April 25, 2015

Puerto Rico Civil Registrations Now FREE Online

puerto_rico_flag_perspective_anim_300_wht_5482Do you have family from Puerto Rico? Newly-searchable at FamilySearch.org are Puerto Rico Civil Registrations. Ancestry published these last year for their subscribers. Ancestry describes this as their “largest single collection of Puerto Rican records.”

According to FamilySearch, “The civil registration records in Puerto Rico are an excellent source for genealogical research after 1885. Important genealogical data can be found in these records; see below. The data may even help to find information about an earlier generation.” They include birth, marriage and death records.

The description on FamilySearch indicates that records go back to 1805. But other hints (and a comparison to the Ancestry dataset) indicate that most of the records are for 1885 and later, just like Ancestry’s. Civil registration didn’t start in Puerto Rico until 1885 (before that, look to Catholic church records for BMD data). Of course, like many records, they may contain information about family dates and relationships from earlier in that person’s life.

book_leaning_against_question_mark_400_wht_12575Those who know about Puerto Rico’s connection to the U.S. may wonder why Puerto Rico had civil registrations at a time that U.S. states and territories did not. Puerto Rico was actually a colony of Spain when civil registration started. Only after the Spanish-American War of 1898 did Puerto Rico become a U.S. protectorate.

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Can We Get DNA From a Hair Sample for Genealogy?

genetic genealogy yDNARecently, Norma wrote in with this question about getting DNA from a hair sample:
“My sister-in-law’s father passed away before she could have his DNA tested. She does have samples of his hair. She was wondering if there is a lab who would do DNA testing for genealogy using hair samples? FamilyTree DNA and 23 and Me both do not do testing on hair. There are no other male relatives that she is aware that could be tested. She is interested in the yDNA especially.”
diahan southardI turned to Your DNA Guide at Genealogy Gems, Diahan Southard, and here’s her answer:

“Good question! This is a common concern for many. Unfortunately, cut hair (which I am assuming is what you have) does not contain the necessary material for DNA testing. If he had any teeth pulled that she had saved, that would be a good source.  Even sometimes a razor will work.

But even if you could find a suitable sample, as you mentioned, the standard genealogical testing companies do not accept non-standard samples.  There is a company who does, called Identigene, but the testing is expensive, and really won’t give you what need, which is access to a yDNA database to look for matches.
Your best route is to continue to look for a direct paternal descendant of the line of interest.  If your friend’s dad didn’t have any brothers, then what about her grandfather?  Are there any first cousins around?  What you are looking for is a living male who has the surname you are interested in.
Using DNA for Genealogy Ancestry Family Tree DNA GuidesIf you can’t find one, your friend can still explore the autosomal DNA test, which will tell her about her paternal side, just in a less direct manner.
My DNA guides will walk you through the testing process. You can find the laminated guides here in the Genealogy Gems store, and the digital downloads here.
Let me know if you need any more help!” (Contact me through my website.)
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Ancestry Beta Testing Its New Website: Want to See It?

lab_rat_with_pen_clipboard_14929 (1)Ancestry.com has spent a year preparing a new website based on a ton of user feedback. They’re just about ready to introduce it! According to a media rep, the “new and improved Ancestry experience…makes it easier for anyone to discover and tell the rich, unique story of their family.”

According to Ancestry, features on the new site include:

  • “A new LifeStory view to transform your ancestors’ facts and events into engaging, unique stories;
  • A new, intuitive, modern look to streamline your work flows and make your family story the focus;
  • Historical Insights to discover significant historical events that your ancestors may have experienced;
  • A new Facts View to make it easier to validate facts with sources, and edit and review facts contextually;
  • A new Media Gallery where you can consolidate all your media in one place.”

“Ancestry beta” (a test version of the new site) will be showcased at RootsTech next weekend, Feb. 12-14. If you visit the Ancestry booth, you will be able to opt in to participate in the site. Not going to RootsTech? Click here to added to a waiting list (they will add people over the next few months). You can use Ancestry beta in the latest version of Chrome, Firefox and IE11.

Here’s what the new LifeStory view looks like for my husband’s ancestor, Harry R. Cooke. What do you think? Tell us on Facebook!

Ancestry beta life story view

 

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Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

money_tree_PA_500_wht_3903Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

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MyCanvas Finds a New Home: Alexander’s

Alexander’s, the long time MyCanvas printer will be receiving ownership. Ancestry exec Eric Shoup issued this statement today explaining the transition.

“This past June, we announced that we were retiring the MyCanvas website and service in September 2014.

We’ve heard from many people who love MyCanvas and hate the idea of it going away. Well, we have some good news for you: It’s not going away after all. We listened and decided not to retire MyCanvas, but instead transfer the website to Alexander’s.

Founded 35 years ago, Alexander’s is a Utah-based printing production company that has been the long-term printer of MyCanvas products including its genealogy books, calendars, and other printed products. This makes the transition of MyCanvas to Alexander’s a natural fit.

