Genealogy Blog

Mocavo Announces our Yearbooks Collection!

07 Nov 2012

Was your grandfather captain of the football team?  Was your grandmother the senior class president?  Now you can find out at Mocavo.  Today we are announcing the largest free collection of yearbooks online.  There are nearly 17,000 books in our Yearbook collection representing several terabytes of data, nearly 3.5 million pages, and 100 years worth of fun-filled history.  All for FREE!  With your help, we are working to bring all of the world’s genealogical information online for free putting everyone’s family history within reach.

Yearbooks are a terrific resource for family historians.  They can provide a connection with your ancestor at a specific moment in time, usually when they are in their youth. You can see what activities they participated in. Sometimes students provided quotes or other insights to their dreams for the future.

One thing that researchers often forget is that students are not the only people you will find in yearbooks. The faculty and staff of the institution are also often included. If you have ancestors who were teachers, administrators, coaches, cooks, janitors, or other school employees, you may be able to find images or other information about your ancestors in yearbooks.

Do you have a yearbook to share?  Contact us to learn how you can share your yearbooks to help other genealogists make discoveries about their pasts.

Our American Right and Privilege

06 Nov 2012

If you live in the United States it can hardly have escaped your notice that today is our quadrennial election day where we vote for president as well as senators, representatives, governors, and a plethora of other state and local officials as well as numerous ballot questions. Voting is an important right that is all too often taken for granted by Americans.

Yesterday we talked about modern voter registration records. What does it mean when your ancestor registered to vote? In earlier times there were stringent requirements. Unless you were a white male property owner, you likely had no right to vote at all.

Knowing that the ability to vote required your ancestor to own property is a clue. If he voted, then he must have owned property. If your ancestor does not appear in the regular land records for the area in which he lived but he did vote, then you need to start looking elsewhere for information on his property ownership. Perhaps in probate records where he may have inherited the property.

And the age to vote has changed over time as well. Today it is 18. In the past it has been 21, 24, and 26. Be certain to check the laws in the time and place where your ancestor lived to find out if he was even eligible. I read today of a 69-year-old woman who claimed to have voted in every presidential election since she was eighteen years old. Given that her age places her birth year as ca. 1943, this would have put her at eighteen years old in 1961, and her first presidential election in 1964. Unfortunately, the twenty-sixth amendment (which lowered the voting age to 18) did not take effect until 1971. Family stories do not always pan out when you do the math.

I Voted sticker

Our ancestors fought to create this country in large part because they had no voice in government. They had no vote. It is incumbent upon us as Americans not to shirk our rights, as well as our responsibility. At my polling place they gave out these I Voted stickers. No matter what else you do today, take the time go to out and vote!

Voter Registrations

04 Nov 2012

In case you’ve missed the last twelve months, once again election day is upon us in the United States. Next Tuesday we will go to the polls and vote on ballot questions; local, state, and Congressional candidates; and, of course, the president and vice-president.

Uncle Sam


Voter registration records can be extremely useful in genealogical research. Modern voter registration records date back to the 1870s in some places. In the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, they can often be found in large ledger books. They will often include such information as name, age or date of birth, place of birth, place of residence, and political affiliation.

Remember that people may not have registered to vote immediately. They are most likely to do so if they are very involved in politics or if there is a major statewide or national election occurring.

Women’s suffrage started in the United States in 1920. Prior to that time, however, women may have had limited voting rights. For example, women in Boston could vote for members of the school committee as early as the 1880s.

Voter registrations can help track migrating ancestors. People who move to another location will often have a notation made in their voter registration. If a voter dies, the date and place of death are also often noted. This can be very helpful for those who did not die in their place of residence.

These records are especially helpful for citizens who were born in another country. For naturalized citizens, the date and place of naturalization is usually recorded. For those whose ancestors moved from place to place, this can be extremely valuable by pinning down exactly where the naturalization occurred. Voter registrations are even more valuable for those with derivative citizenship. This is the term for those who became naturalized because their spouse or parent did. For these people, the date and place of naturalization for their parent (or spouse) will be recorded (usually with his name).

