Thursday, September 15, 2016

Why You Might Want a Personal Genealogy Blog

Why You Might Want a Personal Genealogy Blog on WordPress 

Click here for more of the article below


You probably can find dozens of reasons for creating a blog. In addition, you can probably find dozens of companies that will host a blog for you. Given the choices and the reasons available, trying to decide on the best blog hosting service for you can be an overwhelming decision. How do you find the best one for your use? I will suggest there is no easy answer, but I will suggest that WordPress should be one of the services you evaluate.

NOTE: I will quickly admit that I am biased. The words you are reading right now are hosted on a WordPress blog. I have used several different blogging services over the years to host this newsletter. I switched to WordPress several years ago and am very happy with the company’s services. I have no plans to switch to anything else.

Why would you want a blog?

There are a number of reasons why a genealogist might want to crate a blog. Here are a few ideas I can think of:

Keep track of your own family history research and advise your relatives of your progress. If your relatives are monitoring your progress, it is possible they can contribute information to your research efforts, especially as they read about various items you discover. Reading about their ancestors’ lives often serves as a “memory jogger” for various bits of information they may have heard or known about years ago. Many of such bits may be new to you. In some cases, a blog reader who lives near the locations where your ancestors lived also may be able to perform some “in person” research for you.

Share your own life experiences. A blog can be similar to an online diary. Such a blog can be very interesting to your friends and relatives. Optionally, you can add a password to your blog so that it can only be read by the people to whom you grant access.

Genealogical and historical societies often use blogs to publish society newsletters online, to publicize upcoming events, to publicize books the society publishes, and to publicize all sorts of news and events of potential interest to society members and non-members alike. Some societies even add a “for members only” section that requires a password to access. A society blog often is one of the most powerful publicity tools a society can use.

Ethnicity interest groups often use blogs focused on specific ethnic groups and the genealogies of included families. Examples include Polish-American groups, African-American genealogy, Jewish genealogy, Hispanic genealogy, French-Canadian genealogy, Irish genealogy, German genealogy and more.

Almost all genealogy conferences now use blogs to publicize events, to distribute updates on speakers and presentations to be offered, to supply information about hotels and restaurants in the area, and myriad other reasons.

Archives and libraries often use blogs to provide news about recent additions to their collections, seminars, and other events being held by the archive or library, lists of holidays and other times the library or archive may be closed, solicitations for donations, and more.

Genealogy industry blogs are very popular. Almost every company in the genealogy business publishes a blog containing frequent updates about the latest additions and updates to the company’s offerings, publicity about future additions and changes, disseminating FAQs (Frequently-Asked Questions) that many customers ask, and many other customer support activities. Nearly 40% of US companies use blogs for marketing purposes. Two-thirds of marketers say their company blog is “critical” or “important” to their business.
Genealogy industry news: perhaps you want to compete with Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. (Comment: Come on in! There’s room for more.)

A blog makes it easy to reach a sizable audience on the World Wide Web. Most people read blogs more than once/day. In a recent survey, 90% of the respondents said they read 5 to 10 blogs frequently. Among those respondents, 23 % of their Internet time is spent on blogs and social networks. See 10 Interesting Key Facts and Figures about Blogging, Bloggers should know at for details.

Friday, August 5, 2016

INSTANTLY Colorize Your Black/White Photos -- FREE

Instantly Colorize Your Black-And-White Photos

Do you have old black-and-white family photographs? A new service on Algorithmia uses a deep learning algorithm to add color to the photos. Yes, it works. The colors may not be perfect but they are almost always better than black-and-white. The service is easy to use and, best of all, is available FREE of charge.
For instance, here is one well-known black-and-white on the left and a computer-enhanced color version on the right. Algorithmia can do the same for your photographs.

