Genealogy Blog

The Biggest Myth in American History

30 Apr 2012

Those who know me well know that one of my pet peeves in genealogy is the biggest myth in American history: that anyone’s name was ever changed at Ellis Island. There is not a single documented case of anyone’s name ever being changed during the entire time the immigration station was open.

Ellis Island was staffed by professionals who spoke languages from around the world. They did not have difficulty communicating. People’s names changed either before they left for America, or after they settled here.


Ellis Island

One thing that may confuse people into thinking that names were changed is the variant spellings in documents. (more…)

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi [?]

27 Apr 2012

When transcribing and abstracting documents, it is important to have an accurate record of the original. In striving for this accuracy, people often get confused about when to use [sic] and when not to.

Errors occur in records all the time. Reversed letters and words, duplication of words, as well as switched names and other errors are all commonly experienced. When a mistake appears in the record, it is important for the abstractor/transcriber to show that the error appears in the original.

The term should always be italicized and appear in square brackets immediately following the error. Sic is Latin for “thus,” meaning (more…)

House Is Where the History Is

27 Apr 2012

Genealogy is not always limited to individuals. If you want a real challenge, try tracing the history of some genealogy companies! (Does the word Broderbund ring any bells with some of you?) In addition to researching the history of families, many people research the history of their homes.

I did this a bit in the 1980s and 1990s. When I was a freshman in high school my family moved into an eighteenth-century farmhouse. It was built by a Revolutionary War veteran who served as one of the Minutemen who responded to the alarm at Concord. It stayed in his family until the (more…) Changes Terms of Service

26 Apr 2012

A number of people have expressed concern over the change to the Terms of Service (TOS). Most websites have a TOS statement that users must agree to adhere to. A few weeks ago, at the end of March, amended their TOS. The TOS statement read:

“You may access the Website, use the graphics, information, data, editorial and other Content only for personal family history research.”

This would have prevented heir tracing firms from utilizing their databases. Historians would not have been able to use information on the website for their publications. And professional genealogists would be prevented from using the site (more…)

The Overuse of Exclamation Points!

26 Apr 2012

As a long-time editor, it is amazing to me how much misuse of punctuation is pervasive in our modern writing. One of the most abused is the punctuation mark. There was a time when the punctuation mark was reserved for emphasis, but now is peppered throughout emails as normal text.

Schoolhouse Rock: Interjections



Boston Globe reporter Christopher Muther wrote an excellent piece about the overuse of the exclamation point, and how we arrived in this place. He includes a quote that will be very familiar to those of a certain age:

“Interjections (Hey!) show excitement (Yow!) or emotion (Ouch!).
They’re generally set apart from a sentence by (more…)

Girls Scouts Preserve Cemetery Information

25 Apr 2012

It seems like we are always hearing about Boy Scouts working on projects to earn their genealogy merit badge. It seems to be forgotten that the Girl Scouts of America has a similar badge. Junior scouts can earn a My Heritage badge by satisfying a number of requirements, including creating a family tree. It is nice to see the girls finally getting some press for their activities n this area.

The Columbus, Indiana, Republic offers this story about a local girl scout troop working to help preserve a local cemetery. The owners have let Oak Hill Cemetery degrade to the point that (more…)

“Kids These Days” and Genealogy

25 Apr 2012

When I started working at Mocavo, my friends and family were a little confused. “A genealogy search engine?” they’d ask, “Are you even into genealogy?” Pretty legit question, I’d think. Most people think having an interest in your family history to be an “older person’s hobby”, and maybe a decade ago, they’d be right. However, what drew me to Mocavo, and what I still love, is that our team is working everyday to make family history fun, interesting and more digitally accessible for people of all ages.


But still standing is the belief that “kids these days” don’t care about their ancestry (more…)

Prague Winter

25 Apr 2012

When starting your family history research, you never know where it will take you and what you will find. Family skeletons and difficult situations lurk behind every corner, waiting to pop out. Imagine making a discovery that changes everything you knew about your parents and family history. Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state, made such an incredible discovery.

She was baptized and raised in the Catholic church. When she became secretary of state, she discovered that her family was Jewish, and that many family members died in concentration camps during World War II. As secretary of (more…)

Muni Launches NYC Image Gallery

24 Apr 2012

After many years of work, the New York City Municpal Archives (Muni for short) today launched an online gallery of images. More than 870,000 images of life in the city can now be viewed on Muni’s website. You can either search or browse through the gallery. Some of the images date back to the 1880s. If you have ancestors who entered the United States through the port of New York, or who lived in the city for any time, you will enjoy looking at these images.


NYC Image Gallery


Images are both black and white and color. If you see an image you like, you (more…)

Upload Your Geni Family Tree to Mocavo

24 Apr 2012

During RootsTech 2012, Mocavo announced that it would be including the entire database of Geni family trees into its search index. However, we’re pleased to announce that was just the first step in our evolving partnership with


Now, our team is pleased to present a new feature that will save many of our users time when uploading their family trees to our site: Geni Family Tree Import. Millions of people have their family trees on; it’s a great resource for those just starting out and working from the ground up.


Mocavo has teamed up with Geni to allow our users with (more…)