The political affiliation of your ancestor can give you insight into your ancestor’s sentiments on political issues. Registration with a certain political party is not necessarily an indicator of how someone voted in every single election.  And the political parties of today, while they may share names with political parties of the past, did not always stand for the same principles that they do today. Research the party at the time period in question to determine more accurately what positions it held.

Voter registration records can usually be found in city and town halls as well as county courthouses. Like all records, it is important to know the laws that were in place regarding the right to vote in the state at that time. This will help you to locate the records today.

Expert Tip: The 50-Yard Dash

04 Nov 2012

Most people know the difference between the 50-yard dash and the 100-yard dash. But when it comes to grammar, more people have trouble with the different dashes (and hyphens). When sharing your ancestry search results, use them properly so you look your best. There are three different marks that are often confused: hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes.

Hyphens (-)are used to connect words, often to make them into a modifier. There are no spaces between the hyphen and words it connects. For example, one lived in the twentieth century, but drove a twentieth-century automobile.

When writing about a range of numbers (dates or otherwise),  the en dash (–) is the appropriate punctuation. In genealogy, this is often used to express a range of years, such as 1830 – 1910. It is slightly longer than a hyphen, and is the same with as the letter “n” (thus giving rise to the name en dash).

An en dash should be both  preceded and followed by a single space. Finally there is the em dash (—). This is the punctuation one uses to express a phrase within a longer sentence. For example: John would be found at his desk—no matter the time of day or night—whenever an emergency occurred. Like the hyphen, there should be no spaces between the words and the em dash. Remember these tips when conducting and recording your genealogy search results.

When did your family immigrate to the U.S.?

04 Nov 2012

We asked and you answered! Last week we asked you when did your family immigrate to the U.S. Don’t forget to check out our bi-monthly newsletter or Facebook page to take the next poll and see how you compare with your fellow genealogists. Good luck with your ancestry research!

From the Blogs, November 2

02 Nov 2012

Following is a summary of recent posts from genealogy blogs that I have found interesting and informative, and I want to share them with you.

Randy Seaver had a holiday-appropriate post this week. Hallowe’en Name Whacking is an update to last year’s post of Hallowe’en Names in the WorldConnect Database. Randy searched for dozens of surnames that had some sort of connection to Halloween. Among the surnames he found were Ghoul, Spook, Scary, Skull, and Dracula. While he found 297 entries for people named Lantern, he could not find anyone named Jack O. Lantern.

The Native Heritage Project is “an ongoing effort to document the Native American people as they obtained surnames and entered recorded history in the United States. A recent post discussed a three-year project to document an Indian settlement off the North Carolina coast. Using original land grants and deeds, the settlement was mapped. You can read more in Mapping Indian Town on Hatteras Island.

Empress of Ireland

Christine Woodcock writes the Scottish Genealogy Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits blog. This week she wrote about the ill-fated Empress of Ireland. Built in Glasgow shipyards, she plied the seas between the U.K. and Canada, delivering immigrants to their new home in North America. In 1914 a collision sent her to the bottom in less than 15 minutes, costing more than 1,000 lives.

Genealogist William Dollarhide has written extensively on various records for genealogy, especially census records. This week he wrote an interesting for Leland Meitzler’s GenealogyBlog on Early U.S. Census Records. He corrects a common misconception that the British destroyed early census records when they burned Washington, D.C., in 1814 and properly lays the blame for the loss at the hands of federal district court clerks. A handy chart shows which censuses between 1790 and 1820 are extant, and which are missing.

Dick Eastman found an interesting story in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy this week. In addition to the toll on the living, there was quite a toll on the dead as well. A single fallen tree on New Haven Green has revealed remains that are quite old. Read more, and go to the original story, in Hurricane Sandy: Skeleton Believed from Colonial Times Found Under Uprooted Tree.