To use Algorithmia’s service, your photo must be available online someplace that is accessible by a URL without requiring a password. The photo(s) might be stored as a shared photo in Dropbox, Google Photos, Shutterfly, Flickr, Apple iCloud, Amazon Cloud Drive, your own web site, or most any other online service that stores publicly-visible photographs.
NOTE: If the web site requires a user name and password to access the photograph, Algorithmia’s colorizing service will not be able to retrieve it.
To colorize a photo, go to the Algorithmia service at, paste the URL of a black-and-white image and tap “colorize it.” After a few seconds of processing, a comparison of the original and colorized images appears.

It seems like Algorithmia’s tool works best with images of faces, simple landscapes, and clear skies. The more complex and cluttered the photograph, the less successful the results.
For instance, here are before-and-after photographs of Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), the inventor of the telegraph, that I colorized by using Algorithmia’s free colorizing service :
Not bad for a photograph of a man who died before color photography was invented!
Note that Algorithmia’s colorizing tool does add a small “watermark” to the lower right corner of every image that is colorized.
You can try this yourself at
Algorithmia’s colorizing tool is available FREE of charge unless you wish to convert thousands of images per month. Pricing information for high-volume users may be found at
My thanks to newsletter reader Terry Mulcahy for telling me about Algorithmia’s colorizing tool.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Why Was the Information Removed from Online?

Why Was the Information Removed from Online?

NOTE: This is a slightly updated version of an article I published about a year ago. A couple of newsletter readers have sent messages to me in the past few days expressing dissatisfaction with records that were available online but recently have disappeared. I am offering this republished article as an explanation about why we should not be surprised when that happens. I will also offer a suggestion as to making sure you keep your own copies of online records that are valuable to you.

Two newsletter readers sent email messages to me recently expressing dissatisfaction that a set of images of vital records has been removed from a popular genealogy site. Indeed, removal of any online records of genealogical value is sad, but not unusual. Changes such as these are quite common on FamilySearch, MyHeritage,, Fold3, FindMyPast, and many other genealogy sites that provide old records online. Removal of datasets has occurred dozens of times in the past, and I suspect such things will continue to happen in the future. I thought I would write a brief explanation.

In most cases, information of genealogical value obtained from government agencies, religious groups, museums, genealogy societies, and other organizations is provided under contractual agreements. The contracts specify what information is to provided, how it is to be made available, and what price the web site has to pay to the provider for the records. All contracts also have a defined expiration date, typically 2 years or 3 years or perhaps 5 years after the contract is signed.

When a contract nears expiration, the two parties usually attempt to renegotiate the contract. Sometimes renewal is automatic, but more often it is not. Maybe the information provider (typically an archive) decides they want more money, or maybe they decide they no longer want to supply the data to the online genealogy service. For instance, in the time the information has been available online, the information provider may have learned just how valuable the information really is. The information provider may decide to ask for more money or may even refuse to provide the information any more since the provider may have a NEW plan to create their own web site and offer the same information online on their new site for a fee.

Sure, that stinks for those of us who would like to have the information everywhere; but, it makes sense to most everyone else. I am sure the budget officer at most any state or local government archive thinks it makes sense.
Every contract renegotiation is different, but it is not unusual to agree to disagree. The contract ends, and the web site provider legally MUST remove the information from their web site. The same thing frequently happens to all the other online sites that provide old records online.

Moral of this story: If you find a record online that is valuable to you, SAVE IT NOW! Save it to your hard drive and make a backup copy someplace else as well. If there is no option to save, make a screen shot and save it on your hard drive or some other place where it will last for many years. Just because you can see the record online today does not mean that it will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Join the Nationwide Service Project “Finding the Fallen”

Join the Nationwide Service Project “Finding the Fallen”

Boy Scouts, members of the United States Armed Forces, all genealogists, and the American public are invited to help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States. Since I am a veteran of the US military, this project also means a lot to me. I plan to participate. If you have any Boy Scouts in the family, you might want to forward this announcement to them and to their leaders.

