Saturday, October 28, 2006

Genealogy Research Guides - useful!

The best web site I've found for collecting links to genealogy resources for different topics - vital records, military, newspaper, cemetery, census, immigration, naturalization, etc. - is the Genealogy Research Guides, Tips and Online Records. The web site is

For instance, I am easily confused by the plethora of different newspaper and obituary sites. I can't remember all of them, nor have I made my own list of them. This web site does that for me, and I really appreciate it!

Early American History - First Hand Accounts

While browsing today, I found a fascinating web site about first-hand accounts of Early American History. The web site is

The introduction says:
Have a look at what really happened in the early days of America. This is probably not the same history that you learned in school. What you will see here is unvarnished and raw, directly from the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. It is real people talking with and about each other, expressing their thoughts, feelings, and ambitions. Here is the real pioneer spirit at its best and worst.

You have been cautioned. Read these accounts with your brain engaged.

Now, please enjoy a little time-travel, and learn about the people who laid the foundations of America. It will likely change the way you view our society and current affairs worldwide.

The index of resources is here.

I selected "Legends of the Iroquois, Told by 'The Cornplanter'" by William W. Canfield, published in 1902, and read several sections about the Iroquois Nation stories and legends. There is a back section that explains some of the timing and stories in modern terms. It was a wonderful 30 minutes!

If you want reading material about Native Americans, the Colonists, early US government, the Western expansion and the like, this is a web site well worth your time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

2006 Genealogy Software Review

Are you looking for database software to aid your genealogy research? Are you satisfied with your genealogy database software?

The 2006 Genealogy Software Review is available at

The top ten are:

1) Legacy
2) Family Tree Maker
3) Ancestral Quest
4) Personal Ancestral File
5) RootsMagic
6) Family Historian
7) Dorotree
8) The Master Genealogist
9) Cumberland Family Tree
10) WinFamily

I have my genealogy data in Family Tree Maker, and have for about 8 years. Before that, I used Personal Ancestral File. I downloaded the most recent PAF and the free versions (limited capabilities) of Legacy and RootsMagic several months ago, and have periodically played with them to determine if they would be more useful to me. So far, I haven't found a good reason to change.

I have one major problem with FTM - it will not make a true Ahnentafel with just names, dates and places. In the past, I have generated an Ahnentafel Report and then edited out the children information to create a true Ahnentafel, but it takes some time. Recently, I used GEDCOM to transfer my data to PAF and had it create a true Ahnentafel, which it does easily.

I have a major problem with all of the available genealogy software - it will not add the word processing Field Codes required for an Index when it creates a genealogy report or book in word processing format. Most of the software will create an Index in a PDF report, but that cannot be edited. I would like to create a book, using the genealogy software to add the Field codes for an Index, and be able to edit the book, and then publish it.

What software are you using? Are you satisfied with it? What would you like to see improved? Have you requested the improvements with the software developer?

World War 2 and Korean War Casualty Records

I missed the October meeting of the San Diego Genealogical Society on 14 October. The speaker was William Beigel, who discussed World War 2 and Korean War Casualty Records (MIA, KIA, POW) and the genealogy rewards in those files.

Mr. Beigel has a web site at that describes the records available, how to access them and provides samples of the military reports and analyses. The web site says:

Professional World War 2 and Korean War Casualty Search will perform a full search of military records on any U.S. armed forces veteran from the Army, Air Corps, Navy or USMC who were World War 2 or Korean War casualties including killed, Missing in Action (MIA), or Prisoner of War (POW). Whether death occurred on the beach at Normandy or Okinawa, in the snowy forests of the Battle of the Bulge or in the jungles of the Philippines, in aerial combat over Germany or Japan or North Africa, in naval combat, or even in training accidents in the United States, our full resources will be devoted to finding out "what really happened".

When members of the Armed Forces were killed, wounded, Missing in Action (MIA) or made Prisoner of War (POW) in World War 2 or the Korean War, very little information was forwarded to their next of kin. Often, a stark "we regret to inform you" or "your brother has been reported missing in action" telegram was the only information ever received.

Click on the "Sample Reports" link on the left margin and read some of the reports that are available from the military records. They are full of details and are often fascinating.