It’s our hope that this agreement will not change the experience for MyCanvas customers. In fact, Alexander’s plans to make some exciting improvements we think you’ll love. Additionally, MyCanvas will continue to be available from the Ancestry.com website as we believe in the importance of sharing family history discoveries and see MyCanvas as a way to deliver this ability to our customers.

The transition of MyCanvas will take about six months. But in the meantime, all MyCanvas projects will remain accessible on Ancestry.com until it moves over to Alexander’s next year. We will continue to communicate details as the transition moves forward.

We want to thank our loyal MyCanvas customers for all the projects you have built and printed with us over the years. We’re excited about this new owner of MyCanvas—and we think you will be too.”

Alexanders According to Alexander’s website “more than 60 team members work full-time from Alexander’s 45,000 square-foot corporate headquarters in Lindon, Utah.”

Genealogy Gems listeners have already started expressing their relief at the Genealogy Gems Facebook page. Katharine says: “Maybe all the comments helped! I’m relieved.”

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Insider Tips for Using Ancestry.com: Family Tree Magazine Podcast – July 2014

FTM podcast logoEvery month I host the Family Tree Magazine Podcast, where I check in with the editors and experts at Family Tree Magazine for a dose of genealogy fun and education.

I thought you would especially enjoy the July 2014 episode: it’s all about tips for using Ancestry.com! Highlights of what you’ll hear:


See what new tricks YOU can learn from this free podcast for maximizing your time on Ancestry.com!

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Family History Episode 7 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 1

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published Fall 2008

Republished November 19, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

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. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 7: Best Subscription Websites for Genealogy Research, Part 1

In our first segment, my guest is Lisa Alzo, popular genealogy lecturer and writer (now the author of nine books and online genealogy instructor at Family Tree University and the National Institute for Genealogical Studies). We talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned in her genealogical journeys (which include international travel in Eastern Europe).

In the second half of the show, we tackle an essential topic: the best subscription sites for family history records. This is a two-part topic: in this episode I talk about the best genealogy websites that require payment to access their core content. In Episode 8, we’ll talk about the fantastic free websites that are out there.

Keep in mind that this episode was recorded a few years ago. As I mention in the show, the online records landscape is constantly changing. Here are a few updates:

  • The biggest powerhouse paid subscription website is still Ancestry: it’s just bigger and better than what I originally described. As of fall 2013, they host 11 billion historical records. Member-contributed items include over 50 million family trees and 160 million uploads of photographs, stories and scanned documents. They still have a free 14-day trial membership and multiple subscription options: check out current ones here.
  • WorldVitalRecords is still a great website, though it’s grown more slowly. At our republishing date, it boasts over 158 million digitized images, (including US and UK censuses); 300 million names from vital records; 75 million names from military records, over 100 million pages of newspapers dating from 1739; 1.5 million historical maps; 8000 yearbooks and over 30 million tombstone photos. WorldVitalRecords is now part of the MyHeritage.com family of websites. Click here for a free 3-day trial membership.
  • Findmypast now has two web storefronts: findmypast.com (recommended for folks in the U.S.) and FindMyPast.co.uk (which specializes in British and Irish roots and records). At last glance in fall 2013, findmypast hosts over 1.5 million family history records. It offers great search options and a budget-friendly pay-per-view model or a more traditional subscription.
  • RootsIreland is now home now to over 20 million Irish records.
  • Genline.com for Swedish research is still online, though it’s part of Ancestry.com now. It’s home to over 20 million church record images and more.
  • Scotland’s People is still your official home for online Scottish records, including an enormous collection of parish records with births and baptisms, banns and marriages and deaths and burials.
  • Many other sites support specific topics in genealogy research. An example on my side of the pond is Fold3 (formerly Footnote) for American military records. This site is home to over 400 million total records from the Revolutionary War era forward. Check with others who research families from the same location or ethnic background as your family to see what sites would be perfect for you.

Links

Ancestry

Findmypast.com

Findmypast.uk.com

Fold3

WorldVitalRecords

My website mentioned in the podcast, GenealogyGems.tv, is now better known as www.genealogygems.com. The Genealogy Gems newsletter mentioned in the episode is now my blog, which you can find on my website.

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Here’s Where Can You Get Free Genealogy Records this Labor Day Weekend

It’s a holiday weekend, so you know what that means? Genealogy record websites that are usually only available by paidFree Access to Genealogy Records subscription open up some of their collections for free.  Here’s where you can get access to family history resources this weekend:

MyHeritage
providing free access – from August 31 through September 2, 2013 – to all US Census records.
Click here to Search Now

Ancestry
providing free access to its collection of Immigration and Travel records through Labor Day including:

  • passenger lists
  • passports
  • border-crossing records
  • citizenship and naturalization records

Requires a free Ancestry.com account  Click here to Search Now

 

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