Archive for the ‘Genealogical Tips’ Category

Death, Halloween, and Family Traditions (It’s Almost October!)

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Halloween celebrations have increased through the years, and have become more fun and less morbid. But, like family history, Halloween is still very much about the dead.

Throughout October we’ll bring you several blog posts about death and the dead, some serious and some not. We’ll talk about finding and using death records (such as the SSDI), wills, obituaries, etc., in our family history work, as well as some of the things we ourselves should not leave undone as we contemplate our own eventual deaths. In preparation, we’ve been collecting Halloween memories and traditions from colleagues, families, and friends; playfully inviting coworkers to design their own tombstones (there’s a web app for that) and write their own epitaphs; and even interviewing morticians.

All that’s coming, but first, here’s some background.

A Bit of History

The word Halloween itself is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve — the eve of All Saints’ Day, celebrated November 1 by much of Western Christianity, especially in Scotland and Ireland. Traditionally, it was believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, before moving on to the next world, making Halloween their last chance to take vengeance on the living. The living, in turn, wore masks and costumes to avoid being recognized, and used fire (which turned over time into Jack-o-Lanterns) to ward off the spirits of the dead. There are also some pagan influences.

Learn more of the history of Halloween from this video at History.com:

The spooky side survives, now more secular than religious in feeling, but for most people Halloween is great fun, with costumes, trick-or-treating for youngsters, and parties for youth and adults. The day of the dead is alive with fun and family traditions. (more…)

Stuck Happens! 13 Things to Do When It Happens to You

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Dead endWhether you’re a complete novice or a seasoned veteran at family history, you can’t pursue this historical detective adventure very long before you get stuck. Some name or record will elude you. You’ll run out of ideas for finding it, and you’ll start to wonder if the promised rewards of your chosen hobby are worth the trouble or, on a bad day, even possible. Rest assured: You’re not the first, and there is hope.

A Common Challenge

About 20 years ago I started looking for a marriage record for my great-great-great-grandparents, Benjamin James Morgan and Mary Fischer, who are believed to have married circa 1794 in Chester County, Pennsylvania. I didn’t choose this at random. I was looking for something Uncle Shirl, Aunt Gwen, and the other family genealogists had left undone.

I used computerized resources, which were rather sparse then, and paged through microfilmed Chester County records ordered through my local LDS Family History Library. I struck out.

I’m fortunate that I had to go back five generations to find a hole other researchers had left unfilled. But I was living in graduate student poverty at the time, so I could hardly hire a professional genealogist or mount a week-long expedition to the Philadelphia area in search of the record. I needed affordable alternatives. Come to think of it, two decades later, I still do.

It helps see apparent dead ends as something else entirely: forks in the road. When stuck happens, you have at least three options:

  • Pursue the elusive record or relative with laser-like focus. This may lead to success, or it may lead to therapy.
  • Slide this one to the back burner and turn your attention to some other aspect of your family history.
  • Abandon family history in favor of another pastime, such as knitting, lacrosse, or watching reality television.

You’re on your own with the third option, but let’s look at the other two.

Dogged Pursuit

When the person or record you’re stuck on is especially important to you or your tree, you may prefer dogged pursuit. Pardon my changing metaphors, but, if a door you need won’t open, sometimes you can break it down, find another door, or even crawl in a window. Here are some ideas. (more…)

Family Reunion Hangouts

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Hot summer days signal the time for families to gather for the annual ritual of family reunions.

Family reunions often bring together many generations to mingle, play, create new memories and relive those memories of the past.

The intent of a family reunion is to bring together the family in one place at the same time.  Some family members may be overextended on their PTO, over-strained on the financing or busy with other summer activities such as boy scout camp, a business trip or other commitments.

Until only recently if you were not able to make the reunion you were out of luck and would likely miss out on all the fun.  Today we have many options of keeping up to speed on all the events and with the advent of modern social media you can even join in on the fun with the use of video collaboration.

Skype and Facetime

Example of a hangout (with David Beckham and Google)

Example of a hangout (with David Beckham and Google)

Using Skype video you can call in to or from the family reunion and have the person on the other line share in the special moments of the gathering.  Skype is free over the internet, there are some costs when call phone number. Facetime is a social app for the iPhone which can be used for face to face video interactions between phones.

Facebook:  Using Facebook Video Calling

I have not yet used Facebook video calling but understand that it is built on the backbone of Skype and can help you meet face to face with Facebook friends and family who are online.

