Friday, May 1, 2015

Roots n Branches 2015 Workshop Set for Satruday Sept 19, 2015

Thanks to all of you who have emailed and for your patience!


Digging up Treasures in Your Own Back Yard

Local area Historical Societies and Museums

Virginia Hanson, State Historical Society--Keynote Speaker

Saturday, Sept 19, 2015 8:30 am - 4 pm

Schedule, Details and Registration Forms, Links to follow

sponsored by

Brookings SD FHC

(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Chapel, Brookings SD) 


Thursday, April 30, 2015

New NEH Grant to Digitize Family Records

New NEH Grant to Digitize Family Records

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced “Common Heritage,” the first grant of its kind, to make “light historical records and artifacts currently hidden in family attics and basements” available to the public. In announcing the initiative, NEH Chairman William “Bro” Adams said, “We know that America’s cultural heritage isn’t found only in libraries and museums, but in our homes, in our family histories, and the stories and objects we pass down to our children.”
The announcement states, “The program supports day-long events organized by community cultural institutions, which members of the public will be invited to attend. At these events experienced staff will digitize the community historical materials brought in by the public. Project staff will also record descriptive information—provided by community attendees—about the historical materials. Contributors will be given a free digital copy of their items to take home, along with the original materials. With the owner’s permission, digital copies of these materials would be included in the institutions’ collections. Historical photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, art works, and audiovisual recordings are among the many items eligible for digitization and public commemoration.”

NEH encourages local institutions such as libraries, archives, museums, and colleges to apply for up to $12,000 in project funding. The application deadline is June 25, 2015, but a webinar for interested applicants will be held on May 5, 2015.
More information may be found at the NEH’s webpage:
My thanks to newsletter reader Claire Bettag for telling me about this new grant.

Monday, February 23, 2015

DAR Provides Contributed Supporting Documentation Online

DAR Provides Contributed Supporting Documentation Online for Genealogy Researchers

The following announcement was written by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution:
The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is pleased to announce a new added feature to its Genealogical Research System (GRS). This newSupporting Documents feature allows users to purchase documents that were submitted with previously verified DAR membership and supplemental applications. These documents may include family bible records, deeds, wills and other various materials used to prove lineage to a patriot of the American Revolution.
“The DAR is committed to making family research materials more readily available to the public,” said DAR President General Lynn Forney Young. “Genealogy is such an exciting passion for so many and these newly added resources will expand accessibility to family history documents.”
The Supporting Documents made available on the GRS may prove to be very helpful to researchers who are looking for a missing piece in their genealogy search. For example, if a researcher is having difficulties connecting two generations or finding proof of an ancestor’s military service, the needed documents could possibly be included in the supporting documentation submitted for a common ancestor.
The GRS is a free resource provided by the DAR to aid general genealogical research and to assist with the DAR membership process. The GRS is a collection of databases that provide access to the many materials amassed by the DAR since its founding in 1890.
GRS users have long been able to purchase Record Copies (previously verified DAR membership and supplemental applications), which show the lineage going back to the ancestor who contributed to the American Revolution, but before now the documents which were submitted to support the Record Copy were not available for purchase online. Now these supporting documents are available on demand for the user to purchase either in conjunction with a Record Copy or separate from the application with which it is associated.
“The addition of Supporting Documents to the GRS may ease the difficulty of family research in some situations,” said Eric Grundset, Director of the DAR Library. “Previously, you may have needed to search through many resources in various locations to find documents; now you may be able to find them in the GRS.”
These Supporting Documents have been reviewed and indexed by DAR staff genealogists and DAR member volunteers. More Supporting Documents will become available as more are reviewed. Any documents that have not been thoroughly reviewed will not be available for purchase on the GRS.
Record Copies and Supporting Documents are now part of the DAR Online Library Documents Service. This service allows researchers to select an application or Supporting Documents (if they are available), pay by credit card, and instantly download the document as an Adobe PDF document. It is important to note that any applications or vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce or other sensitive documentation) that are less than 100 years old will not be available in an effort to keep personal information confidential.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Where to Donate Private Records for Public Availability

