October 27, 2016

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: Anabaptist Ancestors Revealed Part 2

Anabaptist genealogy records include Amish, German Baptist and Mennonite ancestors. In a past post titled “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” we shared tips for searching out your Amish family tree. Here are more helpful resources submitted by our wonderful readers  that you won’t want to miss.

Anabaptist genealogy records

What is an Anabaptist?

The term Anabaptist refers to those religions who reject infant baptism in favor of a believer’s baptism. Amish, Mennonite, and German Baptists fall into the category of Anabaptists.

Anabaptist religions often subscribe to more conservative views and dress. Their families are very much intertwined with their religion, making the study of their history rich in detail and customs.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: More Amish and Mennonite Family History Resources

We shared in our “Amish Genealogy Revealed,” the resources of the Amish newspaper, The Budget, the Amish church directories, and newsletters and books on Amish families. Many thanks to reader Loren Johns for sharing yet another amazing resource. Loren shared:

As someone who has a couple of hundred thousand Amish in my genealogical database, I enjoyed reading your focus on Amish genealogy. Somewhat surprised to see it!

You did not mention the most important source for Amish genealogy. It is the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association, of which I am the secretary. This is a rather informal non-profit association of amateur genealogists interested in Amish and Mennonite genealogy who share their research with each other and with others interested in it, and make it available online.
Further, Mr. Johns shares that the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association (SAGA) maintains a large database of un-merged databases that can be searched simultaneously. He gives an example:
If I search for an Amos J. Whetstone (an Amish name,) I get 17 hits, to three separate men. Amos J. Whetstone (1903-1984) appears in 6 different databases; Amos J. Whetstone (1919-2003) appears in 4 databases; and Amos J. Whetstone (1945- ) appears in 7 databases … so the 17 hits actually represent three men.
This amazing SAGA database contains over 5,000,000 names, though many of those are duplicates. You can imagine the value of such a large database for this specific group. If you are interested in joining SAGA and gaining access to the database, see the membership page here.
There are other organizations and libraries that have significant holdings for Anabaptist ancestry, too. The Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society and the Mennonite Historical Library at Goshen College, are just two.
Lastly, Mr. Johns leaves us with this fine tip!
A most important book on Amish genealogy is Amish and Amish Mennonite Genealogies by Hugh Gingerich and Rachel Kreider. It is sometimes called the Amish genealogy “Bible.” It traces all of the Amish immigrant ancestors (144 different surnames) and their families to 1850, where it had to stop lest it explode into an encyclopedia.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records: Resources for the German Baptist or The Old German Baptist Brethren

Anabaptist genealogy records

George Funderburg and family were members of the German Baptist faith.

Another group of Anabaptist’s are the German Baptist, also known as the Old German Baptist Brethren. Here in Ohio, we sometimes refer a particular break-off by their nickname, Dunkards. The Dunkards were given this nickname for their belief in baptism by immersion.

It is my own family ancestors who were among the Dunkards. Luckily, we have a wonderful archive in Brookville, Ohio called Brethren Heritage Center. The Brethren bodies involved with the Brethren Heritage Center are:

  • Church of the Brethren
  • Conservative Grace Brethren International
  • Dunkard Brethren
  • Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches
  • German Baptist Brethren
  • Old Brethren
  • Old Brethren German Baptist
  • Old German Baptist Brethren
  • Old German Baptist Brethren-New Conference
  • Old Order German Baptist
  • The Brethren Church

This heritage center offers many books and collections including family histories, maps, letters, diaries, census records, and birth records. In particular, the heritage center website also has a large list of helpful links to begin researching your Brethren ancestors. To see the list of links, click here.

Anabaptist Genealogy Records – Share Your Knowledge

thanks youre a gemIf you have Anabaptist heritage, you may be aware of additional Anabaptist genealogy records that we have not mentioned. We would be delighted if you would share that information with our Genealogy Gems community in the comments below. We look to you to be an inspiration and teacher to us here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast, and you always come through. Thank you!


3 Clever Ways to Share Family History with Kids

If you’re like me, you would give anything to share family history with kids and not be met with an eye roll. Here are three clever ways to capture their imagination, put a smile on their face, and most importantly, help them soak in the importance of their family history. You’re going to want to try them today!

share family history with kids by using games

Share Family History with Kids through Surprising Greeting Cards

About a year ago, my mother-in-law began sending monthly cards to each of the families. Though addressed to the grandchildren, they were fun for everyone. My youngest, now 9 years old, excitedly tears into the envelope and wants to be the first to see the card. She smiles and giggles at Grandma’s funny stories. We keep the card on the front of the fridge until the next one comes. They have become special keepsakes we will save for future generations.

These glossy greeting cards hold special pictures and stories of her past. One such card had an old picture of her as a child sitting around the table with her extended family.

