April 24, 2014

Family History Episode 22 – Legend Seekers: A Genealogy TV Classic

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published 2009. Republished March 11, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

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

Episode 22: Legend Seekers: A Genealogy TV Classic

Did you ever catch the PBS documentary Legend Seekers? It aired in 2009 and is now classic genealogy TV. Executive producer Ken Marks joins us on this episode of the podcast. He talks about the unique approach of this show for its time: the family history stories he brought to life were from everyday folks (not movie stars or rock stars) who have some very extraordinary stories in their family tree. Ken talks about the Lively Family Massacre in Illinois, which he recreates in the show, and how he went about helping the TV execs understand the mass appeal of the show.

Then Ken talks about the genealogical serendipity that he has his crew found themselves tapping into throughout the production. That’s something we can all relate to! So sit back and enjoy this sneak peek behind the scenes of a genealogy television classic.

Updates and Links

Legend Seekers: The Legend of the Lively Family Massacre was meant to be a pilot in a new series. The series didn’t pan out but the show was nominated for a regional Emmy award in the documentary category, received two Telly Awards (2008) and the Award of Superior Achievement from the Illinois State Historical Society, according to a press release posted at Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Click here to watch Legend Seekers: The Legend of the Lively Family Massacre.

 

Other genealogy TV shows you might enjoy:

Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Genealogy Roadshow (stream episodes here)

Who Do You Think You Are?

Advice for First-time Attendee to Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London

Here I am in last year's experts panel

Here I am in last year’s experts panel

Recently I heard from podcast listener Julie, a New Zealander living in Kuwait. My podcast made her aware of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the huge family history conference coming up in the U.K. in 2014. She’s bought her plane tickets but, she says:

‘I am overwhelmed! I have never been to any sort of family history event, fair, society meeting – this will be my very first one.  I’m not even sure which entry tickets I would be best to get – I am going for the three days but am wondering if a VIP ticket the first day might be a good way to get introduced and then get the two day ticket for the remaining days. With all the SOG workshops, DNA workshops, experts, the “Heirloom Detective,” exhibitors and so much more, I’m not sure how to get the most out of the three days.”

To anyone else feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of attending WDYTYA Live, let me see if I can be of some help:

RE: VIP Day – Since I have been a presenter the last three years, I didn’t deal with tickets. However, I can tell you that the most popular speakers do fill up (particularly the celebs). Also you can spend valuable time standing in line without reserved seats. So if you are keen to see particular talks and want to save time, then a VIP day would probably be really nice. If you’re willing to get in line early and wait, then you can certainly get in to just about any talk you want with pre-purchased workshop tickets. At least that’s how it seemed to me.

RE: Workshop vs Hall. While it would be easy to just spend all day every day in the workshops, in my mind it is the exhibit hall that is really special. They do the exhibit hall much better in London than they do here in the U.S.  It is huge, and exhibitors incorporate a lot of hands-on opportunities. You could easily spend one full day just on exhibits. I would allow at least 1/2 day for the “vendors” and 1/2 day for the “society tables” and fill the rest of my 3 days with lectures and workshops.

The photo specialists are extremely popular. Bring photos with you if you want them looked evaluated, but prepare to queue up for a very long time. (Perhaps get in line first thing one morning.)

Here’s one last important tip: be sure to follow the event blog and keep an eye out on the website as they tend to announce new and last-minute events right up until the end.

I hope that helps you all! And to Julie-from-New-Zealand-in-Kuwait: thanks so much for listening to the podcast!

Family History Episode 4 – Genealogy Conferences, the SS-5, Delayed Birth Records and Death Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastPublished October 29, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

by Lisa Louise Cooke

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

Episode 4: Attending Genealogy Conferences and Vital Records Requests

In our first segment, our guest is the longtime online news anchorman of genealogy, Dick Eastman, the author of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. He talks about the changing industry and the benefits of attending genealogy conferences.

Next, you’ll learn the ins and outs of using some “vital” sources for U.S. birth and death information: delayed birth records, Social Security applications (SS-5s) and death certificates.

