Saturday, August 30, 2008

What About Those Illegal Immigrants?

The following is taken from "THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS" on Thursday, August 28th. You can read the article in its' entirety here. This article is written by: Gary Massaro.

"Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Florida delegates about an illegal immigrant who made a contribution to her community and state - his grandmother.

Judging from most of the 211 delegates who stood up and applauded at the end, Florida Democrats liked Schweitzer's trademark down-to-earth talk.

"I'm just a redneck with good ideas," he said Wednesday at the Red Lion Hotel at Stapleton.
Schweitzer proposed an immigration policy that runs counter to the anti-illegal immigration side.
"We need an immigration policy to clear a path to citizenship for hard-working, God-fearing people who want to come here to work and raise their families," he said.

He noted that various anti-immigration movements have come and gone in American history - anti-Asian, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Eastern European and now, anti-Hispanic.
He talked of anti-Irish sentiment that pervaded the country in the early 20th century. Despite that, a poor girl in Ireland applied for a passport. She was lucky. About one in 10 who applied were successful.

Just as she was about to leave, a young man proposed marriage, so she stayed in County Cork. In her place, her 17-year-old sister, Hannah Friel, took over the passport and entered Ellis Island illegally.

"They looked at her passport, saw she had red hair and freckles, so they let her in," Schweitzer said.

Friel nearly starved after arriving in New York in 1909. An Irish family took her in. Then she heard about a free train ride to Montana, where she could acquire 320 acres of land to homestead. So she went on her own to the Big Sky. She settled, later married and raised five children.

"To the folks in Washington, D.C., who are anti-immigration and are telling Hispanics here illegally to go back home, I say, 'You would have sent the governor of Montana's grandmother back to County Cork, Ireland," Schweitzer said."

What can I say?

Bully! Simply bully!

A Misplaced Gravestone

Historian Rob Gregg, of Medfield, Massachusetts, found a gravestone that didn't quite fit the cemetery he was researching.

Using his researchers skills, he found out that the stone actually belonged in Medway, Mass. about an hour's drive from Medfield.

Even more amazing, he found out that the stone belonged to Mary Parker Adams, and that Mary's husband, Silas Adams, was Rob's own 5th cousin, six times removed.

Needless to say, in the end, Rob has seen the stone removed to the cemetery where it originally belonged. How it traveled nearly 60 miles away is anyone's guess. But thanks to the diligence of this historian, it has been returned to it's rightful resting place.

You can read more about this amazing story at the Wicked Local, the Medfield online news site. This is one of those stories with a happy ending!


Back In The Saddle

Well, this ol' Mountain Mama has been out for a few days with some of those summer allergies. The kind that leave you with pounding migraines and achy body. Coughs and sneezes. Yuck!

But I am back, and will probably have several articles I'd like to share with you today as I go through my ton and a half of mail!

The first regards post-mortem photographs.

Maureen Taylor, The "Photo Detective", from Family Tree Magazine, recently sent out an article on this very subject. You can read it here.

While some would consider the act of post-mortem photgraphy rather morbid, there are those who consider it the last act of getting a photo of their dear-loved one. I myself am in possession of photographs of my great-grandparents and my grandparents, that are post-mortem. And should I outlive them, I would suppose that one day I will have them of my parents as well.

Morbid? Well, not to me.

It is interesting to learn the post-mortem customs of our families. Both present and past.

Locally, the deceased is layed out in the mortuary in a visiting room. The night before the funeral, friends and family gather for about 2 hours to visit at the side of the coffin. There they are offered condolences and are regailed with stories of the departed.

However, in the Germanic area of Indiana where my mother's family is from, the departed is layed out in the coffin in the funeral parlor. There for two full days prior to the funeral, for 12 to 14 hours a day, the family and friends gather about the departed, and family of the deceased, and visit with one another. Sympathies are offered, and stories are told of the departed persons life. [It's rather exhausting!]

Years ago [in 1977] when my first husband's grandmother passed away, her body was taken first to the funeral home, where she was prepared and placed in a coffin. Then the body and coffin were brought back to the house, where she lay there for a day and a half before the funeral which took place at the graveside. Someone sat up with the body the entire night before the funeral. [It's termed a "wake". I've often thought so because someone had to remain "awake" for the entire event!] When I've questioned why, I have been told "Because it's how we've always done it!" Not being a very good investigative researcher, I suppose, I've never tried to find out the why in any other fashion. {Perhaps I'll put that on my list of things to do next!}

You will find Maureen's article illuminating to say the least! Be sure to read it: for Tuesday, August 26, 2008.

Until later!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No ox blood, but plenty of history uncovered in Quincy time capsule

The following is taken from on Tuesday, August 26, 2008. This was just absolutely, fantastically exciting, I had to share it here!


By Jennifer Mann
GateHouse News Service
Posted Aug 26, 2008 @ 05:42 AM
Last update Aug 26, 2008 @ 11:42 AM

The names weren’t etched in ox blood as speculated, but the unrolling of an 1896 scroll still drew oohs and aahs from 21st century spectators Monday.

So did the invitations from the Adams chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who hosted an event in June of that year to dedicate the Abigail Adams Cairn on Penn’s Hill.

These, along with a book and yellowed newspapers, spilled out of a 14-inch copper box that had been soldered shut and entombed in the cairn 112 years ago.

The time capsule was discovered by workers from Phoenix Bay State Construction last week as part of restoration work for the monument. On Monday, more than 100 visitors packed the Quincy Historical Society building on Adams Street to watch the same workers pry open the box.

'To the Memory of Abigail Adams'Check out these lost time capsules

The highlight was the parchment scroll, the only item known to have been in the capsule before its opening.

A 1952 article in the Quincy Patriot Ledger told how dignitaries signed their names in ox blood, while 3,000 citizens and bigwigs dedicated the cairn to mark the spot where Abigail Adams and 7-year-old John Quincy Adams watched the Battle of Bunker Hill more than a century-and-three-quarters before.

“Here it is,” whispered Quincy Historian Thomas Galvin, as he and Edward Fitzgerald, the historical society’s executive director, withdrew it from the box and untied a red ribbon to unwrap it.

It turns out, the signatures were painted in some sort of indelible ink – a good thing, because ox blood might not have lasted, some said.

Drawing many people’s attention was the name etched in perfect cursive at the top of the scroll: Abigail Adams, although not the onetime first lady, but a descendant of hers.

The book – not Abigail Adams’ diary as some had hoped – was “Libertas et Patrai,” from the Massachusetts Society of Sons of the American Revolution.

Newspapers such as The Boston Traveler and Boston Post, sold for 2 cents at the time, gave hints of how much has changed since the cairn was built: Then, butter was 17 cents a pound, and five pounds of coffee went for $1.

Margaret LaForest of Quincy was one of the people who pushed this year’s restoration of the cairn, along with City Councilor Dan Raymondi. It is expected to cost Quincy about $50,000.
LaForest, who brought her two daughters to Monday’s event, mentioned for those who missed the opening, many of the items found in the time capsule can be seen on microfiche at the Thomas Crane Library – where she did much of her research on the cairn.

Marie Dunkelberger, of Cohasset, brought her children, Gavin, 9, Ian, 7, and Ella, 4. They had watched HBO’s “John Adams” miniseries, and she read David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Adams.

“It’s very exciting,” she said. “(Adams) is so under-appreciated, and this was so close. I got my kids here to see a little bit of history.”

Also watching with a mix of awe and surprise were two families whose ancestors helped build the cairn.

James J. Gilcoine, and his two brothers, John and Timothy, were contractors on the project. One of the Gilcoine brothers’ workers, John J. Stanton, was picked from a crowd of masons building a school in West Quincy to do the actual work.

