Friday, December 23, 2011

Early-Bird Deadline Approaching for APG Professional Management Conference

WESTMINSTER, Colo., December 13, 2011− The early-bird registration deadline is rapidly approaching for the upcoming APG Professional Management Conference (PMC). The one-day conference will be held February 1, 2011 at the Radisson Hotel, Salt Lake City. Members who sign up before December 31, 2011 will receive $25 off of the registration fee. The conference is also open to non-members. PMC is being held one day before the RootsTech Family History & Technology Conference (

The conference, themed “Techniques, Tools, and Technology,” will feature lectures from top genealogists, including J. Mark Lowe, CG, FUGA; Paula Stuart-Warren, CG; Thomas MacEntee; Teresa Koch-Bostic; Melissa A. Johnson; Laura G. Prescott; Kory L. Meyerink, AG; and Diane L. Giannini, CG. Lectures will provide strategic and practical advice for genealogists, from research planning to earning a living.

The conference is open to professionals, aspiring professionals, and anyone interested in networking with professional genealogists. Lecture topics and registration details at

About APG:

The Association of Professional Genealogists (, established in 1979, represents more than 2,400 genealogists, librarians, writers, editors, historians, instructors, booksellers, publishers and others involved in genealogy-related businesses. APG encourages genealogical excellence, ethical practice, mentoring and education. The organization also supports the preservation and accessibility of records useful to the fields of genealogy and history. Its members represent all fifty states, Canada and thirty other countries. APG is active on LinkedIn, Twitter ( and FaceBook (

Monday, December 19, 2011

2012 Free Jamboree Extension Webinar Series Announced for Genealogy

The Southern California Genealogical Society just announced the return of the popular Jamboree Extension Webinar Series, which provides web-based family history and genealogy educational sessions for genealogists around the world.
I am excited to once again be one of the speakers for the 2012 Series.  It's a jam packed schedule with lots of names you'll recognize. 

Join me on Saturday April 7, 2012 at 10:00 am PST / 1:00 pm EST for Turn iGoogle into Your Personal Genealogy Research Homepage.  Space is limited for this free webinar.  REGISTER HERE
Here's the rest of the scoop from the Southern California Genealogical Society:
"Sessions are held on the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month.  The first 2012 webinar on Saturday, January 7, 2012, will be led by Linda Geiger, CG, CGL. Linda's presentation is "Me and My Laptop: Getting the Most out of your Laptop while Researching Onsite."  Linda will share tips for making onsite research more efficient and productive using DropBox (or similar cloud) in conjunction with spreadsheets, word processing programs, genealogy software, and more.

The Southern California Genealogical Society (SCGS) launched its Jamboree Extension Series (JES) webinars in March 2011. SCGS was the first genealogical society to offer regularly scheduled webinar sessions. The series was developed to fulfill the Society's mission "to foster interest in family history and genealogy, preserve genealogical materials, and provide instruction in accepted and effective research techniques."  

Webinars help extend awareness of SCGS and Jamboree around the world. In 2011, the webinar series reached genealogists from 48 US states and 7 Canadian provinces, as well as England, Wales, Ireland, France, United Kingdom, Algeria, Uganda, Australia, New Zealand and Israel.  

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 Heidi Ziegler, "but are always grateful for contributions to offset our costs." Donations can be made by PayPal, through the SCGS website or by check. 

SCGS members are able to 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. 

Jamboree Extension Series presentations will be scheduled on 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.

Full details and registration information for each session can be found on the SCGS website at"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Solve a Family History Challege and Win $5,000!

Here's an exciting opportunity from FamilySearch:

Have you recently been doing something family or genealogy-related and thought, "There should be an app for that!"? Now is your chance. Solving that problem and entering the RootsTech 2012 Developer Challenge could earn you $5,000.

Tens of millions of people around the world are interested in some facet of family history. These people need software solutions—whether on the desktop, online, or through mobile delivery—that help them engage and succeed in their efforts to discover, preserve, and share their family history.  RootsTech will reward developers who introduce the most innovative new concepts to family history with $10,000 in cash rewards and increased visibility. 
Visit the Developer Challenge page on to find out more about rules, prizes and deadlines.  Developers wishing to enter the challenge must register by January 1, 2012 but actual submissions are not due until January 15.  Spread the word and register today!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Update for Those Seeking Family History Documents

Back in 2000 I learned of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and used it to obtain my great grandfather's naturalization file. I was so excited at the amount of material I received (including a never before seen photo of Gustav Sporowski) that I told the director of my local Family History Center about it.  She wasn't aware of the FOIA and it's application to genealogical records and was keen to make a copy of the cover letter to share with other patrons.  She handed the letter back to me and with a smile said "that's a real genealogy gem!" and she proceeded to pin it on the center's bulletin board. 
I remember standing there and thinking, 'it really is a genealogy gem, but there's got to be a better way to tell other genealogists about it so they can benefit.' And so the seed was sown for the future Genealogy Gems Podcast - even though podcasts didn't yet exist!
Over the years genealogists FOIA experiences have varied greatly.  I've heard everything from stories of joy and excitement at the receiving of a document package like mine, to the doom and gloom and frustration of interaction with the federal government bureaucracy that ultimately lead nowhere.
On November 28, 2011 the National Archives Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) - the federal Freedom of Information Act 9FOIA) Ombudsman - launched a new online case management system intended to manage the requests for assistance that FOIA requesters and agencies bring to OGIS. The goal is that the tool will both streamline OGIS's work and increase transparency of its operations.  Here's the scoop from the recently released National Archives press release:
Washington, D.C. . . More than 1,200 FOIA requesters from 48 states and 13 foreign countries turned to OGIS for assistance in its first two years as FOIA Ombudsman. The service that OGIS provides ranges from checking the status of delayed FOIA requests to facilitating resolutions of disputes involving complex database requests. While OGIS has successfully resolved hundreds of cases, the Office recognizes the need for greater collaboration with agencies and a more systematic way of collecting information about its work. The OAS – which is supported by and integrated into a re-launched and expanded OGIS website – will help the Office achieve these goals.
“OGIS was created to resolve disputes between FOIA requesters and federal agencies,” said OGIS Director Miriam Nisbet.  “As we began our work, we realized that we needed an increased web presence to both manage our cases and educate requesters about the FOIA process. Our new OGIS Access System will help us achieve these goals.”
OAS is among the first generation of federal government online services operating in “the cloud.” This approach allows OGIS to launch a number of scalable online services, including:
·         A searchable library of FOIA terms and concepts
·         An online submission process for those requesting OGIS’s assistance;
·         The ability to review the status of a case with OGIS and communicate directly with OGIS staff; and
·         The capability to engage with the public on ways to improve FOIA, which also is within the OGIS mission.
OGIS selected Active Network, Inc as the provider of the OAS integrated software endeavor. The Active Network, Inc. is a leading provider of organization-based cloud computing applications.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New RootsMagic 5 Software Released

You've heard many speak many times about RootsMagic on the Genealogy Gems Podcast.  They've been a terrific sponsor of the show, and I'm very excited to share their big news with you.  They've just released RootsMagic 5 and here's the scoop:

SPRINGVILLE, Utah. — November 28, 2011 — RootsMagic, Inc. today announced the official release of RootsMagic 5, the latest version of the award-winning genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history easy and enjoyable.  With this release comes an update to the popular “RootsMagic Essentials” free genealogy software.

Family History Made Easy
A July 2009 review of RootsMagic 4 by Family Tree Magazine said, “Probably the best all-around genealogy program, RootsMagic offers a winning combination of features for both casual and serious genealogists.”

Throughout it’s 10-year history, RootsMagic has helped people research and share their family trees with innovative features such as moving people from one file to another with your mouse, a SourceWizard to help you document your work, creating a Shareable CD to give to family and friends, and running RootsMagic off of a USB flash drive when you are away from home.  RootsMagic also received the award for “Easiest to Sync” from FamilySearch for their work in interfacing with that system.

New Features
RootsMagic 5 adds many new features while making existing features even easier to use.  “This release includes something for everybody,” said Bruce Buzbee, president.  “Whether you’re a grandma wanting to share your family history with grandkids or a professional researcher trying to organize your work, RootsMagic 5 has something new for you.” 

New features include:

* Timeline View - put a person’s life in context with events from their own life and from the lives of family members.
* CountyCheck - confirm and correct the existence of a county, state, or country on any given date from a multi-national database.  It can even show you online maps of county boundaries for that date.

* Research Manager - avoid “reinventing the wheel” by keeping track of research goals, sources, and results that you have collected on a person, family, or place

* “On This Day” List - bring your family history to life and view family events along with famous births, deaths, and historical events for any given day of the year.

* Media Tagging - tag your media with people, families, sources, or places.  For example, tag an image of a census record with the people, families, and places mentioned in the record as well as the census’ source citation.

* Plus over 80 other enhancements and features

Free “RootsMagic Essentials”
RootsMagic 5 is also available in an updated, free edition named, “RootsMagic 5 Essentials”.  RootsMagic Essentials contains many core features from the RootsMagic software and the two products are fully-compatible with one another.  “Many people are curious about their family history and don’t know where to begin,” said Michael Booth, vice president.  “RootsMagic Essentials is the perfect way for someone to get started, risk-free.”  RootsMagic Essentials is available for download at

Available Now
RootsMagic 5 is now available online at or by calling 1-800-766-8762.  New users may purchase RootsMagic 5 for only $29.95.  Users of previous versions of RootsMagic and it’s predecessor, Family Origins may purchase RootsMagic 5 for the upgrade price of only $19.95.
About RootsMagic, Inc.

For over 20 years, RootsMagic, Inc. has been creating computer software with a special purpose- to unite families. One of our earliest products- the popular “Family Origins” software, introduced thousands of people to the joy and excitement of family history.

That tradition continues today with “RootsMagic”, our award-winning genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing your family history fun and easy. “Personal Historian” will help you easily write and preserve your life stories. “Family Reunion Organizer” takes the headaches out of planning those important get-togethers. And “Family Atlas” creates beautiful and educational geographic maps of your family history.

For more information, visit
Source: RootsMagic, Inc.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Contest Winner of the RootsTech Registration

Lots of Genealogy Gems Podcast listeners combed through the Genealogy Gems You Tube channel for the answers to the contest questions and a winner has been selected from all of the correct entries.  Congratulations to lucky winner Carol Genung who answered the following questions correctly:

1. Which "non-genealogist" did I interview at RootsTech last year about Family History Mobile Strategies?
Answer: Ty Hatch

2. Which popular genealogy blogger did I interview at RootsTech last year about the new "FamilyTech" Family Search Website?
Answer: James Tanner

3. Which well-known and energetic genealogy expert did I interview about Family History for Kids?
Answer:  Tony Burroughs

Carol has not only won a free registration (retail value $189) to the RootsTech Family History & Technology Conference being held February 2 - 4, 2012 in Salt Lake City, UT, but she will also be invited to join me for a chat at RootsTech about her experience for an upcoming video on the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel!

And the good news for everyone else is that the Early Bird Registration price of $129 is still available until Nov. 30, 2012. Investing in your on-going education is critical to genealogical success and RootsTech offers a rich experience. I'll be there teaching three classes and I hope to see you there too!

Many thanks to the RootsTech folks for providing the registration prize. See you at RootsTech!

Monday, November 21, 2011

MyHeritage Acquires Genealogy Sites and

MyHeritage has made a big move in an effort to significantly enter the U.S. Genealogy Market by acquiring long standing family history websites and MyHeritage is one of the most popular family networks globally on the web  providing a place for millions of families to have a private and free place for their families to keep in touch and to showcase their roots. They offer a feature called Smart Matching™ technology which allows users an innovative way to find relatives and explore their family history. They boast a secure site for the storage of family photos, and history preservation. The company is backed by Accel Partners and Index Ventures, the investors of Facebook and Skype, and now with this most recent acquisition they add a tremendous amount of genealogical content - 3 billion + historical records -  to their offerings. 

This is MyHeritage's seventh and largest acquisition since 2007. With offices and staff in Europe, Australia and Israel, MyHeritage will also now be adding its first US-based office in Utah, the home of and often cited as the family history capital of the world.

MyHeritage CEO and Founder Gilad Japhet characterizes the move this way, “Combining close to one billion family tree profiles on MyHeritage with FamilyLink's massive library of historical data delivers a perfect one-stop-shop for families looking to discover and share their family history".

