Blog » Site The official blog of Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:29:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Six Things to Look for in City Directories Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:29:13 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more ]]> City directories are incredible sources. In many cities, they were published annually, which can give us a lot of detail about our ancestors. Here are six things to look for in city directories.

1. Your Ancestor and Other Family Members

Sure, you’re going to look for your ancestor, but look for other family members, too. Some of them may have lived nearby, others across town. Then follow the family year-by-year to note changes in occupation, living arrangements, even deaths of a head of household. Add it all to a timeline so you can keep track of the family’s comings and goings.

2. Streets and Maps

Street names can change over time. So can house numbers. To get a real look at your ancestor’s neighborhood, look for street directories inside city directories. In some cases you may even find maps of the city or town. Street directories will typically give you cross streets, which you can use to orient you on modern day maps. This sample lists the right and left side of the street and the house number that corresponds with each intersection.

Brooklyn, New York, 1877


Mobile, Alabama 1890

You may also find a reverse directory that lists residents by address, as well as cross streets. Use these to look through the neighborhood when searching for your ancestor’s name just isn’t working. It’s also a good way to see who is living nearby.

3. Churches and Clerics

Religious records are incredibly valuable for discovering dates, places, and family relationships. For the years before states were required to keep records of births, marriages, and deaths, churches may be the only place to find that information. Use city directories to find the churches nearest to your ancestor and churches that may be affiliated with his or her ethnic background.

If you find the name of a cleric on records associated with your family, research the cleric in city directories, too. Use his address and compare it to the address of local churches to determine church affiliation. Also look to see if the directory you’re viewing has a list of churches and synagogues that includes the names of clerics.


Chicago, Illinois, 1900

4. Cemeteries

Check city directories for cemeteries near where your relatives lived. They may point you to burial locations, possibly even a family plot, where you’ll find details about more than one family member. This directory from Mobile, Alabama in 1890, gives the cemetery locations and even the name of the sexton.


Mobile, Alabama, 1890

5. Advertisements

Look at the ads carefully. You may discover more information about a family member’s business or place of business, names of photographers, banks, organizations and other details that  could appear elsewhere in your family’s history. Advertisements were a big source of revenue for directories and this Buffalo directory calls its index of advertisers the “Honor Roll.” Page numbers in the final column will take you directly to the ad.


Buffalo, New York, 1939

6. Historical Information

City directories often included histories of the area, some with images of the city, too. That same Buffalo directory from 1939 includes an Introduction that spans 21 pages with photographs of the city and its landmarks, and sections on early history and settlers, historic sites, street names, statistics, and more. There are even sections outlining the history of several ethnic groups in Buffalo (Polish, German, Italian, Irish, and Jewish). All of this can give you a little more background on your family and their home life.


Buffalo, New York, 1939

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And The Winner of the June Branch Out Contest is… Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:53:22 +0000 Kristie Wells Read more ]]> ACOM_BranchOut250x250_badge

If you entered the June round of our Branch Out contest, we’d like to thank you for participating! We received thousands of responses that included some incredibly inspiring stories from our community!

We have compiled all of the entries and randomly selected our next winner. That lucky person is…

Robin Martin from Montana!!

Robin is tracing her German line and will begin working with our ProGenealogists to try and add more stories and facts to her current research, so stay tuned for an update from our research team.

There will be more chances to win when we launch the next cycle of the Branch Out contest, starting on August 1st – so stay tuned for that announcement and in the mean time, help us congratulate Robin!

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Do You Have a Search Strategy? Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:06:01 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more ]]> 20140708-search-downloadAs I write this, I’m getting ready for a trip to Utah. As a fairly frequent traveler, I know that to make the trip less stressful, I need lists. Lists are what keep me from wandering around the house searching for nothing in particular, grasping randomly for things I might need, and missing items I definitely need.

With a little forethought and a checklist, I do a much better job packing and spend less time running around my house like a crazy person.

When I’m searching for my ancestors, I like to take this strategic approach as well. A good research plan with a clear goal will allow you to choose the best path for your search.

