Monday, February 22, 2010

Family Tree Magazine Announces Top 40 Blogs

Blogging about your family history is a wonderful way to share your genealogy expertise, and connect with other researchers.  At last count there were well over 800 genealogy blogs online!

Last Fall Family Tree Magazine opened nominations and voting to readers for their favorite blogs, and they have just announced the final list.   

Read Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs at the Genealogy Insider blog.

Want to try your hand at blogging?  
Watch my four part video series how to Blog Your Family History

You'll find all four videos at the Genealogy Gems TV Channel at YouTube.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! A Vintage Photo Finally Identified!

I love a good success story, and here's one that will remind you that even an old photo with no name can be identified.

Not only did Maxine Speakman identify the unknown soldier, she soon discovered that she walked past his grave on a regular basis. 

Rejunenate your hope for identifying your old unmarked photos by reading Maxine's story at This Is Cheshire.


For Needham family, a WWII copy of Hitler’s book is an heirloom of uncertain value - The Boston Globe

What would you do in their situation?

For Needham family, a WWII copy of Hitler’s book is an heirloom of uncertain value - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More from Lisa Kudrow. Digest of Conference Call for Who Do You Think You Are?

Here's the blow by blow digest of my Facebook posts / Twitter Tweets from the conference call I just participated in with Lisa Kudrow and PRoducer Dan Bucatinsky.  The new TV series Who Do You Think You Are? premieres Friday, March 5 at 8:00 pm on NBC.  

On a conference call with Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky getting more info on Who Do You Think You Are? Lisa says it is really refreshing to bring a quality show like this to America that is "enriching."

Producer Dan says it was a goal to get a mix of celebs - from movies, TV, Sports, etc - which they accomplished.

Lisa Kudrow says she had never hear of Gate's African American Lives before this.

People Mag asks what's the oddest, most interesting facts uncovered on the show.  Stay tuned to upcoming Gems podcast for the answer!

AOL/TV Squad wants to know if Lisa Kudrow has any regrets that she learned what she did about her family.  On live conference call with Lisa Kudrow and Producer Dan Bucatinsky

OMG - they really want to include a non-celeb on the show. Stay tuned!!  Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 to hear my exclusive interview with Lisa sponsored by Rootsmagic.

Live Conference Call Feed: Lisa says the celebs had to put a huge amount of trust in them to be on the show. They soon came to realize that the ancestors "were the main characters of the story." Lisa Kudrow

"I think this is a big deal...because on a lot of levels this kind of non-scripted show is going to be on network television." Lisa Kudrow "I just want to shout if from a mountain top." (from live conference call.)  Listen to upcoming podcast episodes for the full scoop from this conference call.

Diane Haddad of Family Tree Magazine is now asking questions - she's following up on the possibility of a non-celeb being profiled on Who Do You Think You Are? Great questions Diane!  Perhaps a contest for viewers?!

Why didn't they do Lisa Kudrow's mother's side when she had so much info on her father's already? Lisa's answer is one we are familiar with: "Too many BRICKWALLS" I'll have more for your from the conference call in the podcast! Hope you enjoyed "listening in" here on Facebook and Twitter! #WDYTYA #genealogy

Listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 for my exclusive interview with Lisa Kudrow.  Then sign up for the Genealogy Gems e-newsletter to learn how you can hear more from this latest call with Lisa and Dan!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are? Genealogy TV Series UPDATE

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 featuring Lisa Kudrow is just two days away!  Once the episode is published on Valentine's Day I encourage you to share the love and tell all your friends about this exclusive look at the new television series Who Do You Think You Are?  with the producer and star.  (How about starting by sending them a link to this blog post?)

Lisa Kudrow -- NBC Photo: Nicole Rivelli

And speaking of spreading the word, has added some great new ways to do so on their website.  With just a click you can:

  • Send an email
  • Watch the Trailer
  • Download Desktop Wallpaper
  • Download the full size flyer or mini flyer to post at your genealogy society, or offer to your local library or archives

Getting the word out about the show will give this kind of programming a fighting chance in today's crush of hundreds of TV channels.  Wouldn't it be nice to see genealogy on TV be a success!

Can't wait for the show?  You can now order the companion book at  Using the link on the left to check out the book also supports The Genealogy Gems Podcast.

Thank you for helping us bring you the free podcast!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lisa Kudrow on Genealogy Gems Episode 81 on Valentine's Day!

I'm so excited to finally be able to announce that Lisa Kudrow is my very special guest for Episode 81 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast which will be available on Valentine's Day!  I had such a wonderful time chatting with Lisa and can't wait for you to hear her passion for her new television series Who Do You Think You Are? 

I told her that the family history community is behind her 100% and she was thrilled. Wouldn't it be terrific it the show was a wild success and got renewed for next Fall?!  Watch this video for a special message from Lisa and to learn more about the show...

I hope you'll subscribe to The Genealogy Gems Podcast in iTunes or listen right from your computer at the website - and then tell all your family and friends.  Listening to Lisa talk about producing the series and her experience as a participant will excite even the non-genealogist, so I hope you'll share the link to the episode with everyone you know and let's prove to NBC that there's a huge audience for a quality show like this!
Download the free Genealogy Gems Toolbar and you'll be able to listen to any of the episodes as you surf the Web.  It's podcasting made easy!

Follow the Genealogy Gems Podcast on Facebook
Follow Lisa on Twitter for more updates

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sneak Peek at Faces of America TV Series

I just had the opportunity to preview the final episode of the upcoming 4-part television series Faces of America. I was anxious to see what new perspectives on genealogy might be brought by this latest offering by PBS, which appears among a flurry of family history-themed TV shows (Who Do You Think You Are?, The Generations Project, to name a few).

The episode entitled Know Thyself wraps up the series that explores the genealogy of twelve celebrities and well-known figures:

Poet Elizabeth Alexander
Chef Mario Batali
Comedian Stephen Colbert
Author Louise Erdich
Author Malcolm Gladwell
Actress Eva Longoria
Musician Yo-Yo Ma
Queen Noor
Director Mike Nichols
TV Dr. Mehmet Oz
Actress Meryl Streep
Olympic Gold Medalist Ice Skater Kristi Yamaguchi

The show sets out to explore two questions: What made America? And what makes us?

While episode 4 doesn’t focus directly on “what made America?”, the question “what makes us?” plays center stage. It follows episodes that explore the genealogy of the guests and settles in on the latest advances in DNA research. Specifically Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has the enviable opportunity to have 100% of his genome (and that of his 96 year old father) analyzed by the newest technologies available. 

Everyone has two copies – one from their mother and one from their father. According to the experts on the show, they can now trace back and see “which pieces come from which ancestor.”

However, the results presented to Gates in this episode did not offer “which pieces came from which ancestor” but rather, clarified which part came from his mother and which from his father (technically ancestors, but not quite what I imagine the average family historian was hoping for.)  The rest of the analysis was regarding physical traits – balding, propensity for certain diseases, and the like. The small silver device (looking like a flash drive) that Gates and his father received with the complete results may very likely hold data from which future generations will glean much more specific information, but the current outcome was fairly anti-climactic.

For me the riveting moments were early on in the episode and mirrored my own deep feelings about what drives much of my research. 

Actress Meryl Streep learned much about her successful male ancestors. “They were clearly people that had ambition,” she says as she pours over the lovely cabinet cards. But it’s obvious she was unimpressed by their social standing and accomplishments.

When pressed for what the findings mean to her, she sums it up slowly and eloquently. “I’m so intrigued with their households…with their wives…with the invisible history of the women who came along side their august journey.
And I feel connected to them because I’m a woman. To look down the names of all the women…” her voice trails off, “I long to know what their lives were like.” 

One of Streep’s ancestors bears the name that sums up the perceived lives of so many of the women who lurk behind the names listed in the U.S. Federal Census with the occupation of “none,” or “keeping house.”

“Plain” Streep says wistfully, “her name was Plain.”

But what struck me most in this episode was the underlying deeply-held feelings and biases that peeked out throughout the one hour episode. Skin color was the last thing on my mind as I started the episode, but it was clear it was constantly on the minds of those involved in the project. Mournful looks of disappointment crossed more than one guest’s face as they discovered they were primarily European in ancestry, while high-fives with the host were quick when African roots were presented.

Poet Elizabeth Alexander (who was introduced and referred to as “African-American Poet Elizabeth Alexander” even though the majority of her ancestry is European) put it this way, “You fantasize about being the descendant of an Indian Princess, or an African Princess, but not an English Princess. And there she is.” You can hear almost hear the unspoken final word: bummer.

Gates echoes the sentiment. “That’s funny, I never thought of that. You had a princess on the tree, but the wrong country, the wrong color.” Ouch.

Yo-Yo Ma expressed it more humorously: “I’m so disappointed.” But then smiles at Gates and says, “We’re symbolic bros.”

Stephen Colbert was presented with the pie chart that simply said “100% White Man.” Gates explains bluntly, “You’re the whitest person we’ve ever tested.” 

It leads one to wonder why so much emphasis on skin color in the show? And emphasized it was. “My guests hoped to see more ethnicity in their ethnic identities. More evidence of racial mixing in their personal pie chart,” said Gates.

But beyond the racial undertones, there are pearls of wisdom to be gained from Gate’s guests. Yo-Yo Ma, whose tree went centuries back and was full of prestigious ancestors, was clear about what it meant for him: “We still have to prove ourselves today.”

Mike Nichols shares a wonderful story that proves the point that genealogists have learned time and time again: family stories that have been handed down inevitably possess a grain of truth. 

As a genealogist I’m encouraged to see genealogy become more and more a part of our national conversation. With so many smart, dedicated researchers out there I’m confident the positive outcome resulting from Faces of America will be that more people around the country will become interested in genealogy…and we’ll be there to help.

    Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10 - March 3, 2010 from 8 - 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) Watch the first full-length episode online on Thursday, February 11.   Visit the Faces of America web site at PBS for the channel near you.  

Faces of America on DVD at Amazon
Watch Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on Good Morning America:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Episode 80: Irene Johnson's Family History Library Tips

You know Irene Johnson from the Ancestors television series.  She was the knowledgeable librarian with the wonderful accent.  But Irene is most famous for knowing the Family History Library like the back of her hand.  And in the newest episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast she will share her years of experience and best tips for getting the most out of the vast resources of the library in Part 1 of a two part interview.

We'll also be covering the latest genealogy news and listener email.  And iPhone and iTouch users who have downloaded the Genealogy Gems App will get bonus content for this episode including a tutorial video on doing your homework (as Irene strongly recommends) before you visit the library by searching the Family History Library Catalogue online.

Don't have an iPhone or iTouch?  Download the free Genealogy Gems Toolbar and click the Gem icon for bonus content.  The toolbar will be added to your Internet browser quickly and easily, and also has a media player so you can listen to the podcast as you surf the Web.

The Genealogy Gems Toolbar

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Exclusive Interview You Won't Want to Miss!

Late last night I was putting the finishing touches on my most exciting interview to date.  This is an exclusive interview that you will not want to miss!  (Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook for upcoming announcements, or better yet sign up for the free Genealogy Gems e-Newsletter)  I can't wait to share it with you - soon I promise!

The more I think about it, I pretty much have a dream job.  I get to talk and write about family history and genealogy all day, every day.  And one of the best aspects of producing The Genealogy Gems Podcast is definitely spending time with my guests - the movers and shakers in the genealogy world.

As I think back on the guests who have joined me on the shows the list reads like a who's who in genealogy. Each has shared their unique expertise and skills that has helped all of us make strides in our research and stay inspired to continue the course.  Folks like:

Dick Eastman, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter
Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective
Tukufu Zuberi PhD, The History Detectives TV series
Randy Seaver, Genea-musings Blog
Curt Witcher, Allen County Library
Bill Maury, Chief of History, U.S. Census Bureau
Colleen Fitzpatrick, The Forensic Genealogist
Arleen Eakle PhD, Professional Genealogist
Don R. Anderson, Director Family History Library
Kathy Lennon, The Lennon Sisters and avid Genealogist
Paula Hinkle, Southern California Genealogy Jamboree
Stephen Danko PhD, Genealogist and Blogger
Thomas MacEntee, Geneabloggers

...and the list goes on and on.

And in addition to the upcoming exclusive interview I've got more terrific guests lined up in the coming weeks including Mark Tucker of the ThinkGenealogy Blog, and Irene Johnson of the Ancestors television series.  

Listen to the newest episode #79 which was recorded LIVE at the Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona

Would you be a Fool to buy Ancestry stock?

Just a few months after the world's leading subscription genealogy website (Nasdaq ACOM) went public, The Motley Fool bestowed a dreaded one star ranking on the stock.

The rating is developed from 145,000-plus investors participating in the Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free online investing community. 

For more on the rating and facts about the stock read the article 1-Star Stocks Poised to Plunge: in MSNBC's web site.

Monday, February 1, 2010

NBC Launches the Who Do You Think You Are? Official Website

The bare bones of the Who Do You Think You Are? web site has been up for several months, but tonight the official version came online for the highly anticipated new NBC television series. It looks like a work in progress, but worthy of bookmarking.  The series premieres on March 5, 2010.

Here's another trailer which I had an opportunity to view at Ancestry last month that can now be found on the NBC website.  Also, the companion book is now available on Amazon (clicking the ad below to access Amazon supports the free Genealogy Gems Podcast - thank you!)

Stay tuned to this blog, because I will be announcing some additional exciting news that you won't want to miss!