Archive for the ‘Genealogy News, Tips, Tricks’ Category

Protecting Your Valuables in Times of Natural Disaster

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

By Whitney McGowan,, Inc.

I have been keeping a daily journal now for 20 years. I have a large box in my house filled with more than 25 journals. These journals are very valuable to me and I am always a little worried that some natural disaster is going to strike here in Orem, Utah, and I am going to lose all of my work.

This may sound a little crazy, but last year, more than 220,000 people were killed in natural disasters. Billions of dollars were spent throughout the world on mitigating the effects of natural disasters. Although some items can be replaced, rebuilt or renewed, many valuables such as photos, books, family heirlooms, journals, birth certificates, passports, religious documents, etc. cannot be easily replaced, and some are completely irreplaceable.

What can you do to protect your valuables? Here are a few ideas

Put your content online. If you have photos, scan them and put them online. If you have books that are meaningful to you, scan them as well and put them online.

Make duplicates. Just in case one of your copies is destroyed by a natural disaster, it is a relief to know that you have an extra copy (even though it may not be the original copy). Duplication also provides protection for computer crashes, accidents, intentional damage, etc. The media life of paper is 100+ years. The media life of microfilm is approximately 500 years. Computer diskettes will last 2-5 years. A CD-ROM generally lasts between 5-50 years.

Create a filing system on your computer containing your valuables. Create a system that allows for quick and easy access. Make sure to clearly label and date your content.

Keep your valuables away from dust, light, and smoke. Be sure to store them in a place with a temperature between 45-65 degrees. Store your master copies and spare copies in different locations.

Place your valuables in fire-resistant, waterproof containers.

The National Archives has prepared a pdf titled, A Primer on Disaster Preparedness, Management and Response: Paper-Based Materials. This guide was created to help individuals take a pro-active approach to disaster preparation with respect to cultural property. Additional ideas on how to protect your valuables are provided.

What’s in a Name?

Friday, January 30th, 2009

By Whitney McGowan,, Inc.

Last night one of my friends had her eighth child (Yes, here in Utah, there are lots of BIG families)! No name had been previously selected for this new 7 pound 3 ounce baby, and as I am writing no name has been selected. However, the seven siblings and proud father have put forth many suggestions for a name. Unfortunately, none have quite fit. So, what’s in a name? Many people select a name for their children based on the etymology and history of the name. For example, the name “Melissa” means “bee” in Greek. This was the name of a nymph that cared for young Zeus in Greek mythology. It is also the name of the fairy who helps Rogero escape from the witch Alcina in Ludovico Ariosto’s poem Orlando Furioso (1516). As an English given name, Melissa has been used since the 18th century. The name “Whitney,” my name, comes from a surname which was originally derived from a place name meaning “white island” in Old English. (I was not named based on the etymology of my name!).

For those of you who are interested in knowing the meaning of your name, or for those of you who want to know the meaning of a possible name for your child, check out This site provides the meaning and history of names from many languages and genres including English, Spanish, French, Arabic, , German, Indian, African, Italian, Irish, mythological, biblical, and more.

What does a name mean when you are searching for your ancestors? There are more than 1.6 million surnames in the United States. To add a little more confusion to the mix, the surname of your ancestor may have several variations. Some of your ancestors may have been known simply by their last name, or they may not have even known how to spell their name correctly!  Plus, believe it or not, surnames didn’t actually exist until about 1,000 years ago. Back then, there weren’t as many people, and first and last names were just not necessary.

In searching for your ancestors, pay attention to naming patterns and situations where the name of the family member has been repeated. For example, your great, great, great grandfather could have been named Samuel, and your great, great grandfather could also have been given the name of Samuel.

An additional help source comes from In this article the author describes a common naming pattern prior to the 20th century.

