Ancestry Publishes HUGE Collection of U.S. Wills and Probate Records

US Wills and Probate AncestryMore than 100 million people are mentioned in Ancestry’s newest database of U.S. wills and probate records, an exclusive collection spanning over 300 years. To celebrate, Ancestry is offering free access through September 7.

This morning, Ancestry launched an enormous–and enormously significant–new online records collection. According to its press release, “More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.”

Wills and estate records are one of those record types that have been less-accessible online. First, the records themselves are not easy to digitize or even index. They are often thick files, packed with various kinds of documents that may be fragile and of varying sizes. Several people may be mentioned throughout the file, but finding and picking out their names to put in an index is time-consuming.

Furthermore, the U.S. has no central will or probate registry. This happens on a county level, generally. Compiling a centralized database from all those county offices or archives is a huge undertaking.

According to the Ancestry release, “Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records.”

Better yet, “the documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.”

Todd Godfrey, VP of Global Content at Ancestry, loves the fact that wills and probate records can reveal not just names, dates and family relationships, but stories. “Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors…providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

Learn more about this collection in Finding Your Family in Wills and Probate Records (Ancestry’s new in-depth guide) or click here to search the collection. Great news for those without Ancestry subscriptions: The U.S. Wills and Probates collection is free to access on Ancestry, along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, through September 7 (10pm MT).

share celebrate balloonsPlease share the great news! Click on your preferred social media channel on this page or copy the link into an email and send it out to your family and friends!

Resources: More Great U.S. Records Online!

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

NEW! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy 

Celebrating 1000 Genealogy Blog Posts: #7 in the Top 10 Countdown

The Social Security Applications and Claims Index was one of 2015’s most important new online resources for U.S. researchers (keep reading to see the other). No n Genealogy Countdown #7wonder it made the #7 spot on this week’s Top 10 genealogy blog post countdown!

This summer, Ancestry.com quietly released a major addition to its U.S. record resources. We already rely on the Social Security Death Index to help us find 20th-century relatives. But so many of us have lamented at how limited is the info in that index, and how expensive to order the original application when there’s no guarantee we’ll find the person’s parents names (which are requested on the form).

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims IndexI’m guessing that’s why Lisa’s post on Ancestry’s new Social Security Applications and Claims Index made the #7 spot on our genealogy blog countdown this week! This enriched index adds parents’ names and more to millions of SSDI indexed entries. Click here to read more about it and search the index.

Want to read about another top database for U.S. researchers that was recently released? Click here!

 

Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 blog posts–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, kindly donated by our friends at Family Tree University. You’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.

Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.

 

Cite Your Sources on FamilySearch with the Evernote Web Clipper: Evernote for Genealogy

Here’s how can you add family history documents you’ve grabbed with the Evernote web clipper to your tree on FamilySearch!

Recently Zooey wrote in with this question: “I’ve clipped numerous things for my ancestors [with the Evernote web clipper] that I want to put in FamilySearch. How do I do it under Documents?”

Good for Zooey for having her genealogy sources organized in Evernote–and for wanting to cite her sources on her FamilySearch family tree. Here’s how to do it:

FamilySearch Documents support the following file types: .pdf, .jpg, .tif, .bmp, and .png. Since it doesn’t currently have an “import from Evernote” feature, you’ll need to export the web clippings from Evernote and then upload them to FamilySearch.

Earlier this year I wrote an article on our blog entitled “Here’s a Cool Way to Export a Web Clipping from Evernote.” The article will walk you through exporting your Evernote web clippings as pdf files, which FamilySearch Documents can then accept as uploads.

More Evernote for Genealogy Tips on the Genealogy Gems Website:

You can find all our past articles on using Evernote for genealogy (including the one I mentioned) at the home page of our website. On the left, just under the main red menu, you will see a drop down menu called “Select Content by Topic.” Click the down arrow and select “Evernote” from the list. This will display all our past Evernote articles on your screen starting with the most recent. Or get started with these great how-tos:

How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: The Ultimate Education

Evernote for Genealogy: What It Is, and Why You Would Use It (FREE VIDEO!)

How to Use Evernote for Genealogy and Family History: Handwriting, OCR, Video and Upload Answers (FREE VIDEO!)

thank you for sharingThank you for sharing this post with others. We would all love our online trees to be better sourced–and for others’ trees to be better sourced, too.

 

Social Network Your YDNA with Surname Projects

Family history organizations and studies based on individual surnames have been around for years. They are now integrating YDNA research into their efforts. Use surname projects to enhance your paternal DNA research!DNA YDNA genetic genealogy social networking

Surnames are the flagships of our genealogical research. We name our files after them and we tag our research with them. We wear our last names proudly on pins and necklaces and T-shirts.

But surnames can also be misleading. Illiteracy, language barriers, and just plain carelessness led to misspellings and alterations, not to mention those ancestors who blatantly changed their name to avoid detection.

The advent of YDNA testing has changed the way many genealogists view surnames and their role in their genealogy. Because a man’s YDNA is the same as the YDNA carried by each of the ancestors in his direct paternal line, the YDNA can act like a filter, clearly indicating which men with a particular surname, or variant, truly share a direct paternal line.

