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Archive for April, 2010

Family Search – 300 Million New Records

FamilySearch has added 300 million new indexed records at its FamilySearch Record Search Pilot – there are lots of new and wonderful things available. To see if there are new records available for the part of the world you are interested in, go to Family Search . From the drop-down menu under the heading Search Records, choose Record Search pilot. From the newly loaded page, click on Search or Browse our Record Collections. This will load a map; you can click on the map for the collections that are online for that area. The new ones are highlighted with a red star. To look at the collection, just click on its name. Some are indexed with images; others are just indexes; and some collections are images only.

Organizing Your Research – Helpful Tips #2

Organization is key when researching but like everything else, it does require some type of system and a bit of discipline. I’ve tried a few different systems over the years but my favourite one is the use of a filing cabinet with a colour coded filing system and tabs. I use two colours of files for my direct lines (one colour for my Maternal line and another for my Paternal line) and then another for the branches of the families. The files are in alphabetical order and each file folder has the name of my ancestor, Year of Birth and Death and an index card attached to the front with the name of their spouse and children. Inside I have a Checklist of all the records I have collected thus far which I use as an index and they are filed in chronological order by date of event. I’ve customized my Checklist using Excel since I work with both American and Italian records.
Next I include a copy of a Pedigree Chart and a Family Group Chart. As I research a person I make notes on the page in pencil. Anything I write in pencil means that I am still working on it or needs to be sourced. Once I confirm the info, I enter it into my FTM program, print a fresh completed sheet, date it and file it away. I also include a copy of my ancestor’s picture in the file if available.

Don’t forget to tune in Friday April 30 for the season finale of Who Do You Think You Are starring Spike Lee as he traces his slave ancestors.

WDYTYA-Susan Sarandon Re Cap

Well I have to say that tonight’s show was definitely my favorite and actually lived up to what I was expecting from this series.
I loved everything about this show. The introduction at the beginning was just long enough to provide the background information we needed to know without putting us to sleep and she clearly identified her goals – she wanted to know what happened to Anita Rigali, her grandmother who disappeared when Susan’s mother was just a toddler. Armed with an old photo and some family stories she interviews her mother.


She discovers that her grandmother was still alive in the late 1930’s and her mother shows her another photo of Anita and herself taken at the State Fair. There was also some wonderful background history and pictures of the living conditions in lower Manhattan during the big immigration boom that took place in the late 1800’s and why Italians left their homes in the first place to fly to this new promise land.

Anita Rigali

Susan finds out her great grandparents had several children but only 3 lived which is listed on Anita’s birth certificate – As I look through the 1910 Census I find that the same is listed there. It also states that her great grandfather was married previously which they fail to mention.
With the help of her youngest son, Susan undertakes much of her own research. Using Genlabs, she is able to locate where the surnames she is interested in are concentrated the most in Italy leading her to Tuscany. While there, she visits with local historians and goes to the church where her ancestors were baptized. Using these Latin records she finds she has deep Tuscan roots as she is able to trace her family back to 1640.
Once back in the US she uses birth, marriage, city directories and obituaries to trace Anita’s steps – and she does most of this on her own or with the help of her son- which leads her to Rockland County, a place only about an hour from where she lives. It’s important to note that Susan’s son suggests searching using only the first name and birth date of Anita to help track her down – nicely done!
She visits to the house where Anita lived, talked to neighbours and finally visits with Anita’ s nieces.
Susan’s ancestor was colourful but was no different from many we find in our own ancestry. The whole episode encourages people to research their roots and gives realistic exceptions of what one can expect to find or which resources one can use to help them. I hope they use this as a template for future episodes.

Who Do You Think You Are

WDYTYAWith the final two episodes of WDYTYA under way, I thought I should at least mention it once. I haven’t before because it seems like every time I turn around someone has either written, blogged or mentioned it. Talk about over kill. The series is interesting – it gives me an excuse to watch TV on Friday nights which is a nice break from housework, the computer and watching silly reruns of movies I have already seen at least a hundred times but it’s still not what I expected.
I feel the series, while good, is not geared to the average person. There is too much use of professional genealogists and jet setting all over the world. It also is misleading because so far, EVERYONE has had some famous or glorified ancestor in their family- which is not going to be the case for most people. Using actors as the main subjects is entertaining but allowing them into archives to handle old documents without the use of gloves or a pencil makes me cringe! Tell me you or I could go into that same archive and get away with something like that!
And because the shows are only an hour in length I find they jump over some important steps to how they arrive at discovering that all too important piece of family history. Instead of doing such a long introduction or a boring and pointless recap after each commercial, why not talk more about the sources used or the time frame involved in arriving to the outcome? The only time I have seen mention of any online source used is when someone logs onto Ancestry to look up a ship manifest. That’s great if you have the luxury of a laptop and subscription to ancestry from home, but if not, it is available at most libraries or Family History Centers for free. Or another alternative is the Ellis Island site if your ancestors arrived through New York and prior to 1924.

In spite of this, I do enjoy the show and I am happy that it has been picked up for another season. I only hope that they will eventually realize that there is so much more that they can do with the show to improve it.

Future Episodes:
Friday, April 26 – Susan Sarandon traces her ancestry to Tuscany, Italy
Friday, April 30 – Spike Lee traces his African- American roots.

Using Newsletters and Library Archives – Helpful Tips #1

Ancestry Logo

With so many sources of information available today and so many websites to choose from, it’s sometimes difficult to understand just what and how records are used for researching – especially if you are new to genealogy. As much as we would all just love to jump right in and begin researching this could probably be one of the biggest mistakes we make. One is almost guaranteed to miss an important clue. I can’t tell you how many sources I have had to revisit because I did this very same thing.

