Monday, July 2, 2012

Please Update Your Address for this Blog

The Genealogy Gems News Blog is moving!

The new Genealogy Gems website is up and running and it's finally time to tape up the last boxes, I mean posts, and move this blog to its new home.

I've got lots more gems for you so be sure and update your Blog Reader, iGoogle Gadget, or whatever method you use to stay in touch with this blog.

Our new blog RSS feed is

Our new home address is: and there you'll find all the gems: the free podcasts, Premium Membership, the Genealogy Gems blog, store, videos and more.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you over at my new digs!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Jamboree Extension Webinar Series June 20 through December 2012

From SCGS press release:
The Southern California Genealogical Society announces the return of the popular Jamboree Extension Webinar Series, which provides web-based family history and genealogy educational sessions for genealogists around the world.

Jamboree Extension Series webinars are conducted the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month.  Saturday sessions will be held at 10am Pacific time / 1pm Eastern time. Wednesday sessions will be scheduled at 6pm Pacific time / 9pm Eastern time.  

Upcoming sessions for the last half of 2012 include:

Ugo Perego, PhD
Saturday, July 7 (morning/afternoon schedule)
Native American Ancestry: A DNA Standpoint
Many genealogists from the Americas wonder if they have Native American ancestry, but are often unable to confirm it based on genealogical records. DNA might provide such evidence.

Kerry Bartels
Wednesday, July 18 (evening schedule)
Neither Filmed or Scanned: NARA Treasurers Await
This session will discuss examples of original records with great genealogical value in the National Archives that exist only in their original format. Most of these records are rarely used by genealogists and some have never been used for genealogy. The discussion will also provide information about obtaining copies of the records.

George G. Morgan
Saturday, August 4 (morning/afternoon schedule)
The Genealogist as CSI
Modern genealogists are much like the crime scene investigators - CSIs - that we see on television. They must be skilled investigators. They must use all available tools to locate clues and evidence. And they must employ proven methodologies and their critical thinking skills to document and evaluate every type of resource they find. They must be able to communicate their findings. This seminar analogizes genealogists with CSIs and describes the genealogical research and evaluation process. It provides a methodological framework for all types of research.

Gena Philibert-Ortega
Wednesday, August 15 (evening schedule)
Women's Work
There's no doubt that tracing female ancestors can be difficult. We make a lot of assumptions about the lives of women, some of which may not be true. In this presentation we will look at the occupations, including volunteer work, women held in 19th century America and what records they left behind. Whether your ancestress was employed or not, the repositories and collections we discuss will help you research your female ancestor.

Denise Spurlock
Saturday, September 1 (morning/afternoon schedule)
Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker. Researching Your Ancestors' Occupations
Labor Day Special:  It's likely not all your ancestors were farmers.  This session will explore strategies for researching how your ancestors made a living: what they did, where, why, and for whom.

Janet Hovorka
Wednesday, September 19 (evening schedule)
Playground Rules for Genealogy on the Internet
The internet creates an exciting gathering place where we can find distant cousins and fast friends to help us research our family tree.  It's never too late to play by the rules and have fun. Be sure to follow these three basic safety rules and you'll have a great time.

Linda Woodward Geiger, CG
Saturday, October 6 (morning/afternoon schedule)
Hark! That Tombstone is Talking to Me!
You CAN get blood from a stone. Learn about wringing the tombstone dry and learning more about your ancestors.

Lisa A. Alzo
Wednesday, October 17 (evening schedule)
Family History Writing Made Easier: Cloud-based Tools Every Genealogist Can Use
Telling your family's story just got a whole lot easier thanks to a number of cloud-based note taking and writing tools and apps you can access from home, your netbook or iPad, and even your smartphone. Learn about the latest tech tools and writing apps for bringing your family's story to life!

D. Joshua "Josh" Taylor
Saturday, November 3 (morning/afternoon schedule)
Thanksgiving Special: Online Resources for Colonial America
Discover web sites, online databases, university projects, online archives, and other resources for researching your Colonial American ancestors online. Learn how to use Early American Imprints, JSTOR, and other resources.