Descendants of Gilcoine sat on the left side of the room, and those of Stanton on the right. Some had tears in their eyes. Mayor Thomas Koch invited one person from each family to pull an item from the box.

“I thought it was fantastic, I really did,” said Fred Hallisey, of the Stanton side. “There was more in there than I expected.”

Jennifer Mann may be reached at

Monday, August 25, 2008


Yesterday's EOGN had an interesting article by Dick Eastman, the following is reprinted with his kind permission:

6,800 Free Programs for Windows

Here is a list of a bunch of free programs for Windows Vista, Windows XP and Windows 2000. Most of the programs will also work on Windows 98 and ME. The list includes games, anti-virus programs, adware removal programs, backup and restore utilities, music and video media programs, and music and video production programs. There are text-to-speech programs, desktop themes, and a lot more. All programs are totally free of charge and may be downloaded directly from the Internet.

More than 2,000 companies have products listed here. The list is maintained by Microsoft. I was surprised to see that there is even a link to the Firefox web browser, the major rival to Microsoft's own Internet Explorer.

I bookmarked this one; I suggest you do the same:


Okay, so go check it out! This is absolutely nothing to do with genealogy, but is still a GREAT find!


Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Look At Monticello & Jefferson

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation Online is an excellent web site that provides information about the life and times of Thomas Jefferson. The site is run by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, the same non-profit organization that owns and operates Monticello, the mountaintop home of Thomas Jefferson. Since 1923, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has steadily expanded its role as a museum and educational institution. In recent years, the organization has added as a major method of reaching people worldwide who might otherwise be unable to visit Monticello.

The web site has several features of interest to genealogists, including one that will be especially useful to anyone researching Black American ancestry at Monticello:

The Monticello Plantation Database at contains information on over six hundred people who lived in slavery on Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantations between 1774 and 1826. It provides details of life span, family structure, occupation, and the transactions of bondage (sale, purchase, gift, and hiring). There are also short biographies of individuals and accounts of various aspects of slavery at Monticello.

The Getting Word website at contains information on a project begun in 1993 to interview the descendants of Monticello’s African-American families. The seventy-odd pages of the website include biographical information on dozens of enslaved men and women (and their descendants) as well as plentiful photographs and the results of research in historical records and interviews with over 170 people.

The Monticello Classroom at is a teacher-student website for elementary and secondary classroom use, a compilation of resources about Thomas Jefferson and life at Monticello.

The Jefferson Encyclopedia at is a wiki-style online encyclopedia with articles written by Monticello researchers and respected Jefferson scholars.

The online library catalogue at is a catalog. that is available to all. However, most of the materials listed are available only in person, NOT online.

You will find the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's web site at to be an excellent resource for genealogists and historians.


The above is reprinted from author Dick Eastman and EOGN.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jewish Records Now Available!

Reprinted with permission, written by Dick Eastman, EOGN, Wednesday, 20 Aug 2008:

August 20, 2008 and JewishGen to Provide Online Access to Millions of Jewish Historical Documents

The following announcement was written by The Generations Network, Inc., (the parent company of and by JewishGen:
Partnership Enables Broader Research of Jewish Ancestry Through Powerful Search Tools in One Centralized Location

CHICAGO – The Generations Network, Inc., parent company of, and JewishGen, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and promoting Jewish genealogy and an affiliate of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, today announced a partnership designed to provide easier online access to millions of important Jewish historical documents. JewishGen’s collection of databases will be integrated and be made available for free on, making these historical Jewish records and information more accessible than ever before. As part of the agreement, the JewishGen site will also be hosted in’s data center.

For the first time ever, those interested in researching Jewish ancestry will be able to search JewishGen’s databases on, taking advantage of’s powerful search technologies, including tree hinting and the ability to search all JewishGen databases through one simple interface. The agreement will also give researchers the ability to make connections within family trees and to perform broader searches – searching JewishGen’s databases in combination with the other 7 billion names and 26,000 databases available on In addition, visitors will be able to network with millions of members to connect with others interested in Jewish genealogy and discover distant relatives.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with JewishGen, an elite and well-respected resource in the Jewish genealogy community,” said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of The Generations Network. “Both organizations are committed to the preservation of important historical records. We look forward to working with JewishGen and to making these wonderful collections even more accessible for free on Ancestry.

Under the new agreement, some of the important JewishGen content that will be available on includes databases from many different countries, the Holocaust Database, Yizkor Books (memorial books from Holocaust survivors), The Given Names Database and JewishGen ShtetlSeeker, among others. The JewishGen collections will be available on by the end of the year.

“This important partnership between JewishGen and demonstrates a commitment both to preserving Jewish heritage and providing the public with unprecedented access to these records,” said Warren Blatt, Managing Director of JewishGen. “The impact on the genealogy community will be significant; not only will genealogists now have the use of powerful search tools to make research easier, they will be able to find everything for their Jewish heritage research needs at one location.

David G. Marwell, Director, Museum of Jewish Heritage, said, "The continuity of Jewish heritage is central to the Museum's mission. We are pleased that this partnership will make it easier for users to discover their Jewish roots and connect or re-connect to their family's history.”
To learn more about this important agreement, or if you would like a sneak peek of the Jewish collections that will be available on, visit

About JewishGen

JewishGen,, became an affiliate of the Museum on January 1, 2003. An Internet pioneer, JewishGen was founded in 1987 and has grown from a bulletin board with only 150 users to a major grass roots effort bringing together hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide in a virtual community centered on discovering Jewish ancestral roots and history.

Researchers use JewishGen to share genealogical information, techniques, and case studies. With a growing database of more than 11 million records, the website is a forum for the exchange of information about Jewish life and family history, and has enabled thousands of families to connect and re-connect in a way never before possible.


With 26,000 searchable databases and titles and nearly 3 million active users, is the No. 1 online source for family history information. Since its launch in 1997, has been the premier resource for family history, simplifying genealogical research for millions of people by providing them with many easy-to-use tools and resources to build their own unique family trees. is part of The Generations Network, Inc., a leading network of family-focused interactive properties, including,, and Family Tree Maker. In total, The Generations Network properties receive nearly 8.5 million unique visitors worldwide (© comScore Media Metrix, March 2008). To easily begin researching your family history, visit


Thanks Dick, for another excellent bit of info on new files available!

Exciting Adds To Family Search!

Okay, folks, here's one we've all been waiting for!

FamilySearch added over 2 million new images or indexed records this week to its pilot Record Search databases. Thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers who help bring these projects to the Web for public access. Patrons can search these databases for free online at or directly at .

WWII Draft Reg. Cards 1,651,453 images
Updated - 1 new state (Ohio)

1930 Mexico Census Index
314,548 indexed records 104,849 digital images
Updated - 1 new state (Coahulia)

West Virginia Vital Records (Marriages)
306,782 index records
Updated - 14 new counties

Lima, Peru Civil Registration
134,664 digital image
Updated - User guidance added

1885 FL State Census
8,468 digital images
New collection

1935 FL State Census
36,019 digital images
New collection

1945 FL State Census
51,686 digital images
New collection

So! What are ya waiting for! Get over to FS and start digging!!!

Till later!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Copyright or Not?

This morning's EOGN talked about copyrighting your work so that others could not use it without your permission. Well, there is, as you can imagine, a huge debate on this subject. After all, information such as birth, death, marriage, military, etc. are considered public domain! Right? So how could you copyright it?

Well, it is my understanding that you can't copyright that information. But what you CAN copyright is your research and notes! Your thoughts, suggestions, theories and hypothesis that go into most of our research should be, and can be, protected by copyright.