Where to Donate Records to Make Them Available to Everyone 

For Comments and additions, click here 

A newsletter reader sent an interesting question this week, asking where to donate newly-found documents that may be of interest to many other genealogists. Here is an excerpt from her message:
“I recently was going through records and old documents that my grandmother had saved and came across an original passenger list of one of my immigrant ancestors from Poland/Prussia in 1895. To the best of my searching, I have not found any other records from this ship and this document is nowhere else to be found. I have scanned mine in so that others may benefit from it. The problem is I don’t know what to do with it. Aside from attaching it to my ancestors records. Where else can I deposit this information?”
I believe I can give some answers but suspect that other newsletter readers can contribute even more ideas. Here are my suggestions:

Most repositories gladly accept collections of original materials related to the library’s interests. However, few or none of them will accept compiled genealogies that simply list one’s own ancestry.

Founded in 1894, the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City began to acquire genealogical records and continues to do so today. The Library is now the repository for more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilm, 742,000 microfiche, 310,000 books and other materials such as journals, maps and electronic resources. The Library presently accepts the following materials:
  • Autobiographies and biographies containing genealogical material
  • Family histories with genealogical information
  • Indexes to records
  • Local histories (limited)
  • Well organized collections of genealogical and research materials
The FamilySearch Library also accepts other items although there are some guidelines as to what can be accepted as well as a list of items that cannot be accepted. Details may be found in the FamilySearch document, Gifts, Donations, and Loans to FamilySearch, at Library employees do ask you to contact the library prior to donating anything.
The Allen County Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has the largest genealogy collection of any publicly-funded library. The Library’s Genealogy Center accepts donations; as stated on the Library’s web page at “We welcome your contributions of papers, books, and disks of data. In print or in digital formats, your work will not only benefit great numbers of researchers, it will also be preserved for generations to come on our shelves and webpages. Whether it’s research articles, images of military veterans in your family history, completed books, indices to record groups large and small, or copies of the family record pages in your family Bible, all will find a good home in The Genealogy Center. Contributions can be mailed or sent electronically directly to The Genealogy Center.”
The New England Historic Genealogical Society encourages members and friends to consider donating their genealogical materials. Donations of books and other published material (family histories, periodicals, etc.) relevant to genealogy or local history are greatly appreciated. Details may be found at
The Newberry Library is a large genealogy and local history library in Chicago and is always looking for books and historic documents that will extend, strengthen, and complement the library’s collection. If you are considering such a donation, please contact a library curator or librarian first. Details may be found at
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) also accepts donations although I believe their focus is primarily on the society’s Americana Collection containing manuscripts and imprints pertaining to the history of Colonial America, the Revolutionary War period and the Early National period. Details may be found at
The Midwest Genealogy Center in Kansas City accepts donations of gently-used genealogy books and yearbooks. In addition, certain donated materials deemed to have unique or noteworthy content are considered on a case-by-case basis for special disposition. The Midwest Genealogy Center no longer accepts unpublished research materials.
Finally, the Internet Archive is not a genealogy organization but is used by tens of thousands of genealogists to find historical information. The Internet Archive accepts donations of almost ALL digital cultural artifacts, genealogy-related and non-genealogy items alike. Items need to be digitized first and then uploaded, with the exception of large collections of books that the Internet Archive is willing to digitize themselves. Details may be found at
The above certainly is not a complete list. Many local special collection libraries, universities, genealogy societies, and historical societies also accept donations of materials that are relevant to their areas of interest. Such repositories ensure that these personal and family records will be available for research by generations to come. The Society of American Archivists has published Donating Your Personal or Family Records to a Repository at although that helpful article does not list specific repositories that might be interested in your donation.
I suspect other newsletter readers can contribute other suggestions as well. If so, please offer your suggestions in the comments below. I will collect the better suggestions and incorporate them into a future update to this article.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

RAOGK is back--Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness

RAOGK  Click here for website

Our volunteers have agreed to do a free genealogy research task at least once per month in their local area as an act of kindness. While the volunteers of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) have agreed to donate their time for free, you MUST PAY the volunteer for his/her expenses in fulfilling your request (copies, printing fees, postage, film or video tape, parking fees, etc.) if they ask for it.
RAOGK is a global volunteer organization. At one time we had over 4000 volunteers in every U.S. state and many international locations, and helped thousands of researchers. We are trying to rebuild the RAOGK site. It will take a little more time to get it back to its former glory. Our volunteers take time to do everything from looking up courthouse records to taking pictures of tombstones. All they ask in return is reimbursement for their expenses (never their time) and a thank you.
NOTE: If you are having a problem Registering or submitting to be a Volunteer then Please email us at with your user name and we will set it up manually then you can go in an edit it to your liking. We are trying to fix any bug glitches as they occur! Also visit the Suppout Forum in the top menu.
NOTE: There are some issues with logging in through the chrome browser. if you cannot login then try using Internet Explorer or another browser. If that does not work the login here

Looking for a volunteer?

Is this your first visit to our site? We want your visit to be a successful one. Our staff has put together a list of Guidelines for making requests for you to view and read before making any requests. A link to the volunteers will be provided after you have read the FAQ’s.

Would you like to volunteer?

Please read our Frequently Asked Questions for Volunteers before doing so. You will create a profile and can add or subtract information you are willing to do. You are in control!
  • Community Questions & Answers – Ask questions on genealogy information or brick wall questions. The Genealogy Community will answer them!
  • Archives and Societies – This is a list of National Archives, Libraries, Historical & Genealogical Societies for each State. Some have links to websites while others have an mailing address and /or phone numbers. Please contact us with any corrections or additions.
  • Census Records 101 – For historians and genealogy experts, census records they can be valuable tools for family research and general knowledge about how people lived in different time periods. This section explains the history and use of census records for your research. Please contact us with any corrections or additions.
  • Vital Records 101 – List details about Birth Marriage, Divorce and Records, along with Where to Write for State Vital Records and links to applications and Vital Record Resources & Search Tips.
  • Historical Facts of U.S. Counties – Each state list the County Name, Date Formed, Parent County and County Seat With links to the county government sites when available. Also State County Formation Maps, list of Extinct Counties and list of burned/destroyed county courthouses.
  • Printable Genealogy Forms – free downloadable forms for U.S. & U.K. Censuses, Ancestral Chart, Research Calendar, Research Extract, Correspondence Record, Family Group Sheets, Source Summary and Templates

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Genealogical Research Lesson from Laura Ingalls Wilder (Mocavo Blog 15 Nov 2014)

 Please visit Michael J LeClerc's Genealogy News Blog at Mocavo for entire story....

"A Genealogical Research Lesson from Laura Ingalls Wilder"

15 Nov 2014 "Those of us of a certain age remember Monday evenings starting with four notes from a French horn and the Melissas (Gilbert and Sue Anderson) running down a hill of daisies with their baby sister.  For the next hour, the nineteenth-century adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family played out across our television screens in Little House on the Prairie.
We all knew at the time that the show came from the Little House series of books penned by Laura (Ingalls) Wilder later in life. The nine books told the story of her family from her parents coming together in Little House in the Big Woods to the early period of her marriage to Almonzo, in The First Four Years."

View the blog to see how important the role of biographies, histories, diaries play in our ancestral research...  

Here in South Dakota we have a unique access to the historical lives of Laura and her family at DeSmet at Discover Laura.  Visiting museums and historical centers can give us great examples of how to gather, organize, preserve and share our own family's history.

The real Laura Ingalls Wilder, ca. 1894, from Wikimedia Commons.
The real Laura Ingalls Wilder, ca. 1894, from Wikimedia Commons.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How to Find a Lot of Personal Information about Anyone

How to Find a Lot of Personal Information about Anyone

Subtitle: How Anyone can Find a Lot of Personal Information about You
NOTE: This article is being cross-posted both here and in my new Privacy Blog as this subject seems applicable to both.
Numerous online sites have been available for years that sell personal information about you or about anyone else in the United States. However, one site seems to take this “service” to new heights: The service isn’t free, but it is low-cost. The service is available to anyone with a credit card and an Internet connection.
Instant Checkmate collects and sells an amazing amount of information about U.S. residents, including criminal records, court appearances (even where the person was judged innocent or if the case was dropped), charitable contributions, sex offender databases, information you provided on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more), professional and business licenses, real estate transactions, and even appraisals of real estate owned, voter registration records, employment records, marriage records, birth records (including birth records of the children of the person in question), residential addresses, and more.

When I did a search on my own name, Instant Checkmate found all sorts of information about me, including my FAA-issued pilot’s license.

