Genealogy Blog

Blog Posts and News Stories for Genealogists, January 9, 2015

09 Jan 2015

This week’s genealogy news roundup is a nice mix of blog posts and news stories. We start with a discussion of researching in newspapers, user comments about online family trees, the last of the nineteenth-century births, the fallacy of name changes at Ellis Island, and the opening of the oldest time capsule in America.

We start with a post from a relatively new blogger, Debbie Mieszela, the Advancing Genealogist. This week Debbie wrote about researching in newspapers. She especially emphasizes why you want to conduct a complete search, and why you should not limit yourself only to online databases. Get more information in Newspaper Research: The Importance of Being Thorough.

Randy Seaver at Geneamusings had a very interesting post this week. He wrote about the FamilySearch Family Tree and asked his readers why they weren’t using it more. The comments are very illuminating, and include a general discussion of online family trees. You can read these interesting comments in Why Aren’t Researchers Using the FamilySearch Family Tree?

My former colleague David Lambert at the New England Historic Genealogical Society wrote with sad news this week on the Vita Brevis blog. Bernice Marina (Emerson) Madigan was born in West Springfield, Massachusetts on 24 July 1899. After a life that was anything but brief, Bernice passed away last Saturday, 3 January 2015, at the age of 115. She was the fifth-oldest person in the world, and the last person left who was born in New England prior to 1900. Find out more, and who is left, in The End of an Era.

Those who know me know that one of my pet peeves concerns immigration. More specifically, the biggest myth in American history: that any name was ever changed at Ellis Island. Not a single immigrant ever had their name changed there. It never happened. Arika Okren wrote a good piece in Mental Floss discussing this myth. Read more in Why Your Family Name Did Not Come From a Mistake at Ellis Island.


Sam Adams Time Capsule


Finally this week we have a story out of my hometown of Boston. This week conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts opened a time capsule that was discovered on December 11. The capsule was discovered by workers doing renovations to the state house. It is believed to be the oldest time capsule in America. How old is it? It was originally put in place by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere when George Washington was president of the U.S. Placed into the cornerstone in 1795, it was temporarily removed during renovations in 1855, but put back into place with the original contents. Discover what was in the capsule in MFA Opens the Paul Revere, Sam Adams Time Capsule.

Happy Anniversary to Mocavo Fireside Chats – Watch All Videos Now

09 Jan 2015


We are thrilled to celebrate the one year anniversary of our Fireside Chat online video series! One year ago, in support of our Free Forever mission, we decided to offer our Fireside Chats to the entire genealogy community for free, forever. Throughout the past year, we’ve enjoyed hosting many delightful guests who shared expert advice about their own family history experiences and insightful research tips.

To celebrate our one year anniversary, we are sharing the five most watched Fireside Chat videos of 2014. So, we invite you to grab your popcorn and notepads, find a comfy chair, and catch up on your favorite episodes now!

Watch All Episodes Now

1. Get the Inside Scoop on DNA with Special Guest Blaine Bettinger – Watch Now

2. Find out how the law can impact your genealogical research with The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell – Watch Now

3. Identify how technology can make your research easier with top genealogy blogger Dick Eastman – Watch Now

4. Discover the history behind Cyndi’s List and more with founder Cyndi Ingle – Watch Now

5. Uncover your ancestors in railroad records with Paula Stuart-Warren – Watch Now

5 Things Every Genealogist Should Do This Year

08 Jan 2015


5 Things Every Genealogist Should Do in 2015

A new year has arrived. Time to set some goals for the year. Here are five things that every genealogist should do this year. And the best part is that they are all easily accomplished.

1. Take a Class

One thing that is certain about genealogy: as you progress with your research you will eventually arrive in a new location. This will require you to learn new resources and research techniques. There are many avenues open to you for learning now. One of the best places to learn are genealogical societies. Your local society can help with genealogy methodology. And societies that specialize in particular groups, or represent locations your ancestors lived in, can assist you with more specific learning.

2. Review Past Research

From time to time it is important to go back and review research you have already done. New records are becoming available with increasing frequency. Are there newly-available materials that support your research findings? Or, are there resources that now contradict your conclusions? Or, perhaps, you can add to the story you already have. Sometimes you can see things you missed before, especially with work you haven’t looked at in awhile. So pick up some of your old lines and review them.