Genealogy Conferences Conversation: A Few Updates

  • Dick and I talk about Footnote.com as a relatively small site. Has that ever changed! Footnote.com is now Fold3.com and it’s a go-to site for millions of online American military records.
  • Family History Expos still offers an exciting conference, especially for first-timers. But there are others as well: In the United States, there’s RootsTech, the National Genealogical Society and many state and regional conferences (like one near my home, the Southern California Genealogical Society’s annual Jamboree). Find a nice directory at Cyndi’s List. Many conferences are starting to offer live streaming sessions for people who can’t attend: check websites for details. In addition, Family Tree University offers regular virtual conferences—where sessions and chat are all online! If you live outside the U.S., look for conferences through your own national or regional genealogical societies. If you can get to London, don’t miss Who Do You Think You Are Live.
  • Dick now writes all of his Plus content himself. If you haven’t already checked out Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, you should! Both his free and Plus newsletters are great insider sources on what’s new and great (or not-so-great) in the family history world.

The SS-5

You can order a copy of the application that your ancestor filled out when they applied for a Social Security Number: the SS-5. I have done this, and they really are neat, but they aren’t cheap. So let’s talk about the facts you’re going to find on them so you can determine if it is worth the expense.

The SS-5 has changed slightly over time, but may include the applicant’s name, full address, birth date and place and BOTH parents’ names (the mother’s maiden name is requested). If your ancestor applied prior to 1947 then you will also very likely find the name and address of the company they worked for listed, and possibly even their position title.

Here’s an example of a Social Security application form:

Osby Johnson SS5

In the 1970s, the Social Security Administration microfilmed all SS-5 application forms, created a computer database of selected information from the forms, and destroyed the originals. So it’s important to order a copy of the microfilmed original, rather than a printout or abstract from the Administration’s database. And luckily now you can request a Social Security Application SS5 Form online under the Freedom of Information Act.

It will help to have your relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) when you apply for a copy of their SS-5. First, it gives you greater confidence that their SS-5 exists. Second, it’s cheaper to order the SS-5 when you have their SSN. Third, the Social Security Death Index, in which you’ll find their SSN, usually has death data that makes your application for their SS-5 stronger. Privacy concerns have caused some genealogy websites to pull the SSDI, but you can still search it (in many instances for free) at the links provided in Episode 3.

Finally, here’s a little background on the Social Security Number itself. The nine-digit SSN is made up of three parts:

The first set of three digits is called the Area Number. This number was assigned geographically. Generally, numbers were assigned beginning in the Northeast and moving westward. So people whose cards were issued in the East Coast states have the lowest numbers and those on the West Coast have the highest numbers.

Prior to 1972, cards were issued in local Social Security offices around the country and the Area Number represented the state in which the card was issued. This wasn’t necessarily the state where the applicant lived, since you could apply for a card at any Social Security office.

Since 1972, when the SSA began assigning social security numbers and issuing cards centrally from Baltimore, Maryland, the area number assigned has been based on the ZIP code of the mailing address provided on the application for the card. And of course, the applicant’s mailing address doesn’t have to be the same as their place of residence. But in general the area number does give you a good lead as where to look for an ancestor.

The next two digits in the number are called the Group Number, and were used to track fraudulent numbers.

The last set of four digits is the Serial Number, and these were randomly assigned.

UPDATE: The website for ordering Social Security applications (SS-5s) has changed since the podcast first aired. For current ordering instructions, including online ordering, click here. The cost is still $27 to order a deceased relative’s SS-5 if you know the Social Security number and $29 if you don’t know it.

Delayed Birth Certificates

After 1937 folks who qualified to apply for social security had to have proof of their age. If they were born prior to official birth certificates being kept in their state, they applied for a delayed birth certificate.

Anytime someone needs a birth certificate for any reason, they have to contact the state—and often the county—in which the birth occurred. If a birth certificate exists, they can simply purchase a certified copy. But if there were no birth certificates issued at the time of the person’s birth, they could have a “delayed birth certificate” issued by that state or county.

In order to obtain a delayed certificate, they had to provide several pieces of evidence of their age. If these are considered satisfactory, the government would issue the certificate and it would be accepted as legal proof of birth by all U.S. government agencies.