The front of the card said, “Can you guess who I am? When this picture was taken I was only 6 years old.” The inside of the card then told the names and relationships of those around the table.

clever ways to share genealogy with kids

Another card she created was a collage of Christmas ornaments. It inspired me to create a card that shared images of my own family Christmas heirlooms and ornaments of the past. What a neat way to preserve that part of our history and share it with the next generation. After all, stories of how our ancestors celebrated special events is often enjoyed by even those that don’t consider themselves ‘genealogists.’

Share Family History with Kids through Shareable Art for Social Media

Getting a card in the mail was fun for the younger ones who rarely get a letter, but our teens were more interested in what was showing up on their social media feeds. Teen family members spend many hours on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are just a few of the many outlets available today. If the kids are already surfing your feed, why not share with them some family history in a creative, colorful post.

Recently, I downloaded an app called Rhonna Collage. Rhonna Collage is available only for Apple devices, but there is a similar app for Android devices called Rhonna Designs.

As I found new pictures of my ancestors, I used the Rhonna Collage app to design shareable art for posting to social media. I added a background, a picture, and text. Then, I shared my creation to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. My cousins swooned and the teen nieces and nephews clicked the “thumbs-up” or “heart” emojis to show their like for the post. Sometimes, they even post a comment or question! Even better, my designs can be downloaded by them, shared again, or even printed.

Create clickable art to share genealogy with kids

Share Family History with Kids at an Ancestor Birthday Bash

If you are interested in sharing family history in a more dramatic way, ancestor birthday bashes may be right up your alley!

Ancestor birthday bashes started when my sister and I wanted an interactive activity that immersed the kids in their family history. Everyone loves a birthday party, right? So, we created ancestor birthday bashancestor birthday bash to share genealogy with kidses.

The party takes place on or near the birthday of an ancestor. Our first birthday bash was for my grandpa, Robert Cole. I interviewed my mother, his daughter, about all his favorite things. We used his favorite treats of RC Cola and Baby Ruth candy bars as decoration and treats for the party. Grandpa Cole was also a coal miner and we were able to find bags of coal (made of chocolate!) to give to each of the kids. During the celebration, we shared fun stories and pictures of Grandpa.

A day or so later, my niece Candice told her mother, “I know why Grandpa Cole’s favorite pop was RC.” When asked why, she replied, “Because his initials were R. C.!” We considered that a win! She was paying attention and all had a great time.

Ancestor birthday bashes are a way to teach cultural history as well. If you celebrate an ancestor originally from another country, you could include authentic food, games, and decorations to make the event really memorable.

Even More Ways to Share Family History with Kids

These were just three ways to teach and share your family history with your kids, and even nurture the next generation of budding genealogists. For even more ideas, read the posts below.

How to Create a Coloring Book for Family History

Family Reunion Ideas: Top 10 Ways to Incorporate Family History

Facebook_LogoIf you have a great idea of your own and you’ve snapped some photos of you sharing family history with your kids, feel free to post them on our Facebook page. You inspire us!

Send a Letter, Make Cousin Connections

When was the last time you sent a letter or email to someone you didn’t know? Gail did, and you will be touched and inspired by her sweet story of finding a long lost cousin in Italy. Sometimes, all it takes is sending a letter to make a monumental cousin connection.

cousin connections with letters

I often encourage our readers and Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners to reach out of their comfort zone. Writing letters is just one way we can expand your search for records and cousin connections. I wanted to share with you this story of how reader Gail was rewarded by simply writing a letter.

Gail shared:

 Antonio Capetti Italy

The only known photo of Antonio Capetti – the ancestor who links Gail with her Italian cousins.

“It is because of listening to your podcast, that we just returned from the most amazing trip of a lifetime!

My husband & I had scheduled a fabulous trip to Italy, where I’d always wanted to go. It is the home of my father’s ancestors, and I have been researching this side of the family since the early 1980s.

A couple weeks before we left, I was determined to find a living relative still in Italy. I remembered your suggestion to write to the priest in the old family village. I wrote to the priest and included a letter to any “found” family member briefly outlining the family tree and including a return envelope. Imagine my excitement when, the week before we left, I received a letter from a long lost relative! 81-year old Mario was amazed that after over a century, the two branches of our family would get together again. We began texting and set up a meeting place.

We met Mario in Venice and all cried when we met – feeling that family connection immediately.

Trip to italy

Then, at his suggestion, we hired a car to take us to our old family hometown, where he walked us through town and showed us a concrete medallion on the building where our ancestors lived, inscribed with the family name.

Italy visit write a letter Gail

We went to the church and saw our name also inscribed on the baptismal font, as it had been a gift from our family. We walked to the cemetery and then had lunch together.  During lunch, we face-timed with my father back in the U.S. and everyone cried as we stated that “our relatives in heaven are smiling today!”

