Ancestry’s Start a Tree Sweepstakes

Ireland landscapeStart your family tree online and you’ll be entered for a chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to your ancestral homeland. Just for entering, you’ll also receive three days of unlimited FREE access to, the world’s largest online collection of family history information. Click here to get started.

Spooky Records from the Census Collection Unearths Spooky Records From Largest Online Census Collection

There Is Quite a Cast of Halloween Characters Lurking in the U.S. and UK Census Collections on

PROVO, Utah, Oct. 24 — Looking for invitees for this year’s Halloween party? For a spooky selection, look no further than the U.S. and UK census collections on As the world’s largest online family history resource, is the only source for the complete digitized and indexed U.S. Federal Census collection from 1790 to 1930 and England and Wales censuses from 1841 to 1901. has done some digging through its vast historical records databases and found the following ghoulish individuals buried in the website’s extensive U.S. and UK census collections: Continue reading

Roots Televisionâ„¢ Quiet Launch Not So Quiet!

The following press release came in today from the folks at Roots Television. Sounds like it’s off to a great start. Congratulations Megan and Marcy!

When Roots Television™ debuted on September 29, 2006, it was a quiet launch in beta mode intended to draw enough traffic to test the site and work through the inevitable technical bugs that accompany new ventures into cyberspace.  That “quiet” launch quickly became an international roar, as word spread lightening-fast and Roots Television™ drew viewers from five continents in the first 24 hours!  Not surprising really, since family history commands one of the largest and fast-growing markets in the world.

Perhaps what is surprising is that no one thought of launching a family history channel sooner.  After all, there’s a golf channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a horse channel, and poker channel, and even a shipwreck channel.  Why not a channel for what’s said to be the second most popular hobby?

Today, roots fever is hotter than ever, with over 113 million Americans interested in their family history, and roots-sleuthing running at near-epidemic proportions in other countries, such as the U.K.  Yet this audience has been largely neglected by television.  Roots Television™ is uniquely positioned to be one of the first media outlets to take advantage of the inevitable merge between television and the Internet – and in so doing, serve this global and long-ignored audience. Continue reading

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Weekly Planner: Learn About One New Resource

Is there a particular record that you have avoided working with because you don’t have experience with it? Land records? Tax lists? Coroners’ records? Court records? Take the bull by the horns this week and do some research into that record type and its availability in the areas you are researching. Start with a reference book, or look for an article on the subject in the Ancestry Library. Follow up with research on the websites of repositories that may hold these records and determine what records are available and how they can be accessed (e.g., snail mail requests, online and e-mail requests, interlibrary loan, etc.). Then make it happen. You’ll wonder why you ever put it off!

Misadventures with the Microfilm Reader

by Mary Penner 

Turn this knob; slide this under there; snap this shut. Simple. Any first grader can load film onto a microfilm reader, right? I’m ready to launch; I’ll just press this button.

Instead of slithering with the speed of a cobra onto the take-up reel, the film explodes all over the floor like a trick snake in a fake peanut can. 

The researchers at the other microfilm readers glance in my direction. Some shake their heads with disdain, thinking “What a maroon.” Others have sympathetic half-smiles, thinking “I was an idiot once, too.”

“I guess I had the film on upside down or maybe backwards,” I stutter, feeling like a total moron.

The delicate art of loading film has been my enduring bugaboo. Interpreting those little diagrams on the machines isn’t rocket science. But, for some reason, I still frequently misread them.

Loading film onto the beasts isn’t the only challenge. Every microfilm reader has its own quirks. Today I had a machine that required a firm whack on the side panel every few minutes to keep its motor humming. I wasn’t happy about the whacking, but it was the only machine available and the librarian gave me explicit whacking instructions.

Not only did this machine require regular whacking, when I accelerated the film into fast-forward it mimicked the sound of a jet engine.  I asked the librarian if they supplied ear plugs. She just patted the machine affectionately saying, “It is our oldest machine.”

I suppose quirky electronic microfilm readers are still preferable to the old hand-crank readers. Why is it that the data I need is always at the very end of a two-mile-long film that I have to hand crank? Walk around any research library with hand crank readers and you’ll see Popeye-like muscles bulging out of the researchers’ right arms.

Muscle toning in the right arm is probably the only health benefit you’ll get from a microfilm reader. I have, in fact, discovered many negative health effects from using microfilm readers.

Have you ever sliced your fingers on the edge of the film? That’s a paper cut on steroids. And those hand crank readers have that big knob hanging off the front for moving the image up and down. How many times have I banged my head on that? And what about our nearly ruined eyesight? No matter how much we adjust the focus, some words just refuse to sharpen into legible script. And those films with the black background and the white letters–now that’s a real strain on the old rods and cones.

To me, the most disturbing side effect of microfilm reading is a bout of “scanitis nauseatosis.” Yes, baffling all known tenets of medicine, genealogists can get a roaring case of motion sickness while barely moving a muscle. Sit at a microfilm reader, manual or electric, and slowly scan page after page of film. Before long the eyes and brain have decided this repetitious exercise must translate into a case of microfilm-reading motion sickness.

So, we family history researchers have a love-hate relationship with microfilm readers. At least I do anyway; although, most of my problems come from operator error. Regardless of the hazards, I’ll keep using microfilm and microfilm readers. After all, those little frames of analog text have offered me countless answers to my genealogical questions.

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Genealogist Mary Penner writes “Lineage Lessons,” a weekly genealogy column, for the Albuquerque Tribune ( She can be reached through her website (

Stumped? Have You Checked for These Records?”

by Paula Stuart-Warren

After a meal, my mother always corrected me and said that meat is “done” and that I was “finished” with my meal. Done? Finished? Completed? Exhausted all resources? Already published? Somebody else did that line? Can’t find anything else on them? Does one of these reflect your research? Have you truly exhausted all resources?       

While we may have limitations as far as access to some of the records we need to seek out in our family history, don’t shut your mind off yet. There are some less traveled avenues that may hold some clues to ancestral details and could place your ancestor in a specific locality at given time.

Continue reading