Copyright and Copy Wrong

01 Nov 2012

It is astounding how some people think that they can do anything they like with anything they want on the Internet. It is all there for the taking and doing with as they will. Genealogists are among the worst violators.

Copyright Pirates

1906 copyright infringement notice, from Wikimedia Commons.

Many genealogists work hard to collect information and share it with others. For some, this means compiling research methodology. Others spend hours compiling talks or articles to teach others how to research. Others compile links to helpful websites or compile data to assist in ancestry research. Some of this work is made available for free and some is behind pay walls.

For some reason that is beyond me, there are those who feel that if they find something online they can just copy it and use it for themselves without giving any credit to the actual creator of the work, falsely representing themselves as the creator of the information.

Stealing is stealing, and copyright violation is copyright violation. Some of these people make minor changes in the original to try to make it their own. This does not change the fact that the work was stolen. The only proper way to do it is to create it yourself from scratch.

Sometimes genealogists are confused. The names of your family members, as well as dates and places of events are not copyrightable. HOWEVER, the way they are written up, which words are used, etc. IS copyrightable. So stealing someone’s GEDCOM file, adding it to your file, and presenting it as your own is a copyright violation. [Note: some people make GEDCOM files freely available for use and download. Depending on the circumstances, you may not be violating copyright if you use those. But you must carefully read the terms of service beforehand to know for certain.]

Just this week I have spoken with a couple of colleagues about a particularly insidious theft of their work. Someone copied a great deal of information from other websites, many free, made some minor changes, and placed it on a for-profit website that the person was creating. No acknowledgement of where the information came from was given. Unlike information that came from other sources, no attempt was made to license the information from these colleagues. These kind of violators are, in some ways, the worst. They acknowledge the rights some people have in their work while huge chunks of material stolen from others is being presented as original work.

Cyndi Howells of  Cyndi’s List has been a good friend of mine for many years. I am gobsmacked at the number of times I have heard her relate stories of people stealing links right off her site. Cyndi’s List was one of the sites that was hacked by the above-mentioned person. It has cost her three days of work to document and prove that her work had been stolen and work with a lawyer to issue a cease and desist order and to lay the legal foundation to protect her work. She has successfully defended her copyright for sixteen years, never losing a case.

The moral of the story is, play nice and obey the rules. Don’t steal other people’s work and present it as your own. You may regret it in more ways than one. If you violate someone’s copyright and they can prove the damages, it may prove financially costly. At the very least, your reputation will be left in tatters. Remember: don’t copy wrong, copyright!

Shave the Date!

01 Nov 2012

Mocavo is announcing our first company-wide contest for Mocavo Movember! Mustache November is that time of year when men abandon smooth, shaven faces and don a mustache for the entire month. Every Monday you’ll get an update via social media on the mustache progress of all the Mocavo participants. Please join us in the hair-raising adventure from the first Monday in November all the way to November 30th.  We’ll have one Mocavo male and one Mocavo female winner. Women in the office vote on the best man ‘stache and the female winner will be chosen at random. We’ll announce these winners on November 30th.

Why all the hype over some facial hair? Mustaches have been popularized by the likes of Walter Cronkite, Tom Selleck, Charlie Chaplin and Theodore Roosevelt. These mustaches (and the men they represent) have come to embody a certain level of sophistication. In fact, in a study conducted on college campuses, women were asked to perform a word association with “mustache” and they came up with words such as: “mature”, “masculine” and “worldly”.


But wait! There was another study conducted that looked at the correlation between the marriage market and facial hair. Marriage market, in this case, refers to the ratio of eligible women to eligible men. When there was an abundance of females, men grew mustaches as a status symbol and to appear more attractive. When the marriage market was weaker, men shaved in order to appear more trustworthy. So do mustached or non-mustached men attracts more ladies? The world may never know, but we here at Mocavo are going to pay homage to our mustached brethren, and maybe learn a little about this eternal question in the process.

