May 6, 2015

RootsTech Hits the Road! RootsTech Family Discovery Days Coming Your Way!

overhead_freeway_custom_sign_16324Were you among the record-breaking audience of 23,918 attendees at RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah? Even if you were, chances are you didn’t catch all the top talks.

RootsTech staffers have announced that over 1000 FREE regional RootsTech events, called RootsTech Discovery Days, will be hosted around the world throughout 2015. “Select sessions and planning resources from RootsTech 2015 have been recorded, translated in 10 languages, and made available online to support…local volunteer organizers,” says a media statement.

“By the first week following the conference, 65 local family discovery day events had already been held, including 27 in Latin America, one in Korea, and another in the Philippines. Over 1,000 more events are expected to be held throughout 2015, significantly extending the reach and impact of this popular conference.”

Click here to search for a RootsTech Family Discovery Day event near you. We notice that there plenty of options across the U.S. and in England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Where do YOU want to look for an event?

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

Bookmark and Share

Calling Volunteers: Help Index Italian Civil Registration Records

Volunteers neededIt’s National Volunteer Week in the United States. What better time to put out a call for help? Volunteers are desperately needed to help index the biggest Italian records project yet: Italian civil registration records. At current rates, it won’t be fully indexed for another 100 years.

“FamilySearch’s Italian Ancestors Project is arguably the most genealogically significant initiative ever for Italy and all Italian descendants,” explains Paul Nauta from FamilySearch. “Over 115 million historic birth, marriage, and death records from every state of Italy are being digitally preserved and published online.

“Online volunteers are needed to index these records to make every name easily searchable online for free—over 500 million names from the birth, marriage, and death records, 1802 to 1944.  With the current base of volunteers, it will take over 100 years to complete. With more online volunteers helping, the initiative could be completed in as little as 10 years.”

Watch a short video about indexing these records below, or keep reading below for other opportunities to pitch in during National Volunteer Week:

Click to read Genealogy Gems posts on volunteering by:

Bookmark and Share

Knowles Jewish Genealogy Collection Has Over a Million Entries

Ketubah Circa 1860. This is the ketubah (marriage contract) of Hannah and Hayyim from their marriage on Tuesday, April 6, 1886 (א׳ ניסן תרמ״ו) in the town of Brody. Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham on Flickr Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/epublicist/1355967207/in/photolist-.

Ketubah Circa 1860.
This is the ketubah (marriage contract) of Hannah and Hayyim from their marriage on Tuesday, April 6, 1886 (א׳ ניסן תרמ״ו) in the town of Brody. Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham on Flickr Creative Commons at https://www.flickr.com/photos/epublicist/1355967207/in/photolist-.

Looking for an online resource of Jewish family trees?

“The Knowles Collection, a quickly growing, free online Jewish genealogy database linking generations of Jewish families from all over the world, reached its one-millionth record milestone and is now easily searchable online,” says a recent FamilySearch press release.

“The collection started from scratch just over seven years ago, with historical records gathered from FamilySearch’s collections. Now the vast majority of new contributions are coming from families and private archives worldwide. The free collection can be accessed at FamilySearch.org/family-trees.

According to FamilySearch, “The databases from the Knowles Collection are unlike other collections in that people are linked as families and the collection can be searched by name, giving researchers access to records of entire families. All records are sourced and show the people who donated the records so cousins can contact one another. New records are added continually, and the collection is growing by about 10,000 names per month from over 80 countries. Corrections are made as the need is found, and new links are added continually.”

The database was started by Todd Knowles, a Jewish genealogy expert at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Jewish communities from around the world have added to it: “The Knowles Collection has grown from Jews of the British Isles (now with 208,349 records), to Jews of North America (489,400), Jews of Europe (380,637), Jews of South America and the Caribbean (21,351), Jews of Africa, the Orient, and the Middle East (37,618), and the newest one, Jews of the Southern Pacific (21,518).” Keep up with the Knowles Jewish Collection at its blog.

Bookmark and Share

Fire Up Your Genealogy Research with Recent Obituaries

fire up your researchDo you have obituaries for all your relatives who have died in the past 40 years or so? You should.

Obituaries–even the most recent ones–can jump-start your research on a new family line or tackle a branch that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Why? Our “collateral kin” (cousins, aunts and uncles) often lived near, intermarried with and otherwise had contact with other relatives we really want to find.

That’s where recent obituaries come in. The lists of names they contain help us identify relatives (and their spouses) we may not even have known about. Places mentioned can lead us to more records, as can clues about jobs, church affiliation and where someone went to school.

FamilySearch and GenealogyBank are indexing millions of recent obituaries from GenealogyBank’s extensive newspaper collection. Search the free index, with ongoing updates (24.4 million names recently added) at United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014. Search by name or browse by state and then by the name of the newspaper. Check back often!

