Posts Tagged ‘Genealogy’

Check Out the New Digs

Friday, May 17th, 2013

The MyHeritage Utah office, which houses the WorldVitalRecords team, moved last week from Provo to Lehi. We’re growing, as is the whole company, but the change is less about space than about moving to a location that will help us recruit top talent from a larger area; the Salt Lake Valley is literally a few minutes away. This, in turn, will help us to provide more and more valuable family history data and an even better experience to our growing subscriber base.

We thought you might like to see the new office and its environs and learn a bit about the area, too.

(To see a higher-resolution version of any photo in this post, click on it.)

The company name and logo on the front door, backed by art on the receptionist's wall

Our Habitat: The Wasatch Front

Utah’s Wasatch Front consists of the Salt Lake City metro area, Utah Valley (the Provo-Orem area) to the south, and the Ogden area to the north. Over two million people — roughly 80 percent of Utah’s population — live along the Wasatch Front.

On a normal day you can drive from one end of this concentration of people to the other in less than an hour and a half. In light traffic, and at the prevailing speed on Interstate 15 — at least 10 mph above the legal speed limit — you can do it in an hour, assuming you’re not pulled over.

The Wasatch Mountains, renowned for their skiing, run north and south just east of the cities and valleys; hence the term Wasatch Front. To the west are the smaller Oquirrh Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

Local leaders like to call the Wasatch Front “Silicon Slopes,” and it’s not just hype. This is now one of the top ten concentrations of the high tech industry in the United States. High tech and financial companies whose names you would recognize just keep moving in, and new start-ups you will someday recognize just keep, well, starting up.

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What’s in a US Census?

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

If you are looking for ancestors who were born in or emigrated to the United States, US Census records are one of your most valuable tools. They don’t provide precise records of births, marriages, or deaths, but they offer a wealth of clues to these events and valuable information as to where and how ancestors lived.

Every 10 years since 1790, the US government has conducted a nationwide census. Officially, the census’s purpose is to insure each state, based on its population, an equitable allocation of seats in the US House of Representatives (US Constitution, Article I, Section 2). But the census does more than just count heads. The government also gathers other information from each person and household — in fact, a slightly different set of information in each census. This data facilitates various types of research by government, businesses, and other entities. Family historians use it to find ancestors, discover where they lived and when, and to gather clues for further research.

The US Census Bureau publishes many different kinds of information, based on the latest census, but, to protect privacy, the actual census records are not released until 72 years after the census. So the 1940 US Census was released in 2012. (This 72-year rule has not always been in place; see below.)

Here’s a quick survey of the US Censuses which are already available, with notes about what was asked; the reported population; a few morsels of history, politics, and technology; and one big fire.

To see notes about a particular census, skip the proper heading below; they’re in chronological order. To see how the census evolved, start with 1790. If what you really want to do right now is search the censuses for your ancestors, follow this link to the WorldVitalRecords US Census collection.

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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…)

NGS 2012: Recap

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012
MyHeritage Team with Dennis Brimhall CEO of FamilySearch

MyHeritage Team with Dennis Brimhall CEO of FamilySearch

Last week, the MyHeritage team was kept very busy in a whirlwind of work, learning and fun at very well attended National Genealogical Society’s 2012 conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

On Wednesday, the team was busy at the booth answering questions and providing more information to attendees who had heard about MyHeritage from speakers who spoke about our very social family trees, WorldVitalRecords.com data, facial recognition technology and much more.

A Man hides behind a post in his quest for freedom - National Underground Railroad Museum Cincinnati Ohio

Portrayal of a man hiding behind a tree in his quest for freedom - National Underground Railroad Museum Cincinnati, Ohio

In the evening, Daniel Horowitz and Mark Olsen joined hundreds of conference-goers at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for a moving experience as they learned about the lives of thousands of freedom seekers and “conductors” (those of all races and backgrounds who assisted the enslaved to reach the Ohio River and beyond – freedom – at their own and their families’ risk). Although not an actual railroad, nor underground, it was the secret route used to transfer the slaves from one location to another – from one farm or home to the next – until he or she reached freedom.