The following announcement was written by Melany Gardner:
Boy Scouts and members of the United States Armed Forces are invited to participate in a nationwide service project, “Finding the Fallen,” Saturday, July 30. This service project will help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States.
Troops, teams and crews are all invited to participate as volunteers to take photographs or help organize the local event. Aspiring Eagle Scouts, as approved by their local council or district, can also apply to lead the local service project. Anyone wishing to participate in the project can sign up here.

What is the Finding the Fallen Project?
The men and women of the past sacrificed, and many gave their lives for their country. This summer, Scouts have the unique opportunity not only to “help other people at all times,” but to help other people from all times. Saturday, July 30, 2016 has been designated as the day for “Finding the Fallen.” We invite you and your troop to do a good turn by doing your part on this important day.
Boy Scouts, in conjunction with the United States Armed Forces and BillionGraves, will be honoring the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have given their lives in defense of our freedom. You can help honor their sacrifice by ensuring that they are never forgotten. By joining in the project, you and your troop will serve these heroes by photographing and logging the GPS locations of the headstones and markers in our national cemeteries and uploading them to the website using the app on smart phones.
After the photographs are uploaded, you, along with many other volunteers, will have the opportunity to transcribe the records. Once completed, these records will be accessible to the public via and other genealogical sites for free. The free BillionGraves GPS app will guide anyone to these gravesites, allowing those who have fallen to be found. The general public will be able to add photos, obituaries, histories and other tributes to the various records as they wish, thus ensuring these veterans are never forgotten.
This is a great way to complete requirement #7 for the Citizenship in the Community merit badge or requirement #2 for the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. Many Boy Scouts have used this as their Eagle Scout project. BillionGraves provides great resources to ensure a positive leadership experience for the Eagle Scout. For more information for aspiring Eagle Scouts, go here.

How to Get Started?
  1. Decide today to help honor these brave men and women Saturday, July 30, 2016 and sign up here. will send you more information on how to plan and carry out your project.
  2. Choose a local veteran memorial or cemetery. If selecting a cemetery in Utah, check that the cemetery hasn’t already been logged here.
  3. Be prepared to organize, plan or participate in “Finding the Fallen” at the local cemetery July 30th.
  4. Transcribe the photographed headstones.
For questions about the “Finding the Fallen” project, contact BillionGraves at

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FREE LIVE Streaming CLasses from SCGS June 3 through June 5

Jamboree 2016: Registration Now Open for FREE Jamboree Live Streaming


The schedule for the FREE live streaming 
from the 47th Annual Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.

We are very grateful to our Diamond Sponsor, Ancestry, which is underwriting the cost of the Jamboree live stream. With their support, SCGS is able to bring you 14 hours of high-quality family history education absolutely free. Handouts will be provided with each session.

The live-streamed sessions from Jamboree are listed below. Session descriptions, speaker bios, suggested experience levels and schedule details are available on the
Jamboree website.  Times Below have been converted from PDT to CDT (2 hours ahead)

Friday, June 3

3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. FR008  German Immigrant Waves: Contrasts and Sources by James M.Beidler 

4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. FR018  Problems and Pitfalls of a “Reasonably Shallow” Search by  Elissa Scalise Powell, CG®, CGL®

6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. FR027  Tracking Migrations and More: The Records of Old Settler Organizations
by Paula Stuart- Warren, CG®, FMGS, FUGA 

7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. FR035  Principles of Effective Evidence Analysis 
by George Goodloe Morgan 

Saturday, June 4

10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. SA009  Getting Started with Eastern European Research by  Lisa A. Alzo, MFA 

12:00 noon. - 1:00 p.m. SA018  Be Your Own Digital Archivist: Preserve Your Research
by  Cyndi Ingle 

1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. SA022  German Names: Their Origins, Meaning and Distribution
by C. Fritz Juengling, PhD, AG®

4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. SA032  Using Military Pension Files to Fill Gaps in Family History
by   J. H. Fonkert, CG®  

5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. SA037  Maximizing Your Use of Evidence 
by Thomas Wright Jones, PhD, CG®, CGL®, FASG, FUGA, FNGS  

