Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wal-Mart encroaches on WDYTYA schedule

As others have noted the Who Do You Think You Are schedule for upcoming episodes has changed. (Link to Ancestry's page which has the full schedule. I was unable to find a schedule on NBC's site.)

April 9th they're re-airing the first episode with Sarah Jessica Parker. Repeats are common, and I don't find this horrible. I'm sure many missed it the first time.

April 16 - they're replacing Who Do You Think You Are with a Wal-Mart produced original movie: Secrets of the Mountain. View trailer below:

Family secrets are uncovered in the movie, and it's clear from the tagline "One family's adventure, every family's challenge" that they're linking the movie thematically to WDYTYA. It can be looked at as trying to garner viewership of the movie from WDYTYA fans - or trying to gain more viewership of the final episodes from those who are likely to tune into the movie. Likely both are intended. Whether the tactic will be successful in either direction is open to question.

Update 4/2: I found an old schedule listed somewhere and realized that April 16th was planned as a week off from the start. The change was a repeat being inserted on April 9th, extending the schedule one week.

Wordless Wednesday: Easter Greetings 1944

Easter greetings sent home by my grandfather, Martin Deutsch, in 1944, via v-mail.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

PSA: Genealogy Can Save Your Life: 2010

This is now the third year I've posted this PSA. But it can't be repeated too often. Genealogy can save your life. It would have saved mine if I hadn't already known what I needed to know.

The American Cancer Society recommends the 'average' person to start getting checked for colon cancer at age 50. However, for those with a history of the disease in the immediate family, they recommend to start the tests ten years prior to the earliest it has been diagnosed. My maternal grandmother died at age 51. So I was prepared to start getting tested at age 40. Then a close kin, slightly older, had their test, and polyps were discovered and removed. So two years ago, at age 39, I decided there wasn't any good reason to wait on ceremony, and my doctor agreed. I had my first colonoscopy, and I had a 'pre-malignant' polyp removed. If I had waited until I was 50, there's a chance I wouldn't have made it. Since I knew to check early, the polyp was caught before it could become dangerous, and hopefully any future polyps will also be caught beforehand.

[Note: As I understand it, the causal connection between polyps and cancer actually isn't conclusive. Scientists haven't proven that pre-malignant polyps always become malignant, or that polyps always lead to cancer. Nor that everyone who gets cancer had pre-malignant polyps at one time that could have been detected. But they know enough to remove the polyps when they see them.]

Other diseases have genetic predispositions. So it is important to know the medical histories of your parents, grandparents, and where possible, your great grandparents. The primary method of doing this, for those who are deceased, is to find their death certificates. It is rare to find any prior to 1900, but for those who lived into the 20th century, especially those who lived past 1920, finding death certificates, while not always easy, isn't usually difficult - if you know when and where they died.

1) Local Courthouses

Most counties in America house archives of their Vital Records (birth, marriage, death.) A few have strict restrictions on who can request copies, limiting them to 'immediate family' which may not include grandchildren.

2) State Archives

State archives often have copies of the county records, with fewer restrictions on access.

3) Online Databases

Some counties and states have begun putting their records online. Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Footnote also have some databases available to search.

4) Funeral Homes

Funeral homes often retain their own copy of the death certificate, and their copy may differ slightly from that held by the County or State. It may contain details about where in a cemetery plot the individual was buried, or details about the funeral itself. If you don't know the funeral home, search in archives of local newspapers and try to find an obituary, as obituary notices often include this information. The funeral home copy may also be at times the only copy you have access to if the county and state are too restrictive.

Once you have found the death certificate, if you don't recognize instantly the words written under 'cause of death' conduct an internet search on them at Google or Yahoo. My family history made identifying "Carc. of Col." as "Carcinoma of Colon" fairly easy, though I suspect some might have stumbled over the abbreviation. Several ancestors were diagnosed with "Interstitial Nephritis." I'd never heard of this before, but it is a kidney ailment often caused by a reaction to pain medication. Unfortunately, the death certificates didn't indicate the cause of the original pain.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: The 'Gorgeous' Pevely Fountain, The 04, and California

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I continue a transcription of a family history tape recorded in 1987 between my grandmother, "Sissie" (Feinstein) Newmark, and a professional oral historian. This section begins with my grandmother talking about moving to Clayton, a suburb of St. Louis City. [After the transcription I include several notes, researching a few of the things she mentions, as well as questioning a few of her statements.]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks -- March 21 to March 27
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

Jack Simpson at Basics of Genealogy Reference discusses Mapping Land Records Using EarthPoint (and Google Earth)

John at NARAtions clears up some common misperceptions in Deciphering Compiled Service Record Jackets.

