July 29, 2014

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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How to Save Fold3 Search Results to Your Ancestry.com Family Tree

Fold3 save to Ancestry screenshotNow when you discover an ancestor’s record on Fold3.com, you can save it to your online tree at Ancestry.com.

According to Fold3.com’s press release: “Whenever you see a green ‘Save to Ancestry’ button above a document or on a Fold3 memorial page, you can link that document or page directly to someone’s profile on Ancestry.”

“You’ll be asked to log into your Ancestry.com account, and then you’ll see a drop-down list of your trees. Locate the tree you wish to save the document to, begin typing the name of the person to whom the record should be attached, choose the correct name from the list that appears, and then press save.”

Watch a tutorial video to learn more and see how it’s done.

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Old Search Sees Last Days at Ancestry – New Tools on Horizon

Ancestry_searchAs I mentioned in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 156 Ancestry is working on some new enhancements to the website’s search function. What I didn’t say then, but what has been officially announced now, is that “Old Search” is being phased out.  More specifically, the best parts of it are being consolidated into the current search so that we are all on the same page with one search tool.

In episode 156 I also talked about technological “mayhem.” The chaos that follows changes made by technology companies to their products. If you felt your blood pressure start to rise at the news that Old Search is on it’s last leg, I encourage you to take a listen to that episode for a fresh perspective on the effects of change.

According to Ancestry this change impacts a small percentage of users. (Although from past changes in the genealogy community it’s clear that small groups can have big voices!) Are you one of those users in the 2% who still relies on Old Search? Do you consider this change another in a long line of “technological mayhem” or do you welcome the evolution of Ancestry’s search function? Read the following announcement from Ancestry (note that the bolding of the last paragraph is mine – I think it is key) and leave your comments below.

“Ancestry.com is continuing our efforts to improve the search experience across Ancestry.com and will be making changes to our search functionality in the upcoming months. Some features will be added and some will be discontinued. As part of the 2% of our subscribers that use the old search function on the site, we know that you are passionate about the search experience on Ancestry.com and we are reaching out to you to get input on potential improvements. We hope you will take the opportunity to share your insights and feedback on our plans.

To identify which areas of the experience we should focus on this year, we have drawn on customer input, usage data, usage patterns and our old search function for inspiration. From all of that, we are looking at making your time on Ancestry.com more productive by improving these areas of the search experience in 2013:

  • More relevant search results with the best results at the top
  • Easier refining and control of your search results
  • Keeping a better history of the work you have done
  • Publishing more new content and more corrections to existing content
  • Performance improvements to return results faster

As we begin to make these improvements, we will no longer maintain two separate search systems for the site. Maintaining two systems limits the resources we can use to make improvements and increases the complexity of every improvement we try to make. Additionally, continuing to maintain the two systems limits our ability to direct more investment into other areas like adding more record collections and correcting existing collections.

Based on that, as a part of the work this year we will be bringing together the two search experiences into a single search experience on Ancestry.com. We hope to bring forward the best features of both the old and new search systems into the consolidated experience to facilitate the transition for our users and to improve the overall search experience. We expect to discontinue the old search function as a separate experience within the next 6 months.”

After the initial uproar online about the changes mentioned above, Ancestry reached out again to emphasize their desire to get user’s feedback.   You can take the survey here: http://ancestry.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_8ubNXU8IiQcxqVD

According to Ancestry, many of the recent concerns and comments have cited functionality that actually exists in current search, as well as in old search – specifically:

  1. Ancestry’s current search experience allows users to view search results as a list of ranked records or as a consolidated list of categories.
  2. The current search experience allows users to do “Exact Match” searches.
  3. The current search experience allows users to specify a “Collection Priority” to filter results by country.

Crista Cowan has put together an educational video which demonstrates this functionality in the current search experience:

Ancestry also has an article which does a side-by-side explanation of how to achieve the same types of results with the current search as in Old Search: http://ancestry.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/5569/kw/old

 

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Danish Version of WDYTYA Being Filmed

TFlag of Denmarkhe Danish Broadcasting Corporation is filming its own version of “Who Do You Think You Are?”–which we’ve learned via two U.S. newspapers!

According to the Bureau County Republican and the NewsTribune (Illinois Valley), popular Danish actress Suzanne Bjerrehuus was in the area filming stories of her great-great-grandparents, who emigrated from Denmark to the American Midwest in 1869. (They apparently left behind one of their six children, from whom Bjerrehuus descends.)

As part of her whirlwind family history tour, Bjerrehuus reportedly visited the Danish Immigrant Museum in Elk Horn, Iowa. If you have Danish roots, you should probably check out their website. They have a Family History & Genealogy Center, which specializes in helping people find links to their Danish immigrant past. They provide research and translation services and they’ve helped people connect with long-lost relatives in both Denmark and the United States.

