Genealogy Blog

Experience the Brand New Mocavo Census Viewer

10 Oct 2014


Less than four months ago, we joined the Findmypast family to revolutionize the genealogy industry. In that time, we have continued to provide groundbreaking access to millions of records, books, and databases that hold the clues to your ancestors’ stories.

And we’ve only just begun.

Today we could not be more excited to announce the first feature innovation created by the combined Mocavo/Findmypast team. Transform your census research experience with the new Mocavo Census Viewer!

Watch a quick tutorial Now>>

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Start exploring the new Mocavo Census Viewer right now with your Mocavo Gold account! We think you’re really going to love it and we can’t wait to hear what you think. Please let us know how we can make your experience even better, and thanks again for being a part of this community!

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Blog Posts and News Stories for Genealogists, October 10, 2014

10 Oct 2014

This week’s news roundup includes the Legal Genealogist discussing poverty-stricken ancestors, a modern dance based on family history, Leland Meitzler discussing a new genealogy television show, Iceland’s fascination with genealogy and how it is helping us with medical research, and a techie look at family history in the future.

Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist had an interesting post this week that applies to so many of us. Many of our ancestors were quite poor. And the poor were always susceptible to being caught in a financial morass that left them unable to pay their bills. This week Judy dedicated a post to these individuals, and why they would sometimes work to be declared insolvent (hint: it has something to do with prison). Read more in Broke By Any Other Name.

This week’s Telegram in Montreal carried an interesting story. The Festival of New Dance this week had an interesting dance piece that was part theater and part dance: a cross-pollination of many elements. The really interesting part of Peter Trosztmer’s “EESTI: Myths and Machines” is that it included parts of his family history. Find out how he incorporated his Estonian grandfather’s story into the piece in Dance Piece Starts as Personal Family History Research.

Leland Meitzler from the Genealogy Blog wrote an interesting post this week about a new genealogy television show. Roots: Our Journeys Home traces the families of a dozen CNN news anchors. It starts this Sunday with a primetime special and segments will air each day for the following week, culminating in a two-hour primetime special. Get the details in “Roots: Our Journeys Home” Debuts Sunday, October 12, on CNN with 2 Hour Primetime Showing.

It is well known in genealogical circles that Iceland has a very inbred population. People are so related multiple times that an app was even created to tell people exactly how closely they are related, to prevent pairings that are too closely related. Back in 1997, neurologist Kári Stefánsson created a digital version of the “Book of Icelanders” that traces their family history back for almost a millennium. This has allowed for tremendous scientific breakthroughs in the history of genetic traits as well as inherited disease. Discover the fascinating story in How Iceland’s Genealogy Obsession Leads to Scientific Brekathroughs.

And finally, for the techies among us, comes a story from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Lincoln Cannon, a philosopher and professional software engineer postulates about a future where we are able to run “family history simulations,” watching our ancestors act out their lives. Which raises some important philosophical questions. Follow this techie but interesting story in Are We Living in a Family History Simulation?


Family History Simulation



Extreme Genes Genealogy Radio

08 Oct 2014

Last week I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Extreme Genes radio show. Fisher, the host of Extreme Genes, is a native New Englander. He has been in broadcasting since he was a young man. And not he has turned his passion for genealogy into a radio show.

Fisher calls himself “Your Radio Roots Sleuth.” Each week, he hosts a show of about 45 minutes. The good news is that with today’s technology, you do not need to be within one of the broadcast areas that airs the show. Because each week after the show airs, it is turned into a podcast, archives on his website, iTunes, and libsyn.


Extreme Genes


Each episode has one or two guests covering a topic of interest to genealogists. On the episode I appeared on, Blaine Bettinger was also a guest, discussing DNA. Other guests have included Anna Swayne and Mathew Deighton of, Chris Tomlinson, and my old friend David Allen Lamber from the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston. Topics have included:


  • DNA
  • Orphan Trains
  • Colonial Wars
  • 19th Century Photography
  • Who Do You Think You Are?
  • and much, much more!


