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Are You Ready for Pioneer Jeopardy?

FamilySearch - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 14:24

by Sydny Terry

The Higgs family crowds around the biggest window in the living room, the smell of barbeque wafting through the air. There are about 36 papers taped to the window in six categories, and under each category are numbers: 100, 200, 300, and so on, much like a board from the classic game show Jeopardy.

The kids are eager for a chance to win this year’s competition. The grand prize changes every year, but the promise of bragging rights remains an enticing constant.

The day’s activities start with the hymn “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” accompanied by granddaughter Grace’s guitar. When the song ends, Stephen Higgs stands up in front of the group and says, “Are you all ready for Pioneer Jeopardy?”

The crowd cheers.

Stephen reminds everyone of the rules as his wife, Melissa, splits up the teams, and then the competition begins! Each team gets the chance to answer questions based on key facts from their ancestors’ lives (such as “Who was your pioneer ancestor who survived the tragic incidents of the Martin Handcart Company?”), and the two teams compete for points.

The Higgs family has been getting together to celebrate July 24, Pioneer Day, for over 10 years. When they first started the tradition, they would celebrate by sharing stories about their pioneer ancestors, but after noticing that not everyone in the family was getting involved, Stephen and Melissa decided to start some new family traditions to engage the entire family.

“We were just trying to figure out how to involve as many in the family as we could,” Stephen said. “So we thought maybe a game might be the best way to do that.” After much creative thought, Pioneer Jeopardy was born.

They started creating questions for the game by speaking to family members to gather whatever history had already been compiled. They also searched for stories and information through FamilySearch.org, the BYU library, and the Church History Library. You can also try looking in the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database.

This paisley scarf serves as a link to Stephen’s ancestor.

This research helped Stephen and Melissa make special discoveries about their ancestors. Many of these stories have even become a source of personal strength and inspiration for the two. “One of Stephen’s relatives brought a paisley scarf with her across the plains in the Martin Handcart Company,” Melissa said. “[She] brought this precious scarf with her, and it survived all these years. . . . It’s just so fun to have a tangible piece of history of somebody who loved the Lord that much. I can’t even imagine how hard that would have been for them. When I read stories about them I think, “OK, if they can do it, I can do it.”
They also discovered a connection through Steven’s occupation as a fire chief. Two of his ancestors, Thomas and James Higgs, built an early firefighting apparatus in Salt Lake City, the same city Stephen works for today. This information inspired a closeness with his ancestors.

Stephen, a firefighter, discovered that two of his ancestors helped build a firefighting apparatus.

“My husband didn’t even know that until he was working for the Salt Lake City fire department and he was the chief,” Melissa said. “The department became 100 years old, and he was reading in a book that had been compiled about the history of the fire department. And there were his relatives! That got us yearning to know more and more about Thomas Higgs. It was a connection, a huge connection, with a relative that had the same abilities and the same interest.”

Thomas Higgs

Finding these connections with his ancestors has inspired Stephen to pass the stories on to his descendents. “Nothing was ever shared with me about relatives, especially about pioneer relatives and what they did. A lot of it is because I don’t think my parents knew it either,” Stephen said. “So, as we’ve done a lot of research, our goal has been to share the stories on an ongoing basis so there’s that intergenerational connection with our ancestors, to us and to our children and to our grandchildren.”

Melissa seconds her husband’s sentiments and adds, “When children know their legacy or their family history, I think it builds a lot of confidence and gives them an identity of who they are. And I’ve seen that in my own grandkids.”

As Stephen, Melissa, and their family have gathered to learn more about their ancestors and spend time together, they have grown closer and developed a greater appreciation for the family who came before them. By involving every family member, no matter their age, they have come to learn, as President Henry B. Eyring testified, that “the work of gathering Heavenly Father’s family is not just for young people, and it is not just for grandparents. It is for everyone. We are all gatherers” (“Gathering the Family of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 22).



Seven Ways to Preserve and Share Your Family Story Today

FamilySearch - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 13:37

by Rachel Coleman

Our family stories are complex dramas with many threads, villains and heroes, hard times and good times. How do we capture the richness of our stories with all their vitality and uniqueness? How do we convey the deep desires, the devastating setbacks and the celebrated triumphs? Preserving these narratives for future generations and sharing them with your loved ones might feel overwhelming. Here are a several options to inspire you to start today.

1. Put together a scrapbook. Take new photos and gather old photos of your ancestors and living relatives, and preserve them in a scrapbook for future generations to enjoy. Label or tag the photos with names and dates so the people can be identified.

2. Record a video. Interview family members about childhood memories, significant life events, favorite scriptures, or their testimonies. For some interview questions sure to spark engaging and enlightening conversation, check out StoryCorps’s lists of Great Questions. There’s something for practically anyone and any type of relationship.

3. Make a recipe book of your favorite family recipes or recipes that your ancestors would likely have used in their location and time period. If you have recipes from specific ancestors, save them online at FamilySearch.org in that ancestor’s profile. Or create a recipe book out of a collection of recipes, and share them with other family members.

4. Designate a special shelf for precious family objects in your home. When family members come to visit, share the stories about the memorabilia.

5. Go digital. Collect existing video tapes, 8mm film reel, or compact discs, and convert them to a digital format. Save the files in a family Google Drive or Dropbox folder, which the family can access and add to at any time, or upload the files to FamilySearch.org.

6. Make a quilt from scraps of material worn by different family members or from fabrics, shapes, and designs that symbolize your family story. Snuggle your loved ones with it while you share the stories woven in.

7. Write your own story. Your story is an integral thread of your family’s story. Join the #52Stories challenge to help you find the time, motivation, and inspiration to write them down. It doesn’t matter if you write by hand or by keyboard or record the stories using a voice recorder—only that you document it. Share your story on your FamilySearch Family Tree profile so your loved ones can access your story today and always.

Some of these ideas could be completed in an afternoon or on a rainy day. Others will take time to compile. So many of us don’t have significant chunks of time to devote to family history research, record creation, or preservation. However, we all have single minutes. A word here and a sentence there adds up to a chapter and then, over time, to a whole story. Our family stories can be preserved and shared in the single minutes we do have.

Start writing yours today.


How Family Stories Shape Our Identities

FamilySearch - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 11:51

by Rachel Coleman

Why do family stories matter? They directly impact how we see ourselves, our ability to succeed, and even our level of resiliency.

“Let me tell you a story about when I was your age.” How many of us remember hearing this from our parents at bedtime when we were children? How many of us have said this to our own children or grandchildren? Besides the quality bonding time that sharing family stories can provide to your relationship, experts and researchers have discovered a host of additional benefits, both for the listener as well as the storyteller.