7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. SA052  German Genealogy on the Internet: Beyond the Basics by Michael D. Lacopo, DVM  

Sunday, June 5

10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.  SU009  The Firelands, the Connecticut Western Reserve and the Ohio Territory by Peggy Clements Lauritzen, AG®

12:00 noon. - 1:00 pm SU010  Avoiding Shiny Penny Syndrome with Your Genealogy 
by  Tessa Ann Keough 

2:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. SU027  All Aboard: Staying on Track with Your Research 
by Barbara M. Randall 

4 pm - 5 p.m. SU031  U. S. Passport Applications by Debbie Mieszala, CG®

If you can't watch a session in real-time as it is being live streamed, you will be able to watch it at your convenience before July 5, 2016, on the live stream website (not to be confused with the SCGS website and the Extension Series Webinar archives available for SCGS members).

Registration for the pay-per-view and free Jamboree sessions will remain open through July 5, 2016 when the special archive will close. 
·  Each registration will generate a confirmation email containing your username (email) and automatically generated password.
·  Jamboree live streaming is FREE and available to the public, but viewers need to register. Preferably in advance.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

I Have My Tree Back to Adam--do you really?

“I Have My Family Tree Back to Adam and Eve”

This is another bit of fiction that needs to be wiped out. I have often heard people (I won’t call them “genealogists”) at various times make the claim they have traced their family tree back to Adam and Eve. Of course, the “documentation” is always sketchy.

Robert C. Gunderson was a Senior Royalty Research Specialist, of the Church Genealogical Department, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). He was an expert in medieval genealogy and started the Royalty Identification Unit in 1972. He passed away in 2003. However, before his death, Gunderson once was asked if such research was possible. He replied:

“The simplest answer is No. Let me explain. In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. a.d. 450–a.d. 752).
“Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source.”

Fran├žois Weil, a director of studies (professor) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris and currently the chancellor of the universities of Paris, is another expert in medieval pedigrees who agrees. Weil provides authoritative answers to these questions in his book Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America (2013) published by Harvard University Press.

Both Gunderson and Weil agreed: European royal pedigrees cannot be verified before the 500s A.D.

To learn more, read:
Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. By Fran├žois Weil. Published by Harvard University Press, Online bookstore; 2013. ISBN 9780674045835. 320 pp. Indexes. Hardcover. $27.95 • £20.95 • €25.20. or available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook or as in a hardcover book at

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available! by Dick Eastman

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is Still Available! 

For the entire article and comments, please visit

  · May 12, 2016 · 6 Comments

ssdiThe Social Security Death Index (often called the SSDI) is a valuable tool for genealogists. It lists deceased people within the United States. When first created, the SSDI only listed those people who were receiving Social Security benefit payments at the time of death. However, as the years went by, the database was expanded to include ALMOST ALL DEATHS, whether receiving benefits or not.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) Death Master File (DMF) contains more than 80 million records of deaths that have been reported to SSA. This file includes the following information on each deceased person, as applicable: name, date of birth, date of death, state or country of residence (prior to Mar 1988), and ZIP code of last residence.
Due to false concerns over identity theft, the Social Security Administration stopped releasing updates to the SSDI a few years ago. A few web sites that previously had made the SSDI available online have since deleted the records from their web sites. Now many genealogists believe the SSDI is no longer available.
Not true! The SSDI hasn’t been “lost.” It is still available in several places today, and you can search it online.

