November 25, 2015

Save 50% and then 25% MORE with our exclusive code!

You don’t see a deal like this every day!family history writing sale

The Video course Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects is packed full of strategies to help you finally get your family history written!

The story of your own or your family’s history is likely to be the most personal, emotionally satisfying and overwhelming writing project you’ll ever undertake. Our own Sunny Morton will help ease your exasperation with easy and accessible genealogy writing activities in this digital download video course.

The course is currently on sale for 50% off, and now you can double dip for an extra 25% off! 

Use coupon code LISA100 by 12/31/15 and you’ll receive an exclusive Genealogy Gems 25% discount ON TOP of the 50% sale price!

family history writing sale

You must use this link: Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects, and then enter the coupon code LISA100 at check out. Hurry, offer expires 12/31/15.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #10 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy blog posts Coundown #10I’m still a little bit bewildered as to how we got to 1000 genealogy blog posts! But here we are, and we are celebrating!

Our website has changed over the years to new platforms and web hosts, and our analytics don’t even go back to the very beginning. Therefore, I’m content with recapping your top 10 favorite blog posts of 2015, which was a significant year since almost 1/3  of the 1000 appeared in the last 11 months. This demonstrates our growing commitment to blogging about genealogy and bringing you the best GEMS we can find! So, here’s my take on a Casey Kasem-style TOP 10 Countdown of our most popular genealogy blog posts, starting with…#10!

I think it is pretty safe to sum up 2015 as the year of DNA. Genetic genealogy was a sizzling hot topic as Ancestry blazed a new trail, after abandoning mitochondrial and YDNA testing in 2014 and focusing all of its efforts on autosomal. Those efforts included a concentrated marketing campaign that resulted in a database of more than 1 million DNA testers.

genealogy blog posts countdownWhen I first met Diahan Southard at a conference in Florida in March of 2014, I knew instinctively that she was a Genealogy Gem and immediately invited her to join our team. Now as Your DNA Guide she expertly navigates us all through the sometimes murky DNA waters. Through her blog posts and podcast segments, she helps us make sense of genetic genealogy through her warm and easy-to-understand style. So it is no wonder that the tenth most popular and widely read blog post on the Genealogy Gems blog was penned by Diahan on this very hot topic.AncestryDNA common matches tool

In the #10 genealogy blog post New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love it! Diahan reports on a fabulous online tool that pulls out shared genetic matches between two people at AncestryDNA. After hinting at what the Common Matches tool was doing for her own research…

A new tool at Ancestry DNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

…Diahan lays out in a fun and easily digestible way how you can put it to work for you. It’s a great read or re-read – just click the link above.

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #9 in the Top 10 Countdown

n Genealogy Coundown #9In our continuing series counting down the 10 most popular genealogy blog posts here at Genealogy Gems in the last year, we come to #9 that strives to answer the eternal question: “how are we related?”

I  love getting email and voicemail questions from Genealogy Gems readers and listeners. When you take the time to write, you represent all of the people who didn’t hit “Send.” Our genealogy blog is the perfect vehicle for answering your questions and getting the word about the tools we like best.

A while back Shirley in Austin Texas wrote in to say that she had determined that her great grandmother Caroline’s great grandfather Franz Joseph  was the also the grandfather of her great grandfather Eduard. She wondered if there is a way Genealogy relationship cousin calculatorto easily identify their relationship in relative terms.

Genealogy post #9 in our countdown offered the answer. Read How are We Related? Use a Cousin Calculator  and discover a simple, easy online tool that I offered up.

Do You Have These 5 Free Family History Apps? You Should!

custom_app_icon_15153Looking for family history apps? Check out these recent recommendations.

Recently Diane Haddad over at Family Tree Magazine featured 5 fun family history apps on the Genealogy Insider blog. She kindly shared them with us. (Thanks, Diane!)

1. Today In History provides headlines, quotes and images of important historical events from today’s date in history. It’s available for iPad and Android (Diane had to keyword-search its creator, Downshift LLC, to find it in the Android App Store).

2. Streetmuseum from the Museum of London lets you see the streets of your London ancestors. Select a destination from a London map or use your GPS to locate an image near you. Hold your camera up to the present day street scene and see the same London location from years ago on your screen. Information buttons give you historical facts. It’s available for iPad and Android.

Battle app3. Civil War Battle Apps from the Civil War Trust are GPS-enabled guides to 17 well-known Civil War battles. Use them at the battlefield for a self-guided tour or remotely for a virtual tour. The battle maps show your location on the battlefield, and many have time-phased maps that show where Union and Confederate units were located at key moments. You also can see videos with experts and hear accounts from those who fought. These are available for iPad and Android.