There are a lot of different ways to search for your ancestors on, and different strategies will work best in different situations. For example, if you’re just starting to research a family member, you might start with a global search of all the collections on so you can grab the low-hanging fruit that will come up with just a few basic facts like a name, year of birth, and a place where the person lived. But if you have a specific goal, like finding him or her in the 1920 U.S. census, it doesn’t make sense to wade through all 14 billion records; going directly to 1920 will have you working with a much smaller and more manageable subset of the collections.

You could also search on a category level or in one of the many special collections that Ancestry has created for specific record types or ethnic research.

To help you navigate the different types of searches and what situations each one is best suited for, this month we’ve kicked off a series of free downloads on the various ways to search In coming months we’ll take a closer look at the various types of search and include tips that will have you searching like a pro in no time. Download our Search Strategies guide.

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What You Might Have Missed, July 7 Edition Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:06:24 +0000 Anne Gillespie Mitchell Read more ]]> WDYTYABlog Posts
From the Barefoot Genealogist:
Five-Minute Find:
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Throwback Thursday Theme: At the Movies Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:44:32 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more ]]> Kingston Theater, Cheboygan, Michigan. I've never been to a movie there, but I do love the sign.

Kingston Theatre, Cheboygan, Michigan. I’ve never been to a movie there, but I do love the sign. (Photo by Amy Crow.)

I distinctly remember the first movie that I saw in a theater. My sister and one of her girl friends took me to the Town & Country Cinema, not far from our house. It was a matinee and the movie was Bambi. (No, it wasn’t during its original release in 1942. It was during one of its numerous re-releases. I won’t say which one.)

Thinking back, Bambi might not have been the best choice for a first movie, considering how much I cried. (Denise, you could have warned me!) It’s amazing I ever went to the movies again.

But I did go back to the movies. The early years were filled with the expected Disney movies. Then, I made it to the big leagues: Star Wars, my first PG-rated movie. It was also the first time going to a drive-in. This was with the same sister who nearly scarred me for life with Bambi. (Fortunately, she was only joking when she said I had to hide in the trunk of the car when we drove in since was a PG-rated movie.)

Both the Town & Country Cinema and the Eastside Drive-In (where I saw Star Wars) are now gone. They were both built in the early 1960s and, although they were nice theaters in their time, they didn’t have the splendor of the movie theaters of the 1920s and 30s. I am glad to see a move to revitalize those classic theaters, either as entertainment spots (such as the Ohio Theatre in Columbus) or as shops, but keeping the original front and signage. (I love those old theater signs!)

Whether you’re watching in a splendid, revitalized theater or one that’s in a shopping mall, there’s still something neat about sitting down with your overpriced popcorn and watching the story unfold. Maybe it’s the cheer everyone lets out when the bad guy finally gets his or the collective groan when you all realize the movie was a dud. Or maybe it’s just the simple pleasure of sitting in a darkened theater and escaping for a couple of hours.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Bambi, I’ll say this. (Spoiler alert.) It doesn’t go well for Bambi’s mom. That’s all I’m going to say.

What are your movie memories? Do you remember your first trip to the movies? What was your favorite theater like? Did the speaker ever work when you went to the drive-in? Share your story below – and be sure to share it with your family, too!

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Throwback Thursday Theme: Family Vacations Thu, 19 Jun 2014 21:26:26 +0000 Juliana Smith Read more ]]> Summer is officially underway and across the country, families are packing up for vacation destinations. And that is the theme of this week’s Throwback Thursday writing prompt.

Julie station wagon 72My family took a summer vacation every year, but rather than destinations like Disneyland or national parks, we visited family. My mom had two families. Her east coast siblings and her Texas cousins who she was raised with. We alternated between those families every summer and at Easter we visited my dad’s siblings in Cleveland, Ohio.

Getting ready for the trips was always exciting, especially the longer trips to New Jersey and El Paso, Texas. My mom would pack up all of our stuff into the suitcases, but packing the car was Dad’s job. My dad is a packing genius and he taught me his craft. You pack all the big stuff first and then arrange the smaller bags around it. You also had to think about access. Things we would need along the route needed to be packed last so we didn’t have to completely unload the car at every stop. Genius, I tell you.

