Ancestry Launches New Toolbar

Ancestry____logo1.gifAncestry has added a new feature to help you find what you need quickly and easily on the site. You can now install a new toolbar on either IE or Firefox browsers. Employees got a sneak peek at this toolbar  and I’ve been using it for about a couple weeks now and really like it. The toolbar includes:

  • A Google search of the Ancestry site
  • A Save button that allows you to save photos, text and links to your Ancestry tree
  • A drop-down box with your Quick Links from the Ancestry home page
  • A drop-down box to quickly access all of your Ancestry trees

You can learn more about the new toolbar on the Ancestry blog.

Click here to download the new toolbar.

Ancestry Launches the World’s Largest Online Collection of Jewish Historical Documents Partners with JewishGen and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to Provide Access to Millions of Jewish Family History Records for People around the World

NEW YORK CITY and PROVO, UTAH – Oct. 29, 2008 – Today, part of The Generations Network, Inc., announced it has introduced the world’s largest online collection of Jewish family history records. has partnered with two leading organizations committed to the preservation of Jewish heritage – JewishGen, an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City that maintains the world’s premier Jewish genealogy website, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an overseas humanitarian aid organization committed to providing relief for Jews in more than 70 countries. These partnerships will make millions of important Jewish historical documents available on, many of which are online for the first time ever and searchable for free. These unique records, including photographs, immigration records, Holocaust records and memorials, can now be searched alongside other records already accessible on, creating the largest collection of Jewish family history records on the Web with more than 26 million records documenting Jewish life.

Details about the new Jewish Family History Collection on will be unveiled today at a ceremony at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

“, the JDC and JewishGen are committed to the preservation of important Jewish historical records, and we’re honored to be working with these well-respected organizations to help in this effort,” said Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of The Generations Network, Inc.  “For the millions of people interested in discovering more about their Jewish heritage, these new partnerships make researching family history easier than ever before.”

Many documents digitized as a part of this agreement have never before been available online, including two important JDC collections:

  • Jewish Transmigration Bureau Deposit Cards, 1939-1954 (JDC), a collection of records showing the amount of money paid by American Jewish citizens to support the emigration of friends and relatives from European countries during and after WWII.
  • Munich, Vienna and Barcelona Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943-1959 (JDC), a collection containing records of displaced Jews who were provided with food, medical care and clothing and emigration assistance by the JDC.

“Since 1914, JDC has helped revitalize Jewish communities throughout the world and has helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews,” said Steve Schwager, Chief Executive Officer for JDC. “We are excited to partner with, providing descendants access to rare new information about their families and themselves. JDC and are opening up a wealth of previously inaccessible information through the digitization and dissemination of 125,000 records of those who were helped and of those who helped provide relief to others during and directly after WWII.”

More than 300 databases from JewishGen will also now be available on These JewishGen databases represent 14 different countries and contain more than 5 million records, such as:

  • The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry, an invaluable collection with more than 1 million names of Jews represented in nearly 2,000 Jewish cemeteries around the world.
  • Yizkor Book Necrologies, a list of the names of those murdered in the Holocaust which directs users back to the Yizkor Books themselves – memorials which offer vivid, first-hand accounts of the Holocaust and its aftermath.
  • The Given Names Database, which enables one to learn possible European, Hebrew and Yiddish translations of an ancestor’s given name.
  • A Holocaust Database of 2 million names such as Schindler’s List, which includes names of 1,980 inmates in Oscar Schindler’s factories in Plaszów, Poland and Brünnlitz, Czechoslovakia.
  • Jewish Records Indexing (JRI-PL) Poland and All Lithuania Database, representing more than 2 million indexed names from databases in Lithuania and Poland containing vital information on the regions.

“JewishGen began as a volunteer community devoted to gathering and sharing Jewish records,” said David G. Marwell, Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. “We are excited that, through this new relationship with, we will be able to broaden our reach and extend our invaluable resources to a much larger group of researchers around the world. The entire community benefits when more people get involved in the fascinating and rewarding activity of researching their family history. ”

In July 2008, JewishGen entered into a groundbreaking partnership with that provides with significant resources in the Jewish genealogy world. Under the agreement, not only will eventually receive access to well in excess of 10 million records, some of which date back to the 1700s, but JewishGen’s user base of more than 250,000 will be alerted to’s rich resources. will also provide technical support to the JewishGen site.

The JDC and JewishGen databases included in this release will be searchable for free in a new Jewish Family History experience on at These databases can be searched in combination with millions of other invaluable records documenting Jews available on, including census records, passenger lists, military records and more. Continue reading

Election Fever: Discovering Your Ancestors’ Politics

Election Day in New York, 1864Unless you can unplug yourself completely from the outside world, you’re probably being inundated with reminders of the upcoming election. Here in Indiana, “inundated” is an understatement. I have to say though that it’s heartening to see such interest and passion, with so many people so engaged and involved in the political process.