4. Biblion: The Boundless Library from the New York Public Library draws on the library’s records, photos, ephemera and other archival collections to take you on a tour of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair. (A second edition of Biblion covers the writing of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.)  Available for iPad.

5. History Here, a location-based app from the History Channel, lets you learn about thousands of historical places all over the United States. You can let your GPS set your location to learn about nearby historic sites, or choose any location in the app. Available for iPad and Android.

ipad for genealogy FTM kitWe love these family history app recommendations! Family Tree Magazine sells a great Maximize your iPad for Genealogy Kit on their website, which includes a webinar I did for them called “iPad: Your Ultimate Genealogy Tool” and an e-book version of my book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse.

More Resources from Genealogy Gems on Mobile Genealogy:

Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy PowerhosueTurn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse (print book)

7 Great Ways to Use Your iPad for Genealogy and Family History

Video: Genealogy on the Go with the iPad (Premium website subscription required)

Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015

Register Now for the TSGS 2015
Family History Conference

Take advantage of the early-bird discount!

Registration is now open for the TSGS 2015 Family History Conference scheduled for Oct 31-Nov 1 in Austin, Texas. This jam-packed event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Austin located in Austin, Texas, and is for genealogists and family historians of all skill levels!

keynotes Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015
Take advantage of the special early-bird price of $130 for a full 3-day pass including lunches on both Saturday and Sunday. This price is only available through October 10, 2015. Attend only Friday for $50 or only Saturday or Sunday for $80. Become a TSGS member and enjoy a further savings of $20 off the early-bird pricing. (New members will receive their personal discount code via email within 24 hours of paying membership online.) Don’t have your membership discount code? Email

Register now at:

TSGS 2015 by the Numbers

See what’s in store for you at this 3-day genealogy extravaganza!

  • TSGS is pleased to welcome not 1, but 2 keynote speakers — national-level speakers Lisa Louise Cooke and J. Mark Lowe — who will be giving a total of 6 keynote presentations!
  • Attendees will enjoy learning from the 14 different tracks including Genealogy for Beginners, DNA, African-American Research, Courthouse Records & Records Loss, Adoption, Hispanic Research, Methodology, Libraries & Repositories, Historical Context, Societies & Communities, and Digital Genealogy.
  • This year’s 27 breakout session speakers from 7 states bring a breadth of genealogy research experience to share with you in a total of 43 breakout sessions!
  • Exchange ideas and ask questions in the the 2 scheduled panelsBoth Sides of the Reference Desk and Society Projects A-plenty.
  • The TSGS 2015 program features a total of 7 add-on workshops on topics including DNA, technology, Southern research, and court records facilitated by speakers Debbie Parker-Wayne, Lisa Louise Cooke, and J. Mark Lowe.


  • Be entertained during dinner by J. Mark Lowe and celebrate with the TSGS Award winners Saturday evening at the Annual TSGS Awards Banquet.
  • Enjoy meeting other family historians who share your passion for ancestors at various social events including a Welcome Reception on Friday evening and lunch on both Saturday and Sunday (included with your registration). See the full schedule of events for this 3-day genealogy extravaganza:!

Visit the TSGS Conference page at for details including a link to the conference hotel. Be sure to register now at to take advantage of the special early-bird discount which is only available through October 10, 2015.

U.S. Passport Applications for Genealogy: Find Immigrant and Traveling Ancestors

passport applicationsHave you ever thought to use passport applications for genealogy–to search for your immigrant or traveling ancestors?

Passports were issued in the U.S. beginning in the late 1700s, but weren’t required except during times of war until 1941. These records can be an excellent place to learn an immigrant’s date of arrival, the arrival ship and date of naturalization (if naturalized).

Two Quick Tips for Researching U.S. Passports for Genealogy

  • Passports expired every few years, so people reapplied. You may find multiple applications for those who traveled abroad more than once. Subsequent applications will refer back to a prior one.
  • In earlier years, look for married women and minor children in group passports issued under the name of the head of household.

Where to Find Passport Applications

Passports Genealogy


A Page of History: Passport Applications  by Phil Golfarb

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 124 interview with author Phil Goldfarb on the history of passport applications and celebrity passport stories. Available to Genealogy Gems Premium members.

Family History Made Easy podcast for free, step-by-step beginner and back-to-basics genealogy education

Share BoldThanks for sharing this post with your genealogy buddies and on your local society social media channels.

Find Your Family History for FREE this Labor Day Weekend: NEHGS and Ancestry

labor day weekend free genealogy family history

Both Ancestry and the New England Historic Genealogical Society are offering free access to selected U.S. databases in celebration of the Labor Day holiday.

