Genealogy Blog

We asked and you answered!

06 Sep 2014

Last week we asked what you were planning to do with your personal library once you no longer needed it. Here is what you said!

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Follow the Footsteps of Your Ancestors in Millions of Land Records

05 Sep 2014

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Land records can be very helpful when you are trying to pinpoint the location of an ancestor at a particular point in time. You can use these records to trace the migration patterns of your ancestors as well as identify familial relationships. As a Mocavo Basic member, you can individually search each database to your heart’s content for free. Piece together the mystery of your family’s puzzle today with free access to more than 3.25 million land records.

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Three Tips for Self-Publishing Your Family History

05 Sep 2014


One of the great benefits of today’s technology age is how much easier it is to share our genealogical research. Self-publishing has come a long way in the last few years. Here are three tips for taking advantage of the wide variety of services for taking control of publishing your family stories.

1. Get editorial assistance.

It is a well-known truism that one cannot edit or proofread one’s own work. Our minds already know what we wanted to say, so when we try to edit or proofread ourselves, we miss many of the mistakes we have made. If you have a friend with editorial experience, you might be able to convince them to help you. But, if not, there are other options available to you. Editor World is one option. They can provide you with editorial assistance for a fee, with reasonable turnaround time.

2.  Pay for a designer.

Part of being creating a good publication is paying attention to the design. And I’m not referring to the cover design (which is the first thing everyone thinks of). I am talking about the interior layout of the book. This includes font, type size, margins, justifications, headers, footers, chapter breaks, and much more. Each and every one of these may sound inconsequential, but can have a major impact. What happens if you make the margins too small? Part of the text will be illegible because it will be in the gutter (where the pages attach to the binding), and part will be unreadable because the reader’s fingers will be blocking the text. A professional can put this together for you and you will have a fantastic product at the end. For more hints, read How Much Attention Should You Pay to Book Design.

3. Don’t violate copyright.

This may be the most difficult one to adhere to. You must be careful where you take information from, and how you use it. While facts (such as dates and places of birth, marriage, and death) are not copyrightable, the words used to convey that information are. Do not directly copy text but use your own words. Even more important are images. Remember that copyright currently lasts for 70 years after the death of the creator. All those family photographs in your possession? Copyright belongs to the person who took the photograph, and to his/her heirs. The key date at the moment is 1944.

Researching Your Pennsylvania Ancestors

04 Sep 2014

Having just returned from a week at the FGS conference in San Antonio, I’m taking a short holiday this week. I’m in the City of Brotherly Love for a few days with a friend. And what else would two genealogists do on their holiday but research? I am working on my Franklin project, while my friend Aaron works on his own family. Philadelphia is home to a number of valuable repositories, but we will likely be focusing on three since we are here for just a few days.

1. Historical Society of Pennsylvania

One of the oldest in the nation, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania was formed in Philadelphia in 1824. The holdings now include more than 600,000 published works, and more than 21 million manuscript and graphic items. Over the last few years, HSP has moved to focus itself as a research institution. Through strategic partnership agreements, it has acquired the holding of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, and transferred HSP’s museum holdings to the Atwater Kent Museum of Philadelphia. HSP has also updated the research facility at 1300 Locust Street, making entering and leaving a much better controlled process as well as adding a lounge area for patrons.

2. American Philosophical Society

APS was the brainchild of Benjamin Franklin. He founded it in 1743 because “there are many in every province in circumstances that set them at ease, and afford leisure to cultivate the finer arts, and improve the common stock of knowledge.” It was the first learned society in America. It quickly gained an international reputation, and its accomplishments over the past 270 years have only further cemented it. APS “promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications, library resources, and community outreach.” Many of its holdings are valuable for genealogists. I, of course, will be working with their vast collection of Franklin papers while I am here.


Library Company of Philadelphia


3. The Library Company of Philadelphia

Another of Benjamin Franklin’s brilliant ideas, the Library Company was founded in 1731 as the first lending library in America. Even today, the library operates under the subscription model, with shareholders supporting its operations. Until the 1850s it was the largest public library in the country. Since then, it has continued to grow, and in the 1950s became a research facility. Today it is used by everyone from high school students to film producers to senior research scholars. In 1987 the library started granting fellowships, and since then more than 700 scholars have participated in the program. And the best part is that it is located on Locust Street, right next door to HSP, making it very convenient to visit both repositories.

Valuable New Resource: Elements of Genealogical Analysis

02 Sep 2014

Robert Charles Anderson is perhaps the most well-known New England genealogist of his generation. As head of the Great Migration Study Project of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) for more than twenty years, he has contributed greatly to our knowledge of these earliest colonial immigrants.

As you can imagine, this was a massive project. If it was to be successful, it would need an organized approach. This would insure the best possible results. Over the years he has refined his system, but the substance has changed little from the beginning. Now you can learn his method and apply it to your own research. NEHGS recently released a new book from Bob: Elements of Genealogical Analysis: How to Maximize Your Research Using the Great Migration Study Project Method.


Elements Cover


The book is compact at 168 pages plus 15 pages of introductory matter in a 6×9” format. The book has two main sections: Analytic Tools and Problem-Solving Sequence. The brief, three-page overview that precedes these sections provides a great summary of the process.

Bob starts by sharing his two fundamental rules of genealogy, and I couldn’t agree with him more:

  1. All statements must be based only on accurately reported, carefully documented, and exhaustively analyzed records.
  2. You must have a sound, explicit reason for saying that any two individual records refer to the same person.