FamHist discusses the Missouri Death Certificate database (which has just added the 1959 records) and how to use the IrfanView image editor in Saving Death Certificates.

KK Searle at The Texas History Page relays the announcement that the Star of the Republic Museum is searching for descendants of the 59 signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Here's a list of the signers.

Pam Cerruti at Upfront with NGS urges those with Massachusetts ancestors to fight the state bill to close all birth and marriage records after 1841. (Especially those who live in the state, as the state legislature is more likely to listen to constituents.)

Jasia at Creative Gene in her posts Melancholy and Melancholy Too shared some sad photos from a recent trip to Detroit to visit the homes of her ancestors.

Cheryl Fleming Palmer at Heritage Happens finds an interesting source of information and memories in Do These Hold Significance?

James Tanner at Genealogy's Star discusses Fair Use and Genealogy.

And just in time for the holiday, Passover Viral Video Collection 2010 (My favorite is the Matzo Ball Olympics) and Passover FAQ.

Other Weekly Lists

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Scrap-book Alternatives

Scrap-book: “A blank book in which pictures, newspaper cuttings, and the like are pasted for preservation.” – Oxford English Dictionary
Whenever a scrap-book evangelist asks you if you are scrap-booking your family photos, if you have anything that meets the OED’s definition, you can say, ‘yes.’ A photo album is a scrap-book. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. Who are they that their definition outweighs the OED?

But please…don’t use what The Practical Archivist refers to as a Chemical Sandwich of Doom. There are now photo albums that don’t destroy the photos.

That said, as someone without much artistic ability, I’d like to provide some ideas of other things you can do with photographs. Things that don’t involve designing cute or fancy backgrounds, or cropping the photographs into weird shapes.

1) Photo-travelogues

Using a 4*6 photo album with the sleeves that fit one photograph, alternate between photograph and a written (or typed) description of the people, places, and events. This works great for creating a gift to give children or grandchildren to commemorate family trips. (Inspiration: My mother has done this for her grandchildren.)

2) Poetry

Perhaps you don’t consider yourself an artist, but you do enjoy writing poetry. You can write poems to accompany photographs.

I composed the below prior to composing the Tombstone Tuesday entry earlier this week.


I look at the hands
On the tombstone
Of my great grandfather
And wonder
If he was descended
From Vulcans
Or Aaron, brother of Moses.

I suspect the latter,
Keeping one foot in reality
At all times, but either
Would be new information,

And both descents
Equally difficult
To trace.

3) Collage

This alternative comes closest to the traditional idea of scrap-booking, though it doesn’t involve background art. Combining photographs and document clippings that complement one another. My example below illustrates my initial reaction upon seeing my paternal grandparents’ honeymoon photo. (There are other photographs from the honeymoon that don't elicit the same response.)

(In creating this collage, I went to my grandmother's scrapbook, looking for a saved matchbook cover to scan; she saved several. I was 'gobsmacked' by what I discovered - a 79 year-old cigarette, preserved. I believe she received it for her 17th birthday.)

4) A blog

Every blog entry begins as a blank page. They contain pictures and text. If you want, you could print them out, and bind them. If you are a family history blogger, you are creating a digital scrapbook with every blog entry you compose.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Samuel Deutsch (1861-1938)

When I first saw the below photo of my great grandfather's tombstone, I knew instantly, whoever was responsible for the inscription believed he was either a descendant of Aaron, brother of Moses, or from the planet, Vulcan. Either way, it was new information, and the precise descent equally difficult to trace. Since he died in 1938, when Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was only 17 years old, my bet was on the former.

