay alert so if the yearbook is posted in the future, you’ll find out about it. Learn more about eBay alerts in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 140.

Here are five more tips from Eric:

1. Look for military yearbooks in local, private and genealogy libraries, or from other veterans who served with an ancestor.

2. Military associations and reunion committees may have produced yearbooks, and they will likely know what yearbooks exist and perhaps where to find copies. Many of these have good websites.

3. Before purchasing a yearbook sight unseen (these can be pricy), compare a yearbook’s date to your ancestor’s service record. Make sure your ancestor was actually in that unit, boot camp, etc. during that time.

4. Check to see if your relative served on multiple ships or in more than one regiment, base, or posts. You may be looking for multiple yearbooks!

5. It’s possible you won’t find a relevant yearbook or cruise book. While searching, look for histories, living veterans or other resources to help you understand your relative’s military service experience.

More WWII Resources

The Bombing of London in WWII: Interactive Map of The Blitz

Find Your WWII Ancestors with These Military Gems

WWII Ghost Army Marches into Genealogy Gems Podcast

Here at Genealogy Gems, we {heart} veterans and honor their service. Veterans Day in the U.S. is coming up. How can you honor the veterans in your family or community? #CountdownToVeteransDay How many days until Veterans Day?

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.


We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: more Italian civil registrations, Ohio and Pennsylvania marriage records, thousands of New York genealogical resources, Illinois state censuses and school records for England, Wales, Ireland and Australia.

We dig these gems

SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 2.9 million School Admission Register records from England and Wales, Ireland and NSW, Australia are now searchable on Findmypast. Record content varies, but according to Findmypast, “These fascinating new records can allow you a glimpse into your ancestors’ early life, pinpoint the area they grew up in, reveal if they had a perfect attendance or occasionally played truant and can even determine whether they worked in a school as an adult.”

ILLINOIS STATE CENSUSES. Ancestry has updated its collection of Illinois state censuses, which now include 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855 and 1865, along with 1865 agricultural schedules for several counties and nonpopulation schedules of the federal censuses for 1850-1880. (Learn more about U.S. state censuses here.)

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch continues to upload Italy’s civil registration records. This week, they added browse-only records (not yet indexed) for Potenza, Rieti and Trapani.

NEW YORK GENEALOGY MATERIAL. Thousands of pages of materials from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are now searchable on Findmypast. Among these are all back issues of the NYG&B Record, the second-oldest genealogical journal in the U.S. (in print since 1870). Findmypast’s Joshua Taylor calls it “the single most important scholarly resource that exists for people researching New York families.” Other collections include unique census fragments, vital records abstracts, baptismal registers and old diaries. Click here to see and search the full list.

OHIO MARRIAGES. More than a quarter million indexed records and thousands of images have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of Ohio marriage records for 1789-2013.

PENNSYLVANIA MARRIAGES. Over a million digitized images of Pennsylvania civil marriage records (1677-1950) are now free to browse at FamilySearch. The collection description says it’s an “index and images of various city and county marriage records, many from Philadelphia.”

www.geneaogygems.comDid you find anything worth sharing here? Please do! We love getting the word out about new genealogy records online.