Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Census Tips

If you have an ancestor with an unusual last name, you might try searching the census using the last name only (and don't forget to use "wild cards" in your spelling options), especially if you can narrow down the likely geographic area. That will reduce the "noise" that possible misspellings of first names creates, and it may uncover some other family members living in the same region.

In a like vein, you might try some name-less searches. Search using only the place of birth of your ancestor (again focused on a particular census region). That can reveal friends and neighbors from the same home country. Once you have those names, you can look at their census pages (as well as a couple before and after them) and you may find your ancestor. This is sometimes fruitful if the census taker did "bad" things to your ancestor's name when it was recorded. Remember, during immigration, friends and neighbors and family often traveled together to this country and then ended up living in the same area.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PGS 2010 Seminar -- 13 February 2010

In an earlier post I told you a bit about out featured speaker for the 2010 seminar, Dick Eastman.

He should be familiar to most of you as the author of one of the premier online newsletters in the genealogical world. He has spent more than 30 years in the fields of both genealogy and computer technology. That combination allows him a unique and valuable perspective that he brings to bear in his newsletter and will make available to us at the seminar.

His topics will be:
>Genealogy Searches on Google
>Where is Genealogy Software Headed?
>The Organized Genealogist
>Photographing Old or Delicate Documents and Photographs

If you have not treated yourself to Dick's newsletter, check it out at:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some Views on Birth Records

Birth records are where it all begins--in a manner of speaking--and locating them consumes from hours to years of our time as researchers.

Jana Sloan Broglin, writing for the online Ancestry Magazine, gives us a good review of where to look for some of those elusive birth records. It is a good review, event for the more "battle hardened" among us.

Read her article at:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

October is National Family History Month

It was in 2003 that the United States Senate first recognized October as
National Family History Month. In doing so they were encouraging Americans to set aside time for family history research and education. When President George W. Bush signed the Proclamation in support of Family History Month, he said, "Lessons in family lineage are often lessons in courage, endurance, and love. While tracing our roots can be challenging, the rewards can be great - affirming our pride in our history and keeping us mindful of the sacrifices of our forbears."

What more appropriate time could you find to assess your own activities in the area of family history and re-dedicate yourself to honoring your family and its ancestors? Think of ways to promote your own research, such as attending a class that you have been putting off, visiting a new website, reading a "how-to" book on sourcing or dating old photographs. You know, the type of thing that we all seem to have in the backs of our minds to do but never get around to making the time.

This is also a good time to take a measure of activities you can engage in to assist others in their others celebrate their families. Introduce a friend to the hobby of genealogy; bring them to a PGS meeting to introduce them to the society. Commit some time each week or even each month to volunteer at the genealogy desk at the library (send an email to to start the ball rolling). Participate in one of our many projects to make Pinellas County genealogy data available to researchers across the country. And the list goes on and on.

There are ample opportunities to celebrate Family History Month. Use this special month of October to celebrate your family's history, and also motivate yourself to celebrate and promote our hobby.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crazy For Genealogy Blogs

This falls into the "as-if-you-did-not-have-enough-to-do-already" category. Geneabloggers is a website that helps you keep up with what's going on in the world of genealogy bloggers...lots of them

You can browse through a list of over 600 genealogy blogs (hot-linked for your convenience) and go explore those dealing with topics, families, or geographic areas of interest to you. And, yes, if you scroll down far enough, you will find the PGS blog listed!

I have to give you a warning: this site is addictive.

You will find Geneabloggers at:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Getting Started in Your Research At the National Archives Website

The National Archives (NARA) website can be daunting to the old hands, not to mention how it can over-whelm the first-time visitor. But you can take a shortcut and go right to a "getting started" page that can be the home base during your NARA website explorations.

From this page you can choose links to several groups of most frequently accessed records to include Census, Military, Immigration, Naturalization and Land Records.

The NARA web site has very few actual records online. Primarily site provides research tools, such as microfilm indexes and finding aids, articles and information on where to find the records and how to access them. However, there are a few exceptions. This getting-started page gives you a list of those groups of records of genealogical interest with online images.

Check all this out at:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records

Here is a site by Joe Beine that I check out frequently. Yes, it's on my favorites list, and it is updated fact as of this writing, it was last updated on 21 September 2009!

The website is a directory of links to websites with online death indexes, listed by state and county. Included are death records, death certificate indexes, death notices and registers, obituaries, probate indexes, and cemetery and burial records. You can also find information here about searching the Social Security Death Index online.

The site provides easy navigation by clicking on a state name or on the name of a city in the special "big city guide."

When you click on a state you typically are treated to a list of sites that deal with death indexes and records. Most of the sites are explained a bit so you know if payment is required, if images are provided, etc. Also included in many cases are instructions on how to order documents from state archives and libraries.