In fact, the Social Security Administration has stopped issuing UPDATES to the Death Master File. However, the original database, current through January 2011, remains in the public domain and is still available online from a number of web sites. Later deaths are not publicly listed, however.
NOTE #1: Genealogists have always referred to this database of deceased persons as the “SSDI.” However, employees of the Social Security Administration and many others call it the Death Master File, or DMF. The reason for the discrepancy in names appears to be confusion with another service of the Social Security Administration.
If you mention “the SSDI” to an employee of the Social Security Administration, he or she will probably think you are referring to Social Security Disability Insurance, something that is unrelated to the Death Master File except that both are available from the Social Security Administration. When talking with non-genealogists, you probably should always refer to this database as the “Death Master File.”
NOTE #2: In most cases, only the first ten letters of each individual’s first name are shown in the SSDI. For instance, the name “Christopher” is abbreviated as “Christophe”. Also, middle initials are shown, but complete middle names are not recorded in the database. The search rules will vary from one web site to another. I find it best to only enter the first ten letters of longer names. That seems to always work. Entering all the letters of first names with more than ten letters sometimes results in a “not found” error on some web sites although not on others. When in doubt, use only ten letters.
NOTE #3: Not all the online databases will display all the available information about the person listed in the SSDI. You may have to try several online services in order to find what you seek.
NOTE #4: Information about geographic allocation of Social Security numbers can be found at Keep in mind that Social Security Numbers used to be assigned by the location where the Number was ISSUED, not by the place of birth of the individual.
I suggest you access the Social Security Death Index (Death Master File) at any of the following:
Steve Morse’s One Step Genealogy:
Ancestry: (Ancestry allows anyone to view a short version of the record, but viewing all the details requires a subscription to
GenealogyBank: (You must be a paid subscriber of GenealogyBank to view the details of each record.)
American Ancestors operated by the New England Historic Genealogical Society: (That page states, “Access to the SSDI is FREE to all who visit” However, you must either register for a FREE guest account or pay for a subscription to view your SSDI search results. (Requires an account with However, a FREE 7-day trial account is available.)
NOTE: Also included in the version of the SSDI is See Neighbors which is a list of those persons who died during the same year and in the same zip code as the deceased who is being searched. Finally, when a residence at death is included in a listing, a geo-coded Google Map is included with the place where the person died and their nearest cemeteries.
… and probably some other places as well.
You also can download the entire SSDI record set yourself at although that is the 30 November 2011 edition. No later records are available.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

75 Best Websites for US State Genealogy Research in 2015

75 Best Websites for US State Genealogy Research in 2015 

(Family Tree magazine Online)
Any way you slice it, these 75 top state-focused websites are must-visits for tracing your ancestors across the United States.

 Click here to see these 75 top websites for all 50 states!

South Dakota

South Dakota Birth Records
This index holds information from more than 275,000 records of South Dakota births that occurred at least 100 years ago, including many delayed birth certificates that were issued for people born before statewide registration began in 1905.

South Dakota State Historical Society
Find your ancestors in the Mount Rushmore State with the help of these indexes to naturalizations, cemetery records, the 1905 state census and biographies, plus a transcript of the 1885 census of Civil War veterans.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

U.S. National Archives Launches History Hub

U.S. National Archives has Recently Launched a History Hub

The National Archives and Records Administration has recently launched a FREE History Hub, an online research support community, where members of the public can ask questions about research at NARA. The new site is a pilot for the next 6 months, and hopefully will be fully funded after that time. However, there is no guarantee of that.
There’s a dedicated Genealogy section in the History Hub. To access it, go to and register for an account, and then you can contribute in any way that you’d like!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Treasures in Your Own Back....Post Office 2600 Letters from 17th Century Unopened

Rediscovered Leather Trunk Contains Thousands of Letters From the 17th Century

Talk about the Dead Letter Office! A 300-year-old linen-lined trunk filled with over 2,600 letters that were mailed out—but never received—between the years 1680 and 1706 has recently been discovered in The Hague, Netherlands. The extraordinary collection contains letters from all manner of society, including aristocrats, merchants, lovers, actors, musicians, and even spies. At least 600 of the 2,600 letters have never even been opened. Historians are now taking a closer look.
An international team from Leiden, Oxford, MIT, and Yale are taking part in this project. You can read more about the historians’ study of the letters in a web site called Signed, Sealed, & Undelivered at and especially at