There was also the dilemma of how to entertain four young girls on what in the case of the Texas trip, was a three-day journey. That’s a long time in the back of a station wagon. Mom had this part down. There were notebooks in which she had written the lyrics to songs that we sang along the way. Each of us had a pad of paper where we could list the states we saw on license plates. (I was awesome at that game!) And then of course, there were the Mad Libs. We loved the Mad Libs.

My favorite entertainment was following along on the maps. Dad would save the maps he got from AAA, where someone had outlined our route with a marker. I would get the map from the previous trip and spent much of my time trace the route with my finger, trying to make the speed of my finger match our progress. My finger was always too fast. But it taught me a lot about navigation and how to read road signs.

One year on the way back from Texas, Aunt Muriel made us each three bags of goodies, one for each day of the trip. After that it was a tradition. Each morning when we hit the road, we got our bags and by noon we were asking for the next day’s bag. Lunch was sandwiches my mom had packed in the Thermos cooler that went with us on every trip. It had a shelf on the top where the sandwiches went so they wouldn’t get soggy as the ice melted. We ate at roadside stops and looked forward to one of the best parts of the trip for us—the hotel.

On the way to Texas, we always stopped in Joplin, Missouri, and Clancy, Oklahoma. I don’t remember the name of the hotel in Joplin, but in Clancy, I remember the Best Western. We always left really early in the morning and drove until about 3 or 3:30 so we would have the late afternoon to play in the hotel pools.

There were some adventures, like the time something broke on the car in Joplin and my dad had to get it repaired. I remember him being angry because they overcharged him because we were in a tough spot—out-of-towners with nowhere else to go. It made me mad too.

And then there was the time on the way to New Jersey, we ran into a huge traffic jam in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It was for a Woodstock-like concert at Poconos Speedway. I found an old newspaper clipping in one of our vacation scrapbooks and with the date of it, was able to find more information online. The traffic jam tied us up for hours and cars were trying to get by on the shoulder and getting stuck there.

Now it’s your turn. What were your family vacation adventures? What was the trip like?  Did you drive, take a bus or train, or fly? How did you stay entertained along the way? What was your favorite destination? Share your stories with us, and more importantly, write them down and share them with your family.

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Distributed Denial of Service Attack Neutralized Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:49:31 +0000 Scott Sorensen Read more ]]> Around 1:30 p.m. MT on Monday, June 16, 2014, attackers targeted Ancestry with a Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS). During the attack, Ancestry websites along with the Find A Grave website were clogged with massive amounts of bogus traffic that took the sites down.

We want to apologize for the inconvenience this has caused and also thank you for your amazing support, as this may have interrupted some of your family history research. We understand how frustrating this can be for our customers, and please know that it was just as frustrating for us too. We appreciate your patience and support as we dealt with this unfortunate incident against Ancestry.

We have since neutralized the DDoS attack and our services have been up since 11:00 a.m. MT today. You should now be able to access all Ancestry and Find A Grave websites, though you may experience issues intermittently as we continue to work through bringing the sites back up to full capacity.

Your data was not compromised by this attack. This attack overloaded our servers with massive amounts of traffic but did not impact or access the data within those servers. No data was impacted in any way.

I would like to thank the Ancestry Web Operations team for working really hard throughout the night to restore the Ancestry and Find A Grave services and build the defenses necessary to mitigate future attacks of this sort. Our Web Operations team is closely monitoring the situation in case the attacks resume and we’re doing everything in our power to protect our websites from situations like this in the future.

Thank you.

Scott Sorensen

Chief Technology Officer


UPDATE: June 24, 8:00pm MT 

  • DNA downloads of raw data have been restored.
  • There are lingering issues with logging into RootsWeb, and with access and searching WorldConnect. We are working to restore this access tonight, but you may see some intermittent outages in the process.