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersClick here to read a post about how valuable an obituary was in helping me learn more about my long-lost great uncle Paul McClellan.

Learn more about newspaper research (including how to find obituaries) in Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. There’s an entire chapter on online digitized newspaper collections, and one on online resources for finding newspapers (either online or offline). Yet another chapter is devoted to African American newspapers. This book will teach you to find all those elusive obituaries–and plenty more mentions of your family in old newspapers.

Bookmark and Share

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

Bookmark and Share

The Genealogy Industry: $2 Billion–and Growing!

cfl_light_with_plant_growing_out_800_wht_13136Recently, Forbes magazine called family history a “2-plus billion dollar industry that is expected to grow to nearly 3 billion by 2018 (ifla.org). Any investor will tell you that any market described with the word ‘billion’ is a market well worth pursuing.”

The article goes on to describe how FamilySearch International has been quietly spurring growth in the genealogy industry. The nonprofit genealogical organization has made its API (application program interface) available to other developers at little to no cost, allowing for partnerships and app development. FamilySearch’s big annual conference, RootsTech, hosts an Innovator Summit that “offers developers, business leaders, and entrepreneurs access to the latest content and resources that provide insight on family history data, services and inspiration for current and future projects.”

“FamilySearch is no longer being quiet,” they conclude. “They are ready to start knocking doors on a massive scale. In fact, at the industry’s biggest world-wide conference, RootsTech 2015, FamilySearch will be holding a Shark Tank-like competition in front of a 3,000 person live audience.”

“The RootsTech Innovator Challenge is the first of its kind with $25k in prize money and judging by seasoned investors, family history industry leaders, and live audience(s),” explains a statement from FamilySearch sent to Genealogy Gems. “Family history is attracting big partnerships while providing lucrative opportunities for smaller developers to solve complex problems and appeal to the consumer masses.”

like buttonDo you have a great business idea that serves the genealogy market–or do you know someone who does? Share this blog post  with them! More brilliant and creative products and services for genealogists is GOOD for US!

Bookmark and Share

Inspiring Ideas in Genealogy Gems Podcast 173

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family History“We all need a little inspiration now and then!”

That’s Lisa’s theme for the recently-released FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 173 (click here for the podcast in iTunes, and here for how to our app). Here are the highlights:

  • Lisa talks about creating family history ambiance in her new home office. The podcast episode page includes a picture of her new heritage display. (I love the vintage cameras and family photos.)
  • Catch Diahan Southard chatting about exciting updates to autosomal DNA research at AncestryDNA.com.
  • We hear from a listener with an inspiring story about using MyHeritage.com. If you still mentally categorize MyHeritage as “best for non-US only” research, check out this story of discovering a Civil War casualty in her family through MyHeritage. (Did you catch our recent post about the new institutional MyHeritage access at FamilySearch Centers?)
  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsLisa and I chat about the fantastic response we’re hearing to the launch of the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club and some additional reading suggestions from listeners. Click here to read about books recommended by two of YOU.
  • Finally, catch our link to a story about a couple who is celebrating 80 years of marriage. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!

Finally, in this episode Lisa also catches us up on some exciting news: a digital WWI archive on Europeana; newly-available German records the 1865 New York (US) state census online; and plans to digitize important Indiana records. Catch up on all the great news and get inspired in Genealogy Gems podcast 173!

Bookmark and Share

MyHeritage Library Edition: Now at Family History Centers

MyHeritage Library EditionMyHeritage has launched the MyHeritage Library Edition™ for libraries and other educational facilities around the world. Among the first to sign up for this service? The Family History Library.

MyHeritage Library Edition™ is now available for free at every FamilySearch family history center and Family History Library in the world. FamilySearch operates more than 4,700 family history centers in 134 countries. The centers are dedicated family history spaces, open to anyone with an interest in genealogical research. Visitors enjoy free access to historical records and personal assistance from staff to help them in their search for information. (Find a Family History Center near you.)

Here are some highlights to MyHeritage Library Edition:

  • Record content: access to billions of historical documents, millions of historical photos and other resources in thousands of databases that span the past 5 centuries.
  • Language diversity: Available in 40 languages–the industry’s most multilingual family history search engine.
  • Powerful technology: Automatic handling of translations, synonyms and spelling variations of millions of names in multiple languages AND unique Record Detective™ technology that recommends additional records for each record discovered.
  • Remote Access: Library members can use the MyHeritage Library Edition™ either at their local library or in the comfort of their own home using remote access.

See a video tutorial here for MyHeritage Library Edition.
Ask your local public or university library to subscribe!

Bookmark and Share

1865 New York State Census Now on FamilySearch

New York State Census 1865Good news for those who had relatives in New York in the 1860s: the 1865 New York State Census is now searchable online at FamilySearch.org.