Unfortunately, it is in this second rule that many genealogists fall short. A record that has the right name in the right place at the right time is not automatic justification to presume that it is the same individual as you are seeking. It take more than that.

There are three analytic tools that he uses:

  1. Source Analysis (the detailed examination of a source[defined as a coherent group of records created by a single jurisdiction or a single author for a defined purpose])
  2. Record Analysis (the detailed examination of a record [defined as the portion of a source that pertains to a single event])
  3. Linkage Analysis (examining two or more analyzed records to determine whether they refer to a single individual or multiple persons)

His Problem-Solving Sequence is a series of five steps:

  1. Problem Selection
  2. Problem Analysis
  3. Data Collection
  4. Synthesis
  5. Problem Resolution

The best part about Bob’s method is that it does not matter whether you are dealing with paper, digital, or other types of records. The process works no matter what. Following his steps will insure that you have the best possible results, and that the individuals in your family tree are actually are related to you.

The price of $24.95 is a bit higher than I would expect for a book of this size. That said, the information contained within it is very valuable. It deserves a place on the shelf of every genealogist. It is available from NEHGS at the website.

What did your ancestors do to bring home the bacon?

01 Sep 2014


One of the best parts of family history research is finding out more information than just the dates and places of their births, marriages, and deaths. Occupational records offer insight into the daily lives of our ancestors. As a Mocavo Basic member, you can individually search more than 420,000 databases to your heart’s content for free to discover your family’s stories. From their first job, to the day they retired, find out what your ancestors did to bring home the bacon.

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Trace Your Ancestors’ Journeys in 17 Million Immigration Records

27 Aug 2014


Many of us share a common experience as descendants of immigrants who came to America in the 19th and 20th centuries. Faced with many opportunities and challenges, our ancestors uprooted themselves in hopes of making a better life for their families. Immigration records can help you trace their journeys and how their lives changed once they arrived at their final destination. As a Mocavo Basic member, you can individually search more than 17 million immigration records for free in our immigration collections.

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Preserve the Pensions Fun Walk Contest

26 Aug 2014

One of the biggest projects in the genealogical community at the moment is the Preserve the Pensions project. A joint effort of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Archives and Records Administration, Fold3, and, the project will eventually capture 7.2 million images of documents from more than 180,000 files.

This week at the FGS conference, there will be a special event for Preserve the Pensions. This Saturday, August 30, on the last day of the conference, the Federation is having a Fun Walk. Four well-known genealogists will walk from the convention center to the Alamo and back, as a fundraiser for the Preserve the Pensions project.


Preserve the Pensions Fun Walk


Judy G. Russell of The Legal Genealogist blog, Ed Donakey from FamilySearch, and D. Joshua Taylor and Kenyatta Berry from the Genealogy Roadshow will take the one-mile walk. They will be competing to see who can raise the most money for the project.

If you are at the conference, you can be there to see them off at 6:30 a.m. All of the money raised will go for digitizing records. Not only that, but your dollar will go much further than usual. Every dollar raised will be matched by the Federation. Then, will match the doubled amount dollar for dollar. So a $25 sponsorship will turn into $100 towards the project. This amount will fund almost 450 images!

If you are attending the conference, you can pay in person at the Preserve the Pension booth. But you don’t have to be there to donate! Everyone can contribute by visiting the Preserve the Pensions donation page. Be sure to check off one of the four genealogists walking in the “Honors and Tributes” section. And remember, the four of them are having a contest, so choose wisely!

Solving Your Genealogy Problems Like Magic

23 Aug 2014

David Kwong is an amazing young man. He gets to make his living doing things he loves and feels passionate about.  He is both a magician and a cruciverbalist. In fact, he received a degree from Harvard University in the history of magic. And he has something to teach us about genealogy problem solving.

He was fortunate to work at DreamWorks, in the animation story department. He then went on to found The Misdirectors Guild. The guild is “an elite group of magicians who are specialists in all areas of subterfuge, including stage illusion, sleight of hand, puzzles, and heists.” The guild consults with television and motion picture creators to help them with illusion and deception in their shows and films, including last year’s Now You See Me.

David is also a cruciverbalist: one who excels at crossword puzzles. In fact, he is so good at them that he is now regularly creates crossword puzzles for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications nationwide.


Magic and Crosswords


David presented an official talk at the Ted Conference in 2014., in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of the first crossword puzzle. In his excellent presentation, David discusses why he believes that magic and puzzles are the same: “because they both key in to one of the most important human drives: the urge to solve. Human beings are wired to solve; to make order out of chaos.”

He then goes on to tell the story of how he arrived at this conclusion over time. He quotes research studies that show that human beings have a primitive urge to solve. It is intrinsic to who we are, as basic as eating and sleeping.

This could partially explain our urge to do genealogy. After all, what is family history research but a giant puzzle waiting to be explored and mapped out, filled with problem after problem and challenge after challenge. Often the answers to our research questions are simple. But frequently, we are presented with a chaotic mass of conflicting information and arbitrary or missing data that we must sift through to come up with our solutions.

Now, in his presentation he does an incredible trick. He shows how we as humans are so driven to solve problems and create order out of chaos that it often happens in our minds without our realizing it. I won’t give away the trick and the solution, because it is truly amazing.  And just when you think it is over, he unveils another twist.

But once you watch it, think about how this works in your genealogical research. Sometimes you don’t even realize how your mind is working in the background, and all of a sudden the answer jumps out at you, right? Now you know why. Watch David’s talk  Two Nerdy Obsessions Meet — And It’s Magic. Prepare to be amazed.


We asked and you answered!

23 Aug 2014

Do you have any ancestors who fought in WWI?