37 hours: $30 savings on FGS Conference in Boston

Don’t let your family, friends, and colleagues miss this big savings deadline!
If you act in the next 37 hours, you can still save $30.00 off the full conference registration price for the Federation of Genealogical Societies and New England Historic Genealogical Society Conference this August 30 – September 2, 2006.
Join the throngs of already registered genealogists, librarians, editors, booksellers, software developers, speakers, historians, librarians, archivists, and others in Boston, Massachusetts at the Sheraton Boston Hotel and the attached Hynes Convention Center. Continue reading

Tell Us Your Story!

Everyone has a story around their family history and Ancestry.com would love to hear yours!   We are anxious to hear more about why you’ve started doing family history research, what you hope to find, and what exciting discoveries (and people!) you’ve already found.

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • What inspired you to start researching your family’s story?
  • What is the most exciting thing you’ve learned while researching your family tree?
  • How has your family history brought your family closer together?
  • Why is knowing your family’s past important to you?
  • How has using Ancestry.com made it easier to find your family?

Send your story to [email protected].

NARA Flooding in Washington, D.C.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.The National Archives in Washington D.C. remains closed due to the past week’s flooding and giant dehumidifiers have been brought in to help protect its collections. Although no records have been damaged by floodwaters, the facility lost power and with the air conditioning off, the humid conditions need to be controlled to prevent mildew. For updates on the situation, or to view a video of Archivist Weinstein discussing the flooding, see the National Archives website.

Honoring Our Ancestors: Is Genetic Genealogy Being Oversold? by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak

Let me start by putting my bias right out front. In case you don’t already know, I’m a strong proponent of genetic genealogy (which I like to shorten to genetealogy).  I’ve been participating in it since the early days – which is to say, oh, about five-and-a-half years now – and I co-authored a book on the topic.

A Little History
At first, genetealogy was greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism.  For the first couple of years, it was challenging to get editors and conference organizations to accept articles or lectures about DNA.  Around 2003 or so, that started to change and the genealogical world became more curious, and ultimately, receptive.

So in December 2003, those of us immersed in genetic genealogy were thrilled to learn that Popular Science was running an article on our hobby!  Many of us were frustrated, though, when Putting the Gene Back in Genealogy  (by Rebecca Skloot) ran.  Our reaction stemmed from the article’s critical, almost “gotcha!” tone, suggesting that testing companies were guilty of overselling genetic genealogy.  Shortly thereafter, I addressed this in the book I co-authored, Trace Your Roots with DNA (p.100), when I wrote:

“Regrettably, a few critics have dismissed genetic genealogy as misleading at best (it only represents a small part of an individual’s family tree), and harmful at worst (it could reinforce oversimplified or false notions of race and cause identity problems).  By contrast, our experience has been that those who involve themselves in genetealogy are well aware of the limitations and more aware than most of the ambiguity of race.  In spite of concerns that we don’t grasp the fact that a particular test may only provide insight into one branch of our pedigree, or that another test may only reflect our heritage back a few generations, we are curious to learn what can be learned.” Continue reading

NARA Funding Cut by $8 Million

The National Coalition for History (NCH) reported on Friday that the House has reduced funding to an already strapped National Archives.
The report states

In a surprise ove on the floor of the House of Representatives, on 14 June 2006, the lower chamber cut the proposed budget for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by $8 million.  A higher level budget had been approved by the House Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, and the District of Columbia.  If the Senate agrees with the House the net result would signal (to quote a “dismayed” Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein) “a very austere year” in FY 2007 for NARA – one that would mean a reduction of hours of operations, partial closings of researcher reading rooms on nights and weekends, and even possible furloughing of employees.

You can read the entire article here. The Amendment can be found in the Library of Congress’ Thomas database of legislative information. (See 20. H.AMDT.1026 to H.R.5576)

Quote for Today

Dutch Irises at Juliana's houseI have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.
~ Theodore Roosevelt, Des Moines, Iowa, 04 November 1910

Weekly Planner: File a Pile

Most of us have them at one point or another–those evil piles that seem to spring up, seemingly from nowhere. Take a few minutes to grab a small stack and put them in the right place. If you have a really large stack (guilty here!), do a pre-sort by surname into folders, doing a little bit each day. Once sorted, they’ll be easier to file into the appropriate binders or folders.

A printer-friendly version of this article can be found in the Ancestry.com Library.


Using Ancestry.com: About the 1910 Census, by Juliana Smith

Dyer Family Portrait ca. 1910When Ancestry.com launched the new every-name index to the 1910 U.S. Federal Census, I went in to play around a bit and look for my ancestors’ entries.

For three of my four great-grandmothers, this would be the last census in which they would appear. My dad’s grandmother, Julia Mekalski, died of cancer in 1917 at the age of forty-three. On my mother’s side, her paternal grandmother, Emma Chouanniere, died of pernicious anemia on 12 July 1911 (only thirty-six years old), and her maternal grandmother, Margaret Dyer, died of typhoid fever, said to be contracted from eating shellfish from Sheepshead Bay in March of 1911. (She was thirty-nine years old.)

To make matters worse for that family, Margaret Dyer’s mother-in-law (also named Margaret Dyer) contracted a cold at the funeral from which she was unable to recover and she died in July of 1911. The 1910 census gives us a snapshot of these families before their deaths, and perhaps your family as well. Let’s explore it a bit. Continue reading

Not a Primary or Secondary Source, by Michael John Neill

Great-grandma’s death certificate is an excellent lecture example. Full of “unknowns,” it proves all of us have our research blanks. After one lecture, an attendee approached me and said I should not use the document as it was a secondary source. I indicated the document was not a primary or a secondary source, but provided both primary and secondary information. The attendee’s comment raised an issue that still confuses some genealogists: primary and secondary sources.

The death certificate used for the illustration is a grave disappointment. Ancestor Ida Sargent Trautvetter Miller is one of my brick walls. While the name of her father is listed on the document, all other parental information is listed as “unknown.” Like most records on my great-grandmother, it raises more questions than it answers. What is certain is that the document is not a primary or a secondary source. Continue reading