Did a mustache forever change your genealogical tree? Would your great grandmother have married someone else if only he’d had some well-groomed facial hair?  It’s a mustache mystery. While you ponder all the possibilities of how your family tree could have grown differently with or without mustaches, we’ll post our progress every Monday, complete with pictures and all the shavory details, so be sure to check in every week in on Facebook, Twitter, Google + or Pinterest in November!

Announcing Mocavo Plus 2.0

31 Oct 2012

In December of last year we launched Mocavo Plus, our paid subscription service, which includes all of the benefits of Mocavo Basic along with several additional research tools to help you make discoveries faster and with less effort.  Since then, we gathered feedback from the Mocavo Community and built several new capabilities to supercharge your research.

Today we are excited to share these new features with you.  In addition to Mocavo Plus Advanced Search and our Automated Search services we have added the following new features:

Discovery Alerts – Harness Mocavo’s powerful search engine by creating a Discovery Alert. You will get updates when new information about your ancestor is added to Mocavo. You can create Discovery Alerts from both your shared family tree and also by simply saving a search. Discovery Alerts save you from having to search over and over again for the same ancestors.  Instead we run your search automatically and email you when you have new results.

Browsing History – This has been one of our most requested features, so we know you’re going to love it.  With your Browsing History, you won’t waste time looking for something you’ve already found.  All of the search results that click on or rate get stored in your Browsing History for easy access in the future.  This way it’s easy to keep track of research that you want to explore further.

Advanced Document Search – We make it easy for you to find your ancestors in books and other documents in our collection.  Enter a search term and see it highlighted in the text of the book.  You can also easily find the next occurrence of that search term in the same book or document.  Give your eyes a rest and go straight to that needle in the haystack.

Smart Trees – Mocavo will fill in the gaps in your family trees for you. Do you know of a great-great-grandfather but can’t seem to get any leads on the great-great-grandmother? Or maybe you only know of three distant cousins but there is a fourth one as well! Mocavo Smart Trees will find these holes in your history and suggest new matches for you.

We want to also take this time to say a big THANK YOU to all of our loyal subscribers.  We are still a young company, but growing every day and working as hard as we can to help you learn about your family history.  We have a lot more up our sleeves and, with your help, we are working to bring all of the world’s genealogical information online for free putting everyone’s family history within reach.

Denizens and Citizens

31 Oct 2012

Starting in medieval times, those born within the area of a king or queen’s allegiance were subject to that king or queen (the Crown). The Crown may have had territory in multiple locations (such as in England and on the Continent). The first piece of legislation in England concerning citizenship was created in 1335 (Act 9, Edw. III, c. I).


U.K. Naturalization


With the passage of this act, the distinction between natural-born English subjects and aliens was first enumerated. Aliens were defined as persons of a foreign nation or allegiance. It also imposed extra taxes on aliens, whose rates were double those of English subjects. This raised additional revenue for the treasury while helping the Crown keep track of non-subjects in its domain.

Aliens who wished to have the rights of subjects had two choices: denization or naturalization. Denization provided some of the rights of subjects. Naturalization provided full rights.

Denizens were granted many privileges. While they did have to pay more taxes than subjects, they were not as high as aliens. Children born after denization were treated as subjects, but not those born prior. Most importantly, however, denizens had the right to buy land. They did not, however, have the right to inherit land. The Crown could also impose any conditions he or she desired to the denization. Denizations were granted by letters patent, and thus can be found on the patent rolls.

Naturalization could be obtained by introducing a private bill into Parliament. If the bill passed, the person was granted all the rights of a natural-born subject. The petitioner had to swear oaths of allegiance and supremacy to the English Crown. In addition, they were often required to take Holy Communion in the Anglican church. This effectively made it impossible for Catholics, Jews, or anyone else with a religious objection to the Anglican Church to become naturalized. Unlike denization, children born before the naturalization would become naturalized as well.

In 1844 the naturalization process was simplified greatly. The Home Office was now put in charge of naturalizing foreign. Between 1844 and 1873, naturalizations were also recorded in then close rolls. For more information on accessing denization and naturalization records, visit The National Archives.