Just five years earlier, the 1860 U.S. federal census counted nearly four million people in this its largest state. New York claimed two of the three biggest U.S. cities: New York City and Brooklyn, with a combined population of over a million.

According to FamilySearch, “This collection contains most of the 1865 New York state census records still in existence. Ten schedules were filed for each locality, including population, marriages, and deaths schedules. The population schedule included the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member. Most counties are covered, but some records were destroyed. The record is a printed form that was filled in by hand by the enumerator. The records are usually arranged by county and town.”

Several counties are missing from this dataset. But it’s got a hefty 2.5 million records, over 60% of the population as counted in 1860. So check it out if you have Empire State ancestors!

Didn’t know New York conducted state censuses? Check out these additional resources:

  • Ancestry.com has a database of New York State censuses for 1880, 1892 and 1905. The 1892 census is especially critical because of the 1890 U.S. federal census is almost entirely lost.
  • Learn more about U.S. state censuses and other special censuses in Episode 10 of our Family History Made Easy podcast. (This episode is the second of a three-part series on using census records: click here for the full list of episodes of this step-by-step free genealogy podcast.)
Bookmark and Share

New or Improved Genealogy Apps! Ancestry, FamilySearch and MyHeritage

custom_smart_phone_categories_12848Have you downloaded the apps that go with your favorite genealogy websites? You should! And if it’s been awhile, you should do it again. Why? They just keep getting better!

Here’s a rundown of new or improved apps from

  • Ancestry.com,
  • FamilySearch.org, and
  • MyHeritage.com:

Updated Ancestry App: Now A Continuously Swiping Tree

The old version of  the Ancestry app was a great start, but didn’t actually have a tree interface on it. You could see lists of family members in your tree, but not in pedigree format. The new version (still FREE)  has a redesigned look that, at least for iOS users, includes what Ancestry calls a “continuously swiping tree.” (The way Ancestry programmers made this happen was unique enough they got a patent for the process–read about it on the Ancestry blog.)

Here’s a summary of what the iPhone and iPad apps can do (taken from the Ancestry site):

Ancestry app

  • New: Redesigned look for sleeker, more intuitive use
  • New: Build your tree faster by connecting to Facebook and your contact list
  • New: Read about the lives of your ancestors through story-like narrative
  • Preserve memories by scanning and adding photos to your tree
  • Explore high-res images of historical documents and records
  • Access the world’s largest online family resource with more than 12 billion records
  • Receive Hints to help reveal new family connections by finding records and photos for you
  • Fully redesigned for iOS7

Click here to download the Ancestry app for iPad, iPhone and Android.

New FamilySearch Apps: Tree and Memories

FS Mobile AppTwo new FREE mobile apps, FamilySearch Tree and FamilySearch Memories, help users add information to their FamilySearch.org trees. The folks at FamilySearch describe the apps this way:

FamilySearch Tree makes it easy to add photos, stories, and audio recordings to ancestors in FamilySearch trees.

  • Browse your family branches and see portraits of relatives you’ve never seen.
  • Discover facts, documents, stories, photos, and recordings about your ancestors.
  • Easily add memories and records about your relatives.
  • Preserve and share those old photos and documents that are hidden away in storage.
  • Adding or updating ancestor details like names, dates, and relationships will be available coming soon.
  • Available for iOS 7+ and Android 2.3+

Click here to download the FamilySearch Tree App from the Apple App Store (iOS)

Click here to download the FamilySearch Tree App from the Google Play App Store (Android)

FamilySearch Memories makes collecting, preserving, and sharing your favorite family memories (photos, stories, and spoken words) easy and convenient wherever you are.

  • Snap photos of any family event, or take photos of old photos and documents.
  • Record audio interviews with family members and capture details of their life stories and favorite memories.
  • Write family stories, jokes, and sayings with the keyboard, or use the mic key to capture what you say.
  • Enrich written stories by adding descriptive photos.
  • Identify and tag relatives within a memory to automatically add it to their collection in Family Tree.
  • Available for iOS 7+

Click here to download the FamilySearch Memories App from the Apple App Store (iOS)

Everything you add with either of these apps syncs with FamilySearch.org.

Updated MyHeritage App: Now Access Your Family Photos

MyHeritage appNow your MyHeritage family website can always be at your fingertips–along with all your family photos. Features of the newly-updated version of the MyHeritage app:

  • NEW: View all your photo albums and family tree photos;
  • Easily view and update your family tree anywhere you go;
  • Search 5.3 billion historical records;
  • Fully sync with your family site and Family Tree Builder software;
  • Supports 32 languages.

Click here to download or upgrade Family Tree Builder 7.0 so you’ll be ready to view and edit your tree with the free mobile app.

Click here to download the MyHeritage app from the App store.

Click here to download the MyHeritage app from Google Play.

So…doublecheck your mobile devices! How long since you’ve updated YOUR genealogy apps?

Bookmark and Share