Show Notes: Have you seen records from Geneanet popping up in your Ancestry hints? Here’s the answer to a Premium Member’s questions about the Geneanet records she is seeing show up as Ancestry hints. Learn how to figure out what new record hints like this are and how to decide how much weight to give them.
I received the following question from Monete, a Premium Member: What is this new thing I’m seeing on Ancestry hints, Geneanet community trees? It’s a good question, and a common one. Genealogy websites like Ancestryare adding new record collections all the time. It’s important to know how to quickly understand what the new record collection is about, where it comes from, the scope and most importantly, decide how much weight to give it.
Records Included in Ancestry Hints
It’s important to note that not all records are included in Ancestry hints. Only 10% of Ancestry® records appear as hints. So we want to keep in mind that although we’re seeing lots of new hints for records, they aren’t by any stretch of the imagination all of the records in the Ancestry collection. Hints are made up of the most popular record collections. There’s always going to be a need to continue to do your own research and to explore other records.
Where to find Ancestry Hints
You’ll find hints in a variety of places such as:
the leaf icon at the top of the screen near your account profile
attached to ancestors in your family tree
on ancestor profile pages
Ancestry hint in family tree
Reviewing and Comparing Ancestry Hint Information
View the hint by clicking the Review button. In the case of hints from the Geneanet Community Trees Index, you’ll see the pop-out panel prompting you to evaluate the record.
Click the Review button to reveal the side panel.
Compare the details of the hint to the known details in your ancestor’s profile by clicking the CompareDetails slider button. This allows you to review and compare each piece of information.
In a case like this where we are unfamiliar with the record collection, it’s important to learn more about it before we compare and make decisions about the information. That way, as you evaluate each piece of information you are considering adding to your family tree, you will have a much better idea whether you trust the source, and you’ll be better able to interpret the information it is providing.
To learn more about the record, it’s a logical next step to click the hyperlinked record name at the top of the panel. However, in this case we notice it just brings up to a full-size page where we are again being prompted to review and add the information to our tree.
Use the Ancestry Card Catalog
When you run across something like this, the first thing to keep in mind is that this record collection they are referencing is obviously part of their total collection, which means we should be able to find it in the card catalog. That’s the best place on Ancestry to learn more about it. Copy the name of the record and then go the Card Catalog. You’ll find the Card Catalog in the menu under Search > Card Catalog. It can be helpful to access the Card Catalog in a new browser tab so that you can jump back and forth between the catalog entry and the record you’re reviewing. You can open it in a new tab by right-clicking on Card Catalog when selecting it from the Search menu.
The card catalog is something that we don’t think of using that often. But really, we should because this is where all the other records are that are not coming up in our hints are listed. It’s also a really terrific resource to tell us more about the record collections that we’re running into as we’re doing our research and evaluating our hints.
On the Card Catalog page, paste the name of the record collection that you copied in the Title search box. If for any reason it doesn’t come up right away, try typing just the keywords into either the Title box or the Keywords search box.
You should see the collection in the search result. When you hover over the collection title it tells you when it was published, if it was recently updated, and the beginning sentences of the collection description. You will see what type of record it is by the category in which Ancestry placed it, and get a sense of the size of the collection.
Searching the name of the record collection in the Ancestry Card Catalog
In the case of Geneanet, the category is family trees. So, without knowing anything more about it, we would expect this is probably user-contributed information, rather than, let’s say, a census record created by the government, or a birth record recorded by a pastor in a church. These family trees were created by many other genealogists. They may or may not include source citations or even be accurate.
Let’s learn even more about the collection. Click the title of the record collection. The next page will feature search fields and related records. Skip that for now and scroll down to the bottom of the page. This is where you really get to the heart of things about the collection. First you’ll see SourceInformation. Basically, this is saying Ancestry is the source (that’s where you found the hint) and Ancestry got it from Geneanet.
Next you’ll see the About section. This will help us determine the original purpose of the collection, how it was created, and so on. The About section tells us that this is an online database. And it tells the original data came from the Geneanet Community Trees Index in Paris, France.
Next you’ll find Using this Collection which provides an overview of the kind of information you can expect to find in the records. Next is Collectionin Context. This explains “Geneanet was created in 1996 as a way to connect genealogical resources. They use a unique, collaborative model to share family resources while building community. Genealogists, both amateur and professional, are connected with users and genealogical societies. Anyone may upload content.”
“Anyone may upload content” is the key phrase here. People add information to family trees for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are just testing out a theory and they aren’t even sure it’s accurate. And many people copy and paste information from other people’s trees. All of this means that we can only use this information as clues, not as facts. We must do our own research and homework to find the records that back up the assertions made in the record. Family tree records if used unwisely could easily introduce errors into your family tree.