How many of us have seen our own, hard-worked, family trees posted and published somewhere online by someone who did nothing more than copy it, download our gedcom's and say it is their own research?

Most of us, unfortunately, have seen this happen to us.

But you CAN place a copyright on those things.

One way is to place a copyright in your sources information of family tree program. Under the name for each individual you place in your tree, you can then put that copyright notice. This is not a complicated copyright, but a simple "Implied Copyright". This protects your work. You can also add this into your notes for each individual, which are often not read by some of the people who attempt to use your research as their own.

I responded to today's EOGN blog post by Dick Eastman, and had an interested reader send me the following question:

Hi Cyndi:

Appreciate your post on the Eastman blog regarding keeping control of one’s genealogical research/notes/etc.

Does one have to go through a formal copyright application process for a “body of work”, using attorneys, or is there an easier process?? It seems that if it is a formal process, doing new copyrights each time there is significant updates/changes would be prohibitive.

Any further thoughts on your experience would be greatly appreciated!

[Name Hidden]

My response to this reader was the following:

Having published several genealogy books, I can tell you that there are several kinds of copyrights. While I am not an expert, nor a legal advisor, by any means, I have learned that unless you are publishing in a printed form for mass distribution, you are probably going to be covered with just an "Implied Copyright". This is extremely simple to do.

Make sure that you list your copyright in your first page [in a family tree program you can add this to your "Sources"]. Simply add "Copyright" and under the information you can put something to the effect of: "Copyright 2008 Jane Doe" [be sure to add the copyright symbol if the program allows for it. Under comments or notes for the source, you can add: "All Rights Reserved. No part of this research, including individual notes, theories or hypothesis may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information or permission please address Jane Doe at: "

This implies that anyone else using your family tree information is breaking the copyright. By adding this to your Sources, you need only list it once for each individual you place in your tree.

The "hidden" copyright I mentioned in my EOGN comment, is simply taking the above statement, and placing at the end of the notes for each individual. [I actually have it saved to my hard drive, and then just copy and paste it whenever I am making notes on an individual. If I find I have quite lengthy notes, I will place a break in the middle of the notes and add it both there and at the end.

If you are writing a genealogy report, place this on the back of your cover sheet. You can also place it at the top of Endnotes, or Bibliography, or Sources [whichever you use.]

Yes, it is a little time consuming at first, and can take a little while to get used to doing if you have been researching genealogy for a while. But, believe me, it is worth it in the long run! When I first started out almost 14 years ago, I saw my tree being posted in dozens of areas. Even a book was made, using MY notes! The author getting the accolades for MY work! Today, I never see any of my information out there, unless it's from someone whom I've given permission to quote me. And then only if credit is given to ME for the work! So far, this method has worked well for me.

I hope this has helped somewhat!


I hope that this will be beneficial to our readers here, as well!

Census Indexes are NOT Transcriptions

We have been struggling for years to get this across to new genealogists and researchers, who insist that they found their information on a Census Index, and thus, it must be correct! I have been explaining away, and then re-explaining, and yet again, explaining, that an Index [of any kind] is open for human error. It is always best to look at the original document!

Leave it up to DearMyrtle to find the perfect way to explain it!

Okay, so folks, I'm not going to use my inept explanation on this one! I'm going to let you click here and take a look at Myrt's wonderful explanation! [By the way, if you're not reading DearMyrtle you don't know what you're missing! You can sign up at her blog and receive every new post she writes!]


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Is 'Find-A-Grave'?

Before I actually get into this post this morning, let me tell all of you that we hit our first mile-post! Yesterday we posted our 50th blog entry!

Who said we wouldn't last? tee-hee

Accolades over, I wanted to share a bit of information on one of my favorite websites. I have to tell you, I visit the site daily. It is as essential to my professional business as Ancestry or World Vital Records .

I have been asked several times, just what is Find A Grave and why is it such a good site?

First, you can look for both famous and non-famous grave sites. There are 25 million-plus non-famous graves listed on Find A Grave.

You can search for a specific cemetery.

You can ADD burial records!

That being said, many have photos of the tombstones, cemeteries, and some even have photographs of the individual persons [not to worry here; photographs taken post-mortem are not allowed!].

You can search their Surname Index.

Even the SSDI [Social Security Death Index].

They even have some wonderful Discussion Forums you can join!

The Find A Grave website lists seven individuals who are behind this phenomenal site:
Jim Tipton - Find A Grave Founder
Russ Dodge - Administrator, Photographer and Biographer
A.J. Marik - Administrator, Editor, Photographer
Katrina M. - "Email Queen"
Tanya Smith - "Email Goddess"
Robert Edwards - Administrator, Editor, Biographer
Deb - Administrator

You can read more about all of these individuals here.

You can even buy Cool Gear when you find that you've become a Find-A-Grave junkie like me!

I highly recommend using this site often. And if you have files that you don't see listed, I encourage you to post them there. We all know that historically a grave marker makes a HUGE statement when performing genealogy. Share what information you have!

Until next time, go check out this site, add a few of your files and consider returning often to do the same.


Monday, August 18, 2008

What About Collateral Branches?

Recently I was asked how far out do I spread my research; and when do I stop researching?

My answer was vague, I am sure. I said something to the effect that the questioner should do as much, or as little, as he or she wanted. But that I personally go gung-ho into the project and get all the information I can!

In yesterday's "The Ancestry Weekly Journal" was a wonderful article written by Paula Stuart Warren, CG. I am going to try to give you the "meat" of this article, without paraphrasing too much, or breaking copyright laws! So please bear with me. But I do believe this is an article that can cover alot for those with similar questions.

Paula wrote: "If I hadn't researched one great-grandfather's brother, I may never have found the place they left in Scotland (Arbroath) and would have missed the death and burial place for my great-great-grandparents."

She goes on to say that if she had not researched her grandfather's siblings, she might not have known about the relatives still living Ireland - and thus, all of those collateral relatives that had immigrated to the US.

She goes on to talk about several other instances where searching out collateral lines have opened up her closer lines as well.

Paula states: "Don't enter just the direct line folks into your Family Tree Maker software. Enter all siblings, aunts, uncles, and even their spouses."

Good ideas are also to check for obituaries and death certificates for those collaterals - you just might find other information you need for your direct line as well! Such as a "maiden name".

Research names found in the obituaries, gift registries [such as wedding albums and baby books]. You just might find the name[s] of more relatives!

"As you make contact with other relatives, ask them if they have memories and contact information for other family members. Ask them if anyone has a family Bible."

Gather all of the information on collateral branches as you can. Information from military records for the males can be especially helpful.

Check probates for distant cousins. Check out marriage records, while many states only list the bride and groom's names, others list the names of their parents as well.

Read old newspapers. There you will get the local news for the times. [This is one of my husband's specialties! He is full of little known facts about San Antonio for the period of about 1860-1900. He loves those old papers!]

Paula writes: "Is all this work really worth it? You betcha!"

Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is a professional genealogist, consultant, writer, and lecturer who is frequently on the road. She coordinates the American Records Course at the annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. She writes for several periodicals including "Ancestry" Magazine.


I hope this has helped for those of you who can't decide whether to pursue those collateral branches or not!

Let us know your comments!


Listening to Your Parents - or Grandparents - Music

Okay, so Dick Eastman just happens to post some of the best articles in his EOGN. Here's another that we reprint with his permission.


Listening to Your Parents' or Grandparents' Music

One man is busy digitizing out-of-print 78s. Cliff Bolling says, "There's a whole world of music that you don't hear anymore, and it's on 78 RPM records." He already has about 4,000 MP3s on his web site.