UPDATE: June 24, 12:30pm MT

  • The connectivity issues for Family Tree Maker (FTM) have been resolved. If you are still experiencing difficulties syncing FTM Mac, make sure you have the most current patch, shut FTM down completely (Command Button + Q), and reboot your machine to make sure that the DNS cache gets updated.
  • Service to RootsWeb, and has been restored. (Note: While RootsWeb is up, we are aware of some issues with the WorldConnect database and are looking into this.)


UPDATE: June 23, 6:20pm MT

  • GEDCOM files from Ancestry Member Trees are now available for download


UPDATE: June 21, 9:30am MT

  • We appreciate your patience while we work to restore the MyFamily, MyCanvas, and Mundia sites following the DDoS attack on Monday. Please note we will be extending the retirement date on each and will have more details to share once these websites are brought back online. Stay tuned.


UPDATE: June 19, 11:30am MT

  • Currently, the Ancestry websites seem to be performing well, but there may be intermittent issues over the next couple of days. If you are experiencing issues getting in, please try the search page directly at


UPDATE: June 18, 2:46pm MT

  • Sync and search features in Family Tree Maker (FTM) have been disabled until we’re certain that site stability has been fully restored. You can use FTM offline however. Our team is actively working on restoring these to full service.
  • is back online


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Jack, James and Daniel to be most popular names – if England wins World Cup Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:30:41 +0000 Read more ]]> ‘1966 naming trend’ reveals how the names of England’s World Cup squad members will soar if they win the tournament.


  • Names of England’s 1966 World Cup winners doubled in popularity after Wembley win
  • Trend would mean nearly 30,000 extra boys with same name as 2014 Lions
  • Jack Wilshere can expect to see his name overtake Harry and Oliver as the most popular baby name in the UK if he can match counterpart Sir Bobby Charlton’s Wembley heroics
  • Tournament flops put dent in baby name popularity


The names of each of England’s squad members will more than double in popularity (increase by 116 per cent on average) if England wins the World Cup in Brazil, according to our research.

Analysis of historic birth indexes carried out showed that the names of each of the 1966 starting team doubled on average the year of their World Cup win, with some of the names increasing fivefold (386 per cent).

While 28,261 boys born in 1965 were given the same name as one of 11 players who featured in the final, 1966 saw an incredible increase to 51,895 babies holding one of these names after England’s players became national heroes, beating Germany 4-2 in extra time to lift the trophy.

The same average rise applied to 2014 squad members would see Jack (Wilshere) comfortably overtake Harry and Oliver to become the most popular boys’ name in the UK, while there would be nearly 4,000 extra Daniels (Sturridge) and 3,500 extra Josephs (Hart) if those two players can follow in the footsteps of legends like Geoff Hurst and Gordon Banks.

England’s 1966 squad featured iconic players such as Manchester United midfield star Sir Bobby Charlton and inspirational captain Sir Bobby Moore. Their shared name and prevalence in the squad meant that nearly 8,500 extra Roberts were born in 1966 compared to the year before, the biggest single rise of any name in the team.

The scale of the 1966 squad’s success was so great that every single players’ name spiked in popularity, including those which were already on the want such as Norbert (100%), Alan (90%) and Roger (40%). If this year’s England squad hold the World Cup trophy aloft, that could mean a reprieve in the demise of modern day names such as Wayne, which was given to only 30 boys in the UK in 2012.

The naming trend does, however, help send the names of England flops in the opposite direction. After David Seaman’s failed free-kick save against Ronaldinho of Brazil in 2002, nearly 500 fewer Davids were born that year. Danny (Mills), Trevor (Sinclair), and Robbie (Fowler) also fell in popularity as the Three Lions left the World Cup at the quarter final stage yet again. Similarly Gareth (Southgate) declined by 10 per cent in 1996 after the defender’s poor penalty saw England crash out of Euro ‘96.

Additional research also revealed that, incredibly, Paul Gascoigne’s virtuoso midfield performances and public tears at Italia ‘90 made him so popular that three baby boys were even given the first name ‘Gazza’ the year after the tournament.