Finally, in the About section we find the Bibliography which includes a clickable link over to the original sources for these records: Geneanet. Take a moment to visit the site. You can also learn more by some quick googling. Typically, companies like this are going to be listed on Wikipedia pages as well. That’s a that’s a good place to get a basic summary about when was this company founded, find out when it was purchased by the big genealogy website, if it is currently active, and the main website link. All that kind of stuff we can typically find over in the right-hand kind of summary column on the Wikipedia page.
Using and Managing Ancestry Hints
Hints can be great clues, but they can also put rabbit holes in your genealogical path and derail your research goals. This hint might not be your top priority right now. It might not be the most important aspect of your ancestor’s life. Or it might be super interesting, and in that case you can go for it. But I encourage you not to get addicted to just responding to hints. It’s OK to put it on the back burner, leave the hint and don’t even deal with it. You can mark it Maybe and then come back to it later. But don’t let it sidetrack you from your research goals.
That’s the thing about genealogy. It is becoming more and more automated. Have you found that it just feels like it’s happening more and more on its own? It’s sort of being fed to us through the automation, the machine learning, that’s happening on these websites. However, first and foremost, we need to keep our brains engaged. We need to be the one who does the evaluation and ultimately makes the decision as to what we think is accurate about our ancestor and our family history.
In the case of Geneanet, Wikipedia tells us it was created in France and ultimately was acquired by Ancestry in August 2021. We saw on the Card Catalog entry that the index was published on Ancestry in 2022. So, we are looking at information coming from an index. We’re not looking at the actual record. These records are housed on the Geneanet website. You can access the actual record by clicking the View on Geneanet link on the Ancestry record hint page
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If one of your ancestors served in the United States Merchant Marine, then you’ll be especially interested in the conversation that our recent blog post on the topic of the Merchant Marine has generated about the records that may be available for your genealogy research.
Captain and crew of a new Liberty Ship SS Booker T. Washington just after it completed its maiden voyage to England. (L-R) C. Lastic, Second Mate; T. J. Young, Midshipman; E. B. Hlubik, Midshipman; C. Blackman, Radio Operator; T. A. Smith, Chief Engineer; Hugh Mulzac, Captain of the ship; Adolphus Fokes, Chief Mate; Lt. H. Kruley; E. P. Rutland, Second Engineer; and H. E. Larson, Third Engineer.” Captain Hugh Mulzac is fourth from the left on the first row. February 8, 1943.
The article was on how to find military service records. Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss made this comment about the United States Merchant Marine:
“Although not officially a branch of the military, the Merchant Marines sacrificed and lost lives since the days of the Revolutionary War, carrying out their missions of supply and logistics during times of war.”
A reader named Steve endorsed that brief remark in the article’s comments section, and expressed a desire to hear more on the Merchant Marine. He says:
“Although not considered to be a military arm of the United States, the Merchant Marines were an integral part of the war efforts in WWI and WWII and should be considered in genealogy. Many lives were lost in service of USA.”
Merchant Marine in Newspapers and Death Records
In a beautiful expression of genealogy serendipity, a Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast listener has written in with a specific question about researching relatives in the Merchant Marine. Vicki writes:
“I have a distant relative who was a Merchant Marine during WWII. Raymond Ralph Burkholder was a Merchant Marine Able Seaman killed when his ship the Standard Oil tanker W. L. Steed was torpedoed by a German sub off New Jersey Feb. 2, 1942. Following is a newspaper article about the incident:”
SS W. L. Steed (public domain image)
Vicki sent the following article from the Lebanon Daily News, Thursday, February 12, 1942:
NAZI SUBS BOOST TOLL OF SHIPS SUNK TO 25
New York, Today – (AP) The toll of ships officially announced as sunk or attacked off the United States and Canada thus far in the war stood today at 25, after the navy reported the 6,182-ton Standard Oil tanker W. L. Steed was sent to the bottom by an enemy submarine off New Jersey Feb. 2.
The announcement of the W. L. Steed’s fate was made yesterday with the arrival of three survivors, who had been picked up semi-conscious after drifting for two icy days in an open boat. No word has come from the remainder of the crew of 38 as three of the tanker’s four lifeboats still are missing.
A Williamsport, Pa., man was listed as a member of the crew. He is Raymond R. Burkholder, able seaman.
Able-bodied seaman Louis Bartz, 38, of Philadelphia, and Ralph Mazzucco, 23, and Joaquim R. Vrea, 39, both of New York, said the submarine torpedoed the tanker at 12:45 p. m. and that after the crew got off in lifeboats the enemy craft fired 17 shells into the sinking ship.
Last night the third naval district reported that a South American steamship sighted a lifeboat containing a number of bodies off the Atlantic coast yesterday, but was forced to flee when a submarine popped up in the vicinity.”
Vicki’s question is this: Where do you think I would look for a death certificate? New Jersey?
Before we jump into answering that questions, let’s learn more about Merchant Marines so we better understand where to search.