Bolling's site only received 10-30 hits per day until appearing on reddit and StumbleUpon in July, reaching over 11,000 hits at its peak. "I really didn't know there were so many people in the world interested in this music," said Bolling told "A lot of younger people go to the site, and it's amazing that they hear songs today that originally were recorded 75 years ago. It's pretty cool that people get to listen to this stuff. As far as copyrights, apparently I'm okay, because nobody's come to shut me down or anything."

Bolling also points out that "What was considered humor early in the 20th century might today be deemed offensive and politically incorrect. Some of these old songs reflect that."

"I get dozens of emails every day from people telling me how wonderful it is to hear this music, and people post links to my webpage on websites all over the world," Bolling told us. "It's truly amazing." In fact, it is so amazing that his web site was shut down by the hosting service, There were so many visitors that it overloaded the web server that hosts the site. However, the site at is expected to be back operation in a few days.

You can read more on Wired at

Having a Great Day In The Mountains!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Another Find Thanks To Research!

Thanks to Dick Eastman for another inspiring article!



August 15, 2008

Case closed: Judge's Portrait Finally Found

The original article was interesting:
Thomas Irwin's ashes have rested in Section 4, Lot 18 at Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsbugh for 138 years, but people in the post office and federal courthouse are trying to connect a face with his name.The third-floor hallway is lined with images of all but one of the 55 past and present Western District federal judges, from Nora Barry Fischer, appointed last year, to Jonathan Hoge Walker, the district's first judge, appointed in 1818.Irwin is the only one missing.In the space where his portrait should be hanging is a message that reads: "If you know my whereabouts, please contact the clerk of courts."

You can read more in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at

A week later a happy ending was posted to the same web site and it credits genealogists:
Problem solved.Of the 55 federal judges ever to serve the Western District of Pennsylvania, only Irwin could claim the dubious distinction of not having his portrait line the third floor hallway of the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, Downtown. An image of his likeness can be found on Floor 3, Stack 2 at the Carnegie Library's main branch in Oakland. "There we go. Now we've got all 55," Robert Barth, clerk of the U.S. District Court, said Thursday. The story then turns to genealogists for the solution. The story elicited a blurb in the New England Historic Genealogical Society's newsletter, which brought it to the attention of Robert Battle, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington."It piqued my interest," Battle said. "So I thought I would see what, if anything, I could turn up."

Indeed, Battle did "turn up" a portrait. The full story is available at

Until tomorrow!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Free Database!

Diane Haddad announces another FREE database this week. Early Indiana Marriages Through 1850.

Diane wrote that the late Dorothy Riker, an editor of The Hoosier Genealogist, started the project years ago and volunteers have since added much to the index. It now runs through 1850 from courthouses in all counties that kept records, plus marriages mentioned in Quaker monthly meeting notes and St Francis Xavier Church in Vicennes records. That's roughly 330,000 marriages recorded and in this database!

You can find the search form for this database here.

Thanks Dianne for another great item!!!


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Documents Detailing Early Spy Network Released

Okay folks, you're going to love this!

Famed chef Julia Child, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and Chicago White Sox catcher Moe Berg all shared a secret.

They were all in an international spy ring managed by the Office of Strategic Services [OSS], an early version of the CIA created in World War II by President Franklin Roosevelt.

The AP announces that the secret comes out Thursday, all of the names from the previously classified files, identifying nearly 24,000 spies who formed the first centralized intelligence effort by the US.

Come on! If Julia Child is on the list, who knows who else may be?

You can read more about this announcement at:

Until tomorrow.


Okay folks, for this one you're going to have to trust me. You want to take a look at what the Wall Street Journal had to say today in this editorial, "For Most People College Is A Waste of Time".

Call me insane, or irreverent, I'm not sure which, but this actually made sense to me!!!

Read this and let me know what you think!

Have a great evening!
Until tomorrow,

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Who Do You Think You Are" - Coming To US!!!

Okay, so I know I've been riding Dick's coat tails for a while now, but what can I say? Dick Eastman reports another great find! And so, with his kind permission, from yesterday's EOGN, here's another Dick Eastman report:

August 11, 2008
NBC Television to Offer "Who Do You Think You Are?" American Style
A genealogy television program in the U.K. has become one of the more popular television programs in that country. In fact, "Who Do You Think You Are?" has also spun off a magazine, computer software, and an annual conference in London that attracts nearly 15,000 attendees. Some American genealogists have wondered, "When we will get a similar program?"

The time is now. Well, this year.

Quoting from NBC's web site:

Who Do You Think You Are?

The answers lie in the past.

From producer Lisa Kudrow comes a new series that is unlike anything on U.S. television. Based on the popular BBC documentary series, Who Do You Think You Are? takes viewers on an inspiring and personal journey into the past of America's best-known celebrities, sharing their emotion and surprise as they uncover stories of heroism, tragedy, love and betrayal that lie at the heart of their family story. At the same time, the series celebrates the making of our great nation and the people who traveled here in search of freedom and opportunity.

The same web site promises that the show will spin off an online archive of celebrity ancestry info as well as the ability for users to get started on a personal search into family history.

NBC's version of "Who Do You Think You Are?" will be an all-American show, not reruns of the BBC program. It will feature American celebrities and their ancestry.

You can read more at although it is obvious that the site is still under construction.

***I for one can't wait for it to begin. My only wish is that they would run it on PBS instead. No commercial breaks. And use REAL people, not celebrities. I'd love to see some "brick walls" broken through and help out people who would REALLY like to know more about their ancestry, and not use it as a gimmick to promote commercial ratings.

Come on PBS! As some commented on Dick's web site this morning, in the vein of "History Detectives", how about doing a "Genealogy Detectives"! Judging by the amount of people responding to Eastman's post, I do believe that you might have a viable audience! Hmmm???

Have a great day everyone!
Your Mountain Genealogist

"The Potato Famine..."

I found the following very interesting and decided to share with all of you:

From "Genealogy Pointers" 08/12/08

"THE POTATO FAMINE Was Not the Exclusive Cause of Irish Emigration to North America," by Terrence Punch

In the popular imagination, the Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s is considered the main explanation for Irish emigration to North America. However, for much of Atlantic Canada, this was not the case. Except for Saint John, New Brunswick, no other major port in the region was inundated with Famine refugees. Contemporary records make it clear that large numbers of Irish had reached the region well before the 1840s. Without downplaying the importance of the Famine, my book, ERIN'S SONS: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853, emphasizes the earlier Irish presence in the four easternmost provinces of Canada.
British subjects in the British Isles were British subjects still in British North America, so there are no naturalization records. Either through indifference, or from feeling overwhelmed, local officials failed to create and retain passenger lists and records of landed immigrants. Governments seldom kept the records genealogists hope to find, such as birth and death information. Even marriage records tend to be spotty well into the 19th century. Not all the early census records survive, and many of those were household, rather than nominal, enumerations. In an effort to repair some of these deficiencies, I combed a wide variety of records in search of people who had come from Ireland. The end result of this research is my book, ERIN'S SONS.
Several matters of wider impact turned up in my research. In the late 1700s, having lost the thirteen colonies, British courts had to look for other places to ship convicts sentenced to transportation for terms ranging from seven years to life. For a time, Atlantic Canada was such a destination. The wreck of a shipment of Irish convicts off Cape Breton Island in 1789, however, became the proverbial "last straw" that persuaded Britain thereafter to transport its convicts to Botany Bay, thus beginning the European settlement of Australia. For many Australians, having a convict ancestor is as good as being a "Mayflower" descendant is to North Americans!

In 1798, the United Irishmen, led by patriots such as Robert Emmet and Lord Edward FitzGerald, staged a rebellion against British authority in Ireland. In the aftermath, British authorities sought fugitive rebels. One record of this hunt showed up at Halifax, Nova Scotia--the result of the interrogation of the passengers on an Irish ship to determine whether any was a rebel.

