Happy 2nd Birthday Roots Television!

RootsTelevision.bmpWas just reading some of my blog feeds on iGoogle and noticed a post by our friend Megan Smolenyak. It’s now been two years since she and her partner Marcy Brown launched Roots Television and what they’ve accomplished is truly amazing! In their first year, they won four Telly Awards and there are now hundreds of videos available on twenty-four channels that can be viewed on the website, including George Morgan and Drew Smith’s Down Under Florida series on the Dearly Departed Channel, DNA Stories, and a series of interviews by Dick Eastman on the Conferences Channel.

If you haven’t had a chance to explore Roots Television, I highly recommend you check it out. The shows provide helpful information through some great stories! Roots Television is online at www.rootstelevision.com.

Congratulations to Megan and Marcy and all the folks behind the scenes at Roots Television!

Weekly Planner: Overhaul a Family File

Do you have a family file or binder that’s bursting at the seams? Maybe it’s time to reorganize and break it down into several smaller files. Check and make sure all of the information in your files is up to date with your family history database and that your timelines are current. If you haven’t started a timeline for that family, do that too. Timelines are a great way to jumpstart your research. Learn more about creating timelines here.

Cousins via Canada? by Juliana Smith

Ludevit Skokan, line 5, page 1Last week I posted a press release on the blog about a new database of Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 that was added to Ancestry.ca. Available to Ancestry.ca and World Deluxe subscribers this collection includes roughly 7.2 million names of passengers arriving in Canadian ports.

While this is fantastic news for folks with Canadian roots, it’s also good for many Americans, who may not realize that they have cousins in Canada or Ludevit Skokan -Canadian PL 1927 2.gifancestors who traveled through our northerly neighbor on the way to the U.S.

When the database first rolled, I got that gleam in my eye that comes when I see an opportunity to learn something new about my family. I already knew that my Kelly ancestors had come to the U.S. after first stopping in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the 1820s. Perhaps some of my later Irish immigrants did as well. For much of the nineteenth century, travel to Canada was cheaper than a direct route to the U.S. and at times was promoted by steamship companies. Many immigrants followed that advice.

With this in mind, I was tempted to drop everything and start pillaging that database in search of family, but alas, after an extended weekend I had a full plate with work and a ton of things to do around the house, so I made a mental note to search it later. A few days went by and I had a call from our friend Megan Smolenyak. We were talking about the database and she reminded me that in 1921, when the U.S. began imposing quotas on immigrants according to nationality, many eastern Europeans turned their eyes toward Canada.

According to They Became Americans,

“The emergency immigration quotas heavily favored natives of northern and western Europe and all but closed the door to southern and eastern Europeans.”

While my Polish and Hungarian ancestors arrived around the turn of the century, might I find other relatives? That thought put me over the edge. I was off!
Continue reading

Here a Johann, There a Johann, Everywhere a Johann, by Michael John Neill

In 1735 there were three small children named Johann Ayelts in the village of Wiesens, now located in Germany. They spent their entire lives in that same village. The village of Wiesens is a small one located in the north of Germany with a population of probably less than 500 people in the mid-eighteenth century.

Those three Johanns were:

Johann Ayelts, born 1727
Johann Bruns Ayelts, born 1731
Johann Ayelts, born 1732

This is a situation that can easily confuse genealogists. Separating the three Johanns reminds us of some important lessons about genealogy methods and the importance of knowing something about the area in which one is researching.

It would be easy to confuse similarly named men. After all, they were born within five years of each other and lived their entire lives in the same small village. One might also be tempted to conclude that the men are related to each other, perhaps they were first cousins, grandchildren of the same patriarch. Perhaps they were related more distantly, yet close enough that it matters genealogically. But conclusions about relationships cannot be made based upon names alone–there needs to be actual evidence of a relationship.

Names do not usually provide a direct, immediate proof of a relationship. In some locations, the sharing of a first and a last name may warrant a closer look for a relationship between the two individuals, after the researcher has “sorted them out” and determined which records belonged to which individual. In other locations, the sharing of a first and a last name may be happenstance.