So how has YDNA testing affected family organizations that do surname research? I asked Debbie Kennett, a regular contributor to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki and Facebook page who is also involved with the Guild of One Name Studies. The Guild of One Name Studies was established in 1979 to promote public understanding of one-name studies and preserve the information obtained by those studies.

“Virtually every common surname is now the subject of a DNA project,” says Debbie, including “just over 500 Guild members who are running a DNA project. That number has jumped up considerably just in the last couple of years.”

The quality of those projects varies. Debbie tells us that a quality YDNA project includes three elements: “presenting the DNA data, recruiting people from different countries and also correlating all of the genealogy information.”

Jean Morrison, a member of the Morrison surname project, says that because of DNA testing, “identifying where in Scotland this family originated prior to coming to America ca 1728 has become a realistic goal. The Morrison Q Group has identified through Y line testing at 111 markers, 22 individuals with an MRCA (most recent common ancestor) within eight generations.” In plain English, this means that a definite YDNA pattern has been associated with her Morrison surname and with a common ancestor eight generations back.

Noel and Ron Taylor were two early adopters of YDNA testing for their Taylor family project. Their first samples were submitted to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation in 2000. The former president and currently the head of the board of trustees for the Taylor Family Society, Noel says that using DNA “caught the attention of many people in our organization….It renewed great interest in the hearts of many people who had been doing research for many years [who may have] lost interest and were somewhat discouraged.” The Taylors have made significant breakthroughs with their DNA testing. They have connected several Taylor lines back to a common ancestor, verified their paper trails, and even found a line of Hodges that were actually Taylors!

It appears that YDNA is becoming part of the research plan for most family societies. But Debbie tells us that there is still much room for improvement in her organization. “Not all Guild members are running [DNA] projects. We have something like 2,700 Guild members so we are still not at the stage where the majority of Guild members are running projects.”

Besides The Guild, other organizations have been created to assist genealogists with their surname research, including a new organization just launched in November. The Surname Society’s goal is to “to build a collaborative environment where members are encouraged to develop their own approach to the investigation of their surname.”

Kirsty Grey, chairman of the Surname Society, says that DNA testing has taken a front seat role in the research of one of their founders as well as several early members. “DNA is one of the many strands of family history research (and to a greater extent, surname studies) which can connect individuals, often where genealogical research cannot.”

That really is the bottom line. DNA, especially YDNA, can tell you things about the surnames in your pedigree that you can’t learn in any other way. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to jump on the YDNA bandwagon and see what your DNA has to tell you.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsI can help you! Check out my series of quick guides (purchase all 4 laminated guides or the digital download bundle for the best deal):

 

Easy Project to Write Your Family History: Publish a Q&A

This 3-step project will help you capture a relative’s life story in plenty of time for the holidays!

Reconstructing the life stories of our ancestors can sometimes feel like squeezing water from a stone. By comparison, gathering the life stories of the living can be like turning on a tap. All you have to do is direct and catch the flow.

Turn your family history interviews into a beautiful book–just in time for holiday sharing–with this three-step project. Simplify it or doll it up, depending on your time, talents and what you have to work with. Just do it! Write your family history! Here’s the basic outline:

1. Record an interview. Invite a relative to chat with you about his or her life stories. Decide together what the relative WANTS to talk about: childhood memories? Stories about a certain loved one or a particular time period? A little of everything? Consider using a list of life story questions or memory prompts like those you can find in my book, My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.

Before you begin, be clear that your goal is to write these stories up for the family. Meet in person, over the phone or by Skype (click here to learn how to record a Skype conversation). With permission, record the conversation. Ask plenty of follow-up questions, but otherwise keep your own comments to a minimum. For more interviewing tips, listen to this free Family History Made Easy podcast episode.

2. Transcribe the interview. After you’ve finished your chat, go back and type up the interview. Give yourself plenty of time: this takes longer than you think. Consider asking a fast-typing relative to help or hire a transcription service (here’s one option). Type things just as you hear them, incomplete sentences and all. Don’t include anything your loved one wants to keep “off the record.”

3. Print the transcript. Save an unedited copy of the typescript in your permanent files. Edit it a little to make it “reader-friendly” if you want to. Print it out. Add any extras, like family tree charts or copies of photos. Bind it however you prefer. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can check out Lisa’s 3-part Premium podcast series on self-publishing: episodes 52-54). Share copies with loved ones: they make great holiday gifts.

Here’s a page from a sample project I did. It’s a simple stapled book, printed in landscape (sideways) format on regular-sized paper. I left the narrative in the format of a simple Q&A, just like it was spoken. I did edit slightly for clarity and flow. My questions are in italics and the speakers are identified (I was interviewing a husband and wife together). I added a few photos.

I shared copies of this book with every family member as holiday gifts a few years ago. Now everyone has a special legacy gift featuring this couple: their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren.

Now is the time for you to write a portion of your family history, and I’m here to help and support you. I will be conducting a fun and productive one-week workshop called the Genealogist’s Essential Writing Workshop at Family Tree University starting October 19. You can do this and I’m here to help!

Additional Family History Writing Resources from Genealogy Gems

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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