Hebrew Transcription:
Shlomo Zalman Bar Avraham "The Cohen"
Died on the 20th of Sh'vat 5698

Last Week I discussed how I finally obtained the photographs of my great grandparents' tombstones, and both of them provided previously unknown details. I have long been a Star Trek fan, so I instantly recognized the hand gesture inscribed at the top of the tombstone as the Vulcan salute (rotated 45 degrees). I also knew that actor Leonard Nimoy had borrowed the gesture from his observances of the Priestly blessing as a child.

But just because someone thought he was a Cohen doesn't make it necessarily so. The most likely person responsible for the inscription would have been his widow, and there's a chance she may have been basing this on actually having met his father. So is there any way to prove this?

No. The only way to prove it would be to document the descent individual by individual back to Aaron. I don't see that happening. Yes, there is a Y-Chromosome marker that half of Cohanim who have been tested have been shown to have. Of course, the other half don't have it. Maybe the half that do have it are all descended from the same individual who falsely assumed Cohenship a Millennia ago. Is that impossible? Here's more information on the: Cohen Modal Haplotype.

Let's say we accept the marker as a test for descent. Can I be tested for this?

Sure, but my Y-chromosome is meaningless, since this is my mother's line. (And I have a paternal uncle who has already been tested, and my Y-Chromosome haplogroup should be identical to his.)

My mother can't be tested, because she doesn't have a Y-chromosome, and neither does her sister. There are some male Deutsch cousins whose arms we might be able to twist into taking the test.

I'll also point out that since the Cohen designation is traditionally something that gets passed down only through the male, which is why the Y-Chromosome test makes sense, I am not a Cohen, even if my maternal grandfather was.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: My Grandmother's Parents, Creve Coeur Lake and San Bonita

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I continue a transcription of a family history tape recorded in 1987 between my grandmother, "Sissie" (Feinstein) Newmark, and a professional oral historian. This section begins with her talking about her father, Herman Feinstein.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks -- March 14 to March 20
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere

The First Edition of the Carnival of African American Genealogy has been posted at Our Georgia Roots, with 34 entries.

In You Never Know Who You Might Meet at the Flea Market Cindy at Everything's Relative-Researching your Family History tells a story of who she met and what she discovered yesterday.

A.C. Ivory at FindMyAncestor asks Can Your Camera Scan an Entire Book in Seconds? No, mine can't. I wish it could, though I suspect the device mentioned is a bit out of my price range.

Michael John Neill of RootsDig discovered his posts were being stolen, as did Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers. Different websites were guilty of the theft. Coincidentally, James Tanner at Genealogy's Star has an entry on Claiming a Copyright, and Judy Shapiro at Advertising Age asks Is Copyright the Buggy Whip of the Digital Age? (hat/tip: Digitization 101)

John W Hays at Relative Something describes his Census Love.

Denise Barrett Olson at Family Matters discusses Document Collections at Scribd. She has created a moderated Family History Archive to which others can contribute documents.

FamHist Blog writes about Blindly Following a Ghost Trail.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti at Tracing the Tribe discusses some difficulties the Israeli version of Who Do You Think You Are had in finding celebrities. Apparently a DVD with English subtitles is in the works, and I suspect I might be interested.

Steve Patterson at Urban Review StL has a fascinating series of photographs with discussion of what the St. Louis riverfront looked like in the decades prior to the Arch being built. Apparently the community (40 blocks) was razed in 1939. Groundbreaking for the Arch didn't begin until 1959. During those twenty years, the St. Louis riverfront had a huge parking lot.

Other Weekly Lists

The Wolfram/Alpha blog has a post on Finding Roots, but it has absolutely nothing to do with genealogy.

And finally...

I know this is a day late, but yesterday March 19-20, was a National Day of Unplugging. I read about the idea Friday afternoon, about an hour before sunset. I made the decision to participate in the final minutes. I'd have blogged about it...but...there wasn't time.

It was an enjoyable experience. Of course, the idea is that it can be a weekly experience. And is only one of the ten principles of a project calling itself the Sabbath Manifesto. It's open to members of all religions.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

C-Span Video Library - Not all Politics

Earlier this week, C-Span uploaded almost its entire video library - covering 23 years - over 160,000 hours. All accessible online for free. [New York Times Article]

One could spend days (months, years) reliving history. C-Span isn't only Congressional Hearings, and I found several things that might be of interest to genealogists and family historians.