Establish Our Core Identity

Family stories directly impact how we see ourselves because they give us an idea of where we come from and how we fit into our family. Think of each family story as a single thread in a tapestry woven with beautiful, complex patterns, colors, and designs. Like the tapestry, we are a combination of the culture, history, and traditions we inherited from our own families.

Family narrative researcher Robyn Fivush found that sharing family stories contributes to kids’ emerging sense of self, both as an individual and as a member of a unified family. Adolescents who are able to recount specifics and details of family stories have higher self-esteem and greater resilience. Our family stories give us a sense of belonging and create a core identity that can be a great source of empowerment.

Fortify Faith in Ourselves

Sharing family stories helps us to evaluate the actions of others and create meaning from the past. When facing challenges, we can draw strength from stories of relatives who also struggled with similar challenges and obstacles and were then able to overcome them.

During his keynote presentation at RootsTech 2016, David Isay, the founder and president of StoryCorps, shared an audio recording of a man named Lynn Weaver telling his daughter a story about his own father, Ted Weaver, who worked as a janitor and chauffeur to provide for the family. One night, after struggling with his algebra homework, Lynn gave up on the assignment and went to bed. Ted woke Lynn up at 4 o’clock in the morning, having stayed up all night to read through the algebra book and learn the concepts so he could teach them to his son. Lynn, who went on to become a renowned surgeon, later told his daughter, “To this day, I live my life trying to be half the man my father was.”

Stories of perseverance and resilience like this one help us to foster faith in ourselves. Knowing that our forebears triumphed over hard things gives us the faith and hope that we will too.

Increase Empathy

Hearing the stories of our families and learning of the hardships they faced helps us develop understanding, compassion, and empathy for them. Isay said, “The power of authentic stories, of stories told from the heart . . . the power to build bridges between people, bridges of understanding, is infinite.”

When we hear the narratives of family members who have gone before us, we often learn we are traveling similar paths. We notice common threads and intersections in our stories. “You’re going to walk in the footsteps of that person and recognize a little bit of yourself in that person,” said Isay. The more we read and hear, the more we come to see that we are more alike than different. Shared stories turn our hearts to our fathers, mothers, and ancestors.

Testify of Truth

Family stories are witnesses of personal experiences and cultural history. The combined letters, journals, oral accounts, pictures, and videos that tell our stories all bear witness to simple truths. They show our family members and their life experiences through an authentic lens, so we can better understand how they really were.

In a world where the truth can be hard to distinguish, it’s become even more important to have these sources that we know we can trust. “We are surrounded by so much nonsense, and you don’t know what’s real and what’s an advertisement. But the stories you collect, the stories of our families, these are the authentic stories,” Isay said. Sharing your experiences brings another authentic voice into the world and testifies to your family and loved ones of the truths you have learned throughout your life.

What Can You Do?

So, what can you do to bring these and many other benefits to your own family? Isay said, “Listening is an act of love. A place where two people talk and ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask is a sacred space.” If you want a happier, more resilient family, create those sacred spaces and tell your stories.

  • You can start right now.
  • Talk to your kids about the traditions you grew up with.
  • Tell stories about your family and your culture. Tell about the hardships and the triumphs.

That simple act may just increase the likelihood that your family will thrive for many generations to come.



How Project Instructions Helped Me Learn to Index

FamilySearch - Wed, 07/19/2017 - 14:30

By Kathryn Grant

When you start a new indexing batch, the project instructions immediately open on the screen. And there’s a good reason for this! These instructions just might be one of the most helpful resources for new indexers—and all other indexers, for that matter.

Project instructions tell you the key things you need to know before starting a project. They explain what types of records are included, what the documents look like, what information should be indexed, and things to watch for.

Zane Jacobson, supervisor of Indexing Operations at FamilySearch, explained: “Understanding the project instructions is crucial to indexing records correctly. Projects and documents are often unique and have special requirements. If you don’t read the instructions, you are likely to index records incorrectly. Our hope is to make the instructions clear, concise, and easy to understand.”


What are other indexers saying about the value of project instructions?

When I started indexing, the project instructions were very helpful in knowing how and what specific information should be entered.    —Meg

I find anyone, especially new indexers, will make far fewer mistakes and find their questions answered if they read the project instructions and the field helps. It only takes a few minutes but helps so much.    —Evelyn

Project instructions have sometimes corrected my perception of how to enter data. Since every project is different, we can’t assume the indexing will be the same, even if at first a project appears similar to a previous one.    —Brenda

As indexers, we provide a great service to many families. We want our indexing to be accurate and complete. Each project has a set of instructions, and it is very important that we read and understand the instructions. The Lord blesses us for following directions.    —Paul

I always tell people that they can contact me anytime with questions but that 90 percent of the time, the answer is either in the project instructions or the field help. When they do contact me, I usually say, “Let me look at the project instructions before I answer you.”    —Kimberly

Using the Project Instructions Box

When you open a batch for the first time, the project instructions appear in a box with a purple header.

  1. To move the box, drag it by the purple header.
  2. To resize the box, drag the resize handle in the bottom right corner.
  3. If you close the project instructions, you can open them again by clicking the Project Instructions icon on the toolbar.

To learn more about using project instructions, see the following Help Center articles:

  1. Web indexing—Project instructions
  2. Web indexing—Printing the project instructions or field help screens

Project instructions will help you as a new indexer, but they will also help you as your skills improve. Use them as a valuable resource every time you index.


Engaging in Family History with Early Pioneer Recipes

FamilySearch - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 14:47

Early pioneers are an important part of our personal stories and family history. Whether your great-grandfather traveled with a handcart company or you yourself are an immigrant, pioneers pave the way for the generations to come. Pioneer stories open a window to the past, revealing people not so different from ourselves.

One fun way to connect with early pioneers and engage your family in their ancestry is to share some of the culinary traditions the pioneers would have enjoyed. We’ve found some recipes that were made on the trail or that have been passed down through generations to get you started as you explore family history through pioneer stories. Gather your family, and try some of these historical recipes in your own home to get a taste of what life was like for many pioneers.



Pioneer Trail Recipes

On their trek across the plains, pioneers went without many of the luxuries and amenities we enjoy today. Travelers cooked in cast-iron dutch ovens over fires, or they improvised if the weather was poor or their tools broke. They often relied on the resources available within their surroundings. Using both wild fruits—plums, cherries, grapes, gooseberries, currants—and the glorious fresh fruit cultivated so successfully from imported cuttings, early pioneer women were soon making some of the delicacies that reminded them of home, like these currant whirligigs from England. Two other favorites were potato cakes, a 100-year-old recipe that came across the plains with an Austrian immigrant, and hand-mixed bread, as good today as it was in the early days.