Another result of the failed rebellion was passage of the Act of Union, by which the Irish parliament voted itself out of existence in exchange for a set number of seats for Irish constituencies in the Parliament at Westminster and a pledge to remove the remaining civil disabilities from Roman Catholics. The Union took place in 1801, but the promise was dishonored, and Ireland seethed with resentment.

Daniel O'Connell led a popular movement to gain Catholic rights, a victory he won in 1829. The other matter, the annulment of the Union, agitated Ireland from then until the Famine began in 1845. Across the Atlantic, in cities and towns of the U.S. and eastern Canada, Repeal societies were formed wherever there was a settled Irish population. Lists of Repealers, often with their place of origin, were published in newspapers in Atlantic Canada, enabling present-day researchers to discover for the first time the origins of some of the Irish immigrants.

Another major event impacting the region was Britain's long war against the expansionist policies of Napoleon. When the war ended in 1815, the British began to dismember their huge military establishment. Hundreds of Irish were among the thousands of servicemen discharged in British America, and many others had gone AWOL in the previous 15 years. Those who were given their discharge were often granted land as part of the plan to settle the colonies. Not a few of those who had deserted the British military headed for the U.S. and eventually became American citizens.

Since thousands of other immigrants passed through Atlantic Canada to points beyond the immediate region, my book, ERIN'S SONS, offers researchers the potential of genealogical discovery far beyond eastern Canada. While all too often a record says merely that someone came from Ireland, the sources used to prepare this book break new ground by looking for details in such unexplored places as regimental depot succession and description books, newspaper lists of Irish Repealers, and an array of other contemporary documentation. It is no exaggeration to claim that some of the clues revealed in this book have never before seen printer's ink. [END OF ARTICLE]

For more information about ERIN'S SONS: Irish Arrivals in Atlantic Canada, 1761-1853, please access the following link:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

10 Places To Find Immigrant Origins

I don't usually make two posts in a single day, but I wanted to be sure and post this article received today from "The Ancestry Weekly Journal" and reprinted with their permission.

The article is written by Juliana Smith. Enjoy! [You may want to print this out or take notes!]

Ten Places to Find Immigrant Origins

by Juliana Smith

There’s a unique thrill that comes when we identify an immigrant ancestor in our family tree. Someone long ago, an ancestor who was born in a foreign place, left their home and everything he or she knew. That decision had a huge impact on who we are today. It determines the label we put on ourselves, whether it be American, Canadian, British, or some other nationality. Sherry Irvine’s column on The English in Scotland was a good reminder that these decisions impact people in pretty much every country in the world.

It’s connections like these that the fuel our passion for family history, inspire us to stay up late searching the depths of the Web, schedule vacations around graveyard and courthouse visits, and grill Great-Aunt Madge at the family reunion, seeking that elusive town name in Germany where it all began. (Of course by "grill," I'm speaking figuratively. Don't throw Aunt Madge on the barbie at the family reunion. It will just make her mad and you'll be less likely to get information from her in the future.)

But Madge may not have the answer for you. What then? Here are ten places to look to find that location in the “old world” where our immigrant ancestor made that fateful choice.

1.) Family Correspondence and Memorabilia As with many aspects of family history research, often the best place to start is at home (or Aunt Madge’s home, or Grandpa Joe’s home, etc.). A clue to your ethnic origins may lie in an obvious place like a family Bible, or something not as obvious like a piece of clothing or a piece of lace with a pattern that is native to a particular region. Photographs can hold surprising clues, again, sometimes as obvious as a name on the back as was the case when I identified my paternal great-grandfather’s hometown in Poland, or perhaps in some elements of the photograph like clothing, a sign in the background, the type of housing, or a photographer’s imprint.

2.) Birth Records Locate the birth records of all your immigrant ancestor’s children. While your direct ancestor’s birth record may only include a country of origin (or no information at all), a sibling’s record could include the name of the town or county.

3.) Marriage Records If your ancestor was married in this country find their marriage record. In the U.S., marriage information is available in the 1900, 1910, and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses, and the 1880 census has a field for those married within the year.

4.) Death Records Death records may also include the birth place of the decedent, and sometimes that of his parents. A 1927 death record for John J. Cullerton of Chicago revealed that his father had been born in County Wexford, Ireland, and his mother was from Queenstown, County Cork, Ireland. John was one of twelve children and although he was not the direct ancestor of the person who was being researched, it was one of those times where whole family research paid off greatly.

5.) Religious Records Where civil records don’t include an immigrant’s exact place of origin or where civil records aren’t available, turn to religious records. I found my great-great-grandmother’s county of origin in Ireland in a book of dispensations for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. From there, Griffith’s Valuation gave us an even more specific location.

6.) GravestonesUnless your ancestors were frugal with engraving costs like mine were, tombstones can be another source of information when it comes to an ancestor’s origins. (Go to the blog for an example of one ancestor’s ever-so-informative headstone. There are seventeen family members in that grave.) Others however, are much more fortunate. In fact, dedicated researchers have compiled entire books on cemetery transcriptions. Two books in my collection focus particularly on graves where place of birth is given. (Old Calvary Cemetery: New Yorkers Carved in Stone, by Rosemary Muscarella Ardolina and Tombstones of the Irish Born: Cemetery of the Holy Cross, Flatbush, Brooklyn, by Joseph M. Silinonte)

7.) Newspapers Newspapers often list the town of origin for the individual mentioned, particularly in obituaries. An obituary in the Brooklyn Eagle listed Balbriggan as the town of origin in Ireland for my third great-grandmother. But don’t overlook other sections of the newspaper. An ancestor’s “misdeeds” may have earned him a spot in the paper and anti-immigrant newspapers may have been all too eager to point out where he or she was from. Notices like the following from the New York Times were also common.

PERSONAL.--Thomas Talbot, formerly of Kilkenny, Ireland, wishes to find his sisters, who are believed to be in this City. Mary, Judy and Margaret were their names, and the first was married to a Mr. Prim of Kilkenny.

8.) Local Histories Local histories often include mentions of groups who immigrated and settled together within the community. Also, family members may be profiled like the following entry from the History of Cook County, Illinois: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time (Chicago: A.T. Andreas, 1884.) which is available at Ancestry.

John S. Forster, florist, was born in Yorkshire, England, February 20, 1851. He came to Chicago in 1871, and after a stay of several weeks went to Wisconsin, where he was engaged in railroad surveying for four years, when he came to Evanston, in 1875, and first worked for W.T. Shepherd, florist, whom he bought out and has since carried it on for himself. Mr. Forster was married to Miss Fredrika Schlucter, of Gosler, Germany, February 14, 1876, in Chicago. They have four children--George H., Annie L., William J., and Charles R.

9.) Naturalization Records, Alien Registrations, and Passports In the U.S., you may find clues to ancestral origins in naturalization records created post-1906 when the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), now the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), took over and standardized the forms used in the naturalization process, requiring more personal information. Prior to that time you may find the occasional record with a detailed place of origin, but often only the country is listed. Ancestry has several large databases of naturalization records available.
U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995
U.S. Naturalization Records - Original Documents, 1795-1972
New York Petitions for Naturalization

Alien registrations are another source. When I requested my great- grandfather’s alien registration from the USCIS, it confirmed the location we had found on the back of the photograph as his town of birth. As I announced on the blog, you will soon be able to request these records online through the USCIS website.

If an ancestor had to travel back home to settle a family estate or visit relatives, he might have requested a passport which could also bear the name of his hometown. Ancestry has a database with images of U.S. passports available to members.