Our trip was the trip of a lifetime and the highlight was meeting family we didn’t even know we had, walking together down the roads that our ancestors walked!

the roads our ancestors walked

Thank you, Lisa, for your suggestion.  It made a wonderful trip so much more special and personal – one we will never forget.”

How absolutely fabulous! I am so happy to hear when readers and podcast listeners take a little Gem and turn it into such a once in a lifetime experience.

Thank you to Gail for taking the time to write and share this with me, and all of us who seek to know our ancestors!

More Gems on MAdvanced DNA Bundle by Diahan Southardaking Cousin Connections

Follow Gail’s example and put into action new ideas for cousin connections. If you’ve had your DNA tested, don’t miss Diahan Southard’s newest quick reference guides that will help you get much more value out of your results. And keep reading below for more ideas:

“We’re Cousins?!” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

How are We Related?? Use a Cousin Calculator

DNA Matches: What To Do With All Your Genetic 4th Cousins

New and Updated Genealogical Records for Scottish Genealogy

Scottish genealogy records are as popular as plaid this fall. Deeds, paternity records, and censuses are just a sampling. Also this week, records for Ontario, New York State, Philadelphia, and the women’s suffrage movement!

New records for Scottish Genealogy

Scotland – Deeds

Findmypast offers Scotland Deeds Index 1769 with over 1,000 transcripts. This collection contains the details found in minute books kept by the Court of Session and includes a variety of different types of deeds including: assignations, discharges, bonds, obligations, protests, and leases. Each deed transcript will record the type of deed, the date it was recorded, and the two parties named in the original court document, their addresses, and occupations.

By understanding what each type of deed is, you may be able to glean additional clues to your research. For example, a discharge is granted once evidence is shown to a granter that a debt or payment has been paid in full. Discharges were also given to release an individual from specific tasks or duties. A heritable bond, however,  is in regard to land, property, or houses that pass to an heir or next of kin. In some of these cases, the records could be proof of parentage. For more details about the types of deeds in this collection, read here.

Scotland – Paternity Decrees

Containing over 25,000 records, Scotland, Paternity Decrees 1750-1922 will help you find out if your ancestor was involved in a paternity dispute that appeared before Scotland’s Sheriff Court. These records could identify illegitimate ancestors and break down brick walls in your research. You will find cases from jurisdictions across Scotland including: Kirkcudbrightshire, Lanarkshire, Midlothian, and Roxburghshire.

Each record offers a date of birth and sex of the child whose paternity is in question as well as the name, occupation, and residence of both the pursuer and defender.

Scotland – Census and Population List

Also at Findmypast, Scotland Pre-1841 Censuses and Population Lists now contains over 3,500 early census fragments and parish lists from Jedburgh, Greenlaw, Ladykirk, Melrose, Applegarth, and Sibbaldbie. Until 1845, these courts were for governing the local parish and overseeing parish relief. Many kept up-to-date lists of the parish residents, their occupations, and their birth places.

The details recorded in each transcript will vary, but most will include a birth place, occupation, and address.

Scotland – Registers & Records

Over 1,700 new records have been added to the collection titled Scotland Registers & Records at Findmypast. These additions include Written Histories of the Highland Clans & Highland Regiments.

Clans in Scottish genealogy

By Gsl [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Scotland Registers & Records contain images taken from 21 different publications related to Scottish parishes and families. The records vary and include parish records, topographical accounts, and memorial inscriptions.

Some of these records reach back as far as the year 1100! To see a list of each of the publications within this collection, click here, then scroll down to the subheading, “What can these records tell me?”

Canada – Ontario – Birth Index

Findmypast offers a collection titled Ontario Birth Index 1860-1920. It is comprised of 1.7 million civil registration records. Civil registration in Canada is the responsibility of the individual provinces and territories and it was not standard practice until the late 1800s.

Each record contains both a transcript and an image of the original document. Information should include:

  • Ancestor’s name and date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Parents’ names

In some cases, the record may also provide:

  • Parents’ occupations
  • Where the parents were married
  • Name of the attending physician
  • Address of residence

Special Savings for You


If you are interested in subscribing to Findmypast, we want to let you  know about a special savings. Findmypast is now offering a year subscription for $34.95, a savings of $79.95. Click here for more details!

United States – New York – City Directories

New York Public Library is digitiznewyork_directory_pageing its collection of New York City Directories, 1786 through 1922/3, and sharing them for free through the NYPL Digital Collections portal.

The first batch—1849/50 through 1923—have already been scanned and the 1786–1849 directories are in the process of being scanned. The whole collection will be going online over the coming months.

See the digitized directories here.