Google Plus – Google Hangouts

Holding the unofficial world record for the longest lasting Google Hangout, 77 days,  I am biased to hangouts as the hands down winner of video collaboration.  From early July 2011 to August I and over 12,000 others used hangouts to test this new technology and join in on a video conversation which we held.  Now I use hangouts to connect with friends, family, business partners and virtual conference attendees. (more…)

1940 Census: at the Houston Family History Expo

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

We at WorldVitalRecords and MyHeritage are very excited to announce that we have all states and territories from the 1940 United States Census now live on our sites!

This week we will get the opportunity to show you the 1940 census  live via Google Hangouts and in person if you are in Houston, Texas at the Family History Expo.

We will also have a booth where you can try the WorldVitalRecords and MyHeritage sites and learn more.

1940 US Census

1940 US Census

Houston Texas Family History Expo MyHeritage/WorldVitalRecords Events

Friday April 6th

3:30 CT       Galveston Room               US Census Records 1850-1940              Mark Olsen

7:50CT        South Padre Room          MyHeritage Online Family Tree            Mark Olsen

Saturday April 7th

11:20CT     Galveston Room                 Google Hangout – Connecting Genealogists      Mark Olsen

2:30CT       Houston Classroom         Facebook vs. Google+ Do I want both?                 Mark Olsen

We will bring each class to you live via Google Hangouts but may be limited by the internet connection speed at the event.  Check www.familyhistoryexpos.com Houston Expo Link  for the live feed at the appropriate times above.  The feed may also be found here where you can participate via comments.

Tara McIntosh

tara@myheritage.com

The 1940 Census: Why all the hype?

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

The 1940 Census – What’s the big deal?

If you’re not a diehard genealogist or family historian you may not have even noticed that the 1940 census is the talk of the town over the past few months.  Yet genealogists around the world are going nuts over the April 2nd release.

Why all the hype? What’s a census?

In 1787, the founding fathers of the United States of America mandated that a census be taken every 10 years to count the entire population of the country to direct taxes and state representation.

Representation and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers…The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.

– Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States

The 1940 Census on WorldVitalRecords.com

The 1940 Census on WorldVitalRecords.com

(more…)

The missing link: Finding an enumeration district

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

The missing link: Finding an enumeration district

As a genealogist, I’m excited about the release of the 1940 census. Not only will it be online but – better yet – it will be available directly from WorldVitalRecords.com and MyHeritage.com on the very day that NARA releases the census to the public.

It is essential for researchers to know their enumeration districts (EDs) to ensure their early success on April 2nd. The last thing you want to do is call Grandma to help you find the location you should be searching instead of actually spending time in the census images.

I thought I was going to easily find my grandmother’s ED. Wow – was I wrong! Here’s my story and I hope it will provide some tips for you.

First, I called my family and asked for the city and state where my grandmother lived in 1940. The answer wasn’t immediately given, but within a day, we had an exact address: 217½ Clubhouse Avenue, Venice, California.

I went to the NARA ED finder site and to SteveMorse.org and expected a very fast ED response. However, I ran into a problem on both sites, as there was no city of Venice.  I was perplexed – Venice is a rather well known place southwest of Los Angeles, so I thought it must have been a case where the county – in 1940 – is no longer the county today.

After some research, I thought it could be under San Joaquin County – and tried that on the ED calculator, with no luck. I talked to some friends and some experienced genealogy buffs, but found no answer.  I was not overly concerned because I did find a range of EDs where it could be listed under the “other” field and typing in Venice.  I had a list of 10 or so possible EDs.  This would limit my image search but would still require a lot of work.

Hoping for better results I tried again a few days later – still no Venice.  I had read the early history of Venice up to and beyond 1940 on Wikipedia. Despite much information, there was nothing to help determine the ED.  I decided to read more slowly and look for something.

Here is what I found – and was surprised to find. (more…)

1940 Census: Just six days away – Get prepared

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Genealogists around the world and members of WorldVitalRecords.com are thrilled that the release of the 1940 census is less than one week away!

Here at WorldVitalRecords, a MyHeritage Company, we are excited about the news released last week that the census images will be available at www.worldvitalrecords.com/1940census for free as well as on the MyHeritage 1940 Census Site.

On April 2nd the census images will be made available via both sites the same day they are released by the National Archives. The census images will also be indexed and – as quickly as they are made available – added to the sites.

From April 2 and beyond, you’ll be able to search our sites and census images free of charge.  To search, it will be best if you do some preparation ahead of time and know where to look among the 132 million estimated individuals included in the 1940 census images.

