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Weekly Planner: Honoring the Moms in Your Family Tree

Emma_maybe_resize.bmpWith Mother’s Day coming next Sunday, it’s a great time to honor one or more of the moms in your family tree. Schedule some time to research an ancestress. You can learn more about her life by reading period newspapers, social histories, or a biography of one of her peers. Write a brief essay on what you have learned and preserve her story for future generations.

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Free Tools for Family Historians, by Juliana Smith

Google Map St James.bmpMost of the records we utilize in our research weren’t really created with family historians in mind. Similarly many tools are available online now that weren’t specifically created for us, but they sure can be helpful as we seek information about our ancestors. Today I thought I’d share a list of some of my favorite non-genealogy tools.

Having trouble interpreting a record for one of your non-English speaking ancestors? AltaVista’s Babelfish translator will translate text or entire Web pages for you in many languages.

Looking for more information about a battle in which your ancestor fought during the Civil War? Or perhaps your ancestor was a Philadelphia policeman and you’d like to learn more about the history of that police force. What were the working conditions of the industry in which your ancestors were engaged? The answers to these and many other questions can often be found in publications not found in your local bookstore. WorldCat will not only alert you to their existence, but when you enter your zip code it will give you a list of libraries that have those publications in their collection.

Census Enumerator Instructions (IPUMS)
Census enumerators were given very specific instructions when it came to recording the answers your ancestors gave. Reading these instructions can be very helpful in more fully understanding the records. This site includes the original instructions for the years 1850-1950.

Ever wondered whether a historic event prompted your ancestors to pick up and leave the country they had called home for generations? Wikipedia can give you some ideas. Search for a year and you’ll get a chronology of world events from that year. This free online encyclopedia is a great first step, but you should verify your findings with more authoritative sources. Although much of what you see will be correct, I have found numerous errors such as events listed under the wrong year. Continue reading

Between the Covers: Family Photo Albums, by Maureen Taylor

In response to a question submitted by a reader I wrote a column in January on saving family photo albums. Many people commented on the piece, asked questions, and talked about albums they have in their families. Thank you for sharing. Here are the answers to your queries and a few additional comments from me.

Removing Photographs from Magnetic Albums
Ginger wanted to know what to do about magnetic albums. You probably own several. I know I do. They were quite popular in the 1970s and for unknown reasons continue to be commonly available. Perhaps it’s the price. These magnetic albums with their sticky pages and plastic overlays are often on sale. Pay less today but more tomorrow isn’t a real adage, but it applies to these destructive albums. Once you place your pictures in a magnetic album you’re in trouble. Over time the glue seeps through causing stripes of discoloration, making it almost impossible to remove images from the pages. So what’s a frustrated photo genealogist to do?

Sally, the Practical Archivist suggested using a microspatula for gently removing images from magnetic albums. These handy inexpensive devices sell for around $4.00 and are available from library suppliers like Brodart.

In a workshop I attended, a photo conservator suggested using thin unwaxed dental floss to carefully remove photos from sticky pages. But be very gentle. It is possible to tear pictures using this method. Slide the floss under the edge of the image and move it slowly to try to lift the image away from the glue. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Take a Trip Through Time, from Loretto D. Szucs

Before the Internet made life a lot easier for us, I’d often take my daughter Juliana with me to do family history research. At that time, university and large public libraries were the only places you could find microfilmed copies of old newspapers. I remember one afternoon, years ago, as if it was yesterday. Our mission was to locate obituaries for specific individuals. She had her list of people to find and I had mine.

As Juliana scrolled through old newspaper pages for the first time, she was fascinated. She kept calling me over to look at what she had found–advertisements for patent medicines, a woman’s flapper-style dress that sold for one dollar, and a man’s dress shirt for a quarter. Dramatic headlines and the now-humorous writing styles of a century ago pulled her right in. Her excitement was contagious and despite the fact that our time in the library was limited, we found ourselves totally distracted. Although we didn’t find much on our ancestors that day, it was one of the most memorable research trips I’ve ever taken. In retrospect, I’m sure that interesting stuff in the old newspapers helped to ignite the then twelve-year-old’s fascination with the past.