Check it out at:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Organizing" Class Cancelled Due to Power Outage

Tonight at 6 pm there was to be a class at the Largo Library titled "Organizing Your Paper and Electronic Files." Unfortunately it had to be cancelled. Just before 5 pm a nearby lightning strike cut the power and set off all sorts of alarms in the library. By 5:45 pm power restoration was nowhere in sight so the decision was made to close the much for the organizing class.

I hung around to intercept as many class attendees as I could recognize to give them a handout and thank them for coming. I found 4. If I missed any of you, my apologies.

The class on organizing is a fundamental one so it will come around again. In fact, it is on the schedule for 17 December at 10 am, so mark your calendar if you missed this one. The schedule for December has not been published yet, so don't look for it just now. Expect to see it in late October or early November.

Monday, September 21, 2009

National Archives on YouTube

The National Archives has established a YouTube Channel. If you enjoy getting lured into the videos of YouTube as I do, you will love the new National Archives offering that will, I am sure, take up hours of your time.

An old saw is that to be a good genealogist you need to be a good historian. This site will help you with both of those. It offers captivating videos from presidential libraries, the space race, WWI & II, to mention only a few.

Check it out at:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Using Photoshop Elements to Touch Up Old Photographs

The PGS is presenting a class at 10 am on Monday, 21 Sep on using PSE to touch up old photographs that you may have in your genealogy collection. Not only OLD photos, of course, but any that may need some maintenance before you commit them to your genealogy computer program album.

If you intend to come to the class, consider bringing on a USB drive any photograph what you want worked on. We can use attendee photos to show the capabilities of the program as well as produce improved photos to take home.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

PGS Membership Questionnaires

We need the cooperation of all of our newer members in something very important. The PGS sends a welcome packet to each new member, and in that packet is a questionnaire that we ask members to complete and return.

The questionnaire asks some questions about level of experience, areas of genealogical interest, preferences in PGS Journal content, etc. It is information that will assist the PGS in serving you better.

So if you have one of those questionnaires laying around uncompleted, fill it out and send it in (or bring it to the next meeting). We want to constantly improve, and getting feedback such as that questionnaire is one way we seek to do that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PGS General Meeting Coming Up

The September general meeting of the Pinellas Genealogy Society will be held at 11 am on Saturday, 19 September, in the Jenkins Room of the Largo Public Library. The speaker this month will be Brian Mulcahy, Librarian at the Lee County Library. His topic will be "Evaluating Evidence: Do the Facts Fit the Circumstances."

The meeting is open to the public so if you are not a PGS member and want to see what it is all about, coming to this meeting is a good way to do it.

By the way, Brian's topic will dove-tail nicely with one of our classes titled "Elements of Genealogical Proof." One of those sessions is scheduled for tonight at the library, and another session will be scheduled in the future. Check the PGS website to see the complete schedule of class offerings: <>

Monday, September 14, 2009

New York City Mortality Schedules

For those of you who did not see the announcement from, it has now posted New York mortality schedules for 1850 to 1880.

If you are not familiar with them, the mortality schedules recorded information about persons who had died in the twelve months preceding the U.S. federal censuses. They recorded the name of the deceased, gender, age, color, whether widowed, place of birth (usually state, territory, or country), month of death, occupation, cause of death and the length of the illness. What we typically look at when we search the census record is the Population Schedule. But there were other documents produced during the census that have been slower in being indexed and made available to us...the mortality schedule is one of those.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Various Spellings of Surnames

I imagine most of us have at one time or another been plagued by inventive spellings of surnames as we have tried to track down an elusive ancestor. Myra Vanderpool Gormley writing for has some things to share about that topic. Although her specific examples are Scandinavian names, there are lessons for all of us in what she says.

Read her article at

Support for the Library of Michigan

The budget problems of Michigan and how they affect the future of the Library of Michigan have been in the news lately and especially in newsletters and blogs oriented at genealogy. The following following request to lend your voice to support the library is directly from Drew Smith, President of the Florida Genealogical Society and editor of the Federation of Genealogy Societies journal, FGS Voice:

Within the genealogical community, the Library of Michigan has long been recognized as one of the premier state libraries in the country.

The cohesive Library of Michigan collection with over 180 years of Michigan history, literature and culture records and reflects the lives of not only those who remained to raise their families within the state but of millions more whose migration to other parts of the country left their footprints in the soil and records generated by their passage. Visitors come from all across the country to research at the Library of Michigan.

In addressing a $2 Billion deficit in the Michigan budget, Governor Jennifer M. Granholm issued an executive order in July which would abolish the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. As originally proposed, the collections of the Library of Michigan would be scattered and the building built and designed to house the state library would be renovated to house a new function.