Last night I spent a little time exploring the political ties of some of my ancestors. I know that several of my ancestors dabbled in politics through newspaper articles and that’s where I started my searches. I found one family mentioned repeatedly in the Brooklyn Eagle online as a delegate from the 5th Ward in Brooklyn to the state Democratic convention. Another article mentioned some hard feelings between him and the powerful mayor of Brooklyn at that time.  The Brooklyn papers are full of mentions of him in attendance at weddings and funerals, and other events.

Although our ancestors may not make it into the history books with their political activities, they will often make it into newspapers, local histories, and other records where we can uncover them.  Here are some resources that can help you seek out your ancestor’s political ties:



Voter Records at Ancestry



Customize your Homepage–Add Links to Ancestry Blogs, Record Collections, and Message Board Favorites

Ancestry____logo.gifAncestry updated its homepage today, adding more widgets to help you access the content you use most. In response to feedback from users, the logged-in homepage now allows you to add, re-order, and remove sections of your homepage. Just click the “Customize your homepage” button at the upper-right to customize your homepage. This will let you move or remove sections you already have on the page.

As part of this update, Ancestry has introduced a few new optional items that you can add to your page:

  • Links to key Record collections including individual U.S. Census years and the Card Catalog. 
  • A place to easily keep track of and access your Message Board Favorites.
  • Quick links to the Blog and 24/7 Family History Circle Blog, as well as links to the most recent posts.

Learn more about the customizable homepage in the Blog.


New at Ancestry

Ancestry____logo.gifPosted This Week

Weekly Planner: Assemble Ancestral Addresses

Noting your ancestors’ locations chronologically can lead you to other records created in a particular time and place. Spreadsheets and word processors can help you create timelines with dates, addresses, and sources. Use these tools to note record gaps and ancestral migrations. Compare these chronologies with those of related families. By looking at where and when your ancestors lived at a particular time, and investigating circumstances in an area around the time of moves, you can gain a deeper understanding into what was happening in their lives and add depth to your family history.

Beat the Holiday Rush with Family History Month Projects, by Juliana Smith

Raymond Francis DyerThis morning my walking buddy and I took our regular trek around the neighborhood. As we wandered past houses decorated for Halloween, our feet crunched through fallen leaves and I could feel the bite of the wind on my cheeks.

I’ve always liked autumn. I love the fact that we don’t really need the heat or the air conditioning on, making for a little extra cash in our tight budget. (These days a little wiggle-room in the budget is a big deal!) The colors of the leaves, the smell of chili in the crock pot, and snuggling up in a warm sweatshirt with my fuzzy socks all make autumn a comfy, cozy time of year for me.

Beyond all of these fall features, the celebration of Family History Month in October gives me that extra push to put some extra focus on my family history.

In a blink, Halloween will be past and the holidays will once again be upon us. I begin every year setting goals to have completed a big grandiose family history project to share with my family as a holiday gift. Too often they have failed because of the size of the projects, so over the years the goals have been downsized to be more practical. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the complete multi-volume, multi-generational published family history is probably not going to happen this year. Let’s be real. I’m a mom, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and caretaker to five loving animals. Throw in work, friends, school community, church community . . . well, you get the picture. We have a few balls in the air here.

So I need to focus on something “doable.” And I have to start now. Last week Ancestry relaunched its publishing platform, AncestryPress as MyCanvas. When it comes to using AncestryPress—oops, I mean MyCanvas (this is going to take some getting used to!), the first thing that comes to mind is a family history book. Over the holidays last year, I wrote an article about a smaller scale project I was working on that covered my grandmother’s family. When it comes to editing your project, most of those tools and the editing techniques remain the same, so this article is a good “get started” look at creating a family book if you’re not already familiar with it.

There are a few things that are different. First, and most noticeably, the Publish tab on Ancestry is now the Print and Share tab. Don’t worry though, it will still bring you to your projects. After you click that tab, you can choose to start a new project (and there are several new options we’ll get into later), or you can click on the navigation list and access “My Projects.” From there, you’ll see what looks kind of like the record selections on an old jukebox. Each page represents one of your projects. You can page through them one at a time using the arrows at the top, or jump ahead by clicking on a page. If you’re in a position to pick up on a project that you’ve already begun, this is where you’ll begin.

