28 September 2012

Instagram -- Might we use it for genealogy?




More and more I keep seeing mentions of Instagram!

Are you a user?  Do you use it for anything genealogical?

This post, Using Instagram for Brands (thanks “Dear Myrtle” for mentioning on Facebook!) lays out some very common sense ways that one can use Instagram to strengthen a brand.

Well genealogy and family history societies are a “brand” and most everyone loves images!  At our genealogy society meeting the other night, we talked a bit about how in the last few years, we hardly have any photos from our meetings, etc.  Yet, almost everyone has some form of smartphone with a built in camera!  Would something like Instagram make it that much easier, not to take the picture, and to distribute it easily to the society members via Facebook?

Has your society or surname group or other genealogy/family history-related group used Instagram?  We’d love to hear about how our community is using this cutting-edge (for now) app to it’s advantage!



Editor's Note: Another related post about Instagram








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New Voices of Genealogy Release: Ronald Ames Hill, CG, FASG “Research Adventures in England”




From guest editor, Arlene V. Jennings

The National Genealogical Society is pleased to announce the September video release honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ): Ronald Ames Hill’s recollections of “Research Adventures in England.”

Dr. Hill was a physicist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he inherited a collection of early nineteenth-century letters from the collection of his great-aunt. Already a highly skilled scientific researcher, he went to work learning the stories of his ancestors with the same determination and thoroughness he brought to his profession. He undertook his first journey to Cornwall, to the parishes of his ancestors, in 1971 and by now has made sixteen such trips for fourteen months of on-site research. Since his retirement from Sandia in 1994, ancestral research and publishing have become a full-time occupation. He has published four books and thirty-one articles in national genealogical journals based on his ancestral research.  NGS members can read over twenty of his articles at the Society’s website www.ngsgenealogy.org where they can access the NGSQ back to 1978.

Dr. Hill earned the certified genealogist credential in 1997. His The Tumultuous Achym/Fulford Relationship received the Jacobus Award in 2004 from the American Society of Genealogists (ASG). In 2005, in recognition of the quality and quantity of his genealogical writing, the ASG named him a fellow of the society. In 2008 he received the NGS Award of Excellence for a Genealogy and Family History Book for his The Ancestors and Descendants of Reuben Ball.

Hill is a former president of the New Mexico Genealogical Society and a former trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists.  He has been a speaker at national genealogical conferences since 1992 and currently serves on the Editorial Board of the NGSQ.

Previous releases in the Voices of Genealogy archive now playing at the NGS website (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org) are Robert C. Anderson, FASG; Mary McCampbell Bell, CG; John Frederick Dorman, CG (Emeritus), FASG, FNGS, FVGS; David L. Greene, PhD, FASG; Henry B. Hoff, CG, FASG, FGBS; Harry Macy, FASG, FGBS; George Ely Russell, CG, FASG, FNGS; and Shirley Langdon Wilcox, CG, FNGS.

The Ronald Ames Hill video was produced by award winning filmmakers Kate Geis and Allen Moore from an interview by Melinde Lutz Byrne, CG, FASG, co-editor of the NGSQ. Ronald Ames Hill, CG, FASG, “Research Adventures in England,” is now playing for all NGS members at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.








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27 September 2012

Museum Day, 29 September 2012 -- Free Admission to over 1400 Participating Museums!



Museum Day!  This Saturday you can visit one of over 1400 museums for free!  You and a friend (one request per household) can print out your tickets and gain free access to a participating museum!

Do check out all the details here and sign up for your free tickets (which will be e-mailed to you).

Museums are so critical to preserving our history and history is so vital to our ancestral research!  

On Saturday – tell us what museum you visited!








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One Family’s Personal Digital Archives Project



If you are like me ... as time has gone by, more and more of my new photographs and documents collected are in a digital format as my photo albums collect dust on the shelves!  Many years ago I did convert some old 8mm home movies taken by my dad into VHS.  Of course, that format has gone the way of the dinosaurs and so I now need to convert it to a digital format.  And, a few years ago, I took some old slides and got them digitized!  And, I have yet to fully “embrace” digitizing all that I have!

The Library of Congress has a blog post (in The Signal: Digital Preservation) that starts ...

In 1958, Vernon James was an adventurous young man from Colorado who landed a job teaching in Germany for the Department of Defense. During his 16-year stint there, he travelled extensively throughout Europe — including several visits behind the Iron Curtain into West Berlin — and he took lots and lots of photos.

Decades came and went and in 2005 Mr. James — who was retired by then — decided to scan his European slides along with the other slides and photos he had accumulated over the years ... 

Even after digitizing well over 20,000 items, Vernon and Stan James are far from finished. They say there is always more to digitize and there are more people and places to identify. Stan said, “The one thing that we’ve learn from this project is that it’s never done.”

