New Record Merge Feature, and New Search Announcement

Ancestry____logo1.bmpNew Record Merge Feature
Was just browsing the blogosphere and noticed that Ancestry has posted a new merge feature for the member trees.

Remember how you could only save a census image to one family member at a time? Now, when you go into your family tree and see a hint for a record that includes other family members–like census records–you can opt to attach that record to all of the family, rather than adding it one at a time to each individual.  You can read Kenny Freestone’s post with more information about this feature on the Ancestry blog.

New Search Announcement
Also, a few weeks ago we let you know that the new Ancestry Search is available to everyone. There’s more info on that today on the Ancestry blog in a post by Kendall Hulet.

Kendall’s post has screen shots and detailed instructions on how to take the new search for a spin. So if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, click here to learn more.

Have a great weekend everyone!

New Custom Print Options at Ancestry

Record print.bmpWas just printing off a record I found on Ancestry for one of my ancestors and happened across a new enhancement.  You now have a choice between the traditional prints and new custom prints that will include the image, database title, source and index information. The custom prints are created through the AncestryPress tool, which also allows you to crop, rotate, resize, magnify, and highlight names.

When you click “Customize your print” it will pull up any photos or files you have added to your AncestryPress projects and you can pull images from those files and add them to the record. Pages can then be saved so you can access them anytime through AncestryPress.

While you can order professional printing of your page, it is free to print the page on your own printer as well.

I used to print off the index information on the back side of the image, but I like the idea of it all being on the same side of the page now. That way if I ever want to make a photocopy to share with another family member, I only have to copy the one side. 

If you’re familiar with AncestryPress, you’ll be able to jump right in and start using the AncestryPress tools. Even if you haven’t used AncestryPress though, this is a very user-friendly product. Give it a try! All it will cost is a few minutes of your time, and I’m betting you’ll be surprised at how quickly you pick it up. You can find more information on AncestryPress in an article I wrote back in October. The image is of a record I was looking at earlier and that I customized to print. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Coroners and Genealogists Join Forces in New Show to Tackle Quiet Epidemic of Unclaimed Persons

RootsTelevision.bmpI got the following press release this morning from RootsTelevision. I just checked out this show and it’s really well done. You can watch it at

PROVO, UT, May 28, 2008 — What happens to people when they die with no next of kin to claim their bodies?, an online channel dedicated to all aspects of genealogy and family history, has launched a new show, Unclaimed Persons, to bring attention to this largely unknown epidemic. Coroners’ offices across the country are struggling to cope with thousands of unclaimed people whose identities are known, but for whom no family can be found.

“I knew about John and Jane Does,” said genealogist Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, “but I had no idea about all these unclaimed people who are usually cremated and buried in unmarked graves, and that’s often after several months on a shelf in a morgue. We hear about abandoned pets, but you never hear about these abandoned bodies.”

Accidentally stumbling across an article about one such case is what prompted Smolenyak Smolenyak to cold call a couple of coroners’ offices and offer her sleuthing skills for tracking down family members. Unclaimed Persons features cases — one involving a man who was found in his jeep in the desert and had been lost to his family for more than 50 years — from Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania and San Bernardino County, California.

Says co-founder Marcy Brown, “We hope this show will create awareness, and that viewers will help with unsolved cases. But most of all, we hope it will motivate folks to pick up the phone and call that brother they haven’t spoken with in decades. I think it will make people ask themselves if maybe it’s time to call home.” Continue reading

Weekly Planner: Honor Those Who Served

Military records can contain details that may help you move your research forward. Browse your family tree for males who would have been of an age to serve during military conflicts, including siblings and other collateral relatives. Use age as a guideline, but bear in mind that many men fudged a little to get accepted into the service of their country–some older and some younger. Most family history programs include the option to sort your family database index by date of birth, making this task an easy one. What better way to honor your family members who served in the military than to keep their story alive for generations to come?

Help for Hard-to-Read Images, by Juliana Smith

1910 Catherine Dennis census crops.bmpSo you’ve found what you think might be your ancestor in the census. The problem is, when you view the image, what you find sends your heart plummeting. The image is a) too dark, b) too light, or c) looks like a chimpanzee with writer’s cramp wrote it. So what’s a twenty-first-century family historian to do? Let’s explore some options.

Image Editing
Many of the records we use today were microfilmed when that technology was in its infancy. So it’s no wonder we run across faded images or dark, hard-to-read records. Photo-editing tools are great for optimizing record images that are in digital format. I use Photoshop Elements, but many of the photo-editing programs out there have the same or similar options. Here are a few ideas for sprucing up those difficult to decipher images:

Darken highlights. I had a really faint 1910 census entry for my great-great-grandmother. Using the “Darken Highlights” function that is available in the Quick Fix mode, I was able to make the image much more readable. In this first set you can see the before and after images. Click on the image to enlarge it. The “before” image is in the center so that you can compare it with both of the edited images I’ve posted.

Invert. Another option for lighter images is to invert the colors (i.e., the background would change to black with white writing on it). Again, click on the first set of images to see the enlarged example.  Continue reading

Problem Solving for Genealogy, by Michael John Neill

The late Stanford mathematician George Polya devised a problem-solving process that has been used in math classes for years. Even though family history problems are not always math problems, Polya’s procedure can provide a framework within which to work.

In essence, Polya had four steps to his process:

1) Understand the Problem
This is an important aspect of solving any research quandary. There are several aspects of “understanding the problem” of which the genealogist needs to be aware. Searching for “everything I can find” about great-grandfather is not a “good problem.” While it may be clear, it is certainly too broad. Better problems would be more specific ones such as:

“Locate the ca. 1830 marriage record of James Rampley and Elizabeth Chaney that took place somewhere in Ohio.”

First, I need to determine if marriage records were kept in Ohio in 1830 (they were), and if they are still extant in the counties where the couple might have gotten married. I should seek out church records of the marriage in addition to civil records. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Civil War Naval Links, from George G. Morgan

Researchers interested in expanding their knowledge of both the Union and Confederate navies in the U.S. Civil War will welcome the extensive collection compiled on the Web by Dakota State University. Located on the DSU website as part of the American Civil War resource exhibit, the collection includes links to a number of museum sites associated with navies and ships on both sides, indexes of Civil War naval forces, and websites and photographs of specific vessels such as the Monitor, the Merrimac, the Huntley, and a number of others. There is even a glossary of naval terms and phrases you may encounter in your research. The collection is a must for researchers with ancestors who served in the Union or Confederate navies.

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

Your Quick Tips, 26 May 2008

Book Review: The World Rushed In
I recently read a book entitled The World Rushed In, by J.S. Holliday, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma. It is a mostly first-hand account on one man’s travels from Buffalo, New York, to Sacramento, California, to mine for gold in 1848 and his return home in 1851. The book is gleaned from his diaries, family letters, and the same documents from others who made the trip over land and back by steamship. It includes maps of the route and reprints of original sketches made while on the trail. It’s a fascinating story, and it will change your understanding of what going west was like and how early California worked after it was won from Mexico but before it became a state.
Kevin Kerwin
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Continue reading