On February 10, 2009
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. spoke on his two books: Lincoln on Race and Slavery and In Search of Our Roots: How 19 Extraordinary African Americans Reclaimed Their Past (1 hour, 16 minutes)

On July 19, 2001
Professor Bryan Sykes spoke about his book: The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals our Genetic Ancestry (1 hour, 11 minutes)

On January 15, 2000 at the Key West Literary Seminar several author panelists "talked about their ancestors and their effect on their writing." (1 hour, 22 minutes)

On August 31, 2009
"The National Research Council and Institute of Medicine held a symposium to explore the health, policy, and ethical implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing." (1 hour, 12 minutes)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Census and the American Community Survey

"Since the 1950s, the Census Bureau’s practice has been to hold decennial census data for 72 years after the date it was collected. This practice was instituted to protect the privacy of individuals who responded to the census, while allowing researchers, especially genealogists, to investigate their family histories. The ACS has determined that it, as the successor to the decennial census long form, will similarly hold its data for 72 years prior to releasing it to the public. "
American Community Survey
Operations Plan (pdf)
U.S. Department of Commerce
Economics and Statistics Administration
Release 1: March 2003

Unless that policy has changed, the information in the annual American Community Surveys will be released to genealogists in 72 years, the same as the decennial census. It’s only being issued to approximately 15% of the population (3% per year – in a five year cycle – with no repeated recipients.) This is roughly the same percentage who received the long form in 2000.

It is the information contained within the ACS and the old long form that has drawn most of the ire of some privacy advocates. I will go on record as saying I think this is justified. In an era of people living longer and longer lives, those who are 30 years or younger can expect it's not unlikely they will be alive in 72 years. While there aren't any questions there I'd hesitate answering, I cam imagine there are some people who might not want some of those answers revealed to the general public, even after they were deceased.

It’s great for the genealogists. And I also see the usefulness of the statistical data for the government (and those, such as non-profits, providing services to the community.)

However, recipients of the ACS, like the Census, are required by law to fill it out. And *if* the data will ultimately be made public, especially while some of the respondents will still be alive, many of the questions should be optional in my opinion.

Here’s a link to a PDF of the 2010 ACS

I would argue for some of the less objectionable information from older censuses that was moved to the long form, to be returned to the census. And the American Community Survey be used to ask those questions that are useful to the government statisticians, but which are deemed more private, and destroy those forms once the data is collected.


I cringe when on old censuses I see the question "Deaf, Dumb, Blind, Insane or Idiotic."

Those questions are being asked on the ACS...of course, in more sensitive terms, but they're being asked.

Working for a social services providing non-profit, I am grateful for the statistical data the census produces. It's easy for us to know how many people locally need services X, and to prove this to potential funders.

I have no problem with all the financial and disability data being collected. But it seems to me to be the most personal of the questions, and while a lot of the financial information is public, not all of it is.

Those with the most embarrassing answers are the ones who need to be counted the most, so if they were reassured that the information would be destroyed after the data collected, that would make them more inclined to tell the truth.

Genealogists don't need this information. It expands our knowledge of our ancestors, but it's not necessary information.

Wordless Wednesday: Barney's Birthday and Birthplace

(click on image to enlarge)
1) A bio my great grandfather, Barney Newmark, wrote for Who's Who in North St. Louis, 1925
2) World War I registration form
3) Declaration of Intent
4) Gravestone

Related Blog Posts:
March 17, 2009 On St. Patrick's Day Everyone is Irish
March 17, 2008 My 'Irish' Great Grandfather
March 15, 2007 Corned Beef and Cabbage on Rye

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday: Helen (Lichtmann) Deutsch (1881-1958)

A month ago I blogged about the unusual difficulties I was having obtaining a photograph of my great-grandparents' tombstones through RAOGK and FindAGrave. Chicagoan, John Frank, of AncestryChronicles contacted me and offered to help when the weather permitted. The weather in Chicago is often the same as it is in St. Louis, magnified. So I understood.

I hadn't made the decision myself to return to local cemetery wandering, so I was surprised Saturday to find the photographs were in my email. Both proved how, even when family is pretty good at passing information down, tombstones can reveal small details.

Chava Leah daughter of the honored Israel
died on the 26th of Adar, 5718.
Beloved Mother
Helen Deutsch
At Rest March 18, 1958
Age 76 years

This is the first time I've seen her Hebrew names. My suspicion is that the name Helen came from the initial letters of both.

The blue rectangle says '1930' which is just the lot number, and is only on her stone. The yellow circle is on both, and I'm not sure of its meaning.

Next week: my great grandfather's tombstone provides me with an even greater surprise.

Update: I contacted the cemetery, and the yellow sticker represents the type of care the grave is receiving.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Poland, Mineral Wells Texas, and St. Louis

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I continue a transcription of a family history tape recorded in 1987 between my grandmother, "Sissie" (Feinstein) Newmark, and a professional oral historian.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks -- March 7 to March 13
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere is sending out Behind the Scenes explanations of the research that goes into each episode of Who Do You Think You Are to several bloggers. The Behind the Scenes for Emmitt Smith's episode is at Dear Myrtle, Genealogy Blog, and GeneaBloggers, among others. It's a shame these explanations of the research process aren't on the NBC site where those becoming interested in the process through the show are most likely to head first.

Emily Aulicino, at Genealem's Geneatic Genealogy provides a review of the 2010 Who Do You Think You Are genalogy conference.

Reacting to the way documents were being handled on the show, the footnoteMaven discovered there are several opinions on the matter, even when it comes to photographs.

Wolfram/Alpha celebrates Pi Day (3.14) and they know a lot about DNA

Anne Morddel at The French Genealogy Blog, discusses the questions she gets about her surname.

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's search for Ellis Island's first immigrant comes full circle. She has also been convinced to not discontinue RootsTelevision.

For those researching property in the city of St. Louis, there is the city's Geo St. Louis. It allows you to enter an address, and retrieve historical information on it, and sometimes even photographs of the building. (hat/tip: Dotage St. Louis)

Donna Pointkouski at What's Past is Prologue dicusses in Why Photographs Should Come With ID Tags, the importance of labels. She also discusses the humor her family found in The Address Book.

Craig Manson at Geneablogie discusses the concept of Black Confederate Soldiers.

Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, asks Newspaper Clippings: Can they be Saved?

Egypt has completed restoration of Maimonides' synagogue.

Prolific blogger, Randy Seaver, at Genea-Musings announces he will be "away from keyboard" while is traveling for 3 weeks. We will miss his posts.
Did you remember to set your clocks back an hour last night?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Slave Records and Genealogy Research

There’s a new Carnival on the Geneablogger block. It’s one to which I likely wouldn't have contributed until just a month ago.

It’s the Carnival of African American Genealogy, and the theme for the first edition is: Restore My Name: Slave Records and Genealogy Research.

Five questions are asked, from which the blogger can choose to respond.
1. What responsibilities are involved on the part of the researcher when locating names of slaves in a record?

2. Does it matter if the record(s) are related to your ancestral lines or not?
When I see these questions, my first thought is to drop the two words “of slaves." What’s our responsibility when seeing any name in a record? If the person is a part of our family history, our first and foremost responsibility is obvious – write the information down. For me, this responsibility applies equally for those related by blood, marriage, or property. (At least with female slaves, we don’t know if their names might not become more important in our research down the road. And while less common, there’s a possibility with male slaves as well.)

What responsibility do we have to share the records? This is a fascinating question. I look up an ancestor’s obituary in newspaper microfilm. Their obituary is surrounded by other obituaries. I’m certainly not responsible for sharing all those obituaries on various surname message boards, or wherever.

There are people who do. There are people who photograph and transcribe cemeteries. It’s a wonderful thing. But a responsibility? No.

While I am unaware of recent African ancestry (Mankind originated in Africa), I have experienced, I feel, a small sliver of the frustration those of African American heritage feel in their research. My maternal grandmother’s known ancestry stretches back to the 1500s. The ancestry of my three other grandparents end abruptly in the mid-1800s. Not all, but many of the records from the shtetls in which they lived were destroyed by the Nazi or Communist regimes that overran Eastern Europe in the mid 20th century. Some of the records that survive are being entered into online databases, but it’s slow.

How would I feel if I learned a European genealogist came across records detailing the names of those killed in a pogrom, and decided not to release the information?


I think it's a rare occurrence, but if a researcher comes across records
A) They know are scarce
B) in a manner unavailable to most genealogists
And they intentionally hide those records, they are performing a disservice to the genealogical community.

However, if the records are readily available to others, that responsibility disappears. All of our time is precious, and there is no reason we need to spend it resharing information that can be found easily by someone else -- Unless that is our desire. Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness are always welcomed.
3. As a descendant of slave owners, have you ever been pressured by family not to discuss or post about records containing slave names?
Up until very recently I had no idea I was a descendant of slave owners. When I made the discovery, I discussed with my mother how we felt about the information. The ancestor lived in 17th century New York, and there are indications he may have freed the one slave he’s known to have had. Neither of us felt the information needed to be kept private. (It really couldn't be, since it already appeared in print in several places.) So I wrote about it in a blog post. I didn’t give any other family members time to weigh in on the matter. If I had, I would have had to ask a whole lot of people, since the ancestor goes back ten generations for me, and I'm sure he has a lot of descendants.
4. As a descendant of slaves, have you been able to work with or even meet other researchers who are descendants of slave owners?
5. Have you ever performed a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness involving slave ownership records? Or were you on the receiving end of such kindness?
I haven't had the opportunity yet. Some people might consider my blog post, Labors of Hercules, such an act, though I don't. It contains very little if any genealogical information on my ancestor's slave. However, the blog post is likely to help any descendant of the slave owner researching their roots to make the discovery a lot quicker than I did.

Thursday, March 11, 2010 Press Release - Free Access to Census Documents for Limited Time

I received the below in my email

Lindon, UT - March 11, 2010 – In order to encourage more people to find their ancestors and connect with family,, the web’s premier interactive history site, is opening all of their U.S. census documents for free to the public for a limited time.

Unlike any other historical collection on the web, the Interactive Census Collection has the unique ability to connect people related to ancestors found on the historical documents. Simply by clicking the “I’m Related” button for a name on the document will identify you as a descendent and also list others that have done the same. Never before has it been as easy to connect with distant relatives through historical documents. To learn how to get started with the Interactive Census, visit:

Finding a record featuring an ancestor’s name provides not only an emotional experience but also a connection with the past. On it’s more than just finding a name on a census record. Interactive tools allow people to enhance the documents by adding their own contributions including:

  • Photos
  • Stories
  • Comments
  • Other related documents

Each contribution is linked to a Footnote member and provides a means for people to find each other and exchange more information about their ancestors.

“TV programs including ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ on NBC and ‘Faces of America’ on PBS will surely increase the interest in family history in the United States,” explains Russell Wilding, CEO of “We believe that using our Interactive Census Collection is a great way for those who are new to genealogy to get started.”

In addition to providing the basic information about ancestors with the census documents, has been working with the National Archives and other institutions to digitize and index over 63 million historical records that include:

  • Military documents
  • Historical newspapers
  • City directories
  • Naturalization records

“Using the records on Footnote to go beyond the names and dates is like adding color to your tree,” says Roger Bell, Footnote’s Senior Vice President of Content and Product. “The more details you add, the more colorful your family tree becomes.”

To search for an ancestor and experience family history like never before, visit:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monday, March 8, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: Interview with Sissie Feinstein - December 1987

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

This week I start a transcription of another family history tape. This one is quite different from the tape my maternal grandfather and his siblings created in 1977. Ten years later, in 1987, a professional oral historian was hired to conduct individual interviews with my grandparents. My paternal grandmother, Belle "Sissie" Feinstein, was 73 years old at the time of her interview.

Below are the first ten minutes.

Note: I have contacted the oral historian, and while she thinks what I am doing is great, she desires not to be identified. At one point below my grandmother refers to her by name, so I have edited that out.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preservation of the 2010 Census

This was going to be part of my weekly links, but I realized I had enough commentary for a separate post.

NARAtions, the blog of the US National Archives, dispels the rumors that 2010 census data will be destroyed.

These rumors began because Data Killers, a data destruction company announced in a PR release that they were hired for "on-site media destruction services" by the Census Bureau. Obviously, any governmental agency continuously has data that needs to be destroyed. But some individuals, on very little data, and without conducting further research, jumped to the wrong conclusion and went into chicken little mode.

Which I will do my best to avoid. But we now have some more information, and some of it is worrying.
NARA has not officially received and registered a proposed records retention schedule from the Census Bureau for the 2010 census.
The 2010 census is planned as an all-electronic census which will affect the format in which permanent records are preserved. The Census Bureau will scan the respondent questionnaires as part of its business process for compiling the census. The draft schedule calls for the permanent retention of the scanned digital images. These scanned images are the 21st century equivalent to the microfilm copies of census forms generated for previous decennial censuses.
This sounds good. The data will not be destroyed. However, the draft plan is for the census to be 'all-electronic.' This suggests no backup. Is this a problem? Are scanned images the 21st century equivalent to microfilm copies? I don't know. I'm not an expert.

But I remember Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist saying Scan-and-Dump will not be OK "until we solve the problem of long-term digital preservation." In the same article she said "film and dump" is OK, as long term preservation of microfilm has been proven. Jill Hurst-Wahl at Digitization 101 also questioned the practice of destroying originals.

These articles are almost three years old, though. A lot can change in the world of technology in three years.

As I understand it, this is one of the issues of long-term preservation. 30 years ago computer data was retained on punch cards. Punch card readers are hard to come by today. I will go out on a limb here and say there exists no one on Earth who knows for sure what we will be storing data on 72 years from now.

As I understand it, another issue of long-term preservation is that digital media does degrade over time. Unlike microfilm, you can't put it on a shelf, keep it in a temperature-controlled space, and be assured that all of it will be there to view 72 years later -- even if you have the proper viewer.

Has the problem of long-term digital preservation been solved? Can we assume that the National Archives knows what they are doing, and that the final records retention schedule will include the steps necessary to make certain the census data will be there in 72 years? I would expect they have some of the best archivists in the nation working for them.

I don't know. I'm not an expert. I wait to hear from someone with a little more background to weigh in on the subject.

A second part of the Census Bureau's statement is also worth noting.
In addition, the Census Bureau is also proposing permanent retention for the unedited file containing response data, with linkage information to the scanned images. This means that once the census is opened to the public 72 years from the enumeration date of the 2010 census, genealogists will have two means of searching for their ancestors. They can search the database, which will contain all the data (including names and addresses) from the respondent forms. They can also use the database to locate and retrieve images of the forms themselves.
If I understand this correctly -- they have a 72 year plan to replace Ancestry, Footnote, FamilySearch and other genealogy websites when it comes to accessing census records. I don't think any of them can complain about a 72-year notice.

But this leads me also to remember a post I wrote in 2008. 2010 Census - Will Genealogists Care in 2082?
Records on people prior to 1900, and in the early part of the 20th century are sparse. That's a lot of the reason we love the census. In some cases, it's all we've got. But it's not like relatives are untraceable after 1930. Record keeping starts to improve greatly in the 20th century. Vital Records are going online. In 2082, 72 years after 2010, when the 2010 census is released, I'd be surprised if there was much information on it that wasn't obtainable easily somewhere else. Maybe genealogists will welcome it as a verification of what they have learned elsewhere. Or maybe we will enjoy reading what our ancestors "said" as opposed to what we we already "know."
If the National Archives makes a mistake, and the retention schedule they produce ends up not working, and all the digital data disappears into the digital ether before 2082, will it be the black hole in the lives of genealogist's ancestors as the missing 1890 census is today? I am unable to see the future, but I don't think so.

The one exception I see is those genealogists with illegal immigrants as ancestors. Officials are working to convince them to fill out the census forms, because even though they are here illegally, they are using the schools, and the hospitals, and the amount of money each state receives for these services is dependent upon the census results. The census may be one of the few government documents that manages to record an illegal immigrant in 2010.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weekly Genealogy Picks

Weekly Genealogy Picks -- February 28 to March 6
from genealogy blogs, newspaper articles and elsewhere
  • On April 6th, the fees are increasing for ordering vital record certificates from the UK's General Register Office. The current price of 7 pounds (approx $10.61) is going up to 9.25 pounds (approx $14.02).
  • For those interested in the scientific side of genetics, Science fiction author, Nancy Kress, has an entry on Epigenetics "This is the study of those proteins that determine which genes get switched on, when, under what circumstances, and how often."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Faces of America v Who Do You Think You Are

The first episode of NBC's Who Do You Think You Are has aired. Lots of Genea-bloggers are writing their posts, comparing it to PBS's Faces of America, which just completed.