This is a commercial service that does this research, but if you want this information, the service is probably the best way to obtain it.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I got an iPod - what to do with it?

When I told my wife that I wanted an iPod for my birthday or for Christmas, she said "what is an iPod?" My kids said "you never listen to music." I just grinned...little do they know what podcasts and 50s-60s pop music lurk in the bowels of my computer!

The iPod I received over the weekend has 30gB of space in a unit that is like 4 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and 0.25 inches thick. Isn't that amazing? It will take music .mp3 files, voice .mp3 files, videos, and photos. My kids and grandkids gave me the base unit for the system, which includes a clock, radio, player and charging unit.

To make it work, you have to download the free iTunes software, and then upload your audio files into iTunes. You can use the iTunes web site to buy music. You need to make playlists for the music if you have a lot. You then download the files into the iPod using the USB port connection.

What will I put on it? To start with:

1) My 50s-60s music (I love that stuff!)

2) Weekly Genealogy podcasts from the GenealogyGuys - George Morgan and Drew Smith, plus any other podcasts that strike my fancy.

3) The genealogy presentations recorded at the 2006 FGS conference in Boston, available for download for $1.99 each at I bought 6 of them a month ago. I think we will see more of these!

4) Photos of the kids and grandkids for showing anywhere in the world, albeit the visual quality will not be wonderful.

5) Music videos or other videos (like the Cuomo piece mentioned below) that may be available, either free or for a fee.

Besides, its cool...something that Genea-Man needs to have.

Lisa Alzo has a nice article about genealogy audio to put on your digital audio player in a recent Internet Genealogy magazine here, although you have to scroll down to page 55 to read it.

Any other suggestions for audio or video for my iPod?

I love new toys!

ABC News video - and free Ancestry tree databases

Did you see the ABC News piece on Good Morning America this morning about Chris Cuomo's family history? It was an excellent story. The story and the video is available at the ABC News web site.

Our blogging friend and genea-hero Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak was the genealogist who showed Cuomo his pedigree chart - but for some reason he called her Megan Blank...what's up with that? It must have been on a script not filled in properly, and not caught before broadcast!

If you go to the second page of the article, there is a link that says you can have 3 days free access to to start researching your family tree. I tried this, and after signing up with a username, you can access the One World Tree, Ancestry World Tree, Personal Member Tree and the Public Member Tree databases. There is no access to the other databases, like the census, immigration, vital records, newspapers, etc.

Still, if you have not searched those databases, there is an opportunity to do it for free for three days. This is an excellent marketing strategy by ABC and, but they need to inform the user that there is more to than the four user databases, and that it costs money. I imagine they will send an email to signups after the 3 days telling about the wonders of

UPDATE (10/27/06): I made an error, and just found out about it.

This is for 3 days for the US subscription - when you put in the name to search be sure that the "Search" tab is clicked! My bad - sorry for the wrong information. Drat - now I have only two days to deal with it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Early Native American Deeds in Essex County MA

A new web site named has been created to present the deeds, in handwriting form and in transcription form, between the early European settlers of Essex County, Massachusetts and the Native Americans that dwelled on the land.

For each town in Essex County, a deed is presented. They are extremely interesting. If you look closely, many of them were executed after King Philip's War ended in 1676.

Here is a summary of the information on this web site:

Welcome to the Native American Deeds website. I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you the most culturally significant documents ever recorded in Essex County. We refer to them as the "Native American Deeds Collection." These deeds directly link us to the days when Native American Indians lived on this land.

I invite you to take this journey with me over our landscape in the moccasins of our Native Americans, who had to sell their lands to survive. The "Native American Deeds" will lead the way. I hope that you will find this journey as interesting and exciting as I did.

Register of Deeds, John L. O'Brien

I scanned many of the transcriptions for my Essex County ancestors, but didn't see any of them in these deeds.

However, I found some wonderful maps of early Beverly and Andover in the Maps section of the web site.

Click on all the links and see the absolute beauty of this web site, especially if you have ancestry from Essex County MA.