1st son– father’s father
2nd son– mother’s father
3rd son– father
4th son– father’s oldest brother
5th son– father’s second oldest brother or mother’s oldest brother
1st daughter– mother’s mother
2nd daughter– father’s mother
3rd daughter– mother
4th daughter– mother’s oldest sister
5th daughter– mother’s second oldest sister or father’s oldest sister

Try to discover how your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents received their names. If you have children, take the time to write down the reason you chose the name of your child, and the meaning of the name.

Share Your Story

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

In the past few months at, Inc. we have talked about the importance of sharing your family history– whether that means interviewing a loved one, or simply writing down your personal history to share with others.

Recently, StoryCorps announced its desire to make its recording sessions available to as many people as possible. Recordings are now available in cities listed below. The cities that include a link below are now open for booking reservations. There is no cost for the interview, although a donation is suggested.

Tucson, AZ Jan. 5- 17, 2009
Tampa, FL Jan. – 17, 2009
Juneau, AK Jan. 5- Jan. 29, 2009
Savannah, GA Jan. 27 -Feb. 21, 2009
Greater Los Angeles, CA Jan. 29- Feb. 21, 2009
Winston-Salem, NC Feb. 26- Mar. 21, 2009
Asheville, NC Mar. 26- May 2, 2009
Salt Lake City, UT Mar. 26- May 2, 2009
Eugene, OR May 7- 29, 2009
Yakima, WA Jun. 4- 26, 2009

Take the opportunity to share your story. Sign up today.

Ten Ways To Save Money on Your Genealogy

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

By Whitney Ransom McGowan

This year one of your New Year’s resolutions may have been to set a budget and stick to it. Here are ten ideas to help you save some money on your family history research:

1. is a free site that allows you to connect with other genealogists to do your research. Using, you can find other people who are searching the same surname you may be searching. You can also be connected to people who are researching in the same city or area you are. Individuals using can also list on their profile page if they are willing to do a free lookup for you. This can, for example, save you the cost of flying to Maine to get a picture of your great, great, grandfather’s headstone. Currently has more than 111,000 members. To sign up, go to

2. Subscribe to free newsletters -Subscribing to free newsletters can give you access to great content ranging from the latest genealogy news stories and products, to genealogical tips, upcoming events, and even some freebies. In addition to the free newsletter, try other free newsletters such as. Dick Eastman’s standard edition newsletter, Family Tree Digest, Genealogy, Family Tree Magazine’s Free Weekly Email Update, Gould Genealogy – Taking Genealogy Into the Future – Newsletter, and much more.

3. Purchase Google Your Family Tree - As you may have heard, Google Your Family Tree is an excellent, new genealogy book from, Inc. Once you purchase the book, you will be able to learn how to use the Web’s largest search engine to find information about your ancestors In the book you will learn many new tips that will save you money, and that will help you find links to your ancestors. Click here to purchase Google Your Family Tree.

4. Free databases on – currently offers more than 500 free databases. Plus, all new U.S. content is free for ten days at

5. is a non-profit service sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. encourages all people to find their ancestors and preserve their family histories. To help in this pursuit, the Church has been actively gathering and preserving genealogical records from all over the world for more than 100 years. The site is contains an ever-growing amount of free genealogical resources.

6. Book conferences early – Although genealogy conferences may not be considered “cheap,” the information one can glean by attending a conference is well worth it. Many conferences also offer vendor booths, free demonstrations, networking opportunities, and more. Plus, when you register early you often receive a discount. Decide which conference(s) you will attend early in the year, and then book the conference. You can also often save on airfare if you book early.

7. Collaboration – Collaborating with others is a great way to cut down on costs because you can split the costs among those with whom you are working. Plus, you have the opportunity to work through brick walls together, while sharing resources and ideas.

8. We’re Related – We share an article about We’re Related in the News section of this newsletter edition. We’re Related is free and is a great way to stay connected with your family. You can even find relatives you may have lost contact with, or even some who you didn’t know exist.

9.Go to the library. - When was the last time you went to your local library? Libraries are treasure troves for many genealogical resources including family histories, maps, city directories, genealogy books, and much more. You may even find microfilm collections containing vital records of your ancestors. Some libraries also offer free access to large Web databases.