In meetings held during the Federation of Genealogical Societies/Arkansas Genealogical Society Annual Conference in Little Rock this past week, the Records Preservation and Access Committee representatives have initiated a petition drive in support of the Library of Michigan. . This is the first time we have exercised this option since 2006, something of an indicator of the seriousness with which the genealogical community views this situation.

The RPAC petition became available for signature on Sunday, the 6th of September. We will close the petition drive on the 1st of October,the date the governor’s order is scheduled to take effect. The earlier one signs, the greater the impact.

Although the prospects for reversing this action are remote, we would not want it to be said that a state library can be closed without its users caring (or for other governors to think it a politically expedient thing to do.)

Genealogists from within and without Michigan are encouraged to sign the online petition found at We then ask that you urge the members of every society of which you are a member to do likewise.

Additional background and the latest developments can be found at the web site of the Michigan Genealogical Council .

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Family Tree Maker User's Group Starts a New Run

After the summer off, the FTMUG started a new series of meetings. Led by Larry Hosmer and Bob Bryan, the group got together at its familiar time of 10 am on the first Saturday of the month. This month Larry introduced the group to the 2010 version of the Family Tree Maker software.

I was heartened to see several first-time attendees joining several of the "old-timers" at the meeting....welcome to all.

If you have not attended one of these informative and free-wheeling sessions, I encourage you to make time in your schedule to do so. You will get something out of the discussion even if FTM is not your genealogy program of choice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Human Family Tree

In an earlier post to this Blog I mentioned a National Geographic channel presentation of a show titled The Human Family Tree. I hope you had a chance to see it because it was a very clear explanation about how DNA can be used to show general relationships, and it was a revealing view of how closely related we all are. That last was shown very dramatically in the last quarter of the show. The program is being aired several more times, and I recommend you check your guide for show times.

But in case you are interested and can't see the show or your TIVO is on the blink, visit the NatGeo website and see some articles and videos about the topic. You can check them out at:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dick Eastman is the Speaker at the 2010 PGS Seminar

The 2010 PGS Seminar will be held on 13 Feb at the Largo Public Library from 8 AM until 4 PM. I thought I would start giving you information now, even though the actual event is still months away. That way you can make your reservation decision early (this is going to be a popular event so getting a seat early in advised).

For beginners, let me tell you a bit about our primary speaker, Dick Eastman.

Dick is a noted genealogist and speaker who is best known for his online newsletter. We repeat many of his newsletter articles here in this Blog and in email hint-and-tips to our membership. He is also extremely well-versed in the electronic genealogy world; that is, the hardware and software that we use to research and manage our genealogy information.

Dick has been involved in genealogy for more than 30 years. He has worked in the computer industry for more than 40 years in hardware, software, and managerial positions. By the early 1970’s, Dick was already using a mainframe computer to enter his family data on punch cards. He built his first home computer in 1980.

In the mid-1980s, Dick actually went knocking on the door of a rising online star called CompuServe to propose a genealogy forum: a move by which he built a community of family historians over the next 14 years. At the same time, he preached the benefits of technology to an even wider audience of genealogists, including national and international genealogical organizations, and of course, GENTECH, an organization that helped him to spread his message.

In late 1995, before most people had heard of the World Wide Web, Dick had a conversation with Pam Cerutti and expressed an interest in creating a weekly newsletter that he could e-mail to genealogists all over the world. Pam replied, "You'll need an editor." Dick agreed, and Pam instantly became that Editor.

On January 15, 1996, the two launched Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter as an e-mail publication and announced it to 100 surprised friends and acquaintances. The weekly newsletter has since grown into a daily publication, still available in e-mail but also now available on the World Wide Web. The present newsletter is read by more than 40,000 genealogists all over the world. Instead of all articles written by one person, the newsletter now features articles from George G. Morgan, Lloyd Bockstruck, and Michael John Neill, in addition to the many articles by founder Dick Eastman. Other guest authors occasionally publish articles in as well.

We are indeed fortunate to have Dick join us as our primary presenter.

In the future we will give you some more information in this Blog about the seminar to include directions, costs, Dick Eastman's presentation topics, and the topics of our 4 break-out speakers. If you want all of the information now, you can go to the PGS Website and find it there <>. Fliers will also be available in the Genealogy Center of the Largo Public Library and at our monthly meetings at 11 am on the third Saturday of each month, also at the library.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LDS Records Search Pilot Continues to Grow

The Records Search Pilot on the website is one of those websites that many of us know about, but which we neglect to check on frequently. And frequent checking is necessary because the content of the site is so dynamic.

The way to get to this site is to first go to, hover your cursor over "Search Records" in the menu bar, and then select "Record Search Pilot" that appears in the drop-down menu. You can search this growing collection by ancestor name, or you can elect to browse the entire collection.