10.) Military Records You’ll often find immigrants serving in the military, so be sure to check for service records. In the British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 I found an entry for Hyman Samuel Baumander that stated that he was from Lodz, Poland-Russia.

What’s Your Immigrant Story?How did you discover an immigrant ancestor’s origins? Share your story with us in the Comments section of the blog.

Juliana Smith has been an editor of newsletters for more than nine years and is author of The Ancestry Family Historian's Address Book. She has written for Ancestry Magazine and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy, rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e-mail at, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.


I hope everyone has learned soemthing new from this! I know I have!

Till tomorrow!

Texas - Free Persons of Color Research

Many thanks to Dick Eastman for another fascinating article! This would make a wonderful, intensive study, and one we can learn much from!

August 09, 2008

Free People of Color of Texas Project

Mic Barnette is conducting a project for possible future publication. The project attempts to identify all Free People of Color who lived in Texas prior to the Civil War and any Free Person of Color born in Texas who lived outside Texas prior to the Civil War. To date there are approximately 250 families in and outside Texas with about 150 different surnames identified.The project is not a study of slaves emancipated as a result of the Civil War in 1865.
In many cases those identified as Free People of Color were born free and their families may have been free stretching back into the Colonial United States. In other cases they may have been slaves recently (prior to the Civil War) manumitted by their owners for faithful service or because they were the offspring or family member of the owner. Also of interest is the number of Free People of Color who owned slaves, themselves. In some cases those slaves were family members, while in other cases they were slaves inherited or purchased.

While the project is not intended to be an intensive genealogical study of each Free Person of Color or family of Free People of Color it does collect as much genealogical and biographical information as may conveniently be found without extensive research. The keyword being "identify" and the intent is to identify more than just the names of the people.

Genealogists and historians descended from or who know about a Texas Free Person of Color identified or not identified in the project, thus far, are invited to contact Barnette at The Free People of Color of Texas project has a website containing a list of the surnames and residences of most of those Fee People of Color identified to date. The website may be accessed at

Happy Sunday to all!


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Saturday's Post - Millenia Announces eBooks

Thanks to Dick Eastman on yesterday's EOGN's post for the following:

August 08, 2008
Millennia Corporation Adds eBooks
I have written a number of times about the growing popularity of eBooks (books published in electronic format). Now Millennia Corporation is poised to become a major supplier of genealogy eBooks, thanks to a new agreement with Genealogical Publishing Company. The result should be genealogy books available much more easily than ever before and at lower prices. I believe this is great news for genealogists.
Here is a new announcement written by Millennia Corporation, the publishers of Legacy Family Tree:
Legacy Family Tree teams with Genealogical Publishing Company to release popular How-To books in downloadable, electronic format for the first time
SURPRISE, Arizona - Millennia Corporation, publisher of the popular family history software Legacy Family Tree, announced today that it is teaming with Genealogical Publishing Company to provide broader access to popular How-To books.
In the first joint project, two significant how-to books are now available in digital format for the first time ever:
In Search of Your German Roots: a Complete Guide to Tracing Your Ancestors in the Germanic Areas of Europe
Finding Italian Roots: The Complete Guide for Americans
Joe Garonzik, Marketing Director of Genealogical Publishing Company said, “Genealogical Publishing Company is delighted to make its award-winning how-to books available in digital format for the first time. Our association with Legacy Family Tree enables us to provide a valued new audience with authoritative information on a variety of subjects of importance to genealogists.”
Dave Berdan, President of Millennia Corporation commented, “Our mission has always been to help genealogists organize, research, and share their family history. Teaming with Genealogical Publishing Company certainly supports our mission. We are excited to help bring these how-to books to a wider audience.”
About In Search of Your German Roots, by Angus Baxter
This updated edition of In Search of Your German Roots is designed to help you trace your German ancestry; not only in Germany but in all the German-speaking areas of Europe, from the Baltic to the Crimea, from the Czech Republic to Belgium. Like all books by Angus Baxter, it shows you how to conduct your research by correspondence and e-mail; how to work in your own home, at your computer, using the resources of libraries and archives or the records of church and state. (PDF format, 127 pages, published 2008, $14.95 from
About Finding Italian Roots, by John Philip Colletta
Since Finding Italian Roots first appeared in 1993, an ever increasing number of Americans have become interested in tracing their Italian heritage. This thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded Second Edition provides up-to-date information about accessing and interpreting the vast universe of materials available for tracking Italian ancestors and recording their stories for future generations. It contains more state and local sources, more point-by-point explanations, more step-by-step instructions, more "insider" hints and helps, more illustrations, more specific examples, plus an expanded glossary and annotated bibliography, and numerous Internet websites in both English and Italian--all brought vividly to life through the colorful stories of real Italian and Italian-American ancestors. Whether you are just beginning your investigations or have been doing genealogy for years, this guide will help maximize your investment of time, effort, and money. (PDF format, 206 pages, published 2003, reprinted 2008, $12.95 from

Thanks Dick! What a great find for helping us to stay within our budgets!

Until Sunday!

Friday, August 8, 2008

WWI Veterans Surveys

On Thursday, August 7th, Diane Haddad wrote in the Family Tree Magazine's blog "The Genealogy Insider", regarding a wonderful free database available at the Library of Virginia

Diane wrote that in 1919 in an effort to keep the stories of Virginians returning from the Great War preserved, a governor-appointed Historical Commission sent out questionnaires to the state's returning WWI soldiers and nurses. A report was never published and the questionnaires ended up with the Library of Virginia.

Today, those questionnaires have been placed in a database of more than 14,900 records, one for each respondent. Those files are linked to digitized images of each questionnaire page, plus any accompanying photographs or other materials submitted.

These files hold a wealth of info, data such as the respondent's name, dates, places, educational and religious background, and military service details. Soldiers answered questions about their wartime experiences and how the war affected their personal values.

You can search on a keyboard for a name or hometown or phrase, or enter a word to browse alphabetically adjacent records.

LOV's search results come in a table form. To view the record, click the number on the far left to bring up the catalog entry. Next click the URL next to the document icon, then click the link to the page of the questionnaire.

These records hold an invaluable amount of wealth for the family or professional historian.

Until next time!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Interesting Find

Announced on today's Ancestry Newsletter is the following:

Billy the Kid?It appears this census taker caught Billy the Kid (alias William Bonney) and his comrade Charles Bowdre in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, in 1880. Bowdre was killed at nearby Stinking Springs later that year; Billy was killed at Fort Sumner the year after.
–Thanks to J. Kattner

What an awesome find! And right on Ancestry!

Thanks folks!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

GEDCOM Explained

While for some of you this may seem like old stuff, there are always new genie's [genealogists] out there who aren't familiar with some of our technical terms. Yesterday Dick Eastman republished a wonderful explanation, using both technical and non-technical lingo to explain just what a GEDCOM is. I am posting that here with his kind permission. Dick is a well-known genealogist, author, blogger, and lecturer. His daily newsletter Eastman On Genealogy Newsletter is a must have!



August 04, 2008

GEDCOM Explained

I frequently mention the acronym "GEDCOM" in this newsletter. This week a reader wrote to me with an excellent question: "What is GEDCOM?" I realized that I haven't explained this buzzword in a long, long time. So, here is a brief, non-technical explanation of the term for the newer subscribers to this publication.

GEDCOM is an abbreviation that stands for GEnealogy Data COMmunications. In short, GEDCOM is the language by which different genealogy software programs talk to one another. The purpose is to exchange data between dissimilar programs without having to manually re-enter all the data on a keyboard.