Founded in 2006, both and are subscription services to a huge database of several billion individuals within census, birth, marriage and death records, as well as the web’s largest archive of historical newspapers. When brought together under the MyHeritage umbrella, the company’s Smart Matching technology will automatically match any of the new historical data to the relevant users' ancestors and relatives within the family trees.

It's clear that the genealogy market is still very much up for grabs, even though on the surface it can often appear that Ancestry and FamilySearch are the only major players.  With on the move, and this latest in a series of strategic purchases by MyHeritage since 2007 genealogists stand to gain from a competitive marketplace.  MyHeritage's recent purchases include Pearl Street Software, makers of and the Family Tree Legends software; free family tree backup service; European family social network market leader OSN (Verwandt) GmbH; Dutch family network ZOOOF; British family network and Polish family network

According to their recent press release, "the majority of the employees will join MyHeritage, based out of the company’s new US office in Provo, Utah: bringing the benefit of their collective expertise within the family history and North American genealogy market. The CEO of, Paul Brockbank, previously CEO of Logoworks and GM of Hewlett Packard Web Print Solutions, will play a key role in supporting the transition over the coming months and will later join the MyHeritage advisory board. founder Paul Allen, previously a co-founder of, and's "We're Related" Facebook application, will not be part of the merger with MyHeritage."

What does the acquisition mean for customers? In the short-term, MyHeritage will continue to operate the two sites and, with the intention of achieving full integration within MyHeritage in 2012. "With immediate effect and for an introductory period, loyal subscribers and users of MyHeritage will be entitled to discounts of up to 50% on and subscriptions, and vice versa."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hurry For Your Chance to Win a Free Registration to RootsTech 2012 AND be a Video Star!

RootsTech made a big splash last year when it hit the U.S. genealogy stage and the 2012 conference is shaping up to be another exciting weekend of family history and technology!

As an official RootsTech blogger I'm very pleased to announce that one of my lucky readers will win a FREE registration to RootsTech 2012.  The lucky winner will also be invited to join me for a chat about their experience for an upcoming video on the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel!

Entering to win is fun and easy! Here's what you do:

STEP 1: Go to the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel and answer the following three questions:

  1. Which "non-genealogist" did I interview at RootsTech last year about Family History Mobile Strategies?
  2. Which popular genealogy blogger did I interview at RootsTech last year about the new "FamilyTech" Family Search Website?
  3. Which well-known and energetic genealogy expert did I interview about Family History for Kids?

STEP 2: Email your name, email address, phone number and answers to me at (with "CONTEST" in the subject line) by 11:59 PST on Wed. November 23, 2011.  

STEP 3: Visit this blog  to find out if you are the winner. I will draw the winner from the pool of correct entries on Thanksgiving Day (11/24/11) and one lucky person will have an extra reason to give genealogy thanks this year!  Good Luck Everyone!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Brimhall Succeeds Verkler as CEO at Genealogy Powerhouse FamilySearch

With RootsTech just about 12 weeks away, FamilySearch has announced a significant change in its executive management. Jay L. Verkler has been succeeded by Dennis C. Brimhall as CEO of FamilySearch.

Verkler was the driving force behind the launch of RootsTech, and I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with him about his vision and the reality of the event in 2011.

Here are the details announced today by FamilySearch in their press release:

"FamilySearch International announced today a change in its chief executive officer. Effective January 2, 2012, Dennis C. Brimhall will succeed Jay L. Verkler as CEO of FamilySearch.  Mr. Verkler will continue in a consulting capacity for a few months to ensure a smooth transition.

It is the business culture and practice of FamilySearch, as an organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to regularly rotate its senior leaders. This pattern assures the forward momentum of its core programs.

Over the the past decade under Mr. Verkler's leadership, FamilySearch has shifted its vast stores of genealogical records and resources to a digital, worldwide, internet-based focus. FamilySearch has developed partnerships with many genealogy and technology industry organizations, helping form a broad and deep industry community including companies, societies, and archives."