At the end of the show, Tom Perry shares some technology tips. Recently he has discussed taking care of CDs/DVDs, the proper way to use USB drives, and how to shoot video.

Check out Fisher’s show, and listen to podcast versions of back episodes, at You can find my interview on episode 60: DNA Testong: A Different Animal for Revealing Family Secrets?


Scrolling Through History

07 Oct 2014

Scholars at Harvard University have been working on a very special project.  A cross-department cooperative effort between students in a course from the Committee on Medieval Studies and Harvard Divinity School  and those in a course at the Program in General Education has produced some intriguing analysis as well as records preservation.

Harvard’s libraries have many incredible items in their collection, some dating back millennia. Among their collections are scrolls from the Middle Ages.  The students got together to work on some of these scrolls.

The students from “Scrolls in the Middle Ages” and “Making the Middle Ages” met with the Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts to examine and select a scroll to research. Digital images of the scrolls were taken for the students to use. According to a story in the Harvard Gazette, Library Technology Services  is working with HarvardX (a group dedicated to implementing new technology at Harvard) to crate better image viewing and annotation tools.

“Next-generation digital images are made using archive-quality, high-resolution photography that precisely reproduces the color of the original object on-screen. The images show close detail, such as brushstrokes and texture. They are presented as panoramic, stitched-together graphics, rather than pages, so that students can focus on particular areas but also see the larger context of a piece.”


Kings of England Scroll

Closeup of scroll MS Typ II, a genealogy of the ancient Kings of England, worked on by Emerson Morgan.


The end result of the students’ work was twofold. First, an exhibit of scrolls was prepared for display at Houghton Library. One of the students, Emerson Morgan, is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in historical musicology. He worked with a scroll that details the genealogy of ancient Kings of England. Part of his work was to prepare the scroll for display. Unfortunately, the scroll is too long to fit  in the case if completely unrolled. This meant that he had to decide which sections to display (by alan at dh tech). He said that the process “ . . . raised interesting questions about stories and how they are chopped or parsed.”

Those same questions often face genealogists. When we are telling our family stories, we must sift through all of the information we have accumulated. Which land transactions to we include? Do I include this part of the story, or omit it for something more (or less) provocative?  And how will those decisions impact others’ views of our ancestors?

The second result of the students’ work is online versions of the scrolls that are free to access. Some are available in on online Museum exhibit. Others are available through the Page Delivery Service offered by Harvard Libraries. You can read more about he students’ work and the scrolls in Scrolls and Scrolling: Digital Tools Key to Projects in Medieval Studies.

Aunt Mary Joins the Greek Gods and Changes Genealogy

04 Oct 2014

Daniel Ruth, a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, wrote an interesting piece last month.  A few years ago, his wife’s Aunt Mary asked her, when the time came, to travel to Mount Olympus in Greece to spread her ashes. When the time came, Ruth and his wife faced an intense challenge.

First they needed to deal with all of the paperwork involved in carrying cremated remains out of our country and into another. Mountains of bureaucratic red tape needed to be climbed and processed in order to obtain the appropriate permission from both governments.

Then there was the tiny detail of climbing the mountain, an activity not exactly in their daily exercise regime. Getting to the top of the mountain is no mean feat for anyone. It is frequently dangerous. In fact, just days after they made the trek, another climber died in a 600-foot fall.

And, upon their arrival at Litohoro, a final surprising challenge met them. The weather changed their plans. There would be no rest. If they wanted to hike the mountain, it would need to be immediately. Ultimately, they were able to scale the mountain and spread Mary’s ashes over a ridge. In Ruth’s words: “A gentle breeze carried Aunt Mary into eternity, into the embrace of the Greek gods.” You can read more of their adventure in Aunt Mary Joines the Greek Gods for Eternity.




Stories like Aunt Mary’s are becoming more and more common. For a variety of reasons, people are no longer going the traditional route for their post mortem plans. And it will change the way genealogists in the future research.

I’m not referring to cremation. That has been common for a century at this point. It is what happens to those cremains that has changed. In days past, cremains would be buried in cemeteries. Sometimes they are buried in family graves alongside coffins. Many cemeteries have a special area for cremated remains called a columbarium, or they might have an urn garden.