To illustrate the importance of GEDCOM, step back in time with me for a moment. Back before the invention of GEDCOM and before the invention of the home computer, I used 80-column punch cards to record the names and limited information about 200 or so of my ancestors. I did this after work hours in my employer's data center. I then used the employer's mainframe computer that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to sort the data and to print a few crude reports. Luckily for me, my employer allowed me to use all the mainframe time I wanted during the evening, after the company finished its daily work.

Around 1980, I built my own home computer. I decided to put my genealogy database onto the new system, but it would not read the 80-column punch cards I had used earlier. I manually re-typed every bit of data into a dBASE-II program that I wrote. My database had grown, so I had to enter data about 400 or so individuals. I stored the information on 8-inch floppy disks attached to my homemade 8-bit CP/M computer, which had 64 Kb (kilobytes) of memory.
Some time later I discovered a CP/M genealogy program that would operate on my home computer. (CP/M was an operating system that was popular before MS-DOS which, in turn, was popular before Windows.) Unlike my crude, homemade dBASE-II program, this new genealogy program printed pedigree charts, family group sheets, and other reports. I decided to convert to the new, more powerful program (although I must say that it was rather elementary when compared to today's powerful programs). At this point my database had grown to about 600 individuals, and I could not find any method of easily copying that data into the new program. I first printed out the information from the dBASE-II database. Then I sat at my computer for several evenings, reading the information on paper and re-typing every bit of it into my new program.

I bet you can guess the next step: I purchased an IBM clone in 1985 and decided to move my data to this new powerhouse. After all, it had 640 kilobytes of memory and a 20-megabyte hard drive, which I was certain that I could never fill. Having been rather active in my genealogy research, I now had information about 1,200 people to re-enter. I printed out the entire database from the old system onto paper and then manually re-typed it into the new PC powerhouse. That effort took weeks, and I promised myself, "Never again!"

Newer genealogy programs appeared in the following years, each with new features that I found enticing. However, I continued to use the same program simply because I didn't want to go through the keyboard effort again.

Roughly fifteen years ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced something new: a file format called GEDCOM. This new proposed standard file format was designed to allow different genealogy programs to exchange data. There was only one problem at the time: the only program that could read and write GEDCOM data was the one written by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

GEDCOM is a standard, not a program.

As such, genealogy programs that are going to use the same data have to be written by the programmers to handle GEDCOM files. If you are trying to transfer data from one program to another, only to discover that one of the programs does not support GEDCOM, you are out of luck. To complete the exchange of data, both programs have to support GEDCOM.
Slowly, over a period of several years, other genealogy programs began to add the ability to read and write GEDCOM files. It became possible to move data from one genealogy program to another without manually re-typing everything. Now you can just export your file from one genealogy program in GEDCOM format and then import that GEDCOM file into another genealogy program.

All of today's genealogy programs support GEDCOM.

You can use GEDCOM files to exchange genealogy data with your distant cousin in Poughkeepsie as well as to upload data to RootsWeb,,,,, FamilyBuilder, and many other online databases.

The author of the genealogy program that I used never did add GEDCOM capability. Luckily for me, someone else eventually wrote a small routine that would export data from this program in GEDCOM format, and I was then able to move my data to increasingly powerful new programs.
By 1990, I was writing articles on CompuServe, advising everyone to never use a genealogy program that lacked GEDCOM capabilities. Luckily, that is no longer an issue. All of today's major genealogy programs will import and export GEDCOM data. Data transfer may still be a problem for those using older genealogy programs without GEDCOM capability; many people still find their data trapped in these "islands." For them, there is no easy solution.

Unlike the "dark ages" of the 1980s, it is now common for people to use two or three or even more genealogy programs. You may find one program that you prefer to use for storing all the bits of information that you encounter in your research efforts. However, you might prefer the printed reports or multimedia scrapbook features of a different program. Thanks to GEDCOM, you can easily move your data from one program to another. You can also share information with distant cousins using yet other genealogy programs by sending GEDCOM files to each other by e-mail.

The instructions for creating or reading GEDCOM files will vary from one program to another. You need to consult the program's HELP files to find the exact sequence of instructions your genealogy program requires.

GEDCOM files can be read by a human although it would be tedious to do so. Here is an extract from the beginning of a typical GEDCOM file:

0 HEAD 1 SOUR Legacy 2 VERS 4.0 2 NAME Legacy (R) 2 CORP Millennia Corp. 3 ADDR PO Box 66 4 CONT El Mirage, AZ 85335 1 DEST Gedcom55 1 DATE 16 Oct 2004 1 SUBM @S0@ 1 FILE Kennedy.ged 1 GEDC 2 VERS 2 FORM LINEAGE_LINKED 1 CHAR ANSI0 @S0@ SUBM 1 NAME Not Given 1 ADDR Not Supplied 2 CONT0 @I1@ INDI 1 NAME Joseph Patrick /Kennedy/ 2 GIVN Joseph Patrick 2 SURN Kennedy 1 SEX M 1 BIRT 2 DATE 6 Sep 1888 2 PLAC Boston, MA 2 SOUR @S2@ 3 PAGE pg 56 3 QUAY 3 1 DEAT 2 DATE 18 Nov 1969 2 PLAC Hyannis Port, MA
(rest of file omitted)

The file contains genealogy data in a structured format. It utilizes numbers to indicate the hierarchy and tags to indicate individual pieces of information within the file. A number of zero indicates the first line within a single record, and the letters, or tag, after the zero indicate the type of record. The top line in any GEDCOM file is the HEADER record, indicating that it is the beginning of the file. Words that are more than four letters long are typically abbreviated. In this case, the word HEADER is written as HEAD.

A number "1" shows that the line in question is one level below the "zero" line. This indicates that this line is one level subservient to the zero line and contains additional information. In the case of the second line in the above file, the entry of "1 SOUR Legacy" indicates that this file was created by (SOURCE) Legacy, a popular genealogy program for Windows.

The number "2" on the next line shows that it is subservient to the preceding line with a number 1 in it. In this case, the line of "VERS 4.0" indicates that the file was written with version 4 of Legacy. Below that you see a line labeled ADDR (address) and another labeled CONT (the previous line is CONTinued here).

Scanning a bit further down the file, you will see the following:

0 @I1@ INDI

Again, the zero indicates this is the beginning of a new record. The "at" signs bracket the record number. In this case, the record is of an INDIvidual, and it is individual #1 (I1) in the database. Succeeding lines show events, such as birth, marriage, and death, along with subsequent data listing dates and places. You will also note an entry of "2 SOUR @S2@," which indicates that a source citation for the event can be found in SOURce entry S2 to be found later in this file.
INDI, NAME, BIRT, DEAT, SEX, SOUR and the other record types are called GEDCOM "tags." There are many available tags within the GEDCOM standard and even a capability to create user-defined tags for those situations not covered by the standard. Of course, user-defined tags are usually not understood by the receiving program, so they seem to be somewhat useless. They may help define data within the program in which they were created, but they will not translate to a new program via the GEDCOM format.

This is a very abbreviated explanation of the internals of a GEDCOM file. You can a detailed explanation at

You need to be aware that the creation of the GEDCOM standard was not a perfect implementation. For one thing, not all the data fields are specified precisely in the GEDCOM specifications. Next, not all the programmers of the various genealogy programs interpreted the specifications in exactly the same manner.

For instance, your present genealogy program might be perfectly happy with a birth date listed as, "after 1847 but before 1852." However, once that information is exported in a GEDCOM file and then imported into a different program, the birth date may say something else. The receiving program may expect exact dates and not be able to handle anything that says "after" or "before," especially not both in the same statement. Typically, the receiving program simply leaves the line blank. Sadly, one or two genealogy programs will accept the first date found on the line and then will disregard any further information.