City directories contain more than just names and addresses. You may be surprised to learn that they record the price of travel and postage, the kinds of occupations around the city, the layout of streets, and at what time the sun was predicted to rise and set!

City directories might also contain images, maps, illustrations of buildings, and advertisements.

United States – Massachusetts – Women’s Suffrage

The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced that seven collections relating to women in the public sphere have been digitized. A grant made it possible to create high resolution images that are accessible at the MHS website, as well as preservation microfilm created from the digital files. The seven collection titles and links are listed below.

Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society records, 1837-1838

Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women, 1895-1920

New England Freedmen’s Aid Society records, 1862-1878

Rose Dabney Forbes papers, 1902-1932

Society for the Employment of the Female Poor trustees’ reports, 1827-1834

Twentieth Century Medical Club records, 1897-1911

Woman’s Education Association (Boston, Mass.) records, 1871-1935

United States – Pennsylvania – Newspapers

Check out the Philadelphia Inquirer on Newspapers.com. The Philadelphia Inquirer is one of the oldest surviving papers in the United States. The Philadelphia Inquirer was established in 1829 and originally titled the Pennsylvania Inquirer. It was originally a Democratic paper that supported President Jackson.

This collection covers the years of 1860-2016.

If you’re looking for specific mentions of an ancestor, you might find them in lists of death noticesmarriage licenses, local social news, the day’s fire record, or building permits issued. This newspaper is searchable by keyword or date.

United States – Nebraska – Marriages

New this week at FamilySearch are the Nebraska, Box Butte County Marriages, 1887-2015. Information found in these marriage records does vary, but you may find any of the following:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Estimated birth year
  • Birth city/town, county, state, and country
  • Marital status
  • Marriage date
  • Marriage city/town, county, and state
  • Parents’ names
  • Previous spouse

More Helpful Tips for Scottish Genealogy

Lisa’s Premium Member episode 116 is Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and Websitejust what you need. Marie Dougan, a professional genealogist specializing in Scottish research, joins Lisa in this episode to talk about how to research Scottish ancestors. If you haven’t taken that plunge and become a Premium Member, why not do so today! There are over 100 Premium Member podcast episodes and over 30 video classes on a wide variety of genealogy topics waiting to inspire and educate. Join today!


LaVar Burton to be Keynote Speaker at RootsTech 2017

RootsTech 2017 is already wowing us with their recent announcement of Friday’s keynote speaker, LaVar Burton. Not just known for favorites like Reading Rainbow and Star Trek: The Next Generation, LaVar has been known by millions for his role as Kunta Kinte the 1977, ABC mini series, Roots.

2017 RootsTech keynote speaker

I can hardly wait until Friday, February 10th, 2017 when LaVar Burton is introduced on stage as a keynote speaker at RootsTech! One of my childhood favorites, I grew up listening to him share his love of reading in Reading Rainbow and teaching his best friend, Data, how to be more ‘human’ in the popular TV show, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Mr. Burton is excited about the opportunity to speak at RootsTech where he plans to share personal stories about Roots, Star Trek, and his Reading Rainbow foundation. He also plans on sharing stories of his mom and her commanding influence on him. He says,

“The story of Roots traces a family’s journey from Africa to America and back. At RootsTech, I’ll share some of my own journey of family, storytelling and the influence of African culture on my American Experience.”

RootsTech Keynote Speakers and More

Lbooth_imageaVar Burton is the first RootsTech Keynote Speaker to be announced for 2017. More speakers will be announced over the coming weeks.

If you haven’t heard, registration has already started for the RootsTech genealogy conference in Salt Lake City. Visit www.rootstech.org to register or learn more.

Be sure to come by and visit the entire Genealogy Gems team in the Expo Hall. We have some very special things planned for the event. Stay tuned!

Why You Should be Researching Court Records

Researching court records may require some advanced genealogical skills, but the benefits are worth the effort. Lisa Louise Cooke helps a reader get out of a genealogical slump and makes the case for why you should be researching court records.

researching court records inspiration

Our reader shared:

I have been doing my family tree on and off for about 10 years. Right now, I feel I’m in a slump. A couple of years ago, I started the NGS Home Study Course. I have only got up to lesson six. I feel obligated to finish all 16 lessons. I get motivated to do genealogy when I read various articles on it. However, I can’t get motivated to do the work. This has bothered me for a year. Do you have any suggestions on how to get back on track? I know court records seems like a big mountain for me. Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

We all definitely hit slumps. I have some ideas and some motivations for you, because you are not alone.

Getting Over the Slump

You mentioned that you “feel obligated.” In reading your email, I’m curious as to what your original motivation was to do the course. If it was to become a professional genealogist, my answer would be different than if this was for your personal improvement. If this was for your own personal improvement, then you have much more flexibility.