3. Attack a Challenging Problem

Sometimes as we research we stumble across challenges. Perhaps it is a brick wall line, or one with conflicting answers. Sometimes the problem is that there may be sensitive information involved, an intricate conversation that we are not prepared to have. Make 2015 the year you decide to tackle one of these problems and bring it to a resolution.

4. Share Your Research

Whether you’ve been researching for years, or just a few months, you have probably gathered a bit of information. All too often, we sit on this information, waiting until we are “finished researching” before we share the stories with our family members. Unfortunately, there is no way to know when you will be “finished.” And frequently, we are finished before our research is. Don’t let your findings get lost. Take the time to share what you find with your family. And don’t just do it once. Come up with several times this year you will share your findings and put it in your schedule to get it done.

5. Find a Genealogy Partner

One of the best parts about doing genealogical research is all the wonderful people you meet along the way. And in this case, I’m talking about the living ones, not the dead ones. I am fortunate to have many friends and colleagues to bounce ideas off of, commiserate with, and most importantly, hold my feet to the fire about things. Find yourself a partner (or two or three and make it a group effort). Your jobs will be to check in with each other frequently, talk to each other about your research and goals for the year, and make sure you get some things done. You will be surprised how much this little effort can help.

Resources for African-American Genealogy

07 Jan 2015

Recently I received a question about resources for African-American research. I am familiar with the basics of this kind of research. But, more importantly, I know where to go to find the information I need. Here are three resources to help you with  finding your African-American ancestors.

1. African-American Historical and Genealogical Society
AAHGS was founded in 1977 by a group of historians and genealogists, including the noted genealogist James Dent Walker. Since it was founded, the organization has grown nationwide, and has twenty state chapters spread across the country. Each October the organization holds a conference specifically about African-American research. The 2015 conference will be held in Richmond, Virginia.


African American Archaeology


2. African-American Archaeology, History, and Cultures

One of the important parts of genealogy is understanding the cultural and sociological aspects of the societies in which your family lived. This website, created by Christopher C. Fennell, a member of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois/Urbana-Champaign, provides “convenient access to online presentations and resources concerning the subjects of African-American archaeology, history and cultures, and broader subjects of African diaspora archaeology.” The site covers a wide geographic area, including Asia, Britain, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and South America, in addition to the United States.

3. Cyndi’s List

Cyndi Ingle runs the biggest and most valuable resource list on the web. Those researching their African-American ancestors will find valuable resources in more than two dozen categories. The “how-to” section alone has more than a dozen references to help you with your research. Other categories include immigration, emigration, and migration; medical and DNA; people and families; publications, software and supplies; slavery; military; newspapers; and much, much more.

African-American genealogical research can be very different from other kinds of genealogy. It is critically important to get off on the right foot, and understand where you are headed. These three

Modern Technology Identifies Irish Famine Shipwreck Victims

06 Jan 2015

The Gaspé Penninsula stands in the northern tip of Quebec, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. It is a very remote area. In the first half of the 19th century, hundreds of ships sailed past her, carrying immigrants from the British Isles to Canada. In May 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine, it was also the site of a terrible tragedy.

The brig Carricks was transporting 167 passengers from Ireland to new homes in Canada. A difficult voyage under the best of conditions, the ship was wrecked in the Gaspé, about four miles from Cap des Rosiers. The crew suffered the lost of only one boy, but of the 167 passengers on board, only 48 survived. News of the accident was report in William Lloyd Garrison’s noted Boston-based anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator, carried news of the wreck (Vol. XVII, No. 25 (Whole No. 859) p. 69, col. 4).

Many of the dead were found along the beach the day after the wreck. They were buried in a common grave nearby and fifty years later a monument was erected in their memory. More than a century later, the ship’s bell washed up shore and was enshrined next to the monument.


Light tower at Cap Des Rosier in Quebec.

Light tower at Cap Des Rosier in Quebec.


The site of the wreck and recovery now lays within Forillon National Park. A few years after the Carricks was lost a lighthouse was erected at Cap des Rosiers to help prevent further tragedies. In 2011 a passerby came across some bones on the shore near where the wreck occurred. The bones were sent to a coroner who sent the bones for analysis. Careful study has shown that the bones likely came from four or five individuals, both adults and children. Investigators believe that they may have come from the common grave. Unfortunately, while oral tradition puts the burial site under the monument, the precise location was never recorded.