But today, many people are opting to have their ashes spread elsewhere, in places that have some sort of significance to them. The remains of John F. Kennedy, Jr., for example, were spread at sea. The ashes of comedian Robin Williams who died this summer were scattered in San Francisco Bay.

Many eco-conscious people are now opting to have a “green burial” or “natural burial.” The remains are not embalmed, and buried in biodegradable containers. Usually the graves are unmarked.

How is this changing genealogy? One of our major resources for research are grave markers. Many cemeteries have seen their inscriptions transcribed and published over the years. And website like FindAGrave and BillionGraves have made it even easier to view grave markers and transcriptions of the inscriptions. Often these inscriptions are the only records of death that we have.

These new forms of burial leave no markers. Not only will there be inscription to transcribe, but genealogists will be robbed of another wonderful experience. During my research I have visited the final resting places of countless individuals. Each time I am able to pause and reflect on who they were and what they accomplished in life. The feeling will not be the same for those whose remains are spread to the winds or the water, like Aunt Mary; JFK, Jr.; and Robin Williams. Our research, and our experiences, will never be the same.

Blog Posts for Genealogists, October 3, 2014

03 Oct 2014

This week we have a mix of blog posts from genealogists. Dick Eastman warns us about a potential records access problem, Randy Seaver writes about a new free genealogy database search engine, Diane Boumenot shows how to break down brick walls, Lisa Louise Cooke discusses “Family Tree Etiquette,” the Legal Genealogist finds a new branch on the family tree a bit close to home, and Valerie Hughes makes a plea for others not to write her obituary. I hope you enjoy them.

Connecticut has often been a problem for genealogists. Dick Eastman reported yesterday about another access proposal going before the state legislature. The bill, if it becomes law, would allow city and town clerks to require advance appointments for genealogists to research. This could have a devastating impact on records access. Read more in Genealogists Shouldn’t Need Town Hall Appointments.

Brick walls are one of the biggest curses in family history. We can spend years trying to tear them down and move past them. Diane Boumenot gives us a great lesson in how to move past your brick wall. Using the example of how she ultimately identified her third-great grandmother, and tracking her from Rhode Island to Connectict to Alabama to Missouri and back to Rhode Island. Learn some necessary techniques in How I Solved the Hannah Andrews Brick Wall.

Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems podcast is very popular. And her website provides even more information. This week she had a great post about the etiquette surrounding the use of private versus public family trees. She debates the merits of each, and provides an answer as to which is best in Family Tree Etiquette: Online Private vs. Public Trees.

Judy G. Russell, the Legal Genealogist, writes many valuable pieces for genealogists. This week, however, brought us a very special piece, and a very special reminder for all of us. When she was young, she discovered a half-brother she didn’t know she had. She eventually was able to track him down, met him, and form a relationship with him. But she came within a hair’s breadth of missing that opportunity. The takeaway is: don’t wait. You never know when you might be too late. Read the full story in Finding Evan.


Don't Write My Obituary


Finally this week we have a story from professional genealogist Valerie Hughes. She writes this week about obituaries. More specifically, she writes about how often there is such little information in an obituary. She has come up with a perfect solution. She is writing her own life story. And she is challenging each of us to do the same. Find out more in Please Don’t Write My Obituary!

Join Us at the Genealogy Event

02 Oct 2014

If you live in the New York area or the northeast, I hope you’ll consider joining me at the Genealogy Event in New York City in a couple of weeks. This is the third year for this event, and every year it builds on what has come before. This time around is no different.


Genealogy Event


The largest change is a new location and a new partner: the National Archives/New York City. Friday and Saturday will offer thirteen general sessions, each 30 to 45 minutes long.  Topics include:

  • British and Irish Records
  • Brick Walls
  • Heirloom Preservation
  • Lineage Societies
  • Military Records
  • Organization
  • Photos

There will also bet 20 advanced sessions, lasting 45 minutes to an hour. Among the subjects being discussed:

  • Cartography
  • Genealogical Proof Standard
  • German Genealogy
  • Google Images
  • Jewish Genealogy
  • Probate Research
  • Reading Old Documents

The speakers represent a variety of fields, and bring excellent knowledge and expertise. Besides myself, they include James M. Beidler, Elaine Collins, Denise Levenick, Maureen Taylor, and more.