The England & Wales, Birth Index, 1916-2005, is available to search at (or to all who have a World membership) and indexes every birth in England and Wales between those dates. The records list the full name of the child, maiden name of the mother as well as month and year of registration and the registration district.



  • Russell James, Marketing Manager“Our analysis of the millions of online birth records on provides a fascinating insight into how British people respond to footballing heroes, so England’s Lions really can make a name for themselves this summer – with the potential to make sure they live on throughout history. But it’s not just sporting stars who are honoured with commemorative baby names – the birth of a royal baby, or remembering a family member close to your heart can also be reflected in today’s choice of baby names”.


Keep up to date on all the World Cup action on Twitter by following the hashtag #WorldCup.



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Celebrate the Fathers in Your Tree by Searching Surnames Wed, 11 Jun 2014 02:46:51 +0000 Anna Swayne Read more ]]> Father’s Day is this Sunday! Are you still looking for the perfect gift? Try an AncestryDNA test. Buy today (June 11th) and choose expedited shipping to ensure it arrives on time.

fathers day genertic

Have you already taken the test? Use your DNA results to combine the power of DNA to search for the surnames in your tree by using the filters on your match page.

Last week I talked quickly about how I was doing more research on my maternal grandfather. I got a lot of questions on how to do this so we put together this Step-by-Step Guide to help you use the search filters to understand more of your DNA matches.

This will take you through the process of getting more from your matches and how you can search for those fathers in your tree, or learn more about certain surnames you have come across.

Have you had some success with finding cousins or solving a mystery through the AncestryDNA test? Share your story with us in the comments below or online at our community.

Happy matching!

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Throwback Thursday Theme: Where Your Parents Worked Thu, 05 Jun 2014 02:44:23 +0000 Amy Johnson Crow Read more ]]> In the eyes of a child, a workplace can seem magical. There’s something about being allowed in where adults work. It’s like that office or factory is a whole other world. That’s how I felt about my dad’s service station.


Slane and Johnson Texaco, Columbus, Ohio. My dad is the one on the right.

Yes, I said “service station,” not “gas station.” Slane and Johnson Texaco (and later, Slane and Johnson Gulf) was a full-service service station. Remember the jingle “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star. The big bright Texaco star!”? That was my dad. (And for those of you who do remember that jingle, I’m sorry for it now being stuck in your head!)

If you drove up to the pumps, Dad, his partner George, or one of the guys would actually pump your gas for you. They’d also wash your windows. If you asked, they’d even check your oil. Car running rough? Make an appointment and Dad and the guys would check it out and make it run like new.

Business did well. They added a second service bay and expanded the front area. It was in those bays and that front room that my sisters and I spent a good part of our childhoods. Like my sister Denise said to me not long ago, “It was like our own amusement park!”

What a magical “park” it was. There was that special hose that ran from the pumps, across the driveway, and into the station. Somehow, when cars drove across it, a bell would ring. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. When I was little, I never could quite figure out how that worked. All I knew was that I was disappointed when it didn’t work when I’d ride my bike across it.

Then there were the lifts. They actually scared me a little bit. There I was, this little kid, and this great big car was waaaaaaay up in the air. I was always certain it would fall off.

Slane and Johnson Texaco, 1963.

Slane and Johnson Texaco, 1963.

I loved to watch Dad work on cars. He could somehow make sense of all of the pieces and parts and belts and wires that went every which way.

When I got a bit older, I would help out working the register and pumping gas. Eventually, I got the job of taking the monthly inventory. (Resistor and non-resistor sparkplugs in separate columns, thank you very much.)

Things change. Texaco pulled out of Ohio. Dad and George ended up buying the Gulf station across the street. Years went by and George retired, followed by Dad a few years later. (He’s now enjoying golf courses instead of service bays!) Both stations are gone now. But the smell of gasoline and the ding-ding of a driveway bell can take me right back to that magical place.

What about you? Where did your parents work? Were you ever allowed to visit? Did those “everyday objects” seem magical to you?


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