Many of the survivors settled in the nearby village of Douglastown, and their descendants still live there today. These individuals are concerned that the actual resting place be discovered. If these bones did come from the common grave, they do not want any more of their ancestors’ remains to be disturbed. They would like further investigation, and relocation of the remains if they are now too close to the water.

The bones are still at a government forensics lab in Montreal. They will undergo further testing, including DNA tests. Interestingly, one of the consultants who works  in the lab is forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs. Reichs is also an author and the inspiration for Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan, portrayed by Emily Deschanel in the Fox television show Bones. You can read more about this story in the original 2011 Globe and Mail story Bones Found on Gaspé Coast Could be of 1847 Shipwreck Victims, and in the update from last week, Human Bones Discovered on Gaspé Peninsula ‘Witnesses to a Tragic Event.’

Blog Posts for Genealogists, December 19, 2014

19 Dec 2014

This week’s roundup includes posts from five excellent genealogy bloggers. Judy G. Russell explains the term “ordinance” for us. Randy Seaver tells us about a couple of relationship graphics you might enjoy. Paula Stuart Warren discusses genealogy for the First Americans. Cari Taplin talks about submitting her BCG portfolio. And Debbie Mieszala talks about a very special genealogy research tool.

Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, starts off our roundup this week with a question submitted by one of her readers. He asked: “The law creating the Northwest Territory is always called the Northwest Ordinance. Why that? Why not, say, Northwest Statute? Or Northwest Law?” Judy explains the reason in The Ordinance.

Randy Seaver had a great post this week about relationship charts. Newbie genealogists and non-genealogists can often find it difficult to understand the complex relationships we deal with in family history research. He offers up a couple of resources to help you with these issues in Crestleaf Publishes “How Are We Related?” Family Relationship Chart.

Paula Stuart-Warren recently updated her website, closed out her old blog, and started a new one. Hew new website, Genealogy by Paula, provides information about publications, services, and upcoming speaking engagements as well as her blog. This week she posted about an interesting topic: Tracking the First Americans: Native Americans and Asian Influence.

Cari Taplin’s business is called Genealogy Pants (as in “fancy pants” or “smarty pants”). Those who are interested in becoming certified or accredited will find her recent post interesting. Having submitted her final portfolio to the Board for Certification of Genealogists this week, she discusses the experience, and offers some valuable tips for others. Read more in BCG Portfolio Madness.


V Bar Lazy 5


Finally this week we have a recent post by Debbie Mieszala. A longtime professional genealogist, Debbie discussed a very special gift she had gotten twenty years ago. The gift was a symbol written on a recipe card by her great-aunt. The symbol was the brand mark used by Debbie’s great-great grandfather. She talks about the genealogy journey this led her on in V Bar Lazy 5.

Forget-Me-Not Hour Interviews Michael J. Leclerc

17 Dec 2014

Last spring I wrote about Jane Wilcox’s radio show, The Forget-Me-Not Hour. Jane’s popular show, now available on demand through Blog Talk Radio, focuses on New York research and history, as well as general methodology.

Since I wrote that post, Jane has had a number of interesting guests and topics, including:

And today she added an interesting new subject: me. I did an interview with her, discussing my own history as well as Mocavo. Find out more about what Mocavo does, and what features are available. Among the topics we discussed:

  • My background
  • How I came to Mocavo
  • What is Mocavo
  • How is Mocavo different from and FamilySearch
  • How is Mocavo different from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines
  • Genealogy Karma, our blog, Mocavo Fireside Chats, and other services Mocavo provides

You can listen to today’s episode, and all past episodes, on the Forget-Me-Not Hour page from Blog Talk Radio.

Forget Me Not Mocavo



Celebrate the holiday season with Mocavo’s 12 Days of Census

13 Dec 2014


We want to thank you for a wonderful year while also sprinkling in a dash of holiday spirit. Join us as we celebrate the “12 Days of Census.”

For twelve joyous days, we are opening the Mocavo Census Viewer to the entire Mocavo community. Each day between now and December 24th, we will unlock a new decade of United States Federal census images. Once a decade is unlocked, all community members will be able to access the images through the Mocavo Census Viewer for free.