Pioneer Hardtack Potato Cakes
Currant Whirligigs Hand-Mixed Bread

Recipes such as these can introduce us to some of the traditions of our pioneer ancestors and can help us embrace the history that comes along with them. Food has a way of bringing the family together and of carrying the emotions of family memories with it. Learn more about how family recipes can create a lasting impact on family history by reading about recipe traditions, or find out more about your pioneer heritage using FamilySearch’s pioneer database.


How to Make the Most of Your Free Ancestry LDS Account

FamilySearch - Tue, 07/18/2017 - 12:47

For decades Ancestry has been a leader in the family history arena. Today it is the largest commercial family history research site. With 20 billion records from 80 countries and 80 million family trees boasting 8 billion names, Ancestry has something to offer just about everyone. A partnership between Ancestry and FamilySearch allows members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enjoy a free membership to the Ancestry site. Besides the extensive number of records, family tree names, and other resources, Ancestry also has many features that allow for seamless integration between Ancestry and FamilySearch, helping you more effectively find your ancestors.

Ancestry Account Sign-Up

To sign up for your free Ancestry account, visit the Ancestry.com page on FamilySearch. If you already have an Ancestry account, you can convert it to an LDS account, which allows you to access some unique features and integration tools with FamilySearch that are available only through a partnership account. Church members with free Ancestry accounts can access 99 percent of Ancestry’s databases. The only exceptions occur when a contractual agreement limits free access. The account also does not include other Ancestry partner sites like Fold3 or special services like Ancestry DNA.

Ancestry Highlights

After you have signed up, your free Ancestry subscription gives you access to billions of historical records, including census, immigration, church, military, birth, marriage, and death records, as well as city directories, probates, naturalizations, and numerous other records. Many of these records are not available anywhere else. Ancestry’s powerful search tools allow flexibility and precision in finding information about your ancestors. Just as with FamilySearch, Ancestry’s software uses records in its collections to provide hints (possible matches) for individuals on your family tree.

But Ancestry offers more than just records. Visit the active Ancestry Support Community, where you can post or even answer questions. When you need help with your research, be sure to explore Ancestry’s comprehensive collection of articles, blogs, and other information. The blog features the latest news, tips, and developments in genealogy research. Perhaps you will choose to begin with the Getting Started section, where you will find instructions and useful hints for people who are new to the site. You will also want to spend time at Ancestry Academy, where you will find short videos and courses on family history topics. All videos related to using Ancestry features and records are free. Other courses and videos, created by the country’s leading genealogical experts, are available only with a paid subscription. 

Ancestry and FamilySearch Integration

One of the best features of Ancestry is how well it interacts with FamilySearch. The communication and sharing between the two sites enables you to move seamlessly back and forth, weaving together the information you find. To take advantage of these features, just remember to log in to your Ancestry account that is linked to FamilySearch. Below you will find just a few of the ways that Ancestry and FamilySearch work well together:

Importing Your FamilySearch Tree. The usual way of transferring family tree information between programs has been to create and then import a GEDCOM, a file nearly universally recognized across family history software. But Ancestry has made importing your tree so much easier. With Ancestry you can import up to 4 generations of your FamilySearch family tree directly into Ancestry. To do this:

  1. From the navigation bar, choose Trees.
  2. Select Import Tree from FamilySearch.
  3. Once an individual has been imported, visit his or her profile screen. In the upper right corner, click the FamilySearch icon.
  4. From the options that appear, select Add relatives from FamilySearch. This allows you to add immediate family members or add an additional 4 generations to the end of a line. In this way, you can continue to expand your family tree in Ancestry.

Syncing Information. Ancestry also allows you to sync information between your Ancestry family tree and your FamilySearch family tree. The advantage of importing a tree is that the people are automatically linked. Otherwise, you can connect people individually. To sync your information:

  1. On the Profile screen, click the FamilySearch icon. Ancestry will then search your FamilySearch tree to find possible matches and will display those for you.
  2. If you believe the two individuals are a match, click Connect Person. Once connected, any changes made to that person in one program will apply to that person in the other program.

Sharing sources. After you have imported your family tree, Ancestry will automatically search its records, looking for additional information for the people on your tree. It will alert you to possible matches by displaying a small leaf by your ancestor. To verify the information, click the person icon, and then click Ancestry Hints (the example below shows 14 hints). You may then choose a possible match that you would like to examine.

Just as with FamilySearch, you can confirm that the information matches your ancestor. Then Ancestry creates a detail-by-detail comparison of the information in the record with the information in your tree. You can add the information to your tree and attach the record. If the person is already connected to your FamilySearch account, the information will be added there as well. You do not need to save or download the document to be able to upload it to your FamilySearch family tree.

Keep in mind that you can also search Ancestry records from FamilySearch. To do this:

  1. Go to the Person screen of the individual.
  2. On the right of the screen, find the Search Records box.
  3. Select Ancestry or a different FamilySearch partner to search. You will be told you are leaving the FamilySearch site and then be shown possible matches from Ancestry (or another selected partner).
LDS Temple Work on Ancestry

An exciting feature of the collaboration between Ancestry and FamilySearch is that Church members are now able to submit a name on Ancestry for temple ordinances. To do this:

  1. From the Profile screen of an individual, click the FamilySearch icon.
  2. From the drop-down menu that appears, click Ordinance Details. A screen will open in FamilySearch and show the individual’s ordinance information. Review what temple work has been done and what information is still needed.
  3. If the individual’s information is correct and complete, you can submit the name for temple work as you normally would in FamilySearch. For more information about how to submit a name, see this guide.

When you sign up for your free Ancestry account, you can access Ancestry’s vast collection of records, easily import your family tree from FamilySearch, collaborate with others, and sync records effortlessly. Join today, and see how fast your family tree can grow!


How to Make the Most of Your Free FindMyPast LDS Account

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:19

People tracing their English and Irish roots have long known the value of FindMyPast, a research site with vast collections that cover those areas extensively. With 8 billion names, FindMyPast offers many resources and records that are not available anywhere else. Although the site focuses on English and Irish research, it is not limited to just those areas. It has a significant collection of records from the U.S. and other countries as well.

Now members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a FamilySearch account can access FindMyPast for free. To sign up for your free account, visit the FindMyPast page on FamilySearch. You will then be ready to discover how the site can help you learn more about your ancestors.