However, I am not in that position this year and in today’s column, I thought we’d take a look at some of the other MyCanvas options that are a little more “doable” when it comes to completing and ordering them in time for the holidays. Here are some that are worth contemplating:

Photograph Books
Choose a theme, whether it’s a special event (a trip, summer vacation, birthday, wedding, anniversary, a tribute to a special family member, a holiday, family reunion—the possibilities are endless), or just a collection of random photographs and memories that will make someone smile. You’re the artist and your photograph book is your canvas. (Pun intended!)

Pedigree Posters
If you’ve got the names and dates, but are still working on filling in the family story and aren’t quite ready to publish that book, a poster-size pedigree chart is a quick and easy project you can create in literally under an hour if you already have your data entered into an Ancestry Online Tree or some other genealogical software. If you already have an Ancestry tree, you just need to select a size, format, and which tree to upload into your project. Then give your project a name. Once your pedigree poster is automatically generated for you, it’s time to have fun with it. Add photographs, embellishments, text, quotes, or whatever you like. Continue reading

It is All About Location, by Michael John Neill

SalzungenMy last article discussed how to use Meyers Orts (a German gazetteer) and the German Topographical Maps at These finding aids were crucial in resolving conflicting birth information for one of my ancestral families.

American sources provided the names of several German locations relative to the origins of my Trautvetter family, who immigrated to the United States in the 1850s. The problem was that the places appeared to be inconsistent with each other. Before I moved to the conclusion that the entire family was crazy and trying to “hide” their origins, I dug a little deeper. Here’s what I had:

  • According to his 1930 death certificate, George Trautvetter was born in 1842 in Wolmuthausen, Germany. 
  • That same document indicated his father, John George, was born in Wildbrechtroda, but his 1855 declaration of intent indicates he was born in Salsungen. 
  • The 1930 death certificate said that his mother, Sophia, was born in Wolmutahausen[sic], while her death record gives the birthplace of Helmershausen.

I don’t have any other U.S. records that provide places of birth for these immigrant family members. In fact, I was fortunate to have the locations I did have.

Using Maps and Gazetteers 
Maps of the relevant areas are always important and may explain away apparent inconsistencies. It is possible that the locations provided are actually fairly close together and not as conflicting as originally thought. Instead of providing the actual birth place, one of the records may actually have given the name of a nearby larger village. It is also important to remember that the information obtained so far is secondary and could easily be completely or partially incorrect.  
Finding foreign villages is not always easy, even with the Internet and a variety of online finding aids readily available. If you’re lucky, the provided spelling is close enough to being correct that finding the village is not difficult.

There are times where it is not so easy. The village may no longer be in existence or may have been renamed.  The place may not be “where you think it should be” or may now be located in a different country or political region.

Incorrect spellings are one of the most common handicaps researchers face in locating places. One of the most common reasons for these misspellings is the writer’s attempt to Anglicize a non-English location.
Searching for names or places that are in a foreign language is somewhat easier when one has an approximate idea of how the names or places would have been pronounced by the native speaker. Learning more about native pronunciations may be helpful.

Information on the German language, alphabet, and pronunciations can be found on and focuses on pronunciation. You could also post questions about locations in the native language to the appropriate mailing list at Rootsweb or to the message board at Ancestry.
In the case of the Trautvetters, pronunciation was the reason for the spelling variants. The places of Wolmuthausen and Wolmutahausen were actually references to Wohlmuthausen. In this case, the “h” was silent and not written by the non-German clerk.  Wildbrechtroda is actually Wildprechtroda, a simple substitution of a “b” for a “p.”

In some cases you may find that a word in front of the town name is missing. Salsungen is actually referring to Bad Salzungen (although it sometimes is just written as Salzungen). Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: State Genealogical Society Libraries, from Paula Stuart Warren, CG

In addition to wonderful research websites such as, you are likely aware of state and county historical societies, government archives, courthouses, public and university libraries and other places for research. Your local or state genealogical society likely has a valuable collection of books, periodicals, indexes, vertical files, maps, and manuscripts. Some house their collection at a local library or historical society, but many do have their own library. Collections generally relate to more than just the state in which it is located. Classes, internet access, finding aids, and great volunteers are another boon to visiting these libraries. To find such libraries, try typing “genealogical society library” and a society or place name into your favorite search engine. Among the libraries I found are:

Genealogical Forum of Oregon
Library is at 1505 SE Gideon, Portland, OR. The library catalog is online.

Minnesota Genealogical Society
Library is at 1185 Concord St. N., Suite 218, South St. Paul, MN 55075. The library catalog is online.

Ohio Genealogical Society
Library is at 713 South Main St., Mansfield, OH 44907. The library catalog is online.

Southern California Genealogical Society
Library is at 417 Irving Drive, Burbank, CA 91504. The library catalog is online.