10. Get free charts and demos online. Many Web sites offer downloads of free pedigree charts and family group sheets. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of free trials and demos on a variety of genealogical products and services.

Tips on Searching at

Monday, January 5th, 2009

We want searching at to be as easy as possible. To help you, this week we will provide a few tips to help you find the content you need.

How do I access the Most Popular Collections at

1. Go to
2. Click on Record Types
3. Click on Browse by Popular Collection
4. Choose from 26 of our most popular collections. Click on the link to access the specific database.

How do I view all of the databases at

1. Go to
2. Click on Record Types
3. Click on View All Databases

How do I view only the U.S. Collection?

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Places.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on U.S. Databases.

How do I view the World Collection?

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Places.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on International Databases.

How do I view a specific Surname?

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Places.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on U.S. Databases.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see Family Surnames.
  5. Click on the first letter of the surname you wish to search. Notice that you can choose to search from Top Surnames, and All Surnames.

How do I view the international Country Pages?

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Places.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on International Databases.
  4. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the link that says Click here to view the Nationality pages..

What if I want to search for a specific type of record?

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Record Types.
  3. Click on the type of record you want to search such as, birth, marriage, and death records; census records; military records; immigration records; court; land; and probate records, etc. etc.

Databases Highlighted Featuring Property Transactions in Nauvoo

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

This week we are featuring several databases compiled by Susan Easton Black. Black, prolific LDS author and historian, is one of the world’s renowned experts on Joseph Smith, Jr., a prominent religious and political figure during the 1830s and 1840s. His birthday was on December 23rd.

The primary database we are featuring from Black is her six-volume set, Property Transactions in Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, and Surrounding Communities, 1839-1859 . This set is not available anywhere else! Nauvoo was founded by Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The city was originally called The City of Joseph. Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN

Black has also compiled the following databases, important primarily to Latter-day Saints, as well as to individuals who had ancestors living in Illinois during 1830-1956:

Early Members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN Inscriptions Found on Tombstones and Monuments in Early Latter-day Saint Burial Grounds
Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN Marriages in the Nauvoo Region 1839-1845
Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1830-1848
Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN Members of the Ellsworth and McArthur Handcart Companies of 1856
Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN
Members of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies of 1856
Listen to Susan Black talk about the database. LISTEN Members of the Mormon Battalion: A Sesquicentennial Remembrance
Pioneers of 1847: A Sesquicentennial Remembrance

New Features at

Friday, December 19th, 2008, a service of, Inc., recently added some new. For those of you who are new to, the site is an innovative and fun family tree building community with more than 12.8 million ancestor names. can also be accessed at Click here to view this database on (Note the database on WorldVital Records contains 10.5 million names. The rest of the names will be added during the next update from to is free to access and free to join.

The two new features that have been added include user community status updates with profile photos and graphical chart export. A description of each of these features is listed below.

User Community Status Updates with Profile Photos
Keep your fellow researchers up-to-date on what you’re doing with WebTree status updates. Status updates are designed to be short messages on “what you’re working on right now.” The updates are posted to the homepage at, allowing members of the community to track your progress on your latest brick wall. You can also add a profile photo to your user page at WebTree. To post an update, go to My Trees and click Update Status. Click on the picture to the right to add your profile photo.

Graphical Chart Export
You can export your beautiful chart creations as a graphic file that you can save or print. The chart export feature perfectly preserves all of the options you choose.  Just go to any chart and click the Export button on the top left. See a great example here: Chart Example

If you would like to learn more about,click here to read a press release.

Genealogy is Like a Treasure Hunt

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

For those of you who like to watch rightful heirs earn an inheritance, there is a show just for you titled The Wealth Hunters.

In a treasure hunt, most treasure hunters try to find the treasure. Heir Hunters International, America’s preeminent heir finding firm that produced The Wealth Hunters, starts with the treasure and try to find out to whom it belongs. Their job is to trace millions of unclaimed dollars back to their owners. They could be looking for you. Often, the Heir Hunter team uses genealogical research to hunt for these clues.