 

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Kelly Clarkson on Who Do You Think You Are? #WDYTYA

  • Kelly ClarksonMany of us have been anticipating the return of Who Do You Think You Are?, the popular family history-themed television show. After three seasons, the WDYTYA? was canceled by NBC in 2012.

Reportedly, TLC has since  picked up the show for a fourth season. Executive producer Lisa Kudrow told Craig Ferguson the show is still moving forward in an appearance on The Late Late Show on Feb. 20 (see the conversation here: it starts about 21 minutes into the show).

In recent weeks, reports have circulated that Kelly Clarkson has filmed an episode. A fan reported seeing her in Americus, Georgia and that they were shooting footage at Andersonsville National Historic Site.

Want to brush up on the first three seasons (and some WDYTYA trivia) before the return of the fourth? Find old episodes here on NBC.

Or learn more about about Kelly Clarkson at her website,  which has so far been silent about any WDYTYA? filming, but celebrates her recent Grammy award and upcoming wedding–to the stepson of another WDYTYA? guest, Reba McEntire.

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FamilySearch Adds New Records

Recently FamilySearch announced the addition of another 1.7 million indexed Genealogy Takeout from GenealogyGems.comrecords and images to its free online Historical Records Collection. According to FamilySearch, “Notable collection updates include the 13,110 images from the new Arizona, Maricopa, Mesa City Cemetery Records, 1885-1960, collection and the 105,745 indexed records and images from the New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists, 1855-1973, collection.”

Whether you have roots in North Carolina or New Zealand, it may be worth it to check out their list of new records:

Collection Indexed Records Digital Images
Australia, Tasmania, Miscellaneous Records, 1829-1961 0 8,191
Austria, Upper Austria, Linz, Miscellaneous City Records, 1485-1894 0 20,711
China, Collection of Genealogies, 1239-2010 0 120,111
Dominican Republic, Miscellaneous Records, 1921-1980 0 29,543
England, Northumberland, Miscellaneous Records, 1570-2005 0 3,897
Italy, Bologna, Bologna, Civil Registration (Tribunale), 1866-1941 0 188,632
Mexico, San Luis Potosí, Miscellaneous Records, 1570-1842 0 171,391
Mexico, Yucatán, Civil Registration, 1860-2005 0 297,064
New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists, 1855-1973 105,744 1
Nicaragua, Civil Registration, 1809-2011 0 47,728
Paraguay, Asunción, Cemetery Records, 1842-2011 0 11,121
Peru, La Libertad, Civil Registration, 1903-1998 0 203,673
U.S., Arizona, Maricopa, Mesa City Cemetery Records, 1885-1960 0 13,110
U.S., Delaware, Death Records, 1855-1961 28,958 33,144
U.S., Maine, Veterans Cemetery Records, 1676-1918 51,541 0
U.S., Massachusetts, Plymouth County, Probate Estate Files, 1686-1915 0 147,293
U.S., Montana, Sweet Grass County Records, 1885-2011 0 64,754
U.S., North Carolina, Civil Action Court Papers, 1712-1970 0 220,321
U.S., Tennessee, Death Records, 1914-1955 26 0

 

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Search Tips for Finding Tricky Names and Spellings in Ancestry.com and Google

Even the simplest of names can be subject to creative spelling over the centuries. In this video, Ancestry’s Crista Cowan takes on the challenge saying “Misspeld knames are a commun problem for geneoleogy reeserchors.” 

If you are fairly new to researching your family history the video provides an introduction to the evolution of spelling,  names, and the soundex. More advanced genealogists may want to jump in around the 10 minute mark to quickly tap into Cowan’s tips such as:

  • Wild card search
  • Ancestry’s filters
  • surname translations in search results

She also provides a helpful tip on re-setting Ancestry’s filters to the default position (16:40 min.). When you have run a search using filters, and you want to start fresh on a new search, click the “match all terms exactly” and then uncheck it. This action will clear all the filters previously used.

Name Challenges in Google Search

Common surnames and surnames that double for as common words in the English language (i.e. Green) can also wreak havoc in Google Searches. One way to deal with the problem is to use the minus search operator. In the case of the surname Green, you might try:

GREEN FAMILY TREE -ECOLOGY 

Removing the keyword “ecology” from your search query steers Google away from that meaning of the word “green.” Genealogy Gems Premium Members can view the video and download the handout of my Common Surname Google Search Strategies class in the Premium Membership area of the Genealogy Gems website.

Become a Member today for a full year of access to Premium podcast episodes and videos here

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