Daniel Horowitz
Saturday, December 1 (morning/afternoon schedule)
Sharing and Preserving Memories in a Digital Era
Today you have a lot of options to store and share all your research material, including text, images, videos, documents or sound. Options start from the capture tools (audio recorders, cameras, cellular and scanners) and extend to sharing physical products (CD's, DVD's, portable disc, electronic photo frames) or the Internet, which is the perfect place to share and preserve all your memories. You have the option to publish your material from a completely private to a completely public way, and all the levels in between. You can ask for collaboration or simply display the information, people can only see or download a copy of your material; you can control every aspect. There are all kind of easy-to-use tools and resources that facilitates the work of setting up websites, blogs, wikis or any other way you decide to publish the information.

Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Wednesday, November 19 (evening schedule)
Jewish Genealogy 101
Learn the fundamentals of researching your Jewish ancestors. 

The live webcast is offered free of charge and open to the public. "We offer these webinars as part of our educational mission," said SCGS president Alice Fairhurst, "but are always grateful for contributions to offset our costs." Donations can be made through PayPal, online through the SCGS website or by check made out to SCGS and mailed to the address below. 

As a benefit of membership, SCGS members can review archived sessions at any time by accessing the SCGS members-only section of this website.  

To join a webinar, most participants attend via computer with audio speakers or a headset. Those with a fast Internet connection (either broadband or DSL) will have the most satisfactory experience. It is possible to phone in to listen to the presentation. Long-distance charges may apply. 

For more information contact:
Paula Hinkel (
Vice President
Southern California Genealogical Society

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Key to Unlocking Genealogy Brick Walls

A few weeks ago my youngest daughter Hannah came home for a few weeks break when the college term ended.  My husband and I, and Lacey and Hannah went out shopping on a Saturday afternoon, and when we go to the second store Hannah wasn’t feeling very well so she said she was just going to wait in the car. I handed her the car keys, and we all went inside to finish our final errand.

The following Monday I needed to run an errand.  I searched and searched for my car keys and couldn’t find them anywhere. I called Bill, I called Lacey, and I called Hannah. No one knew where they were. I scoured my car two separate times, but alas, they were nowhere to be found.

Finally I stopped, sat down, and tried to visualize the last time I had the keys.

I knew I had them when we went to the store on Saturday because I locked the front door when we left. Then I remembered that I had handed them to Hannah who had stayed in the car when we got to the second store. If she didn’t have them, (and she was adamant that she didn't) then they must be in the car. But of course I had already combed through the car twice and hadn’t found them so I wasn’t feeling very optimistic about a third search.

I headed for the garage for one last look anyway.  As I opened the front passenger door where I had been sitting and searched twice before, it dawned on me that I was looking from MY perspective, when in reality I last remember handing them to Hannah.  What if I looked for the keys from Hannah’s perspective?

I closed the car door, and opened the back door on the side where she had been sitting.  I climbed inside, and looked around. Nothing. Then I leaned forward as if I were taking the keys from the person in the front seat and there they were wedged between the center console and the back side of seat in front of me! There was no way I could have seen the keys except from that position.

And like most things do, this got me thinking about genealogy.  

If we only approach our research from our perspective, we miss countless gems along the way.  

Have you climbed in the backseat lately?  Have you visualized your research questions from your ancestors perspective? Have you learned more about the places and times in which they lived? How could their perspective help you see what is wedged between the cracks of your brick walls?

MyHeritage Hits One Billion Profiles

From MyHeritage press release: 
PROVO, Utah & LONDON & TEL AVIV, Israel : MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web, announced that it has reached the milestone of one billion profiles. The billion individuals in nearly 23 million family trees, created by the millions of families using MyHeritage worldwide, constitute a gigantic network for discovering family heritage and connecting to relatives.
With more than 63 million registered users, MyHeritage has become a trusted home on the web for families wishing to explore their family history, share memories and stay connected. Combining the world’s largest international pool of family tree data with billions of historical records, MyHeritage helps break through brick walls in family history research. The site is available in 38 languages.
Approximately one million profiles are added every day to the MyHeritage network, and on average 600 thousand new registered users join every month. A sophisticated technology called Smart Matching™ fuels new family discoveries by matching profiles in different family trees, creating new family connections every day for users.
“Reaching one billion profiles is an important milestone in the prolific growth of MyHeritage, solidifying our position as the international go-to destination for families,” said Founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet. “We constantly strive to develop cutting-edge technologies that create a network effect within this big data resource. As more content is uploaded to MyHeritage by our users around the world, they discover more family connections and relevant historical documents, adding color and depth to their family history. With a billion profiles and some exciting new innovations in store, we look forward to continuing our phenomenal growth in the coming years.”
Approximately half of the billion family tree profiles on MyHeritage are living people, enabling users to connect to relatives, collaborate on family history research and share memories. The other half billion profiles who are deceased help connect the living through shared ancestors. With a diverse user base, spanning every country and continent, MyHeritage represents a gateway to a massive variety of family histories from different cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds.
The company’s expansion into historical content, following its acquisition of family history sites WorldVitalRecords and FamilyLink in November 2011 and its April 2012 announcement to provide the 1940 U.S. Census free of charge, has turned MyHeritage into a leading site for family history research, whilst continuing in parallel its focus on current-day family engagement. The MyHeritage mobile app, launched in December 2011, enables families to share special everyday moments and explore their family history all-on-the-go, and has amassed more than 750 thousand installations already.
Below watch this YouTube video of MyHeritage celebrating their One Billion Profiles moment:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

National Archives at San Francisco Opens Immigration Files and Dedicates Tom Lantos Research Center

From National Archives Press Release:
San Bruno, CA… The National Archives at San Francisco has officially opened to the public over 40,000 case files on immigrants to the United States, and dedicated its research room to the late U.S. Representative Tom Lantos who was a leading force in having these files re-designated as records of permanent historical value.
These immigration files, known as “Alien Files” (commonly referred to as “A-Files”), were transferred from U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  They are among the first of millions of case files that will eventually be opened to the public.
In 1940 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the predecessor of USCIS, started issuing Alien Registration Numbers to resident aliens in the United States.  On April 1, 1944, INS began to assign these numbers to a new series of immigration case files called A-Files. A-Files are a genealogical wealth of information, containing documents such as photographs, personal correspondence, vital records, interview transcripts, and visa applications.
 “The A-Files are a unique resource for family historians, especially the descendants of 20th century immigrants,” said Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero. “These records are rich with personal information that will illuminate the journeys of our ancestors – including my own family – and their paths to citizenship.”
A-Files are eligible for transfer to the National Archives 100 years after the birth of the subject of a file. These transfers to the National Archives ensure that these records will be saved in perpetuity and made available to the public for research.
The holdings of the National Archives at San Francisco will include many case files created at USCIS District Offices in San Francisco, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and Agana, Guam, American Samoa and the American Territories.  The National Archives at Kansas City will maintain A-Files for all other INS District Offices nationwide.
A-Files may be viewed in person by appointment or copies may be ordered for a fee.  Researchers may contact National Archives staff at to search A-Files holdings for a particular file.  Beginning Tuesday, May 29, an online database will be available through the National Archives at San Francisco website at
The National Archives and Records Administration is an independent Federal agency that preserves and shares with the public records that trace the story of our nation, government, and the American people. From the Declaration of Independence to accounts of ordinary Americans, the holdings of the National Archives directly touch the lives of millions of people. The National Archives is a public trust upon which our democracy depends, ensuring access to essential evidence that protects the rights of American citizens, documents the actions of the government, and reveals the evolving national experience. The National Archives carries out its mission through a nationwide network of archives, records centers, and Presidential Libraries, and on the Internet at
The National Archives at San Francisco is one of 22 facilities nationwide where the public can access Federal archival records in person.  Its holdings total over 60,000 cubic feet of historical records dating from the 1850s to the 1990s, created by more than 100 Federal agencies and courts in northern and central California, Nevada (except for Clark County), Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa and the American Territories. The facility is located at 1000 Commodore Drive, San Bruno, CA 94066.  The National Archives at San Francisco is open Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.)  Appointments are strongly encouraged.