About the U.S. Merchant Marines
The Merchant Marine actually served in a military capacity before the U.S. Navy OR the Coast Guard ever existed.
According to the website, American Merchant Marine at War, the Merchant Marine can trace its history to 1775, when “a party of Maine mariners, armed with pitchforks and axes, inspired by the news of the recent victory at Lexington, Massachusetts, used an unarmed lumber schooner to surprise and capture a fully armed British warship, HMS Margaretta, off the coast of Machias, Maine. The men used the captured guns and ammunition from the ship to bring in additional British ships as prizes. American privateers soon disrupted British shipping all along the Atlantic coast.”
The Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of the Coast Guard, wasn’t founded until 15 years later, in 1790, to prevent smuggling.
Seal of the U S Revenue Cutter Service
There was a Continental Navy in 1775, but it ended with the Revolutionary War. The US Navy didn’t come into being until 1797.
The Merchant Marine, as an umbrella term, refers to a body of civilian mariners and government-owned merchant vessels: those who typically run commercial shipping in and out of the country. During wartime, merchant mariners can be called on by the Navy for military transport.
And that’s what happened during World War II. Our Military Minutes contributor, Michael Strauss, says that “On February 28, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the transfer (Under Executive Order #9083) of all maritime agencies to the United States Coast Guard. This order was a redistribution of maritime functions and included the United States Merchant Marine.”
Training Officers of the Merchant Marine on the Government Training Ship at New Bedford, Mass. Making an afternoon time sight (NARA, Public Domain)
Where to Look First for Merchant Marine Information
According to the American Merchant Marine at War website, over 1500 merchant ships were sunk during the War, and hundreds of others were damaged by enemy attacks and mines. That brings us to Vicki’s question about her relative.
This book is an invaluable resource that actually provides a detailed, eyewitness account of Raymond Ralph Burkholder’s final acts on the ship before having to abandon it. It even details his last torturous hours in the lifeboat before he became delirious and died, only hours before the other survivors were rescued!
In Search of Raymond Burkholder’s Death Record
Here’s where I put my head together with Michael. I suggested checking the death certificates of the county of his last residence, which may now be held at the state level. He liked that idea and said it’s worth the effort.
From what I’ve learned, the Master of the vessel would have reported the deaths of his crew to the vessel owners, who would have reported to the Coast Guard, and I asked Michael whether following Coast Guard records through the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots would be a good route to a death record for Raymond.
He said that instead, he would go directly to the Records of the Merchant Marines. Michael writes that these records during World War II “can be somewhat confusing, but not impossible to search. The records for your sailor during the war can be located at several different locations.”
Even if you don’t have relatives who served in the Merchant Marine, keep reading because you may get some ideas about records to discover for other family members who may have served in the military in other capacities.
6 Places to Look for Merchant Marine Records for WWII:
Where can you find Merchant Marine records for World War II? Here are six excellent places to look.
#1: Official Military Personnel Files
Official Military Personnel Files (known as OMPFs) are maintained by the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, MO. Since these records are considered Archival 62 years after the date of separation, these are open for Merchant Mariners and others who served during World War II who were discharged by the end of the war. Click here to learn more about ordering OMPFs.
Michael adds this note:
“You can also access the files by mailing in (Standard Form #180, downloadable here), and fill in the information requested about your Mariner. Note that the service record is likely to be under the heading of the United States Coast Guard when filling out the form—check that box. Don’t send any money; the Archives will notify you if the file is located.”
#2: Individual Deceased Personnel Files
If your Merchant Mariner was killed during World War II, request the Individual Deceased Personnel File (IDPF). This file is separate from the OMPF file and is also at the National Personnel Record Center.
Michael says, “These files are a wealth of genealogical information about veterans who died during World War II and other war periods. Contact the Archives to request this file. If the file is not in their custody, it is possible it is still in the hands of the Army Human Resource Command located at Ft. Knox, KY. The Archives will let you know the exact location.”
This collection has 8 boxes of material containing details on Merchant Mariners killed, wounded, and those missing in action as a result of combat during World War II. Other records pertain to medals and other citations, court martials, and miscellaneous records.
#5: Ship Log Books
If you know the name of the vessel that the Merchant Mariner served on, then try a search for the logbooks.
Logs can name assignments for crew members, among other log entries of the day to day activities of the ship. The National Archives website has finding aids for log books.
A Google search for NARA U.S. merchant seaman finds several excellent National Archives resource pages there, including some for Ship’s Logs.
Millions of New England vital records are among newly-published genealogy records online. So are English parish records, Irish Easter Rising records, Italian civil registrations, South African church records, and records for Georgia WWI soldiers and Louisiana women.
New online this week are millions of new genealogy records from around the world! First, we’ll feature these (mostly) free vital records collections for New England states–but keep scrolling. We’ve got records to mention for other parts of the U.S., as well as England, Ireland, Italy, and South Africa.