At one time, the NGS American Home Study Course gave you a very lengthy time to finish the course work. Now, the classes are offered virtually online. Because of this change, the Home Study Courses are currently divided into four segments. Within each of these segments, you have four classes, or assignments. You are given six months to complete these four classes within your specific segment. For those who need extra time, a one-time extension of three months is granted by contacting the NGS Course Administrator. Also with this change, you may feel a little more pressure to finish quickly.

Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant offers this advice:

“First of all…when I took the NGS Home Study Course, I got in a huge slump too! It took nearly 3 years for me to finally finish all the course work. One thing that helped (which helps me now with getting behind in my certification portfolio,) is a method I call “A record a day, keeps procrastination at bay.” When I get bored or unmotivated, it is usually because something has gotten difficult. Lessons 1-6 of the NGS class were really easy for me, but after that it got harder, especially when it was time to do the courthouse review exercise that encourages you to make a visit. Even if you can’t visit the courthouse, you can often find appropriate records online. By promising myself a smaller more attainable goal like finding one key record a day online, I could keep motivated. Eventually something clicks and you get that excitement again.

Lastly, when I was really struggling, I took a friend. We made a day of it with researching at the courthouse and then having a nice relaxing lunch. It was a great day!”

Like Amie, when I find myself unmotivated, it is usually because it’s not my burning interest at that time. If I’m doing genealogy for personal use, I don’t fight it. Life’s too short and genealogy should be fun and invigorating. Sometimes, we’re just not ready for a particular record type, and if it’s not bringing your research to a standstill, there isn’t as much motivation. For me, there’s nothing like revisiting the excitement of what is waiting to be found! I asked Genealogy Gems followers on Facebook to share the Court gems they have found, and I hope it fills you with renewed excitement and enthusiasm. But first, here are some ideas on how to research court records:

Researching Court Records – How to

To get the most from researching

researching court records for probate

Will records are always a great find when researching court records.

court records, here are four tips to keep in mind:

1. Call the courthouse first. Ask them when they are open, days and times, and if they close during the lunch hour. (Sometimes this information on their website is not up to date.)

2. Ask what records are available at that location and for what years. It would be awful to drive to a far off location, only to find the probate records you are interested in are now housed 5o miles away at another repository!

3. Take the following with you: paper, pencils, a camera or smartphone, small bills and coins, a bottle of water and small snack. Even though there may be rules preventing you from snapping a picture of the document you want, you never know. The money comes in handy if you have to pay for copies of the records you want. Also, you are likely going to be there for awhile, so having a little snack will keep you from thinking only about your empty stomach.

4. Make your visit to the courthouse when you are not in a hurry. Let your finds determine how long you stay. When you are pressed for time, you may inadvertently skip over an important find, so set the whole day aside.

Making the Case for Court Records – Inspiration!

I asked our readers “What Genealogy Gems have you found in court records?” Get ready to soak in their excitement!

Kathleen shared: “An ancestor in the 1840s was living in Mississippi and had a 2nd wife and children. Everyone always assumed that the 1st wife died. Nothing in any records ever indicated anything different. On a trip to Salt Lake City ten years ago, I was frustrated and hitting dead ends. I decided to pull a film for Lawrence County, Mississippi loose court papers. It was NOT indexed and I was just browsing out of curiosity. I found my ancestor in 1849 with eleven pages of hand written divorce papers! She accused him of mistreatment and moving a slave woman into their residence who had threatened her with a knife when she went to get money for her nine children!”

Brian shared: “My brick wall has been my 2nd great-grandfather, John B. Reese. I knew he died sometime before 19 Dec 1856, as that was the date his estate entered probate. On a recent research trip to Missouri, I visited the Bates County Historical Museum where Chris Wimsatt found an entry in the County Stray Book indicating that John B. had found a stray “strawberry rone [roan] 3 years old 14 hands 3 inches high” 24 May 1856. Woo hoo! Narrowed that death date right down!”researching court records breaks brick walls

Helen shared: “Just solved a century old mystery in the basement of a courthouse in the insane books. What would now be called postpartum psychosis.”

Diane: “My mom had a wealthy Aunt Jenny; we have her silver, antiques, etc. She was married to a lawyer who became Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the 1890s-1900s. I knew she was from a poor family and couldn’t imagine how they met. I found a hidden first marriage for her that my mom never knew about. When I got the divorce papers, turns out husband #2 had BEEN HER HUSBAND’S LAWYER. My mom almost fell over when I called her on the way home.”

Maria: “I also found a great uncle who ended up marrying a widow who was a millionaire from her late husband – she was old enough to be his mother & had step children older than him! Her life was in newspapers and court records! I found someone local to scan her succession & her late husband’s succession court documents to me. Fascinating stuff from the turn of the century to the 1930’s! It’s all public records! Also tracked down her great grandson; he sent me priceless photos. The kicker is after I found where the late husband was buried to document on Ancestry, the cemetery actually mailed ME a bill for grass cutting! – twice!”