Let’s look at the three individuals in question.

The First Name
Johann is one of the most common German first names and is passed down in many families. Conclusions about relationships based solely on the first name are not advisable. It is generally advised to keep in mind the relative commonness of any names when making a hypothesis about a relationship.

The Last Name
One should not always assume individuals with the same last name living in close proximity are related. The researcher needs to understand how common certain last names were in certain areas, how those last names were derived, and when last names were consistently passed down from parent to child. If these individuals lived in Virginia, rather than northern Germany, my initial hypothesis about any relationship would be different.

How Common Was the Last Name?
The last name of Ayelts (and Eilts, Eielts, etc.) is fairly common in the area where these men lived. You can determine how common a last name is by looking in online phone books, indexes, city and village directories, etc. for the area being researched. You can also simply browse through birth records for a five or ten year time span. Keep in mind that the commonness of a last name can vary greatly from one region of a country to another, and the relative frequency of a last name should be determined only by using materials from the area where the family lived. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: An Inexpensive Genealogist’s Desk, from George G. Morgan

Many genealogists have difficulty carving out a space in their homes or apartments to work on their research. The kitchen or dining room table is often used as a temporary work area, but this means constantly having to relocate your research–that or eating out a lot. A quick and inexpensive solution is to purchase a pair of two-drawer file cabinets at a thrift shop or garage sale, followed by a five- or six-foot length of oak or pine shelving at least 30″ deep. Use the file cabinets to support the shelving and you have a workspace spanning across the cabinets. You can paint or finish your desk to your liking, add a good lamp, a wire in/out tray, and a pencil cup, and position it in a quiet, out-of-the way area. Make the desk more permanent by drilling holes and bolting the wooden surface to the top of the cabinets. The file cabinets provide immediate storage space for your paperwork and forms, and the desk gives you space to spread out and work without having to frequently pack everything up and move it.

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

Your Quick Tips, 29 September 2008

Keep the Date on Newspaper Clippings
I have been scanning obituaries from a file that my mother kept of family. I am most disturbed by the lack of date and sometimes name of the paper–just an old yellowed announcement and not even the year on most obituaries. When you’re clipping newspaper articles to save, be sure to include the name and date of the newspaper.
Nancy Cragun Day Continue reading

Photo Corner, 29 September 2008

Helen Dee McCuaig and Florence Contributed by Barbara Huard of Bali, Indonesia
This is a photograph of my aunts, Helen Dee McCuaig and Florence “Sandy” McCuaig, taken in Schreiber, Northern Ontario, Canada. Sadly, Dee died of tetanus after stepping on a rusty nail shortly after this photo was taken. Sandy passed away in 2005 at the age of 74.

Click on an image to enlarge it. 

Mayr Family, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1895Contributed by Michael Mayr, Coloma, Wisconsin
This picture was taken on 2 June 1895 in Milwaukee, WI, for the baptism of Herbert W. Mayr. Included in the picture are Ida M (Winkel) Mayr, mother, Herbert W. Mayr, baptised baby, Michael George Mayr, boy in back, (my grandfather), Anton G. Mayr, boy in front, George Mayr, Father, and Otto Mayr sitting on his lap.

Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies-Updated Website

This week I was checking out the Canadian Passenger Arrival Records that were recently posted on Ancestry.ca in search of some connections to my Hungarian ancestors. As I was looking for information regarding locations, I happened across the newly updated website of the Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies (FEEFHS). If you have ancestors from Eastern Europe, this fantastic website is a must-see.

FEEFHS has had an outstanding presence on the Internet for more than ten years. (I’m not sure of the exact date, but I know they already had a pretty extensive presence when I was compiling the first edition of the Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book back in 1997.) At any rate, I love this newly revised website.

The FEEFHS Map Room alone is worth the visit, but the new layout makes it easier than ever to find the many resources available, by country, region, or religion/ethinicity. You can check it out yourself at www.feefhs.org.