These days, we don’t have to keep an eye on that library clock to get the same experience. We have access to many historical newspapers online through Ancestry and other websites. When we get up in the morning, we can read the current news online–and then go and read the very newspapers that our ancestors read with their morning coffee a hundred or more years ago. It gives us a new perspective and allows us to get to know our ancestors in a way we never could before. And if you are lucky, maybe there’s a young person in your life who would take as much enjoyment from a virtual trip back in time as Juliana did. What better way to connect families over distance and time?

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Your Quick Tips: Summer Reading Book Reviews

The Children’s Blizzard
I would recommend the book “The Children’s Blizzard,” by David Laskin, to your readers whose roots are in the Midwest regions of Minnesota and the Dakotas. It does more than tell the tale of the children lost in the blizzard of 12 January 1888. It also gives the history of the region including the countries that the settlers emigrated from and the reasons they came. It builds up to the storm by showing what factors came into play and caused such a sad loss. Some readers may find their families noted in this book and will gain a better understanding of the hardships they had to endure.

Jim Continue reading

The Year Was 1923

The year was 1923 and Germany, hit with 33 billion dollars in war reparations, was facing catastrophic hyperinflation. In July of 1923 the exchange rate was 4 billion marks to a dollar. By November it was 1 trillion to one. People who had saved all their lives found that their fortune could barely buy groceries.

Hitler and the Nazi party were beginning their push for power, and in November when a planned uprising was postponed, Hitler took control of a Munich Beer Hall to force the Bavarian leaders of the planned rebellion to reconsider. The putsch failed however and the next day when the Nazis marched on Munich, they were met by police. Sixteen of the participants were killed and many of the leaders, including Hitler, were arrested and tried for treason. Unfortunately, Hitler’s trial became a publicity platform, which allowed his eventual rise to power.

In Ireland, the Civil War that had divided the country and inflicted more casualties than the preceding War of Independence, came to an end.

In September 1923, the Kanto Earthquake struck Japan with devastating results in Tokyo and Yokohama and the surrounding areas. More than 100,000 people were killed by the devastation and the fires that sprang up as a result of the quake.

The quake triggered a tsunami and it is believed that unusually strong currents on the other side of the Pacific brought on by the quake were the cause of the Honda Point disaster, where seven naval destroyers ran aground killing twenty-three sailors. 

In Rosewood, Florida, another tragedy unfolded as racial violence erupted after a white woman reported being assaulted by a black man. Six blacks and two whites were dead when it was over, and a mob burned the remaining homes of blacks in the area.

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Photo Corner

Lawrence Pachniak and Aniela MaziarzContributed by Richard Hardesty, Seffner, Florida
This photo was taken in Cambria City, near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in 1906. It is the wedding day of my wife’s mother’s parents, Lawrence Pachniak and Aniela Maziarz. They met in this country, but both were from Poland.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

August F. Turk and Eliza Lafitte TurkContributed by Linda W. Miller
This is a photo of my great-grandparents, August F. Turk and Eliza Lafitte Turk, taken around their wedding day 06 August 1889 in Frierson, Louisiana. August was born in Germany in 1845 and Eliza in Louisiana 1871.


Family Tree Maker 2008 Program Updates (SP3) are Now Available

FTM 2008Ancestry has just announced a major update for FTM 2008. Improvements include:

  • Major enhancements in performance
  • Major enhancements in stability
  • Book layout in charts
  • Ability to create saved versions for all charts and reports
  • Ability to save user created templates for charts
  • Ability to apply predefined templates for charts
  • Enhancements to place interactions
  • New Find-and-Replace dialog
  • And much more…

You can learn more about the latest update to FTM 2008 on the Ancestry blog.