Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ellis Island Just Expanded It's Family History Reach

For many Americans, Ellis Island is synonymous with the immigration experience. And yet it didn't open until 1892 which means that if your ancestors arrived earlier, you may have felt like a visit to Ellis Island wouldn't apply to your family history research. All that is changing with the opening of the first phase of the Peopling of America Center.  Here's the scoop:

New York, NY (October 28, 2011) – Today, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and the National Park Service opened the first phase of the Peopling of America® Center, a major expansion of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which will explore arrivals before the Ellis Island Era. This 10,000 square foot experience focuses on the history of immigration from the Colonial Era  to the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. Interpretative graphics and poignant audio stories tell first-hand accounts of the immigrant’s journey—from making the trip and arriving in the United States to their struggle and survival after they arrived and efforts to build communities and ultimately a nation.

“Until now, our exhibits have centered on the years when Ellis Island was open,” said Stephen A. Briganti, the Foundation’s President and CEO. “Of course the history of migration to America goes back to our nation’s beginnings right up to today, so there were many people whose stories weren’t told. The Peopling of America® Center will fill an enormous gap in America’s understanding of its past, present, and future.”

Also unveiled today was the American Flag of Faces™, a large interactive video installation filled with a montage of images submitted by individuals of their families, their ancestors, or even themselves which illustrates the ever-changing American mosaic.  A living exhibit, Flag of Faces accepts photo submissions and can also be viewed at

The Center’s second phase, which will open in Spring 2013, will present a series of interactive multi-media exhibits that focus on the immigration experience from the closing of Ellis Island in 1954 to the present day, including a dynamic radiant globe that illustrates migration patterns throughout human history.  The Peopling of America® Center was designed by ESI Design and fabricated by Hadley Exhibits, Inc. For more information, visit

Here's an amateur video from YouTube providing a glimpse of the new exhibit...

A Change You Need to Know About in Google Search for Family History

When it comes to researching online, the only thing that is constant is change!  Just when you get all the search operators committed to memory Google goes and changes things. 
Not long ago I noticed that the Boolean operator NOT no longer seemed to be returning the expected results.  However, the minus sign can be used to remove unwanted words from your search results.  (Example: LINCOLN -ABRAHAM results in web pages that include the name Lincoln but NOT the name Abraham.)

The latest change is that the plus sign (+) no longer functions as a search operator that ensures a keyword is included in all search results. Now if you want to ensure a keyword is included, the keyword must be encased in quotations marks. For example:  LINCOLN -ABRAHAM "OHIO"
Interestingly Google has been fairly silent on the change.  Some in the Tech community suspect the move is in response to their growing focus on Google+ and the possibility of a new use for the "plus" sign.  Stay tuned!

Get Lisa's Book for everything you need to know about using 
Google Tools for climbing your family tree.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meet the Author of a Riveting Family History Tale in the Newest Episode of The Genealogy Gems Podcast

Recently I got an email from Jay in New York :

“I have been catching up with all of your family history podcasts. Over the years I have collected a wealth of information on the family. Some good, some not-so-good, some out in-the-open, some hidden.

How do you deal with revealing "forgotten" items about family members to other family members? I had an uncle who had a marriage at a very young age, and would like to have forgotten about it. My mother told me about it. I put it on the tree. While showing off the fruits of my labor to his family this "forgotten" marriage was revealed with not happy responses.

The things we find in our tree may not always be "good", How does a person deal with that? and revealing it to others?”

This is a great question! And in the newest Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #120 I have some answers for you.

Secrets, small and large can be found in many families.  Skeletons in the closet are often secrets closely guarded by family members.

It’s a tricky business navigating your way through the shakier branches of the family tree, so I’ve invited a special guest to join me on the show who has done an incredible job of climbing those branches in his own family.

Steve Luxenberg is a Washington Post associate editor and award-winning author. In his 25 years at The Post, he has headed the newspaper’s investigative staff and its Sunday section of commentary and opinion.  Steve is going to join me for the full episode to talk about investigating and dealing with family secrets as he did in  his book Annie’s Ghosts.  It’s a riveting tale that kept me feverishly tapping the “Next Page” key on my kindle. 

Annie’s Ghosts is about a family secret that Steve stumbled upon in the late 1990s.  His mother, who had always claimed to be an only child, had a sister, Annie.  And while that was a big surprise all by itself, it was just the beginning of a series of secrets and revelations that Steve unearthed by tapping into his long career as an investigative journalist, and employing newly found genealogy techniques and strategies. 

In this interview we talk about being aware of what’s missing in records and stories, rather than just focusing on what is on the page.  For those of you who are Premium Members this discussion is a great follow up to Premium Episode #77 where we talked about being more keenly aware during our research.

Steve’s also going to share he thoughts on storytelling, which he truly masters in this book. 

And then we get into some of the genealogical techniques he used: how to avoid tainting memories in Interviews, and how to balance the give and take as well as win trust with the person you are interviewing.  

And speaking of trust, Steve describes how he was able to be incredibly successful in obtaining sensitive documents and getting cooperation from various government agencies and other repositories.

He’s also going to tell us about a little known legal maneuver that he made that really made the difference for him in obtaining some of the most closely held documents and how you can use it too!

And finally he’ll share his personal feelings about what it was like to get a add a new member to his family, his long lost Aunt Annie.


Quotes from Annie’s Ghosts:

“What I didn’t expect, as the week wore on, was that the family would expand to take in a new member.  But that’s what happened.  As people dipped in and out of the records, as the debates flew about what we knew and what we didn’t and whether we should be digging around in the past, Annie gradually became a part of the family consciousness.  She was no longer just a name on a hospital record.  She was no longer just a secret.”

“I stopped thinking like a son and started thinking like a journalist.”

“I offer to send her the letters; it’s an unexpected present for her, and I’m glad to be able to make the offer, because it allows me to give as well as take, something reporters can’t often do. It’s also a good way to win trust.” 

“I want to make sure that if she knows about Annie, she tells me before I tell her, so that I capture her spontaneous memory first.”