Genealogy Chat at 9 PM EDT/6 PM PDT tonight

I will be giving a "talk" on "Funny, Curious and Strange Names in Genealogy Records" at 9 PM EDT / 6 PM PDT at the web site.

Go to the site and put in your Username, or create a new Username, and then click on the "Login" button. You want to join the chat in the Sitting Room.

Once you join the chat, you will see a list of chatters in the right hand box. The chat contents will be in the white background area. If you want to say something, type it into the box below the chat info, then hit Send to post it to the chat.

Please come visit - you'll laugh a lot!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Genealogy article in Chula Vista Star-News

The article in the Chula Vista (CA) Star-News weekly paper dated 20 October 2006, on pages 2 and 12, reads:

by Marco Ochoa, Star-News News Assistant

Since 1987 the Chula Vista Genealogical Society has helped curious folks discover not only their ancestors but the history of their families. One of the society's goals is to promote interest in the fields of history and genealogy.

The organization's first vice-president, Randy Seaver, developed his interest for his genealogy when he read "Roots" by Alex Haley in 1981. The following year, Seaver and his family visited several of his aunts and uncles in New England; his relatives also happened to share an interest in their family's history. They had heard stories that they were descendants of Peregrine White, a baby born on the Mayflower, and that their ancestors had owned a castle in England.

Seaver was intrigued by this. However, it was not until 1988 that Seaver began conducting research in libraries. The story about the castle later proved to be untrue but the research confirmed that they were descendants of White. Seaver is the 12th generation descendant from Robert Seaver who immigrated to Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1634. Seaver even traced his own ancestry back to several English noblemen.

"Through my research, I found that I am descended from Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, King Alfred the Great, and many English noblemen. But then, so are most of the people of English and European ancestry." He also noted that he is the 10th cousin of pitcher Tom Seaver, member of the baseball Hall of Fame. He has also learned that he is a distant cousin of various presidents, authors and entertainers.

Seaver conducts most of his research at local libraries and the Latter Day Saint's Family History Center. He said, however, that the most effective means of researching your family is simply speaking to your relatives and collecting information from home sources. Seaver says that, though the Internet contains a lot of information, not much of it is significant.

"The Internet is very useful, but you still have to do research in libraries, courthouses, cemeteries, and historical socities in the places that your ancestors lived," he said.

Though it can be hard work, Seaver enjoys researching his family's history because he says it is like a treasure hunt.

"I wouldn't do this if it wasn't never know what you are going to find. The harder you look, the more you find," he said.

Seaver graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and worked as part of an Aerodynamics and Thermodynamics group for 35 years.

In the early 90s Seaver met several members of the society at the library and was invited to their meetings.

He got to know some of the groups leaders and eventually joined the organization. Seaver began working at the society as the treasurer in 2003 and was elected First Vice-President of Programs in 2005 where he arranges for speakers to talk at the CVGS's meeting. The Chula Vista Genealogical Society meets on the last Monday of every month in the Civic Center Library Auditorium.

The Star-News does not have a web site, so I transcribed it. As I mentioned earlier, I provided a fair amount of material in question and answer format via email, and the reporter used some of it, framing the story around the content. I figured he would highlight the Mayflower and the European royalty connections.

We in CVGS have learned a lot in dealing with the press through our Family History workshop experience, and have a better understanding now of how to effectively publicize our events.

What have you or your society learned about press relations?

Life History Charts

We live in a visual society - many people learn well from pictures and graphics. I've been searching for a way to plot life events for some time, to the point of experimenting in Microsoft Excel with events and timelines, but the result has never been close to what I wanted.

I saw a reference to a free timeline chart at today, and thought I would try it. The Zip download was easy, and the program opened easily and saved on my computer.

The web page notes:

Where they lived, the jobs they had, the celebrations, the weddings, the sad events - seeing them all on paper gives us a fascinating overview of their lives. It’s one that your entire family would love to share.

Feedback from people who have developed a loved one’s life chart:

“Seeing it all down on paper made me realise what an amazing and eventful life he had.”

“I got my sister and brother involved and they remembered things that I had totally forgotten about.”

“Since we did the chart, my daughter now feels she has a much better feel for what her dad was doing at her age and during the next ten years.”