The pilot program is so dynamic that it even has its own Blog ( to keep you apprised of changes in its content.

Another way to get introduced to this part of the Familysearch website is to attend our PGS class on using all aspects of One of those classes is coming up on 10 September at 10 am at the Largo Public Library. The class is open to the public, but space is limited, so registration is necessary to ensure adequate seating. To register contact Bob Bryan at or 727-595-4521.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

School Yearbooks Online is a site that may provide a research nugget. It is a growing collection of school yearbooks that are organized by state, school, and year. When you go to a particular state, the available yearbooks are organized into 4 categories: high school, middle school, college, and military. And there is another category entirely titled "Navy Cruise Books."

Although the site requires a membership ($30/year, $5/month), free views of the yearbooks are shown when you find one that may be of interest. This fly-before-you-buy feature is most helpful. And if you find the book you are looking for, the minimal monthly fee is probably well worth the investment.

The collection is not complete, as you might imagine. But it certainly is worth checking out.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Historic Maps at the David Rumsey Collection

This collection of historic maps is truly impressive. It boasts more than 20,000 images available online (out of a total collection of more than 150,000). Although most of the online images are of maps from 18th and 19th century America, there are also several world maps included.

You need a viewer to see the collection and several are available on the site. Probably the easiest to use is the Luna 6.0 Browser: when you click on the browser, it activates with no download...just use it for you session and then it's gone. It will work with IE, FireFox and Safari. Available also is a Java Client that requires a one-time download if you prefer. All of the options are available on the home page and clearly explained.

Here is the easiest way to view the collection: from the home page click on "View the Collection" located on the left of the screen, then click on the Luna Browser option. The next window that appears will give you viewing options on the left of the screen. You can browse the collection by the general categories of where, what, when, or who. And at the bottom of the list is an advanced search option that lets you be as specific as you wish.

Check out this collection at:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Newpapers in Genealogy Class

There was a lot of interest in the recent class on using newspapers in genealogy research. The class was ably presented by Damon Hostetler and the local history room was packed.

Keeping Up With Social Networking

Are you getting confused and over-whelmed by the growing number of websites that make use of the ability for family members to share in the research and construction of family trees?

This type of resource is relatively new to the Internet, and is usually billed under the heading of a "Web 2.0" capability. In a nut shell, such sites allow you to collaborate in your research with whoever you give permission to join you. You and your invitees will have joint access to the data you post on the website so you can all edit it and add to it. The mechanism allows for true collaboration. Of course you have to be careful about who you give permission to do this to your data, but if we are talking about fellow family researchers, there usually is not a problem.

There are a growing number of such sites and you may recognize names such as Kincafe, OurStory, and WeRelate. My trouble is that after I hear about a few of them, they sort of all run together in my mind. There is a website that can help to keep them straight, however. It gives a short description of the major players in the field and hot links to each of them.

You can find the site at:

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Family Tree Maker Users Group Resumes

Remember the Family Tree Maker meetings resume this Saturday, 5 Sep at 10:00 a.m. in Jenkins B. We will discuss and answer questions on versions 2009 and 2010 as well as FTM 16 and earlier.

National Cemetery Data

National cemeteries are the final resting place for many of our veteran ancestors and their immediate families.

Here is a web site that lists national cemeteries by state, and then after you drill down a bit gives an alphabetical list of interments in that particular cemetery. The data is provided either by state authorities or the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

The typical information you will find for each burial is name, dates of birth and death, rank, service, grave location within the cemetery, and date of burial.

Check out the web site at:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Red Cross War Records Discovered

"In March 2009 Peter Barton, a British researcher, was commissioned to research the identities of WW I casualties found in a mass grave in France. His research led him to the basement of the Red Cross headquarters in Geneva where he found an estimated 20 million records virtually untouched since 1918. These records contain information passed on by combatants to Red Cross volunteers. The records detail the capture, death, burial and personal effects of servicemen from over 30 nations. The provide soldier's home addresses and next of kin and they detail the location and condition or injuries of prisoners at the time of capture. Some of the records refer to mass graves with exact directions as to where they were dug and the identities of the soldiers buried there. There are plans to begin digitizing the records this autumn with a goal of having the WW I archives online by 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of the war. This is only the start. There are millions more records in the archive from other wars starting with the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War to the WW II and more recent conflicts. The extent to which those records will become available depends on the available funding and volunteers." (Thanks to Beth Shields)

Suncoast Genealogy Society Classes and Seminar

The Suncoast Genealogy Society, which meets at the Palm Harbor Library, has a series of introductory classes on genealogy scheduled in September and October. They are also hosting a mini-seminar in November featuring Donna Murray.

Check out their web page if you are interested: