Archive for March, 2013

March 26th, 2013

New Genealogy App to be Released!

Genealogy just keeps getting better and better. I just found out that a Utah-based firm is going to be releasing an APP they say will change the face of genealogy research. At a trade show in Cincinnati, Ohioon February 10, 2013, Otter Creek Holdings, the subject company, introduced a genealogy gathering tool that it states “could render QR codes almost obsolete”! The tool is an APP designed for smart-phones called LegacyTec, and allows you to photograph headstones to access online information about the person in the grave.

Many gravestone manufacturers now attach matrix barcodes to their headstones so that relatives or genealogical researchers can scan the code with their smart-phones, and then access an interactive online memorial page. These monument pages are extremely valuable genealogy resources, and obviously have a place in the future of genealogy. They allow families to personalize their memorial pages and update their information. The LegacyTec APP however will allow anyone to pull up a genealogical webpage on any gravestone in a cemetery. You simply need to point your smart-phone, shoot, and Voila, instant information.

The APP doesn’t need the marker to have a matrix barcode, that’s the really great thing. All it takes to connect a researcher to an online genealogical profile of the deceased person is a relatively good photo of the gravestone. At least that is the goal of the developers. The company’s vice-president, Hudson Gunn, admits that building such a custom platform for such a task is a bit of a logistics nightmare. They seem to have overcome those complications however. Rather than searching millions of records at a time, this APP uses GPS metadata from uploaded photographs to filter the search by location, usually by city or cemetery.

It’s really interesting how it works. The APP first narrows the search to a couple of hundred locations in the area using image recognition technology. The APP then compares the uploaded image of the headstone to an existing gallery of gravesite monument photographs. The company uses the huge database from around the internet, including their own website, which continues to grow in leaps and bounds. But the technology used is only half of the applications recipe for success.

The other element that could make this APP so useful is the number of contacts in the genealogy world that the company’s CEO, Devin Taylor, has appropriated over the years.  The APP would be useless without having access to a genealogical mega-database, andTaylorhas convinced, and to partner with him. This is exciting news for the genealogy world, especially those who like the new technological advances and gadgets that are being produced.

The APP is also designed to increase its own genealogical databases as individuals use it. When someone photographs a headstone somewhere, they are asked if they want to create a record for that person. As each user does this, the database will continue to expand, by as many as seven million people by the end of this year according to Mr. Gunn.

As an added benefit, the APP doesn’t include advertisements, so kudos to Otter Creek Holdings. The APP is expected to be ready for download in the coming week, so stay tuned for news at the News Feed at

Read the rest of this entry »

March 19th, 2013

The Expert Guide to German Ancestry

Finding German ancestors can be quite the genealogical challenge.Germanyhas been through many political and geographical changes over the years that can make relatives hard to find.Germanyas we know it today however did not come into existence until 1871, and as such it is a younger country than many of its European neighbors. Though you might think this would make it easier to finds ancestors, it’s really not the case. The key to understanding this complexity lies in understanding a bit of the history ofGermany.

Before 1871

The initial unification ofGermanytook place in 1871, but prior to that it was an association of small kingdoms (Saxony,Württemberg,Bavaria, andPrussia), free (self-governing) cities such asBremen,HamburgandLubeck, and even the personal estates of various prominent and wealthy families. Each of these entities in turn had its own system of record keeping.

Germanyremained unified until after the Second World War when it was divided into East andWest Germany, while parts of it were awarded toPoland,Czechoslovakia, and theUSSR. Even while it was unified between 1871 and 1945 however, parts of it were given toFrance,Belgium, andDenmarkin 1919 following the First World War.

What this means for family historians is that the records for the German ancestors they are searching might not be found inGermany. You may need to search the records of the countries that received portions of German territory (France,Belgium,Poland,Denmark,Czechoslovakiaand theUSSR), or if researching prior to 1871 in the records of the original states such asPrussia, or even in personal estate records. As you can imagine, this presents some unique challenges for genealogists, but they can be overcome by following some basic steps.

How to Find Your German Ancestors

Begin With You

As with every genealogical search, one for your German ancestors begins in your own home. Your more recent ancestors can provide you with links to the past, so speak with your family members and ask them to share any information they have. This can include photos, family bibles, and vital documents. If you need to brush up on your interviewing skills or refresh your genealogical knowledge, consult our Basics of Tracing Family Genealogy Insiders Guide.

Locate Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Birthplace

Once you have traced your family history back to your German ancestor, you’ll want to find out the name of the city or village they were born in. This is a crucial step, as most German records are not held in a central location. You may be able to find this information in passenger lists if they immigrated toAmerica after 1892. A record of them may also be held by the city or port from which they departed, so if you have that information you should check out German passenger departure lists. Other records that may contain their city of birth are naturalization records, church records from the area around the port they entered, census records, and BDM records.

Find Their Birthplace on a Map

Once you have found the name of the town or city where your ancestor was born, look for it ion a modern map to make sure it still exists. You can use online German gazetteers for this. If you can’t locate their birthplace on a modern map, consult historic maps or records to find out where it used to be and where those records might now be held.

German Birth, Death, and Marriage Records

Some German vital records date back to 1792 as many German states had their own civil registration systems. These records are held in the area that the event took place, as there is no central repository inGermany. You can find them in government archives and the local civil registrar’s office. Some are held on microfilm by the LDS Family History Library.

German Census Records

Censuses have been conducted inGermanyon a regular basis since the unification in 1871. Though they are deemed as national censuses, they were and are still carried out by each state or province, where the records can be found. You can get original returns from the Civil Register Office (Standesamt)in each area, or from the municipal archives (Stadtarchiv). Unfortunately,East Germanydestroyed all of the census returns for that area, and some records were destroyed by bombings during the war.

You may be able to locate some records from individual regions, as occasionally some cities and provinces conducted their own censuses between the national ones. The information you’ll find in German census reports varies according to the time period, and earlier ones may only record how many people occupied a household, though usually the name of the head of the household id given.

German Parish Registers

Some parish registers inGermanydate back as far as the 1500’s, and they can be a valuable source of ancestral information. Baptisms, marriages, burials, confirmations, and other events are recorded in them, and sometimes a complete family record is written containing information about an entire family.

Registers are generally kept by local parish offices, though some smaller churches may send their records to a larger central register. If you find that the parish no longer exists, the parish which took over may still hold those records. Some hand copied registers were sent to the district court, and they can sometimes serve as a substitute if the original records can’t be located. Keep in mind however that they are hand copied, and so may contain errors.

As with any genealogical search in any geographical location, research can sometimes be painstaking. Sticking to the task though will generally see you reap the fruit of your labors.

Read the rest of this entry »

March 12th, 2013

More Free Genealogy Resources – Historical Books Online

Historical books are among the best free genealogy resources you can find online. During my genealogy research I have often found them to be extremely useful in filling in the blanks about my ancestors and the era and area in which they lived. Family and local histories especially reveal a wealth of information, and you may even find that your ancestors can be found in some of these publications. Even if you don’t locate your ancestor in them, they can help you to get a keen insight into how and where they lived. What’s more is that they are absolutely free genealogy resources!

During my research I have come across quite a few websites where you can access and read historical books online. The spirit of genealogy is growing, and thanks to countless, dedicated volunteers and generous donors, we have a wealth of wonderful online resources available to us. The following are some of the best websites I’ve discovered while researching my own family history. The best part is that all of them are free!

Internet Text Archive introduced us to the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is a search engine that allows you to search over 240 billion web pages that have been archived since 1996, right up until just a few months ago. This in itself is a valuable genealogical tool, as you can find web pages that are no longer published. Their collection of Texts includes millions of public domain books, local, town, and county histories, published books containing historical records, family histories, and a wealth of other publications on a variety of genealogy relevant material.

Our Roots

This website boasts a wealth of Canadian local histories. In fact, it bills itself as having the largest collection of these precious genealogy resources in the world. You can easily search areas related to their search by simply clicking on a map of Canada, and a list of resources for that area will be given you. I did a quick search for Ontarioand 24 pages were returned. They consisted of local histories, letters written by emigrants, ethnic histories, school records, and much more. A genuine goldmine of free genealogy resources!

Their Own Words

Here you can find over 50 books containing regimental histories, autobiographies, biographies, and military journals. Additionally there is a collection of letters, pamphlets, and diaries dating from the late eighteenth century to the early 1900’s. You have to search alphabetically by author, but a summation of what they have written is located beneath their name.

Hathi Trust Digital Library

The Hathi Trust is a partnership that includes a number of libraries and research institutes that are dedicated to preserving historical records. They pool their resources, the result being a massive collection preserved and made available to the public at no cost. There are thousands of digitized books of genealogical value, especially about local histories. Much of their collection was initially composed of content from Google Books, but they are continually publishing more and more books and other texts that are being digitized locally. You can download individual pages, and some full PDF documents are available for download from some of the partner institutions.

Historical books are really a very useful genealogy resource, especially if you are working on a project that involves in-depth historical research. They can educate you about historical trends, laws and statutes that might affect the records you need to consult, and in some cases even reveal personal information about your ancestor. The above are all completely free to use – no strings attached, the kind of free genealogy resources every genealogist loves, and the kind we like to share with you!

Read the rest of this entry »

March 6th, 2013

Comments On Our Blog Posts…

Hi everyone.  I hope you’re doing well.

I’ve received a lot of e-mail from many of you mentioning that your comments haven’t been published to the blog. Due to the volume of spam comments this blog received on a daily basis, it was nearly impossible to filter through all of the comments.  We were receiving an average of 300 spam comments a day so it’s really hard to filter the real comments from the individuals that are selling Louis Vutton (sp?) bags.  With the help of my helpful website administrator,  we were able to filter through much of the spam and we’ve installed a captcha to the commenting area to reduce the spam.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping this works long term!

We’ve tried to filter through as much spam as possible but with a backlog of over 8,000 blog comments, it was a really arduous task.  We unfortunately couldn’t filter through all of the real comments.

The issue is now fixed and I’m looking forward to reading and responding to your many comments!  Thank you so much contributing to my posts and I wish you all great success in your endeavours to learn more about your ancestry.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me about any blog post ideas you have.  Melanie (@) obituarieshelp (dot) org

Read the rest of this entry »

March 5th, 2013

Is Your Ancestor in the News? Tips for Searching Online Historical Newspapers

Historical newspapers that have been digitized and place online make great free genealogy resources. The technology they use to make them searchable however is sometimes imperfect, and it can be difficult to find the information you seek. Different newspaper archives employ different search technology, which compounds the problem further. The following tips however can help you to minimize that difficulty and give you the best shot at finding that crucial information about your long lost ancestor.

Tip #1 – Search Using only the Surname

It can be difficult finding an exact name in online newspaper archives. This can be because of the search technology employed by that particular website, or due to nicknames, misspellings, and abbreviations. Unless you are searching for a particularly popular surname like Smith or Jones, begin your search by using just the surname. This will increase the amount of returns you get, but if you take the time to weed through them, you could find the name of your relative, either their full name, one including a nickname that proved a road block, or an abbreviated version. If you get too many returns, enter further info such as a location.

Tip #2 – Search for Relatives

If you don’t have any success using the above strategy, try researching a relative of the ancestor you’re trying to locate. Try a combination of given names for other family members and you might be surprised at the results. Another strategy that sometimes works is to search the first name of your ancestor along with the first names of their parents.

Tip #3 – Search by Address

Sometimes the technology used by database search engines can miss surnames. The articles or obituaries you are searching for could well be there, the search technology is just not picking them up. This has happened to me several times, but perseverance usually pays off. A strategy that has worked for me in the past is to search using my ancestor’s last known address. Quite often obituaries list a person’s address, and wedding announcements sometimes do as well. They are one of the most popular types of free genealogy resources.

Tip #4 – Search by Date and Name of Publication

Sometimes you simply have to search a newspaper page by page to locate information on your relatives. If you know the date and location of an event in your ancestor’s history and have exhausted the first three strategies, this might be the way to go. If you know the date they died for instance, you can search obituaries for that time period. Find out what newspapers are or were published in the area in which your ancestor lived and use their browser option to locate the newspaper for the days the notice may have appeared. Make sure you check issues for a couple of days on either side of the event, or even a week or two. Sometimes a funeral notice or memoriam was published a few weeks after a person’s death. They also are excellent free genealogy resources.

Tip #5 – Search Using Subject Keywords

Instead of a surname search, sue the name of a specific type of documentation such as “obituary,” “wedding announcement,” or “death notice.” If you have the option, enter additional keywords such a “memoriam” or “funeral notice.” Old newspapers may use different terms, so have a look at them first, and take note of what they name particular sections of their publication. Some of them may have pages for birthday or anniversary announcement, so use as many terms as you can think of.

Tip #6 – Modify Your Keyword Search

While the above mentioned terms are important to use, you may have equal success by not using them. Don’t neglect using terms like “business notices” or “business listings.” Sometimes they mention individuals in their notices, so if you know what the occupation of your ancestor was so make use of them as well. Older newspapers sometimes listed those who immigrated to other countries; the options are really endless.

It depends on the search technology that a particular newspaper database uses, but sometimes just a name and address will get you surprising results. A genealogy search however requires imagination and resourcefulness, especially in these types of databases. Experiment using as many terms as you can think of. Terms such as “military” or “school” can sometimes be amazingly revealing. The main thing is to never give up. Make use of these excellent free genealogy resources and follow the ancestral trail as stubbornly as you can.

Read the rest of this entry »

 Page 1 of 1  1