Highlights of FindMyPast

While the English and Irish genealogy records are certainly a highlight at FindMyPast, there is more to the site than just those. You can use the search engine on the home page to locate specific records, or you can browse the records list if you would like to search an individual record set. Read on to learn more about these records and about the other valuable features of FindMyPast.

United Kingdom and Ireland Records. FindMyPast has more than 800 million indexed records from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales—and the collections are still growing. The site’s U.K. parish records include some records that date to 1538. Parish records usually included birth, marriage, and death information, making these some of the most important records for discovering ancestors from this region. FindMyPast also has a large collection of civil registration records dating from 1837, along with census records, millions of newspaper pages, military records, electoral registers, and more. 

Beyond the U.K. FindMyPast is actively expanding its collections with records from the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. The site now boasts more than 850 million U.S. records. FindMyPast is particularly strong in county marriage records and newspaper collections, with records from PERSI (Periodical Source Index, the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world) and from the Newspaper Archive (an archive with 5.6 billion names in newspapers dating to 1600). The site has recently added millions of Catholic records that have never been available before, and more will be coming. You can read more about the Catholic Heritage Archive project here.

FindMyPast features many records like this 1851 English Census record, which can offer additional information about your ancestors.

As with other FamilySearch partners, keep in mind that a few record collections are not included in the free partner account. If you encounter records that are not covered by your free membership, FindMyPast does offer both a monthly subscription and a pay-per-view option. 

Research Help. If you are looking for advice and tips to guide your research, FindMyPast has many excellent resources for this. From the Help tab on the main menu, select either Expert Advice or Top Tips. Also from the main menu, be sure to explore the blog, which offers numerous webinars, guides, articles, and videos about using specific record types, researching in particular areas, and overcoming research dead ends.

Growing Your Family Tree

A great way to get started on FindMyPast is by importing your family tree. The site offers step-by-step instructions for how to do that here. You can also read instructions specific to importing a FamilySearch tree here. Remember that you cannot create a GEDCOM, a file that communicates across family history programs, directly from FamilySearch. You must first import your tree into a software program compatible with FamilySearch (find some options here under Family Tree Management). Currently you are not able to search the family trees of other people on FindMyPast. However, you can give family members or friends permission to view your tree.

Exploring Hints. As you import your tree to FindMyPast, you will activate the site’s hints, or notifications of records in the database, which may contain useful information about individuals on your tree. This is a relatively new feature that is still being expanded. Currently, hints are available from birth, marriage, and death records but more records will be linked in the future.

Hints appear on your tree as orange circles near the relevant person. If you click on the circle, you are taken to a page with the suggested hints. From here you can choose to review a record or reject it. If you review a record and believe it to be a match, you can accept it, merge the information, and attach the record to your FindMyPast tree. When viewing the document, you can also select Download from the bottom right corner.

Searching Records with FamilySearch. Another way to access FindMyPast records is to start your search from FamilySearch. To do this:

  1. Go to the Person screen of the individual.
  2. On the right side of the screen, find the Search Records box.
  3. Select FindMyPast or a different FamilySearch partner to search. You will be told you are leaving the FamilySearch site and then be shown possible record matches from FindMyPast (or another selected partner).

For example, suppose that you looked for matches for your ancestor and received a list of possible records. You could narrow the results by viewing the electoral rolls. As you compare the information and find a match, you can click the Download Document button to save the document to your computer.

From within FamilySearch, you can add this document as a source by scrolling to the source section and then choosing to include the URL for the website or choosing Add a Memory and uploading the document itself.

Take some time to discover all the records and resources available with your free membership at FindMyPast. If you have English or Irish roots, you will almost certainly find new information to help you fill in or extend your family tree.


How to Make the Most of Your Free MyHeritage LDS Account

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:19

If you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, your FamilySearch account now gives you access to resources and records far beyond the collections that FamilySearch has on its own. Partnerships formed between FamilySearch and several of the most important genealogical companies and websites allow Church members to extend their family trees even further. One of these valuable partnerships is with MyHeritage, which offers Church members a free, unlimited, PremiumPlus family membership. To sign up, visit the MyHeritage page on FamilySearch.org. Here are just a few of the resources offered by MyHeritage.

MyHeritage Highlights

Based in Israel and started in 2003, MyHeritage has already won awards for most promising start-up and for being one of the fastest growing companies. Besides an impressive collection of records, MyHeritage offers many unique features to researchers seeking information about their families.

MyHeritage has a rich collection of global records, such as these Swedish household examination books.

Records. With nearly 8 billion historical records, MyHeritage is bound to have something that can help you grow your family tree. This is true no matter where your family comes from since MyHeritage has a global scope and a geographic presence in all countries. The site is in 42 languages, and the blog is translated into 11 languages: Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.

Some of the most exciting collections at MyHeritage include Swedish household examination books, 1880–1920; censuses from the U.S. and other countries; indexes to births, marriages, and deaths from numerous countries; immigration records; church records from countries around the world; voter lists; and many other records.

Family Trees. MyHeritage allows you to build a family tree either by using its Family Tree Builder genealogy software or by importing an existing tree as a GEDCOM, a file that communicates across family history software. (Remember that you cannot create a GEDCOM directly in FamilySearch. You must first move your tree to a software program that is compatible with FamilySearch, such as Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, or MacFamilyTree.) Once you have built or imported your tree, MyHeritage uses technology such as Smart Matching to automatically search through other trees to find connections and uses Record Matching to look through records for any that might contain information about people on your tree. In 2016, MyHeritage also introduced Book Matching, a unique technology that searches text in books for information about your ancestors. Once you have established your tree, you are able to invite even nonsubscribing relatives to view it and contribute content.

The MyHeritage family trees are packed with features. One of these is PedigreeMap, which allows you to map the life events of your ancestors, including births, marriages, and deaths. When viewing a map, click on any pin to see who was involved in events at that place and to see more details about the individuals. You can read more about PedigreeMap here. A MyHeritage family tree also lets you upload photos and audio recordings to your tree.

DNA, Research Help, and Other Tools. Besides the main features of record collections and family trees, MyHeritage also offers a significant number of other resources. The recently added DNA section gives you the option of taking a DNA test for $79 or allows you to upload previously obtained DNA results and search for matches. Also, under the Research tab, you can find information about hiring a genealogist to assist with your research. On the MyHeritage blog, you will find articles on a wide range of topics and also find webinars, many of which are free.

MyHeritage and FamilySearch Integration

The newly developing integration options between MyHeritage and FamilySearch allow you to take full advantage of both programs. For example, a button recently added to MyHeritage allows you to attach sources directly from MyHeritage to your FamilySearch family tree. To use this option, you must initiate the search from within FamilySearch. Follow these steps to attach sources to your tree:

  1. Log in to your FamilySearch account.
  2. Locate the person on your family tree that you are interested in learning more about, and choose Person view.
  3. In the Search Records box on the right, select MyHeritage. MyHeritage will then search its massive collections of records for information about your ancestor and will display any matches.

Note: To narrow the results to a certain type of record or to exclude all the family tree matches, you can choose a category from the list on the left.

Initiate a search from within your FamilySearch Account, and MyHeritage will find possible matches in its records like this 1880 U.S. Census record.

For example, suppose Amanda Wilt appeared on your family tree in FamilySearch. A search for her, narrowed to include only census records, would reveal this 1880 U.S. Census record. By clicking the match, you would see the original record. If the record does match, as this one does, you could add the source to FamilySearch. To do this, simply scroll down until you see the button on the left labeled “Attach source to FamilySearch.” Click the button, and MyHeritage will add the record to Amanda Wilt on your FamilySearch family tree. It also fills in most of the fields (as shown), including those for the source title and where the record is located. You fill in the last few fields, including “Reason this source is attached.” Then click Save, and you are done.

Keep in mind that because this method is done searching for one person at a time from FamilySearch, the best way to take advantage of MyHeritage’s hints on your tree would be to import your tree as a GEDCOM and see what else the program can find for you.

Watch for even more integration between FamilySearch and MyHeritage in the future. In the meantime, sign up for your free MyHeritage account, and start discovering more about your family.


How to Make the Most of Your Free Geneanet LDS Account

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 11:17

You may already be familiar with FamilySearch: your family tree there, vast collections of records from around the world, and many other benefits. But did you know that as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you have access to additional family history resources at no extra cost? FamilySearch has partnered with some of the largest online record collectors to make their resources available to you for free.

One of those partners is Geneanet, the largest genealogical website in continental Europe, with more than 4 billion individual names, 700,000 family trees, and helpful blogs and other information to make the search for your ancestors easier. If you have ancestors from continental Europe, you won’t want to miss this site. To get started, go to the Geneanet page on FamilySearch, and sign up for your free membership. Then continue reading to learn more about the resources offered by Geneanet and to see how a membership can benefit you.

Geneanet Highlights

Based in France, Geneanet has an extensive collection of French genealogical records. However, the collections on the website extend throughout Europe and beyond. They are available in English, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish.

Records and Books from Europe and around the World. Geneanet’s indexed, digitized collections—more than 700,000 of them—span the globe. They include more than 350,000 record collections from France; 7,500 from the Netherlands; 6,700 from Madagascar; and 5,400 from India, just to name a few. Many of these are unique collections, not duplicated on other major genealogical websites. To see a list of available collections, click here (please realize that the entry names may not be translated and may not include a description, so deciphering exactly what the records are may be tricky). Geneanet also has hundreds of thousands of digitized and searchable books, along with a large collection of old newspapers. With such items as The Long Island Farmer, the Greece Press, and the United States Catholic Intelligencer, as well as more well-known publications and town histories, you will find plenty of resources to explore.

Member-Contributed Databases and Indexes. Geneanet has a significant amount of information that has been contributed by individuals and genealogical societies. This map shows how many indexes are available in some places in Western Europe. You can search the genealogical society indexes as a collection or select particular societies from the list and focus your search on those collections.

As with other FamilySearch partners, keep in mind that while the free membership gives you access to the great majority of resources available at Geneanet, a few records have been excluded, such as if a payment is required to the library or archive from which the record originated.  

Adding Your Family Tree

The Geneanet site already has a large number of family trees (more than 700,000) and is still adding more. To add yours, simply click the Family Tree tab, and upload a GEDCOM. Then choose a theme color for your tree, and select your privacy settings.

Once you have a family tree in Geneanet, you can upload photos, attach sources, and view a variety of interesting things about your family. Above the individual highlighted on your family tree, you should see the Matches tab, which allows you to search the Geneanet collection for records containing information about your ancestor. Above this, from the Menu tab, you will find options for viewing a map or examining personalized statistics (see the statistics shown), allowing you to see your family from a different perspective.

A Community of Learning

Geneanet is a site that emphasizes collaboration. From the main menu, the Community tab allows you to select Forums or Collaborative Assistance. In Forums you can ask or answer questions. In Collaborative Assistance you can exchange genealogy favors. For example, you might ask someone to look for a record in a particular archive or take a photo in a particular cemetery. In return, you would do a similar service for someone else.

The Projects tab also offers creative, collaborative possibilities. You will find listings like cemeteries, memorials, postcards, and archival registers. You can search to see what others have added, or you can make your own contributions. For example, the postcard section is filled with fascinating scenes of long-ago people, landscapes, and buildings, which capture the world your ancestors lived in.

Old postcards like this one from Germany can give you insights into how your ancestors lived.

Under the More tab, you will find the Geneanet blog, with articles highlighting news and tips specific to Geneanet as well as general genealogy news. This tab also offers resources to help you trace your French ancestors, information about the origins of first and last names, and a fee-based, Ask an Expert section. In the Origin of Last Names section, Geneanet displays a map showing the major places where a particular name is found in records. For people with unusual last names, this can be particularly useful. In addition, you can sign up to receive Email Alerts by Last Name, which  sends weekly notices of new information added to the Geneanet database about a last name of interest to you.

If you are ready to expand your family tree searches and explore new genealogy resources, sign up for your free Geneanet membership. Then explore the records, import your family tree, and see just what this robust community has to offer. In the process of learning more about Geneanet, you will probably learn more about your family too.


How to Make the Most of Your American Ancestors Free LDS Account

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/17/2017 - 10:56

One of the best features of FamilySearch is that it is free. Beginner and professional researchers alike can take advantage of the site’s integrated tree, its billions of family history records, and its many other resources without ever paying a dime for it. But did you know that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a FamilySearch account can also get free access to other genealogy sites? These sites are some of the most useful genealogy sites available, with records numbering in the billions to help you find more information about your ancestors. One of these valuable partner sites is American Ancestors. The partnership between this organization and FamilySearch has made more records available and made those records more searchable than ever. To set up your free account, visit the American Ancestors page on FamilySearch.org.