"Mr. Brimhall comes to FamilySearch with a deep background in management. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Northwester University's Kellogg School of Management. He recently served for 17 years as president and CEO of the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver from 1988 until 2005. Since then Mr. Brimhall has held positions of increasing responsibility in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

"FamilySearch looks forward to further strengthening its commitment to the global genealogical community, to publishing and digitizing the world's records, and encouraging all people to discover, preserve, and share their family histories."

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Google's Plus Sign Now Has New Meaning

On October 27 I reported on this blog that Google quietly eliminated the use of the plus sign operator in Google Search. (A Change You Need to Know About

The technology community suspected that "the move was in response to their growing focus on Google+ and the possibility of a new use for the "plus" sign." I encouraged you to stay tuned.

You didn't have to wait long to find out why the change was made.  Yesterday Google announced on the Official Google Blog a use for that plus sign: Direct Connect from Google Search.

Direct Connect from Google Search
It's no surprise that the plus sign's new role has something to do with connecting users to Google+, the (fairly) new social networking platform. The + sign is now all about quickly connecting you directly to business Google+ Pages.

Many have wondered why Google+ didn't allow for business and organization profiles since that is a big part of the Facebook offering.  It appears now that the delay was in order to re-purpose the plus sign.

Google explained it this way: "Maybe you're watching a movie trailer, or you just heard that your favorite band is coming to town.  In both cases you want to connect with them right now, and Direct Connect makes it easy - even automatic.  Just go to Google and search for [+], followed by the page you're interested in (like +Angry Birds). We'll take you to their Google+ page, and if you want, we'll add them to your circles."

So the plus sign can now get us connected to Angry Birds, quicker?  Whoo hoo?! Gosh, I was perfectly happy with the way the plus sign got me to web pages that shared information about my ancestor (+Jehu Burkhart I miss you!)

Direct Connect is up and running for a couple of the big boy brands like +Google, +Pepsi, and +Toyota, so you can try those searches to see how they work.  Eventually the rest of the world will be allowed in and you can learn more about how Direct Connect for your organization in the Google Help Center. 

So remember, if you want to connect with Pepsi you can plus. But, if you're looking for a specific ancestor, word, or phrase you need to surround them in quotation marksAnd you can quote me on that!

Flip-Pal Portable Scanner Gets 2 Thumbs Up

As a busy mom and now grandma, I know how hard it is to find precious time for family history. That's why the focus of Genealogy Gems has always been to find the BEST resources available!

After personally evaluating and using the Flip Pal portable scanner, I can whole heartily recommend it. Here's what I love about it:
  1. Very lightweight
  2. Super easy to use - no heavy manual reading necessary!
  3. Flexible scanning options
  4. Love the built in image viewer!
I give Flip Pal 2 thumbs up! And I'm happy to announce that Genealogy Gems is now an affiliate of Flip-Pal which means that if you decide to pick up one of these little gems yourself and you do so clicking one of the links on our website, the purchase will also help financially support the free podcast. Now you can get a fantastic tool and help keep the free Genealogy Gems Podcast coming at the same time.

Enter Coupon Code BDAY11A for 10% off until Nov. 13, 2011*
At the recent Colorado Family History Expo I met with the Flip-Pal folks to learn even more about this portable little powerhouse, and they asked me to sit down for an interview:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

See You At The Georgia Family History Expo Nov. 11 & 12

It's hard to believe that it is already November, and that means I'll be attending the last genealogy conference of 2011.  The Georgia Family History Expo will be held November 11 & 12, 2011 in Duluth Georgia at the Gwinnett Center.

This is my first time attending this particular expo, and it promises to be an exciting one.  I'll be presenting three classes:

  • Google Earth for Genealogy
  • Ultimate Google Search Strategies
  • How to Create Awesome Family History Tours with Google Earth

When I'm not in class you will find me at my booth in the exhibit hall (booth #2) and my daughter (my right-arm) Vienna will be with me. We'll be answering your questions and I'll be signing copies of my book The Genealogist's Google Toolbox.

Expos offer a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for soaking up family history and checking out the latest products and resources. I can't think of a better way to spend the day!

You can register online here.

Gwinnett Center
6400 Sugarloaf Parkway
Duluth, Georgia – 30097

Visit with Exhibitors from Across the United States: - Salt Lake City, Utah (Sponsor)
Georgia Genealogical Society – Atlanta, Georgia (Sponsor)
Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society – Metro Atlanta Chapter (Sponsor) — Los Angeles, California (Sponsor)
Genealogy Gems Podcast – San Ramon, California
Family Roots Publishing – Bountiful, Utah
Stories To Tell – Redding, California
AGES-online — Lenexa, Kansas
Family Tree DNA – Houston, Texas
Wolf's Head Books – St. Augustine, Florida – Huntersville, North Carolina
Genealogy Book Printing — Glenville, Georgia 
Creative Continuum — Anaheim, California
Gene Tree — Salt Lake City, Utah
Creative Memories — Stone Mountain, Georgia
The Genealogical Institute — Tremonton, Utah
And more

Hear from Nationally Recognized Speakers:
Lisa Louise Cooke – California
DearMYRTLE – Utah/Virginia
Arlene H. Eakle, Ph.D. - Utah
Thomas Jay Kemp – Connecticut
Robert Scott Davis – Alabama
M. Bridget Cook – Utah
Ann Mohr Osisek – Florida
Anita R. Paul – Georgia
Seema-Jayne Kenney – Massachusetts 
Ken Aubuchon – Kansas  
Joleen Aitchison – Missouri
And more

All the details are available online here

Over at his Genealogy Blog Leland Meitzler is reporting that The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah will be offering free book scanning services at this years expo:
"Benefits of scanning your book:
  • Share it with others easily and inexpensively
  • Have a copy of your book preserved by FamilySearch
  • Provide access to others who may share your ancestral lines by making the book available free of charge on
How it works:
  • Sign-up and reserve your time for your book to be scanned (300 page limit)
  • If your book is copyrighted, print out and have the copyright holder sign the permission form in order for scanning to be performed
  • Bring your book and signed permission form to the FamilySearch Scanning booth at the Expo on day of your reservation. Please drop the book off before 10:00 am, if possible, to allow maximum time for scanning
  • Pick up your book and the digital copy on a flash drive provided by FamilySearch at the end of the day
Sign up online to reserve a day for your book to be scanned:
Friday —
Saturday —"

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.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Much Anticipated Personal Historian 2 Software Released

I'm proud that RootsMagic sponsors the Genealogy Gems Podcast because they consistently deliver such high quality products.  And this week, they have announced the latest version of Personal and Family History Writing Software.  Here's the scoop:

SPRINGVILLE, Utah. — September 28, 2011 — RootsMagic, Inc. today announced the official release of Personal Historian 2, the latest version of the ground-breaking computer software which helps you write the story of your life and of other individuals. Personal Historian breaks this seemingly monumental task into small, manageable pieces and then reconstructs it into a complete, publishable document. With the release comes a free “Essentials” version of the software as well as a discount offer for new users and previous owners of the software.

Bring Life to Your Life Stories

“Many people want to write a personal history about themselves or family members but get lost or overwhelmed,” said Michael Booth, vice-president and lead developer of the software. “It’s very gratifying to hear people tell us that they are finally able to write their life stories thanks to Personal Historian.”

Personal Historian creates an interactive timeline of a person’s life to keep the stories organized, give context to life events, and to allow users to write stories in any order they wish. When ready, Personal Historian will compile the stories into a finished book complete with table of contents, chapters, pictures, indexes, and more. The book may then be printed at home, edited in a word processor, published professionally, or shared with friends and family.

New Features

“The new features in Personal Historian 2 have been worth the wait,” said Bruce Buzbee, president. “While we’ve added many new and powerful features, we’ve worked hard to make the software even easier to use than before.”

Personal Historian 2 boasts an impressive list of over 40 features including streamlined step-by-step wizards; expanded timelines and memory trigger questions; easy filtering and searching of stories; management of categories, people, and places; improved outlining and writing analysis; wrapping of text around pictures; fonts and text styles; and more-powerful publishing and output options.

Free “Personal Historian Essentials”

RootsMagic is also releasing a new, free edition of Personal Historian named, “Personal Historian Essentials”. Personal Historian Essentials contains many core features from the Personal Historian software and the two products are fully-compatible with one another. “We wanted to give everyone a risk-free option,” said Booth. “Personal Historian Essentials is perfect for someone who wants to start writing a personal history but doesn’t know where to begin.” Personal Historian Essentials is available for download at
Discount Offer

To celebrate it’s release, RootsMagic, Inc. is pleased to offer a special introductory offer for Personal Historian 2. Through October 31, 2011, Personal Historian 2 is available for a special introductory price of only $19.95, saving $10 off of the regular price. The discount is available only on the Personal Historian website at or by calling 1-800-766-8762.

Thursday, September 1, 2011 Makes Their Big Move

To be honest, when I first heard about I wasn't sure what to make of them.  The site almost had a "phishing feel" to it, and the vague responses to my inquiries just added to my lack of confidence.  And I wasn't alone.  Many genealogists were scratching their heads and wondering who they really were.

So it comes as somewhat of a relief to see making their big move today with their announcement that they are adding the U.S. Census to their website in partnership with FamilySearch.  In actuality they made their big move when they brought FamilySearch veteran Anne Roach AG®, CGSM on board as Director of Content Development. It was clear that they were getting poised to pounce on the industry.

According to their press release, the "U.S. Census collections were made available by FamilySearch International, the world’s largest genealogy organization, as part of a joint effort to introduce more records to family historians worldwide. In conjunction with the Census effort, Archives will also embark on a joint project with FamilySearch to digitize tens-of-millions of additional historical records, the majority of which are not currently online." Archives has pledged a minimum of five million dollars to the project.

This answers the big question many have wondered since launched in July 2009: Would they digitize original documents and host them on their site? Up until now it has appeared that the majority of the content was coming from other sources, some of which are free from other sites. This created a perception that their mission was to be more of a portal than a content provider, which didn't sit well with some genealogists. And it was hard to imagine anyone taking on Ancestry because they are already so far out in front.

But as the saying goes "Content is King" and is making a move I'm sure they hope will put them in the line of ascension.

"We’re dedicated to bringing users new and compelling content, and that’s why we’re happy to contribute at least five million dollars to similar ongoing community projects," says Archives CEO Matthew Monahan. That's good to hear - and it's about time.'s competitive edge is it's current low price compared to Ancestry's subscription rate. Monahan continued, "adding the U.S. Census and other unique collections as part of this initiative with FamilySearch will be a game changer.” has integrated the full set of U.S. Federal Population Census indexes from 1790­ to 1930 consisting of over 500 million names along with 3 million images from census years 1850, 1870, and 1900. In the near future, they say the full set of census images will be accessible. 

While has a long way to go to match the volume of Ancestry's content, a bit of competition may be very healthy for all concerned, and hopefully will mean more records for family historians.  We'll have to wait and see who will reign supreme.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

R.I.P. Google News Timeline

I'm sorry to report that on August 17, 2011 Google quietly closed down one of my favorite Google Labs tools - the Google News Timeline with two simple sentences:

"As part of the phasing out of Google Labs, we have shut down Google News Timeline. It was a pleasure to serve you!"

Google News Timeline is not to be confused with Google News Archive.  Google did also recently announce that they were discontinuing newspaper digitization efforts, but that the Google News Archive would remain in tact as is.  Those digitized newspapers were also fed through the Google News Timeline which I considered a superior way to view the newspapers.

Since the Timeline had not been officially launched, it was kept where beta-baby tools were kept: in Google Labs. I say "were kept" because Google Labs is also now defunct.

So here's a recap:

Google News Archive - Still available, no new newspapers being added
Google New Timeline - No longer available.
Google Labs - Finis.  Poof!

Google Giveth...and Google Taketh Away

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Tree Magazine Welcomes Kerry Scott as Online Editor

Here's the latest news from Family Tree Magazine.  Welcome Kerry Scott! 
Press Release: Family Tree Magazine, America’s No. 1 genealogy how-to magazine, is pleased to announce the addition of Kerry Scott to its team.

She’ll be the magazine’s new online editor, focusing on Family Tree University online classes, webinars and digital products. (And remember you can get 20% off any class at Family Tree University with the coupon code: GemsFTU)
Scott brings to the team her experience as a genealogy researcher, active member of the genealogy blogging community (she blogs at Clue Wagon), and human resources executive.

“This position gives me the opportunity to connect with and share great content with other researchers,” Scott says. “I'm especially excited about growing Family Tree University, which is such a great resource for the genealogical community."

The Milwaukee, Wis., resident and mom of two has loved family history since childhood. “My favorite ancestor is my Uncle Fred, who was my second-great-grandfather's brother. He was an attorney, politician and judge who left behind a mountain of paperwork. How can you not love a guy like that?”

Not all of her ancestors left so many records—a situation familiar to most genealogists. “The genealogical skill I'm most proud of is my ability to stick to a search until I hit pay dirt,” Kerry says. “I've been known to walk through every grave in every cemetery in an entire county, or search an entire big city in a particular census year until I found the family I needed. I don't give up easily.”

About Family Tree Magazine

Family Tree Magazine, America's No. 1 family history magazine, is part of the Genealogy Community at F+W Media, Inc., which also encompasses Family Tree University online courses and webinars; the Family Tree Books imprint; and Free Shipping on US Orders Over $25. These publications and products are devoted to providing engaging, easy-to-understand instruction that makes genealogy a hobby anyone can do.

Free Genealogy Records Now thru Labor Day

Today announced an entire week of free access to its U.S. and International Immigration and Naturalization records. The free access week begins August 29th and runs through the Labor Day holiday ending September 5th

To get the most from this opportunity start by listening to my free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episodes all about immigration and naturalization records with my special guest Stephan Danko:

During this week, all visitors to will be able to search for free the indices and images of new and updated U.S. immigration records as well as selected international immigration records from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Mexico

Ancestry has also recently added the following to their U.S. collections:
  • Florida Petitions for Naturalization1913-199
  • Delaware Naturalization Records1796-1959 
  • Utah Naturalization and Citizenship Records1850-1960

Noteworthy updated U.S. and international collections include:
  • U.S. Naturalization and Passport applications, 1795-1972
  • UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960
  • Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S. 1895-1956
  • New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922
  • Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1957
  • New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1973
  • Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959

Happy Hunting!

Monday, August 8, 2011

File Search Trick, and Prepping for an Archive Visit

Podcast Listener Joan wrote me recently:  "I get to spend a day at the National Archives. What should I do to prepare to take full advantage of the visit? I checked their website, but it was not as helpful as I hoped. Any suggestions?"

While this first resource is from the National Archives in the UK, it's applicable to archives in other countries as well.  Check out their video series called Quick Animated Guide.

Another good approach is to search for presentations on archive visits using Google.  By conducting a 'file type search' in Google you can uncover presentations posted on the Web that are geared to doing research at the National Archives.

I conducted the following search in Google: .ppt national archives research and came up with a Powerpoint presentation called Beginning Your Genealogical Research at the National Archives which comes from the US National Archives website. When you click the link above you’ll be prompted to RUN the presentation, and I found that it detected Powerpoint on my computer and opened the presentation in my Powerpoint program.

This little genealogy search gem can come in quite handy. Sometimes you know exactly what kind of file or document you are looking for online. By searching for the keywords of the subject and then adding .ppt (the file extension for Powerpoint presentations) Google will pull up only Powerpoint presentations that include those keywords.

You may not be able to get out to genealogy conferences very often, but some creative searching may bring up presentations that cover topics that interest you right from your home computer. That’s a little gem you need to add to your search toolbox for sure!  For more search gems check out my book The Genealogist's Google Toolbox.  Now through August 12, 2011 you can get 20% off* the book as well as anything at my Genealogy Gems store at with the coupon code:  SINK305

And finally, when it comes to preparing for and making a trip to an archive or library Margery Bell of the Family History Centers offered some great ideas for preparing for a research trip, regardless of whether it is to the National Archives or the Family History Library. The interviews are episode 17, 18 & 19 in the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast.

Great question Joan and have a wonderful time! Happy hunting everyone!

* Enter coupon code SINK305 at checkout and receive 20% off your order. The maximum savings for this offer is $100. Sorry, but this offer is only valid in US Dollars and cannot be applied to previous orders. You can only use these codes once per account, and unfortunately you can't use these coupons in combination with other coupon codes. These great offers expire on Friday August 12, 2011 at 11:59 PM, so don't miss out! While very unlikely, Lulu does reserve the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime, and of course we cannot offer this coupon where it is against the law to do so.