If you look at the examples on the web page and in the download, you get the idea of how it works - you specify an event, define the years they occurred, add some text and hit Enter. Do it for the important life events and you have a graphical picture of your life. You can add color and other details as you wish. You can print the life events chart out and save it as an Excel chart if you choose.

This looks like a tool that is easy to use and may be very helpful in preparing my next family newsletter or a wall display at the next Family History Day.

The web site has many more functions - you can submit your life memories and information and they will write a book for you - for a cost, of course.

"Climbing your Family Tree" article

An excellent article titled "Climbing Around in Your Family Tree" was published yesterday in The Tennessean newspaper, link is here, printed for Family History Month.

The article lists 11 steps to take, and provides excellent examples for each step. One comment struck me as really right:

"You become a detective. Every time you find something, it's just food for going further. It's an endless paper trail," said Virginia Watson, president of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.

"It's just addictive."

Sounds like she's a geneaholic, like most of us!

Here is a sidebar box with publicity for the MTGS activities:

The Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society, which formed 20 years ago, offers publications, meetings and workshops for those interested in researching family history. For its Bible Records Project, MTGS invites the public to bring in family Bibles or copies of family Bibles to be scanned in and digitized. Bring them to the Knowles Senior Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Nov. 13, at 174 Rains Ave. in Nashville. The Bibles will be copied and returned immediately. The organization is hoping to publish a collection of the Bibles.

Its annual daylong seminar, which is co-sponsored by the Tennessee Historical Society, is Nov. 18 at the Brentwood Library, 8109 Concord Road. This year it will focus on finding immigrant ancestors. The guest lecturer is John P. Colletta, who has given workshops and taught courses for the National Archives and Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Admission, which includes lunch, is $35 for MTGS members and $40 for nonmembers. Subtract $5 if you don't want lunch. For more information, visit

Each local or regional society needs publicity like this to stimulate interest in family history in our communities. This is a great job done by the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society.

Spooky names in the census

An Ancestry press release listed a number of names taken from the census records with Hallowe'en connections. The press release is here.

The release also lists a number of occupations found in the census records with Hallowe'en potential - witches, wizards and the like.

It's a fun read. The Ancestry CEO said:
"Family history creates deep emotional connections with your roots, but it can also be playful and fun, providing interesting trivia from the past," said Tim Sullivan, CEO,, Inc., parent company of "These intriguing Halloween anecdotes found in our census data are great examples of the out-of-the-ordinary information you can learn from historical records, giving you a unique insight into the lives of your ancestors."

Great marketing, eh?

Monday, October 23, 2006

What's Black and White and Read all over CV?

I mentioned last week that I was interviewed by the local weekly newspaper, the Chula Vista (CA) Star-News. This paper is free to the community, and it covers the local Chula Vista news fairly well, especially sports and politics, plus it has decent advertising supplements.

When the Chula Vista Genealogical Society (CVGS) was planning the "Discover Your Family History" workshop (held on Saturday, 14 October), I sent the press release to the Star-News editor, hoping for publicity about the workshop. I got a response a week later from a reporter, and he said they would publish the workshop notice, but not do an article about it. The reporter did ask some questions about my own research and said he would like to do an article about me, so I submitted some typical questions and my answers. He followed up with several more questions, which I answered immediately.

The article appeared in last weeks Star-News dated 20 October, on page 2 continuing to page 12, including the picture of me and my ancestral chart that I posted here last week.

I will transcribe it and post the article tomorrow (the Star-News does not have a web site). It looks like they used about 20% of the material I provided, but they got the facts right and mentioned CVGS several times, so I'm happy to get CVGS and myself a little exposure.

Free Databases at Family Tree Legends

I may be days late with this, but I've heard that the databases at the Family Tree Legends web site at are available for free until 31 October.

There are about 400 million records in these databases. The vital records databases include:

* California Birth and Death Indexes,
* Texas birth, marriage, death and divorce indexes,
* Illinois death and marriage indexes,
* Kentucky marriage, death and divorce indexes
* Maine death index
* Missouri birth and death indexes

and several more vital records indexes.

There are also military, land, court, and probate records available, plus biographical, history, geography and reference books.

Try it out - it's free here.