Question: Do you want others to know all about you?

Instant Checkmate also provides the names and addresses of sex offenders who live near the person in question. Yes, you can pay for a search on yourself to see what information Instant Checkmate has about you, and the company will then provide the names and addresses of sex offenders who live near you. Of course, sex offender information is available elsewhere (free of charge) at the U.S. Department of Justice web site at as well as on a number of other web sites as well.

So where does Instant Checkmate obtain all this information? The answer is “from legal sources as all of it is collected from public records.” If you post information or a picture of your newly-born child on Facebook, that information is available to everyone, including to Instant Checkmate and other companies that collect personal information. Court records are public, as are real estate transactions, birth records, marriage records, death records, and much more.

NOTE: There may be a discussion about birth and marriage records. Some government agencies may restrict access to governmental records of births and marriages for a number of years, but anyone can still legally obtain the same information from newspaper announcements and other sources. Some states even restrict access to the states’ death records, but funeral homes usually submit the same information to newspapers and to and other publishers of obituaries. Anyone, including Instant Checkmate, may legally obtain the information from these publicly-available sources even without access to government records.

In short, Instant Checkmate compiles reports from millions of public records, including social media web sites, newspapers, all sorts of web sites, and also from federal, state and local governments. All of the information contained in Instant Checkmate’s reports is part of what is referred to as the “public record.”

As you might expect, obtaining a report from Instant Checkmate costs money. However, there appears to be no way of obtaining a single report for a one-time fee. Instead, Instant Checkmate requires the user to sign up for a subscription. That is, the user gets charged every month and, in return, can obtain a number of reports about different people every month. The monthly fees are:
$22.86/month provides reports about an unlimited number of people for one month.
$14.86/month provides reports about an unlimited number of people for 3 months.
$9.86/month provides reports about an unlimited number of people for 6 months.

Sound confusing? Here is the statement from the payment page on the Instant Checkmate web site:
“To get unlimited reports, select a one-month membership for $22.86, a three-month membership for $44.58 ($14.86/mo), or a six-month membership for $59.16 ($9.86/mo). Your membership will automatically renew for the same term unless you cancel before the start of the next term. Instant Checkmate will charge the recurring membership fee of $22.86, $44.58, or $59.16 (depending on the membership option you select) to the same card you use today until you cancel. To cancel, call 1-866-490-5980 24 hours a day.”

A different page on the same web site says:
“Your five day $1.00 trial lasts until [5 days from today]. If you would like to cancel before the trial ends, you may do so for any reason and you will not be charged again. Simply call 1-866-490-5980 to speak with one of our Customer Service Representatives 24 hours a day. Otherwise, your trial membership will end on [5 days from today], at which time you will be charged the standard monthly rate of $29.63. Your membership will automatically renew every 30 days thereafter until you cancel.”

I find it interesting that the pricing on the web site says a one-month subscription costs $22.86 but on a different page on the same web site states, “…at which time you will be charged the standard monthly rate of $29.63.”

So… If I sign up now, Instant Checkmate will charge my credit card every month forever and ever until I call them on the phone to cancel? Does the company make it easy for a caller to cancel? Or are they like AOL, which makes it almost impossible to cancel? I have no experience with Instant Checkmate, but I well remember the experience with AOL: being routed all over the company by transfers from one department to another, listening to music on hold for extended periods of time, and eventually being sent to voice mail from which I never received a call back.
Again, I have no experience with Instant Checkmate. However, based on my previous experiences with other companies that make it almost impossible to cancel an automatic renewal on my credit card, I am always suspicious. I gave Instant Checkmate a “virtual credit card number” that allows for a maximum charge of $30 and also expires next month. The company will not be able to renew the charge without my approval. You may or may not want to do the same.
NOTE: I will write in the near future about how to easily obtain a “virtual credit card number” that expires on the date that you specify and will have a maximum charge amount that you specify.

Is Instant Checkmate worth the money? I suspect the answer will vary from one person to another. The company certainly provided a lot of information for the money I paid. However, I consider the method of automatically-renewing credit card charges to be a shoddy business practice. I only do businesses with companies like that when I can use a “virtual credit card number” where I control all future charges.

I certainly am not comfortable with the fact that all my information is available to anyone who can spend $22.86. How about you?

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