Originally people turned to the census for proof of age. But eventually the Social Security Administration began to ask for birth certificates. For folks like my great grandmother who was born at a time and place where birth certificates were not issued, that meant they had to locate documents that could prove their age and allow them to obtain a delayed birth certificate. Delayed just meaning it was issued after the time of the birth.

Delayed birth certificates are not primary sources. (Remember we talked about Primary Sources in Episode 2. Since the delayed certificate was based on other documents, and not issued at the time of the event by an authority, such as the attending physician, then it is not a primary source. This means that while it’s great background information, it is more prone to error. In order to do the most accurate genealogical research you would want to try to find a primary source if possible. Chances are your ancestor used another primary source, such as an entry in the family bible, to obtain the delayed birth certificate.

The process for ordering a delayed birth certificate is likely going to be the same as ordering a regular birth certificate. You would start with the checking with the county courthouse, and then the Department of health for the state you’re looking in. Let them know that the birth record is a delayed birth certificate. Also the Family History Library card catalogue would be a place to look as many were microfilmed. Go to www.familysearch.org and search for delayed birth records by clicking on Search from the home page. Then click Catalog and do the keyword search just as the episode instructs, using “delayed birth” as your keyword. (Within that search, you can also add parameters for the place name.)

So the lesson here is that even though your ancestor may have been born at a time or in a location where births were not officially recorded by the state, they may very well have a delayed birth certificate on file.

Ordering Death Certificates

The Social Security Death Index is just one resource for getting death information. But in the end you’re going to want the primary source for your ancestor’s death, and that’s the death certificate. While many of your ancestor’s born in the 1800s may not have a birth certificate, there is a much better chance that they have a death certificate since they may have died in the 20th century. Each state in the U.S. began mandating death certificates at a different time, so you have to find out the laws in the state, and probably the county, since death certificates were filed at the county level.

As I said before, the death certificate is going to be able to provide you with a wealth of information. Of course you’ll find the name, date of death and place of death, and possibly their age at death and the cause and exact time of death, place of burial, funeral home, name of physician or medical examiner and any witnesses who were present. The certificate is a primary source for this information.

You may also find information such as their date and place of birth, current residence, occupation, parent’s names and birthplaces, spouse’s name, and marriage status. But because this information is provided by someone other than the ancestor themselves it is really hearsay, and the certificate is considered a secondary source for that information.

And lastly you may find a name in the box that says Informant. This is the person who reported the death to officials. Informants are often spouses, children, and sometimes, depending on the person’s circumstances, just a friend or neighbor. But the informant is almost always someone that you want to investigate further because they obviously were close to your ancestor.

Once you think you know the location where your ancestor died, and the approximate if not exact death date, you’re ready to order a certificate. If the person died in the last 50 years you’ll probably have really good luck at the county courthouse Department of Vital Records. The older the record, the more likely it may have been shipped off by the county records department to the state Department of Health. Look for helpful links to death records at Cyndi’s List Death Records.

Here are some tips that will ensure that you don’t get bogged down in bureaucratic red tape:

  1. Get the appropriate request form – this is usually available online.
  1. Print neatly and clearly – if they can’t read it, they will send it back to be redone.
  1. Provide as much information as you have.
  1. Provide a self addressed stamped envelope.
  1. Make one request per envelope.
  1. Include a photocopy of your driver’s license to prove your identity.
  1. Be sure to include your check for the exact amount required.
  1. Make a copy of the request form for your records and follow up.
  1. Lastly, keep in mind that county offices have limited personnel and are often swamped with paper work. So my best advice is that the more courteous and thorough you are the more success you’ll have.

Online Death Indexes

In the case of very old death certificates, as well as birth certificates, some state agencies have opted to hand them over to state Archives and Historical Societies, or at least make them available for digitizing.

And there you have it, lots of different avenues for tracking down your ancestor’s death records providing you with key information for climbing your family tree.

Genealogy Roadshow Casting for Next Season

Genealogy Roadshow logoGenealogy Roadshow is now casting for its next season. Are you a contender?