Another problem is that not all genealogy programs have the same ideas about databases. One program may have only one field for "occupation," assuming that every person on the face of the earth never, ever changed careers. Another genealogy program may have the ability to record multiple occupations during the person's lifetime. When transferring data via GEDCOM from the more powerful program to the simpler one, some of these occupations will be lost. These are a couple of simple examples; you can find numerous other inconsistencies when moving data between dissimilar programs.

Another limitation is the fact that the present GEDCOM standard was created before the popularity of multimedia. You can transfer textual data, such as names, dates, and locations rather well in GEDCOM. However, transferring scanned images, sound clips, and movies from one genealogy program to another is almost impossible to accomplish via GEDCOM files. The present GEDCOM implementation can point to the location of multimedia files on a hard drive. In theory, this should suffice. However, in my experience of moving data around in many genealogy programs, I have rarely seen multimedia files handled properly.

There is another problem with translating from one program to another: that of data integrity. Translating from one program's database to GEDCOM is sort of the same as translating from one spoken language to another. The basics work, but subtleties and details sometimes do not translate well. Then, when translating to the third language (the receiving genealogy program's database), more translation losses creep in. I well remember reading a technical manual some years ago that had been written in Japanese and then translated into Chinese. At a later date, the Chinese version was translated into English. The resultant English manual was barely readable. The same may happen with translating a database from Program A into GEDCOM and then from GEDCOM into Program B.

A new method of transferring data between different genealogy programs was announced some time ago by Wholly Genes Software. Their Bridge technology reads data from one program directly into a second program without requiring a "double translation" via GEDCOM. The result is a much more accurate transfer process. However, only a few genealogy developers have adopted GenBridge.

Despite all the shortcomings, GEDCOM is still a simple and somewhat effective method of transferring genealogy data from one program to another. Most of the data will transfer properly, and then there are easy ways of reviewing the data to look for errors. The names, dates, and locations normally transfer correctly. Text, events, notes, and source citations may not always work perfectly. The exact problems encountered will depend upon the two genealogy programs involved.

Most modern genealogy programs will create an error log of GEDCOM data imported but not understood by the receiving program. You can read that log file to see what the program detected as inconsistent, then manually go in and fix the errors. While tedious, this is still a lot better than re-keying everything!

A new GEDCOM standard has been proposed that is to be based upon XML, a programming language that is popular on the World Wide Web. This new standard should greatly improve data transfer accuracy. See for details. However, don't look for this new GEDCOM 6.0 any time soon. It has been a proposal for several years, and nothing has happened in that time. GEDCOM 6.0 appears to be going nowhere.
Older versions of GEDCOM have been around for more about twenty years, and only minor improvements have been made in that time. I expect that GEDCOM 6.0 will not appear in genealogy programs for several more years, if ever.

I offer this article as a non-technical explanation of GEDCOM plus some commentary on its use. For more details and for technical explanations of the inner workings of GEDCOM, I would suggest that you read the following:

The GEDCOM Standard Release 5.5:

GEDCOM 6.0 XML proposal:

Is GEDCOM Dead? by Beau Sharbrough:

Posted by Dick Eastman on August 04, 2008


I hope that this has been insightful and helpful to everyone who has had questions regarding GEDCOM's.

Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Getting Hooked!

Okay, so most everyone knows my three main passions in life are "genealogy, writing, and reading". If I'm not doing one, you can bet I'm doing one of the others!

I'm quickly getting hooked on some new books and authors out there!

These are the genealogy based mysteries! I can't seem to get enough of them! My book shelves are fast becoming filled with the Torie O'Shea mysteries written by Rett MacPherson. You can check her out at Believe me, once you start, it's like candy! You won't be able to stop!

As most of you know, Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak is a genealogist I highly admire. Her posts and blogs are considered some of the best in the business! [Check out "Roots Television" for her work!]

I received Megan's latest blog this morning, and I am now so anxious to go book shopping I just might be salivating on the keyboard as I write this post!

Megan recently did an interview with writer Dan Waddell [for those who live in England, Dan is the author of the original companion guide to the popular Who Do You Think You Are? series. And now he has ventured into the real of fiction writing with the first in a series of genealogically-based mysteries!

The Blood Detective is a n idea that Waddell came up for one evening while in a local pub, and he text messaged himself with the idea so that he would not lose the train of his thought! [Clever boy!] And while he admits that he himself is not a genealogist, Megan swears that you won't be able to tell he hasn't been a genealogist for decades with the manner in which he interweaves the genealogically research process into his storyline. In other words, this is one writer who did his homework and passes with a grade unsurpassed by most!

Megan states that the plot is complex. A current-day body marked with a sort of code, later to be determined as the registration number of a death certificate, as well as the realization that murders are to follow.

If you're into family history and love mysteries [and what genealogist doesn't?] you'll want to check this novel out!

I'm heading right for the bookstore! Come join me! The latte is on me!!!


Monday, August 4, 2008

The Family Hedge

Today's "The Genealogue" features a wonderful article and new way to build your family tree [I know...this looks like a really neat project for your kids, or next family reunion using old CD's or DVD's and flex wire. Right?]

Matthew D. Sallin wants to replace the vertical family tree, which is quite limiting and focuses more on direct ancestral lineage with more broader and widening range. One he calls the "family hedge". Folks who know me know that my family genealogy files would resemble this, if my programming only would print in this fashion! Showing more of the broader family than the lineal. [Multiple wives, multiple step-siblings, adoptions, etc.] I come from a diverse background and would LOVE to get hold of some programming that would, indeed, provide this kind of a base for our files!

Sallin states: "It's a combination between a social networking application (like Friendster) and a networking experiment using data visualization. It uses a "Hedge" metaphor rather then a tree metaphor: traditional family trees are vertically oriented, showing a direct line from your ancestors up to you in present day. Such trees are limited in scope because they only consider the direct bloodline that results in you, and siblings and their spouses and children are excluded from this view. Conversely, a family hedge is radially oriented, expanding in all directions."

You can read more about his application here.

I really think this could catch on! Let us know what you think!


Sunday, August 3, 2008

Thanks Dick!

Many thanks to Dick Eastman in yesterday's "EOGN" for the following announcement, reprinted with his permission:

"MobileFamilyTree Brings Genealogy to iPhone

Synium Software has announced the release of MobileFamilyTree, a genealogy application for the Apple iPhone and iPod touch. It costs $4.99 and is available for download from the App Store.

You can synchronize the changes you make to your family's origins between an iPhone and a Mac using MobileFamilyTree.Designed as a complement of sorts to Synium's MacFamilyTree software, MobileFamilyTree enables you to keep track of your family roots and information. The software keeps all the changes you make on your iPhone in sync with MacFamilyTree files, and lets you view, add and edit information wherever you are.

Features include interactive lists for "Persons" and "Families," and detailed information views with direct edit access. You can add and edit multiple "Partners," "Children," "Events" and "Notes." The software is localized in English and German.

In order to have the Mac synchronization features, you'll also need MacFamilyTree 5.2.3 to be installed on your Mac.

Details may be found at "

Happy Sunday!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Genetically Altered?


My mother was a workaholic. She adored being among the first generation of women who left their children with a babysitter and went out into the working world every day. She made a place for herself in an area that was predominantly male. She was a huge success.

My sister has done the same!

And yet, here I sit, in front of my computer. I perform most of the work that I do right from the comfort of my own sofa.

And yet, I know I am my mother's daughter! Number one, the physical characteristics that mark the two of us make me an uncanny look alike!

While I love my work, I'm not so sure I'd love it if I had to go out and work a nine-to-five every day!

So, what does that make me?

A colleague replied to my query in an email today:

"Gee, genetically altered?"

I leave it at that for this posting.

Searching the past for a better future!

Have a great weekend!!!