1940 U.S. Census Community Project Makes Records for 18 States Searchable by Name


 From FamilySearch Press Release:


More than Half of the 1940 U.S. Census Records Indexed in Just Two Months Thanks to Thousands of Volunteers Across the U.S.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (June 7, 2012)The 1940 U.S. Census Community Project announced today that its searchable index of 1940 U.S. census records has reached – and surpassed – the halfway mark toward completion. Thanks to the efforts of more than 125,000 volunteers, more than 75 million names from the 1940 U.S. census have been indexed with 18 state records already available to the public on all Project partner websites, including the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA),, and The records will also be made available in more than 7,000 public libraries nationwide in the coming months by ProQuest. The national service project, the first and largest of its kind, aims to establish a comprehensive searchable database and make the 1940 U.S. census records available for free.
Following just two months of volunteer indexing, records for the following 18 U.S. states are currently available and searchable by name, location and family relation:
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wyoming
“We believe that all people deserve free access to the 1940 U.S. census records so they can learn more about their family history, ancestors and the past. With the help of the Community Project partners, and especially volunteer indexers across the nation, we’re halfway to our goal,” said Megan Smolenyak, spokesperson for the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. “We didn’t expect to make this much progress only two months after the 1940 census records were released, so we’re excited and thankful to all of the enthusiastic volunteers.”
Since April 2, Community Project volunteers have indexed more than 75 million records and this number continues to grow quickly as more than 7,000 volunteers sign up each week. The timely progression of making the census records freely searchable online is a direct result of the growing numbers of volunteers. Those interested in lending a hand can learn more and sign up to be an official 1940 U.S. census volunteer indexer at the 1940 census website ( The project will release free searchable records for individual states as they are completed. 
The 1940 U.S. Census Community Project is a joint initiative between the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA),,,, ProQuest and other leading genealogy organizations. Thanks to advancements in technology, online volunteers worldwide can lend a voice to countless untold stories of their ancestors living, working and persevering as the “Greatest Generation.”
“Volunteer indexers have the unique opportunity to step into the past and read through hand-written records captured by census enumerators as they walked from house to house,” said Joshua Taylor, spokesperson for the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project. “Through indexing, volunteers are essentially reliving history and helping provide others with the access they need to gain greater insights into the life and times of their own ancestors more than 72 years ago.” 
To learn more about the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project, track real-time progress of volunteer indexing efforts or become a volunteer, visit   
About the 1940 U.S. Census Community Project
The 1940 U.S. Census Community Project is a web-based, national service project with the goal of creating as soon as possible a free, high quality online index linked to the complete set of census images. The index will allow the public to easily search every person found in the census and view digital images of the original census pages. The collection will be available online for free to the general public at, , through public libraries. All of these organizations are respective website sponsors of the community project.,, and ProQuest will make substantial financial contributions to make the 1940 U.S. census online name index possible and will work with the nonprofit organization FamilySearch to bring additional new historic records collections online—making even more highly valued family history resources available to the entire genealogical community.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Nerd Alert! Genealogy is Getting Remixed into new TV Series

What could be better than a "nerd" from the fab British Comedy The IT Crowd and genealogy mixed together?  Television Blend is reporting that Christopher Guest (The Princess Bride, Spinal Tap, etc.) is collaborating with Jim Piddock on a new series called Family Tree.  They've brilliantly tapped actor Chris O'Dowd, IT Crowd's lanky nerd Roy, and most recently the love interest in the hit movie Bridesmaids, to play the lead.

According to an article published in the Vulture, "for Family Tree, described as 'an improvised genealogy comedy,' the comedy actor will play a man in search of his real family."

It appears that writer-director Guest boasts a family tree that leads back to British Royalty, which seems like a background ripe for story lines for a new series.  We can only hope that family history will play a role beyond the title.

If Netflix failed to suggest the IT Crowd to you, chances are you don't watch The Office much. But computer geeks and techno-phobes alike will roar at the four available seasons (Americans must translate the British term "season" into extended but brief vacation").  O'Dowd holds his own against Richard Ayoade who steals nearly every scene with his socially awkward Maurice Moss character. This is one series I never tire of watching!  (Already a fan? Have you checked out the free "IT Sound Board" app for iPhone???)

Stay tuned to this blog and the Genealogy Gems Podcast for updates on the new series.