Through next Wednesday, September 9, the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is offering free access to several of its census, tax and voter databases on

“The Census, Tax, and Voter Lists category is a collection of 40 separate databases containing a range of resources to provide information about the families who resided in the New England states between the 18th and 20th centuries,” says a press release.

Labor Day - NEHGS - art for social media“Other broader databases help to trace families as they moved to other areas of the United States. And a handful of European databases within the collection can assist researchers attempting to further document their family’s heritage.” Transcripts of U.S. federal censuses through 1880 and several state and town tax records are also included.

Registration is required at as a free guest user to take advantage of this offer.

As we reported yesterday, Ancestry is also offering free access to selected U.S. records over the Labor Day holidays. Their access includes (and celebrates the release of) an enormous new collection of U.S. wills and probate records. That collection alone is worth a fresh round of Ancestry searches–more than 10 million people are indexed from 170 million digitized pages of estate records from across all 50 states!

Do you know anyone with U.S.–and especially New England–roots who would want to know about these offers? Please share this post!



Do Your New England Genealogy: Church Records Online–and More are Coming!

Find Your Family History in New York: Sept 2015 Conference

World’s Oldest Message in a Bottle: Why Not Make Your Own?

world oldest message in a bottleMSN recently reported the surfacing of perhaps the oldest known message in a bottle. If YOU sent one, what would it say? Warning: craft idea ahead!

British scientist George Parker Bidder set afloat a flotilla of 1,000 bottles in 1906. According to MSN, the vessels were “designed to float above the sea floor in attempts to study ocean currents. All of the bottles contained a postcard that listed instructions in English, German and Dutch to return the note to the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, in exchange for a shilling. When most of the bottles–not all–were found a few months later, Bidder was able to confirm his theory that the deep sea current flowed west in the North Sea, a body of water that borders Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.”

Then recently, a newly-discovered bottle came ashore on the beaches of Amrum, a German island in the North Sea. The woman who recovered it did get her shilling–which had to be purchased from eBay.

My Message in a Bottle Experience
A few months ago, I discovered for myself that the tradition of sending out messages in bottles was still alive. While participating in a local Lake Erie beach cleanup near my home on the east side of Cleveland, a member of our group discovered a bottle. Someone gave it to me. Inside were several letters written fairly recently. As I scanned them, I gradually realized they were all love letters to a baby who had passed away. We gently put the letters back in the bottle and the bottle back in the water. But I haven’t forgotten it.

Does the idea of sending a message in a bottle appeal to you?
It doesn’t have to be a pain-filled message cast on the waters, though that might be a therapeutic way to say goodbye or “I miss you” to loved ones. Another option is a happy letter, placed in a cute bottle and given right to a loved one (I suppose you could float it in their sink at home!).

I found this cute how-to craft on YouTube that could inspire YOUR message in a bottle. What would you say? To whom would you send it? Where would you launch it, and how would you hope it would be found?

For more craft ideas, check out our Pinterest page on Family History Crafts & Displays or click to read the blog posts below.


My Name is Jane: Heritage Scrapbook Celebrates Family Tradition

Old Objects Become New Again: Heritage Jewelry with Found Objects

Family History Photo Display with Mementos

www.geneaogygems.comThank you for sharing this post with someone special!

Write Your Family History: A Printed Book or Digital Archive?

print v digital archive write your family historyIt’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?

Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:

“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.


A Combination Approach

I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.

Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation!  (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!


How Cloud Backup Helped One Genealogy Gem Get Closer to Living a Paper-Free Life

Recommended File Formats for Long-Term Digital Preservation

Why I Use and Recommend Backblaze Cloud-based Computer Backup Service

email thisReady to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!

NEW! Try this now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Ancestry Publishes U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

The new U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index 1936 – 2007 is a critical update to our ability to access information in U.S. Social Security applications, and perfect companion to the SSDI.

“This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI,” says the database description. “It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.” Some data will not appear for newer records; click here to read more about it and access the index.

Let’s take a look at the difference between the SSDI and the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. (Click here to read a great article by the Legal Genealogist about the limitations of the SSDI.)

First a search on Charles A. Burkett in the SSDI:

Social Security Death Index SSDI

As you can see, the information is fairly limited. And there’s something else very important missing here. In the Suggested Records list on the right, the new U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index is not listed. This is an important reminder that we must not rely solely on the bread crumb trails on any genealogy website to lead us to all online available records.

Now I’ll search for him in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index:

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

And now I have his mother’s and father’s names!

Check back tomorrow (and every Friday) here at the Genealogy Gems blog for our full list of new and updated records from around the web.