Census images are broken down to the state and county levels and then to enumeration districts (EDs), the area which an enumerator could cover in a limited amount of time. In big cities, the ED may only be a few blocks. In rural areas, the ED was much larger and the census-taker had a month to cover that. (more…)

Family Stories: Teach and create memories

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Family Stories: Teach and create memories

When we attend conferences, we hope we’ll bring something home that changes our perspective and provides new ideas and opportunities to try new things – or change others – to make progress on our personal family history goals.

If a family history or genealogy conference provides that experience, we are fortunate. However, if we attend an event that opens our minds to countless new ideas, new areas of interest and new methods of researching, then we’re not only merely successful, but that experience can be considered a game-changer.

Steve Anderson

Such was the Story@Home conference held March 9-10.

Generally, I attend an event, come home with knowledge that makes me a better genealogist and person. But following this most recent event, I came home with an entire list of speakers’ names, stories, and faces etched into my brain. Not just one speaker – but all of them – shared their stories.

From the beginning, as Steve Anderson – Family Search’s marketing director –introduced David Rencher – Family Search’s chief genealogist and keynote speaker – the event was filled with memorable stories. David spoke of great successes in finding not just one cemetery full of ancestors but a whole weekend of discoveries. Every time he turned around, another person said, “Oh, that’s my line as well.”

Carol Rice – CEO and founder of CherishBound (the producer of Story@Home) – related her experiences in recording her family stories. She spoke about the women in her family, and through pictures and books, the birth of her company.

Popular blogger C Jane Kendrick and her husband Chup put on a lively show – discussing the “upcoming” Story@Home conference when, in reality, they were already there. They discussed how and what they would present. They “decided” to tell the story of their last child’s birth at home with no midwife or other medical staff present and the special moments they shared together. They truly demonstrated the power of story in sharing their own family history.

Syd Lieberman Storyteller

Syd Lieberman Storyteller

Syd Lieberman – a world-renowned storyteller (and typical father) – told us of his wonderful daughter – and slouch of a son. He walked us through heartfelt stories of both relationships and how each grew over time.  These stories will forever be remembered by that audience. (more…)

A day just for me: South Davis Family History Fair

Monday, March 5th, 2012

A day just for me: South Davis Family History Fair

Normally, I am officially representing World Vital Records and MyHeritage at many events, as part of a team, and staffing a booth. This past weekend, however, I was able to attend the South Davis Utah Family History Fair as just a conference-goer.

While it is always an adventure to go to a show with a team and a display booth, attending as an individual – simply to learn – is a renewing experience. We don’t always have time to attend interesting sessions when we attend events as an official team!

Here are some of my day’s highlights:

The keynote by Karen Clifford (“Uniting Generations: The Changing Face of Family History Research”) demonstrated how time has changed everything from FamilySearch to the way we search, how we share genealogy and collaborate. The great talk stressed that as the modern world continues to make massive and fast improvements in technology, we need to not only keep researching but also to share and collaborate, nicely, online so that the most recent advancements are used to our advantage.

She discussed her son who decided to research his father’s line despite the work going back many generations and the work already “being complete.” As a professor and genealogist, Karen told him “good luck” and hoped he’d find something to do.

In reality, her son found 52 mistakes in the line – some included incorrect LDS ordinance submissions – sealing the wrong husband and wife and other errors. Because he went back and investigated from the beginning, he was able to find new sources of information that were not available 15 years ago. Advances in genealogy proved to be a great asset. (more…)

Recap of the St. George Family History Expo

Friday, March 2nd, 2012
St. George Family History Expo MyHeritage Booth

St. George Family History Expo MyHeritage Booth

The MyHeritage booth at the St. George (Utah) Family History Expo was a huge success. We heard many fascinating stories and met many amazing people during the two-day event. Some people were just starting out, although others had been researching for more than 20 years and just needed a little help.

Many attendees were eager to sign up to family-friendly MyHeritage because of its ability to help them share information with their relatives near and far – that’s what MyHeritage is all about! We are thankful to the people we met and helped.

At the event, Mark Olsen presented to classrooms of genealogists who were eager to learn more about MyHeritage and other social tools. He spoke about ways to use new technology to connect with relatives around the world and preserve family history.

Social technology is a hot topic in genealogy with many books written about these cutting-edge tools. The presentation on Hangouts attracted a full room of conference goers.

Relaying family moments captured and shared across the globe brought tears to the eyes of several attendees. There was a tangible excitement as Mark showed how online free social technology can be used to strengthen family bonds and further research. (more…)