Pat: “My great uncle came from Germany to wild West Denver 1860 and became a hard rock miner. How did I know? His court records regarding his death “found frozen to the floor in his mining cabin” shows what he owed at the time of death. Actual grocery list from Hancock Bros. Dry Goods Store where he bought (among other things) blasting powder, helped ID that he was hard rock rather than placer miner. Funeral info about how much it cost to dig his grave, use of team of horses, and a new set of clothes… Amazing. Find a Grave volunteer found the spot where he was buried WAY off the grid, off a side road. No headstone. Depression in grass x many feet from old fence. Volunteer contacted local historical society for me to find this on his own. Incredible. I wrote his story.”

More Gems on Researching Court Records

It seems many of us have had exciting breakthroughs researching court records. If you have had a triumph and would like to share, please let us know in the comments below. You can also read about even more inspiring ways to take your courthouse research to the next level in these articles below. Happy hunting!

4 Ways to Power Up Your Courthouse Research Skillls

Where to Look When There’s Been a Significant Record Loss

3 Ways to Improve Your Genealogy Blog

Creating and maintaining a genealogy blog is a fun and rewarding way to share your family history. Blogging is also effective in finding cousin connections! If you are worried your blog isn’t pulling in the cousins you expected, elevate your ranking in search results by implementing these 3 ways to improve your genealogy blog.

improve your genealogy blogI recently received this exciting email from Ruth:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Several months ago, I attended one of your all-day seminars in Bossier City, Louisiana and I must thank you for motivating me!

I’ve been researching my family tree off and on for 25 years or so, and at times it has taken a back burner to whatever was going on in my life; only to be dusted off when I would get an inquiry or perhaps when someone in the family passed away. In the last 3 years, I have been attending these local seminars with a distant cousin. They were fun and I learned a few things, but none had generated the enthusiasm that I have at the moment!

The knowledge that you share and the easy manner in which you deliver your presentations are so down-to-earth and it inspires me to learn more. I left your seminar with a Premium Membership package and I have been listening to your podcast ever since.

You also encourage your readers to blog about their genealogy. I took your advice and I’ve done just that. Please take a look at my blog – any suggestions you might have would be welcomed. The title is My Family Tree: Hobby or Addiction? and I have dedicated it to my father who passed away in 2005! Here is the link: http://myfamilytreehobbyoraddiction.blogspot.com/

Thank you again for all you do that encourages us and for the new tools that you share with your listeners to help their journey along the way!

Many thanks,

Ruth Craig Estess

Ruth, thank you and congratulations!

improve your genealogy blog ruth

I love hearing how you have put it into action what you learned at the seminar.

Tips for Improving Your Genealogy Blog

Ruth is doing a terrific job including family information on her genealogy blog that others might be Googling. That means they are very likely to find her. But there’s more that can be done. Here are 3 additional tips for Ruth and anyone who wants to get more traction with their genealogy blog:

1. Add more images. Google looks postively upon websites that have images. It considers the website to be more of an authority on the subject covered in the blog. Images improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) In layman’s terms, SEO refers the ways in which you have made your blog easy to use, and easy for Google to understand what it is about. The better Google understands the subject, the better chance it has of delivering your blog as a result when people search on things you write about (like your family tree!) It’s important that your image files have names that accurately reflect what they and your blog post are about. Therefore, it’s a solid strategy to include relevant genealogical information such as names, places and dates in the image titles. If you don’t happen to personally have photos about the subject of your blog post, include images of documents or other related items.

2. Include a Call to Action. At the end of each post, invite your readers to comment and contact you if they are researching the same family. It’s amazing what a little invitation will do to prompt interaction. If you skip this step, your readers may just “lurk”, or in other words, quietly read and then go on to the next website. That’s a missed opportunity for connection and collaboration. Even though a reader may be researching the family you are writing about, they may not think to reach out to you or comment unless you prompt them to do so.

3. Make use of blog categories. Categories and Labels help organize you blog content. Create a category for each surname you discuss on your blog. The category can appear in the side column on your blog. That makes it easy for readers to click a surname they are interested in and jump directly to your posts that discuss that name.

Surname labels in genealogy blog

Categories and Labels are great for SEO too. Google loves well-organized websites because they are easier to understand and deliver in search results.

More Gems on Creating Your Own Genealogy Blog

Ruth wrote to tell me she has already started putting these ideas into practice. She’s on her way to rising in the search results and hearing from distant cousins. How exciting! Click below to continue reading about rewarding and effective family history blogging.