Sunday is a special day dedicated solely to the subject of DNA. The day is divided in half. The morning is dedicated to four beginning sessions.  The afternoon, however, will cover advanced topis, including adoption, yDNA, and an ask-the-expert panel.

There will be a vendor area for you to explore genealogy products and services. I will be there with my Find My Past colleagues Elaine Collins and Brian Donovan to answer your questions about Mocavo and Find My Past.

One of the unique things about the Genealogy Event is the pricing structure. You have the option to pay for the general sessions or for individual advanced sessions. There are also VIP options that give you priority access and special benefits.

The Saturday sessions will take place at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in lower Manhattan, the home of NARA/New York City. Sunday’s DNA Day will take place nearby at the India House Club. Find out more about this and how you can join the hundreds of people who will be there at


Celebrate Family History Month with 5 Ideas for Creating Holiday Gifts

30 Sep 2014


Fall is my favorite time of year. In New England, we have a cool crisp days and evenings and the beautiful scenery from the foliage as the leaves as turn. Taking long walks on a sunny afternoon with the leaves crunching beneath your feet is the best way to enjoy this season. That said, nothing last forever. Fall will quickly be over and winter will soon be upon us. And we all know what that means. The holidays will be here before you know it!


The other great thing about this time of year is our celebration of Family History Month in October in the United States. What better way to celebrate that to start thinking about sharing your genealogical research with your family over the holidays. It takes time to look at your research get things together and create gifts based on your research to present to your family over the holidays. If you start now you just might have time to get them finished before the holidays hit. There are so many ways you can share your family stories with the current generations. Here are a few examples of gifts that you can create that will mean so much to them. Presents from the store are wonderful, but gifts from the heart like these, Means so much more.


Compose a Family Calendar
It is quite common to see people use use photographs of the family to create a calendar. As a genealogists, you can set up a 2015 calendar your family using the information found in your research. Taking information from your database that has important dates and places that hope meaning for your family and your ancestors and mark them on the calendar. The obvious ones to include our dates and places of birth marriage and death, but there are many more that you can add. For example, include dates when people moved from one place to another, or other significant events such as an ancestor changing jobs or receiving a promotion etc.


Decorative Family Tree
One way to share your ancestry with the family is to create a decorative family tree. There are companies out there, such as Family Chartmasters, that will take your data and create a lovely printed family tree. These can vary from fan charts too expensive descendent and relationship charts that can include images of your ancestors as well. There also vendors out there that can supply you with a template to create your own handwritten chart. A few years back, I found a chart on beautiful parchment paper with A hand colored fan chart in the shape of a tree at the top and A five generation Ahnentafel underneath. Since the empty blocks in the tree have the Ahentafel number in them, even non-genealogists can easily determine the relationships between people.


Write a Family History Book
What better way to share your research than writing your ancestors‘ stories and sharing them in a book. In today’s world of print-on-demand digital printing there are a world of options available to you. You can write a formal compiled genealogy, or put together an illustrated book with lots of stories and pictures. Or, you could even combine the two that has stories with a compiled genealogy at the end. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be the entire family. Just pick a few lines to discuss. You can do different lines at different times, and have gifts ready for many holidays into the future!


Make a Multimeda Presentation
It has never been easier to create slideshows and videos with your family history. There are apps and software programs to help you in many ways. Combing oral history interview recordings with photographs and narration, you can produce a very valuable gift. Don’t forget to add images of original documents as well. These can be just as interesting to your family members.


Create a Collage
There are many ways to create a collage. Many craft stores have ornate frames in the shape of trees that you can simple insert your photographs into. You can also create a collage with software and print it out as a poster or other large-dimension image to put into a single frame. You can also print a number of images in different sizes and get a number of individual frames to put them in. The recipients can then create their own collages when hanging the frames on a wall.

