Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Far is Youlgreave from Doncaster? And Other Geography Questions

My sister told me about a new TV series (well, new to me!) called The Generations Project, and I read a post on their blog about Geography.  This reminded me of another tip I should share with you -- using maps in genealogy research!

Ten years ago (tomorrow, actually, happy anniversary honey!) I married an Englishman, and found I had a whole new line of genealogy to research, from scratch, and having never researched England genealogy.  No one had ever attempted his family history, so I set about doing it.  While I was researching I would ask him numerous questions such as, "Is Youlgreave close to Doncaster?," "Is Balby in Yorkshire County?"  I soon learned how much my husband DIDN'T know about his own country, so I was on my own.

I have looked at historical maps and actually have a software program called AniMap* for US research, but I still revert to Google Maps for simple and quick answers to my geography questions.  I really like the "Get Directions" section to map how far Youlgreave was from Doncaster in England, to help me decide whether a genealogy "find" could be relevant or not.  (I have found that my husband's family did not migrate much at all in England.)

Also, I love using Google Maps to check/correct the spelling of town names with their helpful hints such as:  "Did you mean Plaistow instead of Playstow?"

I have always loved maps and still to this day read a map as we are driving to vacation destinations (I love to read about nearby historical sites, etc.)  By including map research in my genealogy over the years, I think I can claim to now know more about England's geography than my husband does!


*AniMap:  Finds old towns and counties long-since disappeared from the map or that have changed names. AniMap displays over 2,300 maps to show the changing county boundaries for each of the adjacent United States for every year since colonial times.  I have such an old version of this software, but I did find that is now selling it here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Family Folklore or Truth? Keep an Open Mind

How many times do people have self-imposed road blocks in their genealogy simply because they refuse to question whether a family story is fiction or truth?

I was reading the latest newsletter from about "Don't assume," and felt I should add my "hear hear!"  It had this wonderful quote by Stephen Rigden (one of's experts):

"It is quite common to hear family legends and lore which have been passed down through the generations like heirlooms.  However, the difference between a normal heirloom, such as a valued piece of jewelry or furniture, and a family legend, is that the latter tends to be changed over time:  to become more colorful, more elusive, less plausible.  In many family legends, if not most, there will be a kernel of truth, and it is the job of the family historian to work through the accumulated layers of elaboration and embroidery to uncover that truth."

This happened to me in my line, but I happened upon a goldmine when I wasn't even searching for it.  Instead, the goldmine I found dispelled the family folklore and forever shocked our family about the truth of one ancestor.  (See these two articles on my other blog, Jirene's Genealogy Treasures:  "Samuel Gordge:  Drowning Myth or Death by Shark?," and "Merab Hancock Gordge Petitions the Governor of Australia for Assistance following her Husband Samuel Gordge's "Drowning.")  Maybe you too have a sorrowful story about an ancestor "drowning," when indeed he died by shark bite after pillaging goods from his ship and leaving others stranded.  To this date, some cousins refuse to accept the truth even when faced with actual historic documents disproving the myth.

So, thank you for the reminder to always keep an open mind when researching your relatives.  This same philosophy also applies when researching first source records.  Women lie on census records about their age; family member's status on census are wrongly reported to hide an indescretion; and obituaries are written in the most favorable light but may not always be completely true

Always keep an open mind!


Friday, June 25, 2010

FamilySearch.Org: All Under One Roof "Later This Year"

I was in the middle of preparing an article on the different search results you can expect when using the three main search sites offered by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), when they go and publish an article squelching the need for my article!  I was not offended (don't get me wrong!), but pleasantly surprised.

The LDS article (published in the July 2010 issue of the Ensign) is entitled: "Updated to Bring New Features Under One Roof," by Breanna Olaveson, Church Magazines (see link below).  I had known that the Church was someday going to merge all of these together, and it appears as if they will be doing so "later this year."

List of Current Sites:


All will eventually be combined under the name, but the site is currently displaying how the new site will look:

  • Simplify family history work (saves you time when all sites are located under one roof, with one login).
  • Families have one place where they can collaborate on their ancestors.
  • Newbies can get started quickly and make meaningful contributions without a lot of training.
  • New image viewer allows users to search digital images of microfilm and view them like a microfilm reader, but without that hand crank and the dark room.
  • Search results will include scanned primary source records, but will also return information from secondary sources (Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, Forums, the Family History Library Catalog, and other sources).
  • Search results can be sorted by Record Type -- Birth Marriage and Death, Census and Lists, Military, Probate and Court, Migration and Naturalizaiton, and Other.
  • In time, they hope to notify users when certain information of personal interest is edited or added.
  • You will still be able to participate in indexing scanned images from this site.  (Currently indexing is done at
  • Lots of learning/educational tools will be available under one tab entitled "Learn."
Read the article here July 2010 issue of Ensign (p. 74).

Some Questions I still have:
  1. Will you be able to perform batch number searches?  I have yet to discover a way to do so (on the site), but I am hoping this feature will be available.
  2. Currently the also gives you indexes for records located on other websites, but also gives you the link to the website to go and view the images with the "fees may apply" disclaimer (i.e.  I am hoping that the Church and could some day come to an agreement to offer free links to the images too (I can dream, can't I?)   TIP:'s images are available free at the LDS Family History Centers through its Portal (see previous posts of mine).
  3. Some "hits" give you just the indexed record but does not link to an outside website (like  Nor does it tell the user where to go to view the original.  It does provide you the batch, record, film and reference numbers, however, newbies may not know to use that information to order the microfilm to view at one of the many LDS Family History Centers.
In any event, I am excited for these changes.  I also love receiving the emails of how many more indexed records have been added to the site.  And, you can't beat it -- all under one roof, all for free.  I just wish "later this year" was now!  (Patience.)