Here's a quick comparison I've come up with:

Who Do You Think You Are: Genealogy Television
Faces of America: Family History Television

What's the difference?

A genealogist searches for vital records, trying to trace back the family tree as far as they can. A family historian is looking for the stories about who those ancestors were. How they lived their lives. An individual can be one, the other, or different parts of both. I think most of us who are obsessed with this pursuit are a little bit of both, but we may weigh the two differently.

I believe Henry Louis Gates Jr., the host (and one of the executive producers) of Faces of America, was attempting to tell the 'family history' of an entire nation by researching the ancestry of a handful of notable individuals. Since this was the purpose, the show didn't focus on the actual research. And the stories were organized, not by individual, but by time period. Each episode took us further back in time for all the subjects. This was confusing to some, because they were expecting a genealogy show, and that isn't what they saw. In the end, the series wasn't about the individuals, and how their ancestry defines them. It was about America, and how our shared ancestry defines us.

Who Do You Think You Are (WDYTYA) is focusing on each celebrity's pursuit of their own genealogy. Along the way, stories of their ancestors are told. However, the focus is on the records that trace the roots from one generation to the next. We see the celebrity travel from one location to the next, talking with local professional genealogists and historians, reacting to the records that are uncovered.

The first episode of WDYTYA was especially interesting to me, as my family background has similarities to Sarah Jessica Parker's. Her father is of Eastern European Jewish descent, and in the show she traces part of her mother's ancestry back to Salem, Massachusetts.

My paternal (and half of my maternal) ancestry is of Eastern European Jewish descent, but I can also trace my maternal ancestry back to Thomas and Katherine Stoughton, and thus to Salem. A first cousin many generations removed is William Stoughton, Chief Magistrate over the witch trials.

I will chime in and agree with something others are saying - and for which I see a very easy fix if the American edition of WDYTYA progresses to a second season. The length of time it takes to do this research isn't being portrayed accurately. Obviously, before Sarah Jessica Parker showed up at libraries or museums to talk with professional genealogists and historians, she contacted them in advance and gave them time to do some research before she arrived. But the viewer has no idea the number of days that have elapsed between each part of the journey. No additional scenes have to be added to the filming -- all we need is a date stamp displayed on the screen.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Women's History Month: Give Their Face A Place

The word prompt for the 21st Edition of Smile For The Camera is "Give Their Face A Place." March is Women's History month and you are asked to picture women back into history. The unknown, known and unsung women who are often the foundation of our family history. Give their face a place.

(click to enlarge)

From left to right:
Myrtle (Van Every) Deutsch - 1900-1951 (my mother's mother)
Margaret (Denyer) Van Every - 1868-1923 (my mother's mother's mother)
Helen (Lichtman) Deutsch - 1881-1958 (my mother's father's mother)
Bertha (Cruvant) Newmark - 1886-1978 (my father's father's mother)
Minnie (Mojsabovski) Cruvant - 1863-1924 (my father's father's mother's mother)
Rose (Cantkert) Newmark - 1865-1943 (my father's father's father's mother)
Annie (Blatt) Feinstein - 1889-1965 (my father's mother's mother)
Sissie (Feinstein) Newmark - 1914-2002 (my father's mother)

These are the eight female ancestors for whom I currently have photographs.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Sissie Feinstein - Early 1920s?

(I don't have a date for this photo of my grandmother, Belle "Sissie" Feinstein, but as she was born in 1914, I'm guessing the first half of the 1920s. Maybe a bit younger than this photo.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Amanuensis Monday: My grandmother's sister offers some advice

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them. If you choose to join me in Amanuensis Monday and post your transcriptions, feel free to add a link to your post in the comments.

Below is a transcription of a letter my maternal grandmother received from her sister, Minnie, in January of 1942, shortly after my grandfather made the decision to join the service. Apparently, my grandmother hadn't been consulted, and she wasn't happy. Minnie also shares a lot of family news.