On December 24th, enjoy completely unrestricted access to all Mocavo census images and the Mocavo Census Viewer for one special day. To get the festivities rolling, today we unlocked the first four census decades – 1790, 1800, 1810, and 1820!

Unlock the 1790-1820 Census Images Now

Happy holidays from the Mocavo team!

Beyond the Christmas Cow: More Holiday Gifts for Genealogists

13 Dec 2014


The holidays are here. Still wondering what to get your genealogist friends and family? Is your significant other still asking you what you want for the holiday? Not certain what to ask for? Last year I wrote about Christmas Cows and other potential holiday gifts. Here are some different ideas that you can give for the genealogist in your life (or ask for from your own loved ones). While some won’t arrive in time for the holidays, the anticipation will be wonderful!

1. Professional Assistance
Everyone needs a little help now and then. Professional researchers are experts in their areas. Having them do some research for you may help you break down those brick walls. If you prefer to do the work yourself, you can still avail yourself of professional assistance. Many professionals, in addition to research, offer consulting services. You can get an hour or two of consultation time to help propel your research. Check the Association of Professional Genealogists for people who can help you out.

2. Subscribe to a Journal
Many people think that journals are not just for scholars and professionals. We can all benefit from reading them. Even if the articles are not about your ancestors, you can learn a great deal about resources useful to your research by seeing how authors solved their genealogical puzzles. One great journal is The American Genealogist, and independent journal founded by Donald Lines Jacobus.

3. Professional Video Creators
What better way to honor your family than to take your documents, photographs, and other images and turn them into a video? While there is lots of software out there to help you do it on your own, a professional can bring a level of design experience that most of us just do not have. There are many websites where you can find information on video professionals, while others have video editors bid on your project.

4. Heritage/Research Tour
There are many organizations out there that run heritage tours. These can give you a great look at the places your ancestors lived. Walk the very streets that they walked. See the churches where they were baptized and married. You might even be able to see cemeteries where your ancestors are buried. You can even throw in some research time at a repository or two. Collude with another family member so that your non-genealogy significant others can keep each other company as well!

5. One word: Etsy
If you’ve never heard of Etsy, now is the time to visit. It is a great place where creative people sell their wares. These individauls have their own “shops”, selling all manner of items, including many that are handmade and custom made. You can find a wide variety of items here that are of interest to genealogists. For example, a graphic designer from New York operates the Modern Trees shop, where you can order some very modern 5-, 6-, or 7-generation pedigrees. Look around and you are sure to find some interesting objects.

New Must-Have New York Genealogy Research Guide

09 Dec 2014

Looking for the perfect holiday gift? Well, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society has just the right thing for you. A groundbreaking event in New York genealogical research, the NYGB is now taking pre-orders for the first all-encompassing  New York genealogy research guide.

I remember being part of a group discussion three years ago at the society’s offices when the subject of the book came up. McKelden Smith, the president of the NYGB, though it was a wonderful idea, and has done an amazing job with his team to bring this vision to fruition. It has been a long road since that first meeting, but this work sets a high bar for others to follow. And now, after countless of hours of research by many, many individuals, the New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer is finally read for publication!


NY Research Guide


This massive work is the first all-encompassing resource for those researching their family history anywhere in the states. The guide includes:

  • Chapters on major record groups and research resources
  • Information on major ethnic and religious groups that have lived in New York
  • Gazetteers, maps, and research guides to each of New York’s  sixty-two counties
  • A timeline of key events in New York history 1609–1945 that impact genealogical research
  • An index of place names past and present

I was one of more than 100 leading experts that contributed to the work and reviewed the contents. County historians from around the state reviewed not only the factual information, but also the lists of resources for those areas.

If you or a genealogist you love has New York ancestors, this is a must-have book for your reference shelf. The only drawback to ordering this book now is that it will not be delivered in time for the holidays. That said, if you purchase it as a gift, the NYGB will be pleased to send a gift card in your name to the recipient.

The New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer is a softcover book, 8.5×11. It has 800 pages plus an index. The book will normally sell for $85, but you can get it now on a pre-publication discount for $75. NYGB members can get it for an even bigger discount price of $60. If you are not a member yet, consider joining the society as well! Find out more details about the book (and read some quotes about it from Henry Louis Gates and David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States) on the NYGB website.