New England Vital Records
New England vital records online got a BIG bump this week with the following additions:
Sample image from “Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 2 May 2017. Citing Division of Vital Statistics. State Board of Health, Augusta. Click to view.
Connecticut. More than 755,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Connecticut Marriages, 1640-1939. This hybrid index/image collection has this note: “We have legal rights to publish most of the images associated with these records; however, there are a few records that will not have an accompanying image available for view.”
Maine. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a half million indexed names to its collection of Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921. According to the site, the collection is comprised of a “name index and images of birth, marriage, and death returns acquired from the State Board of Health, Division of Vital Statistics and the state archives.”
Rhode Island. FamilySearch has added over a half million new indexed names and 30,000 digital images to its free collection, Rhode Island – Vital records. These are described as “Certificates and registers of births, 1846-1898, 1901-1903, marriages 1901-1903 and deaths, 1901-1953 acquired from the State Archives in Providence.”
Other new and updated records in the US include:
Newspapers – Baltimore MD and Hartford CT. Newspapers.com has added issues for two major papers: the Baltimore Sun (1837-2017) and the Hartford Courant (1764–2017). (With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can access issues of these papers through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years and additional issues from 1923 onward.)
Georgia. A memorial book for Georgia soldiers who served in World War I is being updated to include the names of African-Americans who served. “Due to the social and racial conditions of the time, this Memorial Book contains the information for only white soldiers,” explains the database landing page on the free United States World War I Centennial Commission website. “The current project is rectifying this by adding information for Georgia’s African-American personnel that also died in service. Further, we are adding names found on WWI monuments and plaques that are missing from the original Memorial Book….As missing names are determined and documented, they will be added” We learned about it in this press release from the University of North Georgia.
Louisiana. A collection of digitized publications by the Louisiana United Methodist Women (and predecessor organizations) is now free to search at the Centenary College of Louisiana Archives & Special Collections web portal (scroll down to Digital Collections and click Louisiana United Methodist Women’s Publications). According to an announcement by the college, “The digitized material includes annual reports (1884-2014) and newsletters (1963-2006) – 12,000 pages in total. Researchers can access them online, page through each volume, download complete PDFs, and search the full text versions.” Published digitized material is easy to keyword-search for ancestors’ names and hometowns. Here’s a general tip for finding married women’s names in older documents: search on just her surname or her husband’s name, as she may appear as “Mrs. Alexander Reed.”
Subscription website TheGenealogist has published over 100,000 parish records and thousands of voter records. According to the announcement, polls books include “35 different registers of people who were entitled to vote in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and other constituencies situated in Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and New Westminster in Canada….Electoral records are taken from the official lists produced to record who was entitled to vote in the various parliamentary elections.” Among new parish record collections are “100,000 new individuals added for the County of Worcestershire and additionally the Registers of the Parish Church of Rochdale in Lancashire that covers the period between 1642 and 1700.”
Findmypast.com has added 312,000 new records to its collection of Kent marriage records. New additions are for the parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham. Additionally, over 18,000 new records have been added to Kent Baptisms (parishes of Bapchild, Brompton, Chatham, New Gillingham, Wingham and Wittersham); over 3,000 records have been added to Kent Banns (parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, and Wittersham); and over 18,000 new records are in Kent Burials (parishes of Bapchild, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham).
The site has also added to its records for North West Kent, described as “areas within the London boroughs which were historically part of Kent.” Over 23,000 records have been added to the North West Kent Baptisms collection, and another 15,000 to North West Kent Burials.
Ireland – Easter Rising and Newspapers
Findmypast.com has added over 76,000 records to its collection, Easter Rising & Ireland Under Martial Law 1916-1921. According to the site, “These once classified records, digitized from original documents held by The National Archives in Kew, record the struggles of life under martial law in Ireland and contain the details of soldiers and civilians who participated in or were affected by the Easter Rising of April 1916.”
“Your ancestor may be found in the records if they were killed or wounded during the conflict, arrested and held in internment, or tried by court martial. Additionally, if their home or place of work was searched they may appear in the records as the collection shows the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids.”
Also, Findmypast.com has added over 401,089 new articles and one new title to its collection of historic Irish Newspapers. The Ballymena Weekly Telegraph is the latest publication to join the collection and currently covers the years 1904, 1906-1916, 1921-1929 and 1931-1957.
Italy – Civil Registration
FamilySearch.org has added to its free online collections of Italy’s civil registration records. Among them are:
Trapani, 1906-1928; 1.1 million images added to an existing collection
Brescia, 1797-1815, 1866-1943; 620,801 new browseable image
Napoli, 1809-1865; 164,991 images added to an existing collection
Benevento, 1810-1942, over a million images added to an existing collection
South Africa – Church records and civil death records
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