He goes on to talk about how this was only the start of what he scanned! Read the full blog post.

Do you know of someone like Vernon (and his son Sam) who have made digitizing their personal archives a priority?




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26 September 2012

Family History Information Standards Organisation



Family History Information Standards Organisation, or FHISO, is a newly-formed international organisation created to develop standards for the digital representation and sharing of family history and genealogical information. The standards will solve today’s interoperability issues independently of technology platforms, genealogy products or services. They will provide opportunities for innovation and will address robust user requirements such as search, capture and research administration.

FHISO is a nonprofit, community-owned organisation. The organisation will operate democratically, and membership will be available to all who participate in the global family history and genealogical community.

Learn more about Why FHISO.

I don't know about you and a reason that many of us stay with one genealogy software package or online service is because we know that we probably can't fully transfer our information to another one!  We know that we can always use the GEDCOM format as an econo means of sharing info, regardless of platform and hopefully FHISO will come up with a more elegant and powerful option!





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25 September 2012

Preserve the Pensions -- War of 1812 -- Digitized and online FREE FOREVER!




Preserve the Pensions is an ongoing project spearheaded by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to digitize the War of 1812 pension files in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of this conflict.  It’s often been called the “Second War of Independence” and these pension files are invaluable both historically and to our genealogy and family history research. There are approximately 180,000 pension and bounty land warrant application files relating to service in the War of 1812.

As they are digitized, the images will be available to genealogy researchers and the public for free. Contributions to this project have already made files available, http://go.fold3.com/1812pensions/.

With the contributions made so far, there are over 335,000 documents now available.  These represent 4% of the total collection.  Your contribution is needed to help this project achieve it’s goal of fully digitizing these records.  Learn more about how you can contribute.



Editor’s Note: Please check out these other Upfront with NGS posts about the War of 1812





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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24 September 2012

National Freedom of Information Coalition




Serendipity again!  I recently stumbled across a website for the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC).

This happened as I reading an article “Pike County (Indiana resident, newspaper sue health department to access death records” (published in the Evansville Courier & Press) and wanted to see if there was a follow-up.

EVANSVILLE — A Pike County resident and the Evansville Courier & Press are suing the Vanderburgh County Health Department to obtain access to cause of death information contained on death certificates maintained by the health department. The newspaper and Rita Ward of Winslow, Ind., contend the death certificates are public records, while the health department interprets state law to require it to restrict access to them...

I found that the blog for NFOIC summarizes state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and local open government news items every Friday and then other news items are blogged regularly.

Additionally, there is a section where information for ALL State Freedom of Information laws is provided (along with sample FOIA Request letters for all states).

FOIA laws are very important to genealogists since documentation generated by local and federal entities can be very important to our genealogy and family history research. 

Sunshine Week, celebrated around the March 16 birthday of James Madison, reminds us of the importance of records access and also the power of grass roots initiatives to keep our government open.  And “open records” are vital to us!

Part of the Sunshine Week Toolkit of Editorial Cartoons --  Credit Steve Greenberg, Los Angeles 

Tell us of a recent success you’ve had in gaining access for yourself or other genealogists and family historians into records previously unavailable and yet invaluable!





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21 September 2012

Citing Sources: A Quick and Graphic Guide ala Harry Potter!

source:  http://www.katehart.net/2012/06/citing-sources-quick-and-graphic-guide.html 


In keeping with the “youth” theme of the previous post though in the context of a very important for us genealogists and family historians – avoiding plagiarism, Kate Hart has posted a graphic “A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism” based on J K Rowling and her Harry Potter book series.

I know that many young adults, from about 15-21 and even some older folks, are familiar with this book series and/or the movies subsequently filmed. I will confess that I read these books every morning for years to wake up a sleepy-headed daughter – they gave us a way to connect every day.

Plagiarism is as much an issue in genealogy as are ineffective source citations!  One must always give credit to sources (whether databases or people) and NOT represent the hard efforts of others as if our own!

The poster is a lighthearted and yet serious look at plagiarism.  Don’t just look at the poster and do look at the comments posted before and after!

What a great thing to share with young adults, grandchildren or other “younger” folks as they get more into “research” and hopefully of the family history variety.

Are there other “neat” tools to help us mentor the next generation of family historians?








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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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20 September 2012

Getting the Younger Generations Into Genealogy in Three Easy Steps

Source:  http://familyhistory21ster.blogspot.com/


At the recent FGS conference (August in Birmingham AL) there was A LOT of discussion about getting the younger generation involved in genealogy and it was the first time that I heard the term 21ster to refer to those who are more tech-oriented and probably never have visited a courthouse, looked at microfilm, etc

At the same time, Scott Phillips was posting an article on the Huffington Post talking about this same topic.