According to Heir Hunters, 8 out of 10 individuals of the general population have some stake in an asset–have some money coming to them. That asset may be an inheritance, the right to open a safety deposit box, etc.

The pilot episode of The Wealth Hunters aired last week. However, if you are interested in watching clips of the show, here are the links:

Heir Hunters International on Court TV Part 1
Heir Hunters International on Court TV Part 2
Heir Hunters International on Court TV Part 3

About Heir Hunters International
Heir Hunters International is a company whose purpose is to search the world over for those who could possibly have an interest in an asset. Heir Hunters International produced The Wealth Hunters.

Find Deep Ancestral Roots Using Family Tree DNA Database

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Discover your deep ancestral origins starting with a quick search of this week’s Major Collection that features records from the Family Tree DNA database. These records will point individuals to the information collected by Family Tree DNA. Although access to the records will always be free at, individuals will need to pay for the DNA kit at the Family Tree DNA website to see how they fit in with the ever-growing compilation of information.

Family Tree DNA, started in April 2000, now has 223,373 names–141,774 males and 80,949 females, with new names being added every day. As of December 10, there are 85,492 unique surnames.

Family Tree DNA is the only organization in the field of Genetic Genealogy that has been constantly developing the particular science that assists many genealogists around the world to advance their family’s research. They currently have the largest DNA databases in the field of genetic genealogy.

Why Be Concerned About Great Grandpa’s Health?

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Over the holiday break, I had the opportunity to talk with my aunt who was adopted when she was a child. She is now in her 40’s. A few years ago, she decided she wanted to try to find her real parents. My aunt has had many health problems. In fact, she has been a multiple kidney transplant recipient and has experienced dialysis, and a variety of other challenges.

The first time she needed a kidney transplant her adopted sister actually matched up and was able to donate her kidney to her. It was a great blessing! When my aunt was telling me about the search to find her mother (and she was able to locate her – although she found her a little too late because her mother had passed away a year prior to that time.), she said that one of the main reasons she was interested in finding out who her real parents are was because she wanted to better understand their health history. In fact, she was very curious to know whether her mother or father also had kidney problems. As my aunt was speaking with me, I started asking myself, “What do I know about my family’s health history? and “Why should this information be important to me?”

During the rest of this article, I would like to discuss the importance of knowing the health history of your family.

Why Should I Know My Family’s Health History?

Knowing your family’s health history is important for a variety of reasons. Oftentimes diseases and health problems can run in families. For example, if your grandmother has high blood pressure, your mother may also have high blood pressure. In fact, your blood pressure may be high as well. This is true for many health problems such as cancer, heart problems, diabetes, etc. If you have had a medical examination, you may recall that before the doctor treats you, you are often asked to fill out a stream of papers documenting your medical history.

Acting Surgeon General Steven K Galson, M.D., M.P.H., declared Thanksgiving 2008 as the fifth annual National Family History Day. When you are gathered with your family for the holidays (perhaps for Christmas, since Thanksgiving has past), Dr. Galson encourages you to talk with your family and/or write down your families health history. He claims that by taking the time to do this, you may ensure a longer, healthier future together.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services has created a program to allow you to create on the Web a personalized family health history report. Here is the link if you want to try it out:

I decided to fill it out, and here are the results:

Both of my grandparents passed away from heart problems, so heart disease is something that I (as well as my family members) should pay attention to. If heart disease runs in your family, here are some ways to prevent it:

1. Participate in a form of physical activity each day.
2. Do not smoke. If you do smoke, take steps to stop smoking.
3. Eat healthy: Limit unhealthy fats and cholesterols, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and whole grains

How Do I Learn More About My Family Health History?

The best way to find out about your family health history is simply to talk with your family. Ask your parents about the health history of your grandparents and great grandparents. If you are a parent, talk to your children about your family health history.