Why Marketing Experts Would Agree That You Should Write a Family History Blog

Why and How to Start a Family History Blog

Genealogy Blogging, the Future of Genealogy and More

Tell Us About Your Genealogy Blog

Do you have a genealogy blog? Well, here’s my call to action! Please share your family history blog, SEO tips, and success stories in the comments area below.

And I would so appreciate it if you would share Genealogy Gems with your friends and blog readers by including a link to our website in your list of favorite genealogy help sites on your blog. Thanks!

Upcoming Events and Lectures for Lisa

We know you want to keep up-to-date with where Lisa will be giving her lectures and presentations. This fall, we have three upcoming events. Here all the details:


Lisa Louise Cooke speaking at the Columbus Ohio Metropolitan Library

Upcoming Events: Kansas

The Johnson County Genealogical Society will be holding an all day seminar on the 22nd of October. Lisa’s topics include:

  • How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case
  • The Great Google Earth Game Show
  • Tap Into Your Inner Private Eye: Nine Strategies for Finding Living Relatives
  • Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps

What: Johnson County Genealogical Society 2016 Annual Seminar

When: Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016

Where: The Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th Street, Overland Park, KS 66221

The event will take place at the Ritz Charles Event Center, 9000 West 137th St., Overland Park, Kansas. Registration is now open. To register online, click here.

Upcoming Event: Texas

Next on the list is the four day conference hosted by the Texas State Genealogical Society. This conference will take place in Dallas on October 27th through the 30th, and includes 35 speakers and an exhibit hall. Lisa will be giving two lectures:

  • Beginning Evernote for Genealogists
  • Using Google Earth for Genealogy

What: Texas State Genealogical Society Conference

When: Oct. 27 – 30, 2016

Where: Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown

Online registration and payment is available through October 21st, but after that date you will need to register and pay in-person at the event, if space is still available.

Upcoming Events: Florida

Lisa’s final in-person speaking engagement for 2016 will be presenting as the Keynote Speaker for the 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference.

What: 20th Annual Central Florida Family History Conference

When: Saturday, November 12, 2016

Where: Olympia High School at 4301 S. Apopka Vineland Rd., Orlando, Florida.

You can register for the all-day conference online here. If you have a young person who is interested in genealogy, you’ll want to be aware that all students under the age of 18 are admitted free! Learn more details by visiting the Central Florida Family History Conference homepage.

Can’t Make it to an Upcoming Event?

Premium_2016A Premium Membership to Genealogy Gems will give you access to over 30 of Lisa Louise Cooke’s video classes. From Evernote to DNA, Cloud computing and advanced research techniques, you will find this a great resource for your learning and inspiration. For more information on becoming a Premium Member, click here.


Learn to Leapfrog by Speaking Google’s Language!

Speaking Google’s language will have you “genealogy leapfrogging!” It’s a new phrase coined by Gems reader, Steve, after his amazing discovery using the Google search techniques shared by Lisa in a recent lecture. You too can make some giant leaps in your genealogy research by speaking Google’s language.

Leapfrog by Speaking Google's Language

After a recent lecture presentation, we received this email from Steve:

Hi Lisa,

Steve here. I just attended your Google Tools seminar in Kelowna. I have created a new term as a result of your workshop and it is called the “Genealogy Leapfrog.” That is when you leapfrog way ahead in your genealogy research because of something you have learned from Lisa! Here is the context. I am completely green at genealogy, this was my first conference and I have just recently commenced my family tree research. I have had a very, very hard time finding anything out about my mother’s maiden name Rochon and their family. Well, as a result of the tips I learned from you, I used my grandfather’s name “Joseph Rochon” OR “Joseph A. Rochon” Liliane (Grandmother’s name) and up pops the most incredible website I have ever seen. By clicking on the Rochon with Liliane, the complete family tree back to the 1600s is revealed. Wow…I am in complete shock. While I know that I need to research and verify this information, I am humbled at how you have enabled me to “Leapfrog” in my genealogy research. I now know more about the Rochon family than my cousin who has been researching our family tree for 20 years!

So, here is the real reason for my email – to simply say thank you. Thank you for coming to Kelowna to share your knowledge with us and thank you for your passion for genealogy research. I am a huge beneficiary of your knowledge which has enabled me to do the “Genealogy Leapfrog.”

Yours in genealogy,


Learning to Leapfrog by Speaking Google’s Language

We were tickled to hear this new phrase based on the exciting techniques that Lisa and we here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast are sharing. Learning to speak Google’s language is a truly amazing tool for successful searching.

It is all based on using Google search operators correctly and Lisa shares that knowledge with you in this video below.

Happy hunting, friends! We know there is a wealth of information to comb through on the internet, but you can do it. Will you share your successes with us here in the comment section? We love to hear from you!