In case you missed the first season, Genealogy Roadshow is a PBS series much like Antiques Roadshow–only your ancestors are the antiques. Instead of everyday people bringing their old collectibles and antiques in to be appraised by experts, everyday people bring their family stories and pedigree charts. Genealogists research their stories and reveal new details to them and their relatives.

Filling out the preliminary application may feel a bit like auditioning for a part along with your entire family. There are questions like “What is your story and why is it important to you to find out now?” “Have you or any member of your family or outside group looked into any branches of your family’s history? If so, please describe who and explain what roadblocks or limitations they encountered.” “What would uncovering this information about your family mean to you and your family?” Applicants are asked to submit GEDCOMs, if they have them, and whether they have DNA samples.

Interested? Check out the online application yourself! Then, in case you missed them or want to catch them again, catch episodes from the first season on PBS Video.

The Burning of the Gipsy – Behind the Scenes of Who Do You Think You Are?

Who Do You Think You Are?The final episode of TLC’s first season of Who Do You Think You Are? came with more than just an extra helping of ancestral drama. Along with the end of the season came the welcome announcement that WDYTYA? will  return in 2014 on TLC.

First, the final episode recap: American actor Jim Parsons explored his paternal line and discovered one ancestor who was lost in a tragic accident–and another who narrowly escaped death by guillotine.

The Ancestry.com research team reports, “When we went digging into Jim Parsons’ family tree we found his third-great-grandfather was Jean Baptiste Hacker, a phyWDYTYA Gipsy articlesician who was raised in New Orleans but moved to Plaquemine, Louisiana, after starting his medical career. Just a few years later, Dr. Hacker, along with his daughter Leocadie and his nephew, was killed in a tragic fire on board the steamboat Gipsy in December 1854.”

They documented the accident through an article from New Orleans paper the Daily Picayune (digitized at Newspapers.com and shown here):

Another line of research takes Jim’s ancestry back to France, where he learned one of his forebears was an architect to Louis XV. “The timing of Louis Francois [Trouard]’s appointment is significant: 1787 is only two years prior to the French Revolution. Four architects were executed during the Revolution, and another 25 were imprisoned. Yet Louis Francois escaped Republican retribution….”

“At the Chapelle de la Providence, a structure designed by his ancestor, Jim discovers the startling truth: Louis Francois had good revolutionary credentials, including houseguests such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.”

Along with that riveting last episode, TLC just announced it will bring back more of the same next season. On September 10, Digital Spy reported that 2014 will see 10 more episodes. Celebrity guests haven’t been announced yet, so stay tuned! We’ll keep you posted on future developments.

Meanwhile, TV watchers, mark your calendars for the American version of Genealogy Roadshow, the  PBS show scheduled to debut next week.

 

 

Second Season of Who Do You Think You Are? Ordered by TLC

Who Do You Think You Are?According to The Hollywood Report, TLC has ordered a second season of the revived U.S. genealogy-themed TV series Who Do You Think You Are?  The current season averaged 1.8 million viewers in first run episodes.

And good news: the episode order by TLC for next season has been increased from eight to ten!

You can listen to my interview with Producer Allie Orton in episode 158 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast, available in iTunes and here at Genealogy Gems.

 

 

Behind the Scenes at WDYTYA on TLC

WDYTYA STarsIf you’re like me, you were happy to see the return of Who Do You Think You Are? to our TV lineup this past summer. You might have thought to yourself as you watched, “They make it look so easy! I wonder how long it took them to find that record?”

Well there have been some great articles written by the researchers behind the scenes at WDYTYA? For example, this post tells how it took more than 1000 hours of research for Cindy Crawford’s one-hour episode.

“It took months to research Cindy’s tree,” says the post at ProGenealogists, Ancestry’s official research arm. “Only the records that were essential stepping stones could be included in her story, and a few important steps we took along the way didn’t make the final cut.”