There is one question that seems to pervade genealogy today. It is this: 'How do we get the next generation 'into' genealogy?'

Many organisations, companies, and families struggle with this question. While I don't profess to be a mastermind, I do follow three simple mantras in all my genealogy efforts in order to draw in those younger than myself. They are simple, easy, and in my experience, surefire. They have worked for me and may well work for others...


This has great relevance to all genealogists and family historians, regardless of whether an officer of a genealogy society, a manager of an archives or library, or just someone seeking the next person in the family to carry the “torch” for this passion of ours.

As, it’s not just a passion, it’s also an important part of preserving our unique and shared history for future generations.




Do you have tips to share on how to engage younger “family historians?”  Please share!




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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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19 September 2012

National Genealogical Society Member shares a photo from 1849!

Photo of Caroline E Mason on her wedding day, 22 November 1849
Used by permission of  MK

You may remember that last month I shared an 1826 photo considered the “First ever photo” and challenged Upfront with NGS readers to share the earliest photograph in their family’s possession.

An Upfront with NGS reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, shared the following as she has a photo from this 1849 marriage!

A little history - the marriage took place in Dahlonega, Georgia, where the bride lived. In the 1960s some Dahlonega people were collecting the town's history, and when I wrote asking for some info about my great-great-grandfather they responded. He had been sent there from the Philadelphia Mint to be Chief Coiner of the Mint established in Dahlonega because of the gold strike there, and become quite prominent, establishing the Presbyterian Church and Masonic chapter, and they wanted to know more about him. In the course of their assembling old records, the woman with whom I had been corresponding came across a box with unrecorded loose papers - including my great-grandparents' marriage license/certificate, which she then had recorded and sent me a copy of the original.



Transcription - verbatim - of marriage license:

Georgia ) To any ordained Minister
Lumpkin County ) of the Gopel (sic), Judge of the
Superior Court, Justice of the Inferior Court
or Justice of the Peace You are hereby
authorized to join Mr Robert H Goodman
and Miss Caroline E Mason in the Holy
State of Matrimony according to the Constitution
and laws of this State and for so doing
this shall be your sufficient License
Given under my hand and
Seal this 22nd day of November 1849

Jeremiah S Chastain C.C. {Seal}

I do hereby certify that the above named
persons were duly married by me on the date
above mentioned. J. B. Wardlaw, M.G.


Thanks for sharing MK!

Do you too have an “early” family photo (let’s say pre-1860) held by your family?  We’d love to see it!



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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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18 September 2012

Million Short -- is this a good search engine for genealogists and family historians?




Though there is a genealogical search engine out there, Mocavo, much of the information about our ancestors is still found the old-fashioned way, by “Google’ing!”

For a variety of reasons, records and information to help our family history research might not be found in Mocavo and so we then pursue them in the “big world” of the internet.

There is now a search engine, million short, where you can “narrow” the websites used in a search to the less popular ones.  Instead of researching the “top sites” one removes those and searched in what’s left.  Let’s be honest, many of our ancestors (and ourselves) end up in the more obscure end of what is on the internet and not in the most popular places!

You can remove the top 100, 1K, 10K, 100K or 1 million sites from the results for any search.

I played around with “Simon Turner” and “Wake County.”  I first removed the top 1K sites and got quite a list.  I then removed the top 10K sites (it is easy to use the links at the top of the results page to toggle between search fidelity options) and lost www.findagrave.com. Then I also went to removing the top 100k sites (and on the front end there wasn’t much of a change) and then finally 1 million sites ... the series of images below show the top 6 items listed for each of the listed searches.

million short -- removed top 1K sites
million short -- removed top 10K sites
million short -- removed top 100K sites
million short -- removed top  1million sites
It's clear that at every level of peeling the onion back, more neat items "rise to the top" though of course, other relevant items are lost ...

What do you think?  Did searching at the bottom of the www help your family research? Is this a good search engine for genealogists?



Editor’s Note: A nice features is that on the right side of the page, there is a list of those results removed and you can then manually enter back in results that you want retained, e.g., Ancestry.com, findagrave.com, etc






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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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17 September 2012

Planning a trip to NARA in DC? Check out this YouTube Video!



Learning about a new archive or any changes to the rules is often what I consider the most stressful part of any visit to an archive.  Once my hands are in the records – I’m happy!

Given that, if you are planning a visit to NARA I (in DC), do check out this YouTube vide – Research at the National Archives. It does a good job of giving you the highlights of “how” one does research at NARA, including some of the rules and regulations.

And, do check out the many videos that NARA has posted at YouTube via the US National Archives Channel.

What was your favorite NARA video?





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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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NGS does not imply endorsement of any outside advertiser or other vendors appearing in this blog.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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