Many moving scenes are portrayed. If you visit Cincinnati, the museum should be on your must-see list.

Thursday was another fabulous day full of hundreds of great interactions with customers at the booth and conference goers looking to soak in as much information as they could through classes and interactions with other genealogists and vendors.

On Friday NGS organizers announced that the official NGS attendance was 2,155, resulting in packed session rooms. Many sessions reached capacity, and fire codes are very strict. There were reports of some attendees who could not get a seat in the session they wanted to attend. Technology and census sessions seem to be drawing the largest crowds.

The Ancestry Insider along with others at the blogger dinner hosted by FamilySearch who wish to remain unnamed

The Ancestry Insider along with others at the blogger dinner hosted by FamilySearch who wish to remain unnamed

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NGS Mobile App

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

NGS 2012: A new conference mobile app

WorldVitalRecords and MyHeritage are gearing up for the National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference, set for Cincinnati, Ohio, from May 9-12. Read more about the NGS conference here.

Mobile App for NGS

NGS just released a mobile app for the conference.  Several recent events – such as Jamboree 2011 and Rootstech 2012 – also provided very popular mobile apps, used by many attendees to check sessions, special  events, speaker information and much more on their smart phones, IPads and other devices. No longer do conference attendees need to carry around a heavy printed syllabus.

Click image to get the NGS mobile app

Click image to get the NGS mobile app

Some of the mobile app’s best features:

  • Schedule

With the Mobile app, you can browse the entire schedule by day, speaker, and topic (track). You can also check topics by audience skill level – beginner, beginner intermediate, intermediate, intermediate advanced, advanced and all. Can’t decide which level is appropriate for you? There’s probably an app for that!

  • My Schedule

As you flip through the pages of speakers, topics, levels, simply click to add those of interest to “My Schedule” to your calendar. Remember to have your smartphone or device turned on, the guidebook app running and calendar running to be reminded of events you select.

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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

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…)

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…)

In praise of baby-steppers

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

I work at MyHeritage, so you might think I’d be a dedicated, relentless genealogist who spends many hours each month on my own family’s roots. My long-standing commitment is more than casual, and I expect to enjoy RootsTech this week as much as last year. However, my life and my chosen pursuits never seem to allow much time or energy for my own research. I know many people, even in my own neighborhood, who work much harder and accomplish far more.

I still like to think there’s room for me and others like me in the vast, welcoming community of genealogists. More importantly, I think I’m justified in feeling I’ve accomplished something worthwhile, even when it’s not very much.

So, as a tribute to those who enjoy genealogy but advance only in occasional baby steps, let me share what I’ve accomplished in January 2012. For some researchers it might be only an afternoon’s work, but by my standards it was a productive and satisfying month.

First, I found a photo of my maternal grandmother, c. 1918. It hadn’t been missing for generations, only for 18 months, since my family moved across town. But I had missed it. It was in the last box to be unpacked. I scanned it for later use and posted a low-resolution version on Facebook. (more…)

The Dark Side of Family History, and Its Uses

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Recently, I was testing our newspaper collection at WorldVitalRecords.com, looking for search results in the mid-twentieth century. I have an aunt who was killed in 1956 at age 17; I thought she might make a good test case. When I was a child making my first family group sheets, I asked my parents why she died so young. Their answer, as I remember it, was that she was killed in an auto accident on her way home from work at a local drugstore. Such tragedies usually make the newspaper, so I thought I might turn up at least one article about the accident, and possibly also an obituary.

There’s a dark side to family history research. All those ancestors lived, as we do, in a world filled with good and evil, with triumph and tragedy and random chance. I’m not thinking just of the rumors that my mother’s great-great-great uncle what’s-his-name was hung as a horse thief, sad as that must have been for the whole family (if it really happened). What my test search found in our newspaper collection was a few shades darker than that.