Learn even more about using Google for genealogy in Lisa’s book The Genealogist’s Google ToolboxYou can find this book in the printed edition or a handy e-book edition in our online Gems store.


New and Updated Genealogy Collections from Around the World

This week, we bring you new and updated record collections from genealogy societies around the world. We are often familiar with the record sets available at FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage, but many more wonderful virtual repositories exist online. Check out these records for New Zealand, Belgium, Israel, Britain, and Ireland.

dig these new record collections

New Zealand – Civil Records

FamilySearch has added a large new collection this week for New Zealand. New Zealand, Civil Records Indexes, 1800-1896 is an index only, but numbers 857,382 records. This index collection contains birth, marriage, and death records between the years of 1800 to 1896. The original records are located with the New Zealand Government, Internal Affairs.
Birth records may contain:
  • First and last name of child
  • Date of birth
  • Location of birth
  • First and last name of father and mother
Marriage records may contain:
  • Date and location of wedding
  • Bride’s first and last name
  • Groom’s first and last name
Death records may contain:
  • Date and location of death
  • First and last name of deceased
  • Date of birth
  • Age at death

Belgium – Civil Registrations

Though FamilySearch has only added to these collections, it is a good idea to check back in to see what’s new. This week, four Belgium collections regarding civil registrations have been added to.
Belgium new and updated genealogical collections
You will notice in the chart above, some of these record sets are indexed records only. Belgium, Antwerp, Civil Registration, 1588-1913; Belgium, East Flanders, Civil Registration, 1541-1914; and Belgium, Liège, Civil Registration, 1621-1914 are the index only collections. Belgium, Limburg, Civil Registration, 1798-1906 is the only one that contains digital images.
Each of these civil registration collections contain birth, marriage, and death records for the town locations and time periods listed. The records for Limburg are written in Dutch or Flemish depending on the timeframe. You will find names, dates of events, and sometimes details such as residence, marital status, and names of parents in any of these civil record sets.

Israel – Misc. Records

Societies around the world bring a wealth of information to our research. A Gem’s reader, Elena, shared with us this next record collection set for Israel. The Israel Genealogy Research Association has over 730,000 records from over 260 databases on their website. You can search in English or Hebrew and for free, though you are required to register.
new and updated collections for Israel
The IGRA adds or updates their record collections about every two months. In particular, record collections cover:
They also have miscellaneous records from various parts of the world, such as a list of Russian Jewish POW’s in World War I and a list of Jewish soldiers in the International Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War.

Britain – Registers

Findmypast has released the new Britain, Registers of Licences to pass beyond the seas 1573-1677 collection which records the details of early travelers who left Britain for Ireland, continental Europe, New England, Barbados, Bermuda and other overseas colonies.

The collection includes over 27,000 fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of original documents. It includes lists of soldiers who signed a statutory oath of allegiance before serving in the “Low Countries” between 1613 and 1633, licences for individuals traveling to Europe between 1573 and 1677, and registers of individuals traveling to America between 1634 and 1639.

The records showing passengers licensed to sail to the Americas are very rare, making this collection quite significant. They record groups headed for colonies in New England, Maryland, Virginia, Barbados, Bermuda, St Kitt’s, and the Providence Island colony during the 1630s. Very few original records from this early period of American history are available online. Registers record the details of some of earliest English settlers to arrive on the continent.

After 1609, all travelers over the age of 18 had to swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before the Clerk of the Passes could issue them with a licence to leave the country. The dates shown in these records are the date the oath was taken or the date the licence was issued – not the date of actual departure.

Ireland – Indexes

Societies around the world continue to amaze us, as does The Irish Genealogical Research Society with three recent updates. These updated collections include new birth, marriage, and death confirmations of citizen of Ireland.

In particular, the birth index was most recently updated to reflect information gathered from several thousand records taken from Index of Nuns, a CD publication in 2015 by the Catholic Family History Society. which notes biographical information for about 14,000 nuns, many of them from Ireland.

Also, there are entries from a census-substitute dated 1887 recording the Roman Catholic residents of the parish of Kirkinriola, Co. Antrim and entries taken from Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852.

genealogy societies around the world records

IGRS is another genealogy society around the world containing Irish records.

The full database is available only to Members. However, a restricted but free surname-only search of the database can be made by non-members. A search will tell you how many entries in the database match your search criteria. It will not provide all the details of those matched records. You can however become a member with all access by visiting their subscription page here.

Genealogy Societies Around the Worldthanks for sharing ancestor

You may never have considered joining a genealogical society outside of your country, but may find it is just what you need to break through that brick wall. Do you know of a genealogy society that has an extensive collection of records? If you do, would you share it with us? We would love to hear about it in the comments below. Be sure to leave a link so that we can check it out!