The Last of the Centenarians

29 Sep 2014

Margaret (Coen) Clarke of County Galway was 101 years old when she died in 1875. She led a typical life. She married young and had twelve children: eight boys and four girls. At the time of her death, she had seventy-nine grandchildren. Little did she know that she would one day end up in the Guinness Book of World Records.

James and Hubert, realizing as young men that the family farm could not continue to support the large family emigrated to America in the 1920s. Charles was taken into the Black and Tans in 1921, and the following year he was a founding member of An Garda Siochana, the national police force for the Republic of Ireland.

Daughter Madge (Clarke) Fanning is the last surviving sibling. And what do she, James, Charles, and their brothers Joe and Pat all have in common? Like their mother, each lived to be more than 100 years old.


Clarke Family Centenarians


The first to die was Charles, who died in 2002 at the age of 100. Joe, born in 1901, died the same year, the day after celebrating his 101st birthday. Pat died in 2005, a few months short of his 102nd birthday. James died in 2009, just shy of his 103rd birthday.

Madge recently celebrated her 100th birthday. She has eight children, fifteen grandchildren, and sixteen great-grandchildren. The family has filed paperwork with Guiness for the world record after Madge’s birthday, pushing the Clarkes past a UK  family with four siblings who lived to be centenarians.

With people living to be older and older, one might think that this record will not stand for long. While that may be true, we also need to take into account that families have also gotten smaller and smaller and smaller. As family size shrinks, it will be difficult to have enough siblings passing the century mark.

You can read more about the Clarkes  in Five Member of This Family Lived to see 100 and They’re Hoping It’s a World Record. The one truly sad thing is Margaret’s story. Although she lived to be 101, she did not die of old age. She was out shopping for a new dress for the wedding of one of her grandchildren and got into a car accident. Who knows how long she might have lived?

Blog Posts and News Stories for Genealogists, September 26, 2013

26 Sep 2014

This week’s genealogy news roundup includes  a new, major DNA project, cancer and family history, LDS members getting free access to databases, a review of genealogy apps, and a fun story about historical facts that sound bizarre but are actually true.

Dick Eastman announced a new DNA project that launched this week in Wales. CymruDNA Wales (Cymru is the name of the country in Welsh) is partnering with other organizations in a major study. The ultimate goal of the project is to answer the question to determine where the Welsh come from. Read more in New Welsh DNA Project is Announced.

Similarly the New York Times reported on a study of Ashkenazi Jewish women and breast cancer. A new study shows that even those who had no family history of the cancer tested positive for the genetic mutations that cause breast cancer. Most Jews in the United States are Ashkenazi, so this story has wide ramifications. Get the details in Study of Jewish Women Shows link to Cancer Without Family History.

Deseret News reported today on something we’ve heard about for awhile. FamilySearch has partnered with Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage to digitize and index more content. As part of that work, LDS members will now receive free access to those websites, saving them almost $900 each year. Get more of the story in FamilySearch Provides LDS Members with Free Subscriptions to Commercial Family History Websites.


Randy Seaver Online Trees


Randy Seaver had an interesting piece on Geneamusings yesterday. He participated in a Google hangout with DearMyrtle on Wednesday. The group discussed genealogy software, online family trees, and apps.  Eight software programs, seven online tree providers, and seven mobile apps were discussed. Read more in Which Family Tree Programs Sync and Have Mobile Apps?

Finally this week, we wrap up with a rather fun story from BuzzFeed. Staffperson Mike Spohr wrote a piece awhile ago gathering interesting facts that may sound strange, but really happened. He curated stories from around the web, including how anthropologists believe that as many as 600,000 people were put to death for witchcraft in the Medieval Era; a Papal persecution of cats and how this led to the Bubonic Plague that killed almost a third of Europe’s population; and how the Austrian army attacked itself in 1788.  Read all of these stories and more in 51 Historical Facts That Sound Like Huge Lies but Are Actually True.