There were articles about my aunt’s death in newspapers from Utah to Idaho to California — but they weren’t about an auto accident. For example, on June 27, 1956, a front-page story in the Idaho State Journal (of Pocatello, Idaho) reported that detectives from Salt Lake City and Provo had joined the investigation of “the sex murder” of my 17-year-old aunt. The story explained, “The pretty teenage girl was sexually molested and murdered while on her way home from working at a drugstore June 13. Her body was found in a canal near Vernal [Utah] June 16.”

There was more.

Papers as far away as the Long Beach [California] Press-Telegram picked another UP story a few weeks later. “A 23-year-old service station attendant left a note Wednesday confessing to the murder of a pretty teenage girl and then killed himself on a lonely hillside.” That’s bad enough, but it got worse as I read further. “Her battered, partially nude body was found four days later floating in an irrigation ditch. She had been sexually molested.”

(You’ve noticed by now that I’ve omitted the names of both killer and victim, though the news stories gave them. The names don’t matter to my story, and I don’t want to intrude on her family’s — or his family’s — privacy any more than I have to, in telling the story at all.)

In December of that year the Ogden [Utah] Standard-Examiner ran an article which added a sad detail or two. It was their list of Utah’s top ten news stories of the year. The first was “the miraculous recovery of a girl who lay trapped under a wrecked car for nine days.” The second was “the flaming blast which turned a restaurant in the Utah community of Monticello into a help of rubble, killing 15.” (In case you’re curious, the culprit was a gas valve inadvertently left open in the basement. Don’t do that.) Number ten was the disappearance of my 17-year-old aunt, “the finding of her body in a stream,” and “the subsequent suicide” of her murderer, a local father of two, who killed himself as the police closed in.

I told my siblings of this discovery. They said they had known for years, and they were surprised I hadn’t. They had learned of it from another document of genealogical interest, her death certificate. So I looked that up online, too. The first thing I noticed was an instruction printed in bold type in the certificate’s margin: “Physicians Should State Cause of Death in Plain Terms.” Duly warned, I read through the document.

Birthplace: Vernal, Utah
Usual Occupation: Student
Place of Injury: Street in Vernal City
Injury Occurred: Not While at Work
Was Autopsy Performed? Yes
Immediate Cause (in longhand, which seems more poignant): Death By Strangulation

The response in Part 20b, “DESCRIBE HOW INJURY OCCURRED,” is also in longhand: “This girl was sexually assaulted. Choked about the neck. Struck on the chin. Was found 4 days after disappearance submerged in a canal. Attacker’s suicide note left later states he killed her quickly about 10:30 p.m.” Signed, Ray E. Spendlove, MD.

I don’t tell this dark story to celebrate the darkness, and I would understand if some people avoid family history because they expect or fear they’ll find such things. For my part, I justify this glimpse into the abyss — among others — with these three thoughts:

First, the darkness is real, and it shaped my ancestors and their time, which in turn shape me and my time — in which darkness is also real.

Second, if I want to know my own heritage, I want to know the real, unvarnished history, not some carefully sanitized version that won’t distress a child and that, oh, by the way, isn’t quite true.

The third thought is more complex.

Her parents, my grandparents, were the kindest, gentlest people on the planet. I can only imagine how dark those days — and many days thereafter — must have been for them. Somehow, they overcame it, because when I knew them, not too many years after this tragedy, they were quite cheerful, and they hadn’t moved away to escape the memories. Knowing what they overcame, I admire them now even more than before.

This aunt was a decade younger than my parents, and I was born less than a decade after that gruesome summer. In my childhood, I thought my parents were much too worried about such things as villains lurking in the bushes, waiting to prey upon school children who abandoned the sidewalks and walked through the local park on their way home from school. I absorbed and obeyed that fear for a while, but soon I was disobediently walking home through the park every afternoon, if the weather was good — and if my older sister wasn’t looking. I never saw a villain lurking.

Now a parent myself, I still think my parents were a bit too worried. But now I know why. Their worries came from a source far more personal than the six o’clock news. So I understand my parents more than before, too.

. . . All of which is awfully close to the point of doing family history research in the first place.