A post on Matthew Broderick’s episode, which aired in 2010, introduces us to using military records to find our family history. Matthew appeared in the 1989 Civil War film “Glory” but his great-great-grandfather experienced the real thing: he died while serving as a Union soldier. Other episodes bring up other episodes in the history of the world: Lisa Kudrow’s past includes the horrors of the Holocaust,  Rosie O’Donnell’s covers the experience of a poor family in an Irish workhouse that was able to escape to Canada; Emmitt Smith’s probes the dark depths of African-American slavery. The post on Emmitt is a particularly detailed account of how this family was found.

You can click on similar posts relating to other WDYTYA guests, both past and present: Chris O’Donnell, Zooey Deschanel, Chelsea Handler, Christina Applegate, Kelly Clarkson, Tim McGraw, Vanessa Williams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lisa Kudrow, Brooke Shields, and Susan Sarandon.

If you haven’t tuned in to WDYTYA yet, check it out on TLC on Tuesdays at 9pmEST. Or learn more about it and watch episodes at TLC’s website.

Genealogy Roadshow on PBS: More Genealogy TV is Coming!

Genealogy Roadshow logoLovers of Who Do You Think You Are! and other genealogy TV favorites will be pleased to know that Genealogy Roadshow is filming for airing this fall on PBS.

This clever show follows a format similar to the popular Antiques Roadshow, in which antiques experts travel to various cities to talk about artifacts brought in by area residents. Residents may lug in tall grandfather clocks, faded letters or other old objects. Experts comment on the historical context, rarity and value of their artifacts. Viewers enjoy watching owners who become overjoyed, stunned, fascinated and occasionally disappointed by what the experts say.

Genealogy Roadshow spins that format in a family history direction. PBS describes it this way: “Participants want to explore unverified genealogical claims passed down through family history, that may (or may not) connect them to an event or a historical figure. Experts in genealogy, history and DNA will use family heirlooms, letters, pictures, historical documents and other clues to hunt down more information. These experts will enlist the help of local historians to add color and context to the investigations, ensuring every artifact and every name becomes a clue in solving the mystery.”

This season, hosts are Kenyatta Barry and D. Joshua Taylor, young but expert and enthusiastic voices in the American genealogy community. The cities hosting Genealogy Roadshow are Nashville, Austin, Detroit and San Francisco. PBS explains that “these cities were chosen as American crossroads of culture, diversity, industry and history, with deep pools of potential participants and stories.”

This has already been a popular series in Ireland, where Genealogy Roadshow is in its second season. The series premieres in the U.S. on KQED on Monday September 23.

iPad Tips and Interview with WDYTYA Producer in New Episode for Premium Members

ipad with photoWould you like to be privy to the genealogical research strategies of the producers of the TV series Who Do You Think You Are? Genealogy Gems Premium Members get an exclusive cut from my recent interview with Allie Orton, Producer of the series that has moved to the TLC channel.  Allie and her team work under a tight timetable and budget, and she provides tips to help you do the same.

Also in this episode I’ve got not one but two new cool tricks to pump up your iPad / iPhone for genealogy! And we’ll also tackle a question about digital file organization that will help you get more organized.

All of these gems are part of a very special Premium episode: #100!  And as a Premium Member you have access to all 100 in the podcast catalogue!

Premium_Podcast
Not a Genealogy Gems Premium Member? Why not? Become a Member today and get immediate access to all of the genealogy goodness in both audio and video!

P.S. The remainder of the interview is coming to the next episode of the Genealogy Gems Podcast in early August. Stay tuned!

 

How to Get the first Episode of Who Do You Think You Are? for Free and EARLY

itunes_wdytya

Just can’t wait for the new season of the genealogy themed television series Who Do You Think You Are? which premieres on the TLC channel on July 23? Well, you don’t have to!

If you are a faithful listener of the Genealogy Gems Podcast then you are probably familiar with using the free iTunes program.  The good news is that you can now download the premiere episode featuring Kelly Clarkson for free from iTunes! Click this link to get your copy now: Kelly Clarkson – Who Do You Think You Are?, Season 4)  I recommend doing this right away, as sometimes iTunes free offers are for a limited time.

I’d love to hear what you think of the revived series, and first episode. Post your comments below.