American Ancestors Highlights

The American Ancestors website is the site for the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), the oldest genealogical society in the country. The website is the most used genealogical society website in the world. The society is associated with a research facility of the same name in Boston. Researchers can visit year-round to use the extensive collection of records and to speak with some of the nation’s leading genealogical experts.

You may not expect to find records from the 1890 Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, census on American Ancestors, but the website does offer some important collections of European records.

Not surprisingly, American Ancestors is particularly useful for people with New England and early American ancestors. Resources include vital, church, probate, tax, and military records, as well as newspapers, maps, and many other types of information for this time period. Many of these records are unique, having been kept by churches in small towns or in county offices. You will also find a number of family or town histories focused on early New England settlers. Many of the records are digitized, indexed, and searchable. Of the more than 450 databases on the website, 388 cover the U.S., and a full 343—a remarkable number—date to before 1800. You can see a list of the available records here.

What some people may not realize is that the American Ancestors site benefits nearly all researchers, not just those with early New England ancestors. The databases cover other U.S. states and have dates ranging from centuries ago to only a couple of decades ago. There are even a few collections from other countries, such as Germany, Ireland, and South Africa.

While on the American Ancestors site, be sure to spend some time in the education center. You can find this by clicking the Education tab at the top of the page. Here you can watch videos on such topics as using Connecticut resources or organizing and preserving your family papers. Some webinars are free, while others require a fee to enroll. You will also find document templates, family charts, and articles on topics of interest to genealogists.

Keep in mind that while your free membership allows you to access many valuable resources to advance your research, it does not give you access to everything American Ancestors has. Some of the databases require a paid subscription (although you may be able to access them by visiting a library or other institution that has a paid subscription). The databases that require a subscription are the Great Migration Series, the New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1847–present), the Massachusetts Vital Records (1841–1970), and several other collections. Also, external collections, those hosted by institutions other than American Ancestors, are not included with your free acount.

Finding Your Family

This record of Samuel Meacham comes from Abstracts of Wills, Admins, and Guardianships in New York State, 1787–1835.

To start a search for your family at American Ancestors, locate and click the Search tab at the top of the page. Then click Databases. The next step will be to type in what you know about your family. As with any search, remember to be flexible, use spelling variations, and widen your search criteria to increase your chances of success. Alternatively, you could try narrowing your search by selecting a certain type of record or database to search. After typing in the information, click Search to receive a list of possible results. A paper icon next to a name indicates that you can see a transcript of the record. If a small camera icon appears, you will be able to see an image of the actual record. Arrows at the top of the page allow you to look at nearby pages in a record (this feature would be useful in the example above because the record is listed as having “no date”). In addition, you can choose to download or print records. Other tabs at the top of the page give more information about the record collection and provide citation information. After you have downloaded and saved any relevant matches for individuals on your family tree, log in to FamilySearch.org, upload the record, and attach it to your tree.

Enjoy access to vast collections of early American records, and connect with the oldest genealogical society in the U.S. with your free American Ancestors membership. And keep watching as FamilySearch and American Ancestors continue to make family history records more readily available to everyone.


Thank You for Teaching Me to Index

FamilySearch - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 16:31

In one form or another, thousands of indexers shared their gratitude for the help of valued friends and leaders as they began indexing. While many tools and tutorials teach how to index, nothing compares to the guidance of a patient friend.

The Best Resource—People

When FamilySearch asked seasoned indexers what helped them the most when they got started, the answer wasn’t usually a tool or video—it was people.

“I think for me one of the best resources was finding someone who was a good indexer right at the beginning so that they could show me cool and helpful tips”   —Marcus

“Honestly, indexing with other people (especially experienced ones) is one of the best resources you can have.”   —Jonathon

People often feel a great energy and sense of gratitude when they learn to index with a mentor nearby. “Getting someone to help me with the first few batches was very helpful,” Terry Wilcox offered.

“She and I indexed at side-by-side computers for several hours-long indexing sessions. Sometimes she just told me the answer when I was stuck, and other times she took me through the process, showing me how to figure it out myself. I gained tremendous confidence under her tutelage, and when I felt ready to index on my own, I always knew she was just a phone call away.”   —Tania

Group Indexing

Other indexers were grateful that their first encounter with indexing was in a friendly group setting. “Indexing became popular when I was in the Church’s youth program,” said Meegan.

“My leaders had some activities centered around indexing. It was challenging at first to learn how to read the cursive, but I was guided by my parents and leaders. I recommend beginning indexing in a group of people. Their experiences with the program and with the text will help you learn in no time.”   —Meegan

Find Indexing Friends in Your Ward and Stake

Church members may or may not be aware of resources right in their own ward or stake. These people will be eager to help you on the indexing journey. Here’s how to find their contact information:

  1. Sign in to LDS.org
  2. In the upper corner of the page, click your name.
  3. In the drop-down list, click Directory.
  4. In the menu on the left, click Ward Leaders, and then, in the results column, click Other Callings.
  5. Search the list of callings for “Ward Temple and Family History Consultant” to see who in your ward is currently serving in this calling, and make contact with that person.
  6. If someone isn’t currently serving as a ward temple and family history consultant, click the down-arrow next to the name of your ward, and then click Stake Information. Then do a similar search for a stake temple and family history consultant.

“When I really can’t make sense of the results, I have my stake leader review the batch on Skype. Sometimes, if I’m feeling uncertain about a new project, I have her review and comment on a batch before I submit it. She is so helpful and makes it comfortable to ask questions.”   —Marilynn

Get Help from Patron Services

If you’ve searched your ward and stake and nobody appears to have a temple and family history calling, all is not lost. Contact us at FamilySearch. We’ll answer your questions and support you along the way.

There are many fun and exciting ways to start building a network of supportive indexing friends. Start a group locally or online, find a consultant, or visit a family history center near you. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself with some great new contacts and plenty of experience—perfectly positioned to turn around and help someone else get started in the wonderful world of indexing.

Here’s How You Thanked Those Who Helped You Learn to Index

“I had a very good teacher!! She was a professional genealogist I asked a lot of questions, and if she did not know answer, she and I together would find it. I was not interested in family history at ALL!!! Now I am ADDICTED TO INDEXING! I CANNOT STOP! YEAH!!! Thanks for all the help and motivation.”   —Joni

“My family history and indexing consultants in my ward are the best! Brother and Sister Wilson. They were a tremendous resource to me back then, and they still are the best! They have a vast amount of knowledge, patience, and love to teach me and all the members in my ward. They were the most helpful resource when I first started indexing. I am grateful for their diligence and faith, especially patience, to teach me, and to be my biggest supporter whenever I had questions.”   —Racca

“I am truly grateful to her for getting me started, because after completing over 500,000 names, I have thoroughly enjoyed having something worthwhile to occupy my time.”   —Sally

“A wise stake president set a goal to submit two million names before the Brigham City Temple would be dedicated in approximately one year. What appeared to be an unrealistic number was exceeded with time to spare.”   —Coombs



Turning Hearts in Ten Minutes a Day

FamilySearch - Tue, 07/11/2017 - 09:44

by Annie Merrell

Have you ever made it to the end of the day and wondered, “Where did all my time go?” Does family history frequently get pushed down on your to do list? Are you looking for simple ways to connect with your past and dive into the fun of family history? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then keep reading for five of our favorite fast family history activities. These are perfect for the days when you only have a few minutes to spare.

1. Add a memory to your family tree

FamilySearch is the perfect place to share photos and stories of your ancestors. The FamilySearch memories app makes this task easy. Simply download and open the app on your smart phone, log in with your FamilySearch username and password, and decide which memory to share. You can add photos, record stories, and tag ancestors in the memory.

For step-by-step instructions on using the app, read “Using the FamilySearch Memories App.”

2. Attach sources to FamilySearch Family Tree

When you open your family tree, some ancestors may have a blue icon indicating that historical records match their information. It’s up to you to check and approve the record. Once you’ve verified the information, you can link it to your ancestor and his or her family. If you don’t have time to sit down for a focused research session, adding records is a quick and easy way to improve the accuracy of the family tree and save time for future researchers who will benefit from having the records already attached.

For step-by-step instructions on attaching sources, read “How to Add Sources.”

3. Call a relative

In our current age of texting, social media, and email, it’s easy to forget about creating connections through phone calls. A phone call is a great way to connect with relatives, stay up to date on life, and learn about the past. All you have to do is ask a question and listen. With summer coming up, it may be fun to ask about a favorite family vacation or memorable summer activity.

4. Transcribe tombstones

We love free websites that help us find our families. Billion Graves and Find A Grave are fantastic resources for locating tombstones and other additional information about ancestors. Transcribing tombstones is a great way to give back to the genealogy community by making more tombstone photos accessible.

For more information on transcribing tombstones, visit billiongraves.com/get-started. You will need to create a free Billion Graves account to participate in this activity.

5. Discover and read a new family history story

Visit All the Stories to check out some of the interesting or inspiring stories from your FamilySearch family tree. We love how this web app simplifies finding ancestors’ memories on FamilySearch. The website prompts you to log in to FamilySearch. It will browse through your tree and pull all of the stories into one place. As a bonus, it estimates how much time it will take to read the story. This is a great website to have open on your phone’s web browser. The next time you’re tempted to fill a few minutes scrolling through social media, you’ll be prepared to learn a new family story instead.


Family History Leadership Guide Now in Gospel Library

FamilySearch - Fri, 07/07/2017 - 16:13

“When our hearts turn to our ancestors, something changes inside us. We feel part of something greater than ourselves.” —President Russell M. Nelson, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles  

You’ve been called to be part of the miracle of turning hearts—of helping members gather their families on both sides of the veil through Spirit-led, one-on-one family history experiences. 

To support you in your calling, the new Family History Leadership Guide is now accessible via the Gospel Library mobile app. This simplified and updated guide replaces To Turn the Hearts.   

The Family History Leadership Guide provides direction and resources for temple and family history consultants at all levels. Its emphasis is on finding family names, taking them to the temple, and teaching others to do the same. 

The guide includes: 

  • Information about the responsibilities and blessings of your calling. 
  • Information about priesthood support for family history callings. 
  • Inspirational videos. 
  • Training resources. 
  • Links to talks, lessons, handouts, and other resources. 

As you become more familiar with the Family History Leadership Guide, you will discover how much it can help you in your calling. 

You can locate the guide in the Gospel Library app in three locations: 

  • In the Leadership section, near Handbook 2.
  • In the Temple and Family History Consultant subsection of the Temple and Family History section.
  • In the For Priesthood Leaders subsection of the Temple and Family History section.

Currently the guide is available only in English via the Gospel Library app. In the future, more languages will be added, and the guide will be available on LDS.org as well.  

Your feedback will help us improve the Family History Leadership Guide. You can send feedback by following these steps: 

  • Tap the menu icon (Android) or top application bar (iOS). 
  • Tap Settings
  • Under Additional Settings, tap Send Feedback

As you follow the principles and use the resources in the Family History Leadership Guide, you will help your family and others come to a better understanding of their role in gathering the families of God.  


Keeping the Stories of Family Heirlooms Alive

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 12:07

“Every family has keepsakes,” said Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander in an April 1999 general conference address. “Families collect furniture, books, porcelain, and other valuable things, then pass them on to their posterity. Such beautiful keepsakes remind us of loved ones now gone and turn our minds to loved ones unborn. They form a bridge between family past and family future” (“Bridges and Eternal Keepsakes,” Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, Ensign, May 1999).

Elder Neuenschwander went on to explain that even more valuable than these objects are the genealogies, family stories, historical accounts, and traditions that we keep and pass on. However, the objects themselves can serve as wonderful, tangible reminders of those stories, making doubly sure the stories continue to be told and retold, stitching hearts together across generations.



Joseph’s Rocking Horse

When I visited Nauvoo in the year 2000, one keepsake I brought home was a thin metal Christmas ornament in the shape of a rocking horse. It came with a story, printed on cardstock, of a small rocking horse that had once belonged to a little boy named Joseph, the son of John Taylor.

Joseph’s family left Nauvoo in 1846 with a loaded covered wagon, headed for Utah. The rocking horse, carved by Joseph’s father, was left behind. Joseph missed the horse so desperately that he cried for two days. His father, who would become the third prophet and President of the Church, finally decided to ride his horse back to Nauvoo under cover of night to avoid the mobs and retrieve the toy. He tied it to the outside of the wagon for the long journey across the plains.

The little horse and its accompanying story were passed down and preserved for more than 120 years, until the horse was finally donated to the Nauvoo restoration effort, which started in the 1960s. It has been displayed in the restored Taylor home ever since.

The first time I saw the horse, I wasn’t necessarily impressed with the toy itself or the fact that it was more than 150 years old at the time. What touched my heart was the story of a father who had risked his own safety to ease the heartache of his little boy.

Tip: Look around your home—or your parents’ or grandparents’ homes—for family artifacts that have been passed down for generations. Then dig deeper to find out what was so meaningful about those objects. Most keepsakes won’t have stories as dramatic as Joseph Taylor’s rocking horse, but you can still go a few steps beyond “this teacup belonged to my great-grandmother, and I used to see it her kitchen.” What did the teacup mean to her? What does it say about her? (Perhaps it says that she was elegant and fastidious and took great care of her possessions; perhaps she never had much in the way of material advantages, but this was one of the few objects of beauty that she owned. How did the teacup make its way into your hands?

Crystal’s Civil War Spoon

In a previous article for FamilySearch, I wrote about Crystal Farish, whose grandmother had a tradition of serving the same meal every Sunday, which included Swedish coleslaw in a bowl with pink flowers and a silver spoon that had been passed through the family since the Civil War.

For Crystal, that bowl and spoon became a symbol of her paternal grandmother’s love, devotion, and resiliency. Crystal’s father passed away when she was 12, just three days before Christmas. Her grandmother, while mourning the loss of her beloved son, still gathered the family for Christmas Eve and still cooked the customary meal, teaching Crystal that life goes on and that family traditions can be a lifeline in times of great loss.

Tip: Use your family artifacts as a natural part of current gatherings and traditions so their stories can continue to be told and take on new life and meaning. What Crystal’s Civil War spoon represents to her now has little to do with its original history and story. The spoon took on new significance for her because it was actually used instead of left to gather dust high on a kitchen shelf, destined to be forgotten.

Stacy’s Typewriter

Stacy Julian of Spokane, Washington, has a vintage typewriter sitting on a shelf above her photo albums and scrapbooks, next to framed heritage photos. The typewriter belonged to her grandfather, James “Mac” McDougal, who purchased it to take on his mission.

“Just because I have it, that doesn’t automatically give it meaning to the next generation,” Stacy said. So she planned a family activity to help her kids get better acquainted with the typewriter and the story behind it. She had them lift the heavy machine and touch the keys, explaining where the term keyboard came from (kids primarily encounter digital keyboards on their electronic devices these days).

“I told my kids that Grandma remembers her dad carrying this beast up the stairs so he could sit at the kitchen table and type letters,” Stacy said. Then she read an excerpt from a letter that had been typed on that very machine.

The next day, Stacy’s 8-year-old daughter, Addie, stood contemplating a heritage picture that was hanging in their home and asked, “This is the grandpa with the typewriter, right?” Stacy confirmed that it was, and Addie suggested that Stacy use the typewriter to type a letter to Chase, her son who was then serving a mission.

“Addie successfully bridged two generations and made a connection to her great-grandfather,” Stacy said, not to mention the adorable missionary connection: letters being typed to and from missionaries in the same family, on the same typewriter, more than 80 years apart.

Tip: Create opportunities for sharing the stories of family artifacts with your children and grandchildren in a way that resonates with them today. Connect the objects to current life experiences, as Stacy did with the keyboard, and also to the specific ancestors who once owned them. The Julian children now know something specific about one of their great-grandfathers, thanks to one family home evening lesson.

“I think as we anticipate that great family reunion that follows this life,” Stacy said, “we’ll want to prepare ourselves for not only meeting but also conversing with family members that we have worked to search out. We’ll want to have something other than names and dates to approach them with, and if we have created connections and enjoyed shared experiences with them, we will have all the more to talk about.”

Angie’s 5-Generation Quilt

I have a family keepsake in the making that is more meaningful to me than many of the other little odds and ends I’ve inherited over the years. It’s currently sitting in my top dresser drawer in pieces inside a black cardboard box.

It’s a quilt that my great-grandmother started cutting out several decades ago in what my grandmother told me is a black-eyed Susan pattern. When my great-grandmother passed away, my grandmother took the little box and started working on the quilt as well. She’d pull it out now and then, in between the myriad other quilting and sewing projects she was always working on, and stitch up a block or two.

As I stood in my grandmother’s sewing room and listened to her tell me about this box of fabric scraps, I told her how much I loved the patterns and the colors. “Would you like it?” she asked. “I doubt I’ll ever get around to finishing it.” I had forgotten that it was impossible to admire something in Grandma Neva’s presence without her trying to give it to you, and yet I enthusiastically accepted.

My grandmother passed away earlier this year, and she’s right, she wouldn’t have had a chance to complete the quilt. But I will, and I plan to enlist the help of my mother, who is a much better seamstress than I am, and even have my young daughter add a stitch or two. In the end, this will be a quilt handmade by 5 generations of women: from Ila Priscilla Olsen Turner, born in 1908, to Keira Jane Lucas, born in 2010.

And what stories will this keepsake hold for me? I will treasure the memories of my grandmother’s hands applying meticulous stitches that consistently won blue ribbons at the county fair. I will remember how as a child I played beneath the quilts on their frames, watching the needle poke down and back through, down and back through. I will remember my grandma’s admirable frugality (no scrap of fabric was too small to save) as well as her generosity (every one of her children and grandchildren received a handmade quilt both when they graduated from high school and when they married).

Tip: This experience of standing in my grandmother’s sewing room and listening to her talk about her fabric and quilts arose out of a photo tour I took around her home one day. Knowing my grandparents were getting frailer and were not likely to be living independently much longer, I went from room to room, photographing objects that particularly stood out in my memory from childhood. Regardless of whether I eventually ended up with any of those objects, at least I had the pictures to spark my memories. I’m sure I’ll upload a few of those pictures and stories to the Memories section of my grandmother’s profile on FamilySearch.

The Things That Matter

“If I want my children and grandchildren to know those who still live in my memory, then I must build the bridge between them,” said Elder Neuenschwander in his 1999 conference talk. Objects, keepsakes, and artifacts can build those bridges in tangible, accessible ways that will make the memories feel more real to younger generations. There’s not just a story to tell or a photograph to look at, there’s a rocking horse, a silver spoon, a typewriter, or a quilt that can bring the stories to life.

“My grandchildren will have no knowledge of their family’s history if I do nothing to preserve it for them,” continued Elder Neuenschwander. “That which I do not in some way record will be lost at my death, and that which I do not pass on to my posterity, they will never have.”


Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors with FamilySearch

FamilySearch - Mon, 07/03/2017 - 11:33

The history of many countries—including the United States and Canada—is filled with stories of immigrants, which, for many of us, means that our individual family histories are also filled with them. Your immigrant ancestors might have come from Italy a couple of generations ago or from England a few centuries ago—or you might even have both of those varieties of immigrants on your family tree. While the specifics of our immigrant ancestors may look different, the existence of immigrant branches on our family trees is something most of us have in common.

The other thing many of us have in common is that we find tracing these immigrant ancestors tricky or even frustrating