The answer to this is read, read, read! Every reputable website should have a newsletter or archive that should explain just how to read, understand or use the records available. Ancestry is no exception.

I subscribe to several newsletters and in several languages (I do this just to spice it up a bit). They are delivered directly to my inbox to an account in which I use just for this purpose. This keeps me current on which new records are being added to sites and how they are used. I also find the Learning Archives at Ancestry to be a treasure trove of information for both the new and seasoned researcher.

Recently, Ancestry posted this article on 10 Census Questions That Lead to More Answers which I think is worth a definite read. With the 2010 US Census in full swing, it’s interesting to note just how the census’s have changed over the years and what can be learned from them.


  • Appearance: Excellent
  • Ease of Navigation: Lots of Links to Choose from so stay focused or you will find your self backtracking quite a bit.
  • Quality of Information: Very Good but you will need to track migration patterns of your ancestors and variations in name spellings on your own.

Family Tree University

Family Tree University is ready to launch the first of it’s web based courses. The course is entitled Google Tools for Genealogists: Four Resources to Enhance Your Family History and the cost for registration is $74.99. The main focus will be on using Google Tools and Applications, such as Google Maps, Google Earth and even YouTube as a means of research.

The four week course will begin on April 26 and is hosted by will be hosted by Lisa Louise Cooke. It is a self paced course but lessons will need to be turned in and there will be a quiz given at the end of the course. Registration begins today.

I would be interested in hearing from anyone who will be taking the course and their thoughts on it.

My Heritage.com

My Heritage My Heritage.com is an online interactive private family tree database/website available for free for basic use (250 people – 250 MB storage) or for a small monthly fee ($4.38 monthly – 2,500 people – 500 MB storage) you can get premium add free access. Of course, for almost $10 a month you can have the Premium Plus Package with unlimited access.  So this morning I thought I would test this site out and these are my personal thoughts.

I love the look and feel of the site and the ability to create and print family charts *although* you need to create, download and access the chart from the email you used to create the site.  I also find there a bit to many steps involved to entering data into the base – assuming you are not importing an existing GED com. I have not yet figured out how to enter half siblings or their parents and I have been at it for almost an hour.

I was excited when I was prompted that a match was found in my tree and headed over to look at the other tree only to find that it didn’t provide me with any more information than I already had entered into my own tree. I was however given the option to contact the other submitter and I am looking forward to his reply. I then had to go through several steps to get back to my own tree which I found most inconvenient. Also, searching for other trees with your surname is not easy as the trees are all named the same but identified only with ID numbers and the submitters name not visible from the main screen. At this point I’m not sure using the site is right for my needs but I would suggest you try it yourself and see what you think.


  • Appearance: Excellent
  • Ease of Navigation: Poor
  • Quality of Information Found: *Only as accurate as submitted with no ability to include sources.

*At the time of this post I have not found any way to include sources but I would be happy to hear from anyone who has found otherwise.

Calabria DNA Project

Ever thought of testing your DNA? If you’re from the Reggio Calabria area of Italy, and more so from Martone, Gioiosa Ionica, or Grotteria then you may want to read about the Calabria DNA Project.

Here’s a bit about the Project Goals which have been taken directly from the website:

Calabria DNA Project
Project Goals

The Calabria DNA project has two main goals:

One is to investigate the ethnic and genetic diversity of Calabria as shown through the DNA of the descendants of those born in Calabria. In most cases project members are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Calabrians. But, through the genetic story told in their yDNA and mtDNA, we can discover the heritage of Calabrians over the centuries. We hope that some of what we learn through the results of this project can contribute to the knowledge of human migrations being studied by population geneticists.

The second goal, especially as we recruit more members, is to actually establish connections – a common ancestor – between some members. Genetic genealogy is a new tool in genealogy research that can supplement and help make breakthroughs in traditional records-based research. Once that common ancestor has been discovered, then much more productive research in the records can help fill out family trees.

This is a project endorsed by some of the top geneticists today, including L. Luca Cavalli Sforza of Stanford University and Dr. Michael Hammer of the University of Arizona.

For more information or to join the project, please contact the group administrator, Louis Loccisano at Louis@calabriadna.com

Cosenza Archives Site


If you’re looking for vital records from Cosenza Province in Calabria then make sure you check out the Cosenza Archive site .  The records and image extractions available range from 1800 -1900. They also provide access to actual images of births acts, marriage acts  and WW1 Draft Registration Cards. Not only do you have the option to view many records from the site but you can also save copies to your desktop  (for personal research as they are watermarked) or you can order an actual hard copy of the image from the archive.

I was able to trace 11 generations of my family using the information on the site.  It was very easy to use and offered several search options *but* be careful of transcription errors – there are plenty.  The site is updated frequently with new images and information being added weekly – I always find something new when I log on.  I love the fact that the sources are also listed on each extracted piece which makes sourcing the data in your files that much easier.

If you haven’t registered to use the site, then you should do so now. Activation can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. I was lucky – I was allowed access within 10 minutes of registering and now find myself a regular visitor there.

Let me know what you think….

Family Tree University Webinars

Making the Most Out of Family Search

FamilySearch and Family Family Tree University are hosting a webinar on Tuesday, April 20, at 7 p.m. EST.

Learn how to use FamilySearch to find your ancestors!

Thanks to an active research and development department, the FamilySearch website is growing and changing quickly. In this webinar, you’ll learn how to use FamilySearch and the FamilySearch Record Search pilot to find your ancestors.

In this one-hour Webinar presented by Diane Haddad, Managing Editor of Family Tree Magazine, you’ll learn:

• Searching the databases on FamilySearch

• Using the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot

• Finding historical books

Read full article…..

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