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Google and Beyond! Other Search Engines For Genealogy Research

While researching an expert witness in my "real" (paying) job, I did my usual Google search and found that he had written a book and had also created a personality profile test.  However, Google would not dig further for me and find these two items.  So, I decided to expand my search using other search engines.

I have known about,,,, etc., but most returned the same search results.  However, when I googled the term "search engines," I came across a search engine comparison chart prepared by Berkeley University.  It highlighted their preferred top three search engines, two of which you are aware ( and  However, the third search engine I had never heard of: not only found some of the same similar postings, it found two videos that were not listed via normal search engines, and it also listed a few more sites that I am anxious to review.

Now - how does this relate to genealogy?  If Google didn't give you any good results, try another search engine! 

More info on Exalead that may be of interest to genealogists:  their advance feature allows you to focus and separate your search results by website's country of origin, language, PDF documents, blogs, forums, etc.  (See graphic of website origins.) 

As always, with any of these search engines use the basic Google shortcut tips when searching:  quotes for phrases (i.e. "Samuel Gordge"), minus sign (-) to exclude a word, plus sign (+) to include a word.  (See my Google search tips in previous posts).

Last word of advice:  Run your check again in another 6 or 12 months; you never know what will be added to the wonderful world wide web!
Happy hunting!


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You Could Be Related to Kings, Queens and Presidents!

You've read stories about how Brad Pitt is related to President Obama, and you ask yourself, how do they do that?  Here's an answer -- through BYU Digital Roots.

I happened upon this website in 2006, and it still has only two services thus far:  OnePageGenealogy, and Relationship Finder.  I am going to focus on Relationship Finder, because I found it to be the most fun.

Relationship Finder (now called Relative Finder) does exactly that -- finds relations between people using an "Ancestral File Number" (AFN).  It will find if you are related to famous and historical people, and it can even find out if you are related to your neighbor or your spouse!  Yes, that could happen -- as it did for my Mom and Dad (distantly related, of course!).

One caveat:  You must start with an Ancestral File Number (AFN), and the Relative Finder is only as good as the information contained in the Ancestral File.

Where do I get an AFN number?  Ancestral File is one of the original databases available via  Ancestral File was user-submitted files collected for many years, and each individual was assigned an AFN number.  It is that number that you will use to perform the Relative Finder.

How do I find an Ancestral File Number for an ancestor?  Go to and click on the Advance Search. Select "Ancestral File," and perform your search.  You might have to search several different family names to see if you can find a relative in the Ancestral File.  Once you find an AFN number for an ancestor, try inserting into Relative Finder and see if they can connect you to anyone.  Sometimes Relative Finder might not have a connection for the name you entered, so try entering another name.

I used my grandmother's name for my search and had immediate success (since my family has been doing genealogy for generations).  I know that her line goes back quite a ways, and it was a good pick. Here's some of the results (see snippet below):

I never knew that my grandmother had royal grandparents, nor that she was 6th cousin 11 times removed to William Shakespeare!

Don't be discouraged if you can't find an AFN number of a relative, or the AFN number you do find does not produce any results under Relative Finder.  BYU Digital Roots has plans for a new version of Relative Finder that will work with the new ID format of the site.  And, they are also advertising that Relative Finder will also be available in Facebook.  I hope that is soon!

This is a fun little tool that will impress your kids and extended family members.  Give it a try!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Making Your Ancestors Come Alive

I finally found the time to research to find an obituary for a friend (via the FREE Godfrey Memorial Library link - see earlier post re both here).  While I was there, I decided to start searching my parents' and grandparents' names and found some newspaper articles that I didn't know existed.    Finding these news articles has really made my family tree come alive.  Here are just a few of the MANY things I learned just from a couple of hours of researching:

1.  I knew that my grandmother was in a serious accident and had broken her neck, but I had no idea she also sued her fellow church member who was driving the vehicle. (If you click on the image, it will enlarge so you can read it.)  

I thought you'd also like to see "modern medicine" at its best in 1967 (the photo).  Can you imagine being casted from head to toe, with a metal hook on the top of your head?

Another benefit of obtaining newspaper articles on your ancestors, are the little "extras" reported at the time.  You will note that there is a one sentence report at the bottom of that article that states:  "There are 277,000 known species of beetles."  (I guess in those days they needed filler, but couldn't they find something more interesting?)

2.  I also didn't know my grandmother had a house fire - caused by a heating pad.

3.  My most amazing find of the day was with regard to - of all people - ME!  I remember being struck by a car when I was a child, but I had no idea it was reported in the paper.  I also learned for the first time that the accident happened the day after Christmas, and that it involved a hit-and-run driver.  I also found it amusing where my accident was reported:  in the last paragraph of an article about a more serious accident.  (Note to self:  don't just read the headlines.  Luckily these newspaper articles were stored as searchable PDFs, so it make finding names on the page very easy.)  I also learned a new word:  Bracero ("A Mexican laborer permitted to enter the United States and work for a limited period of time, especially in agriculture.").

I have searched newspapers before, but only searched those "famous" relatives in my line.  I had no idea what information could be found on the "not-so-famous."   I am looking forward to searching this site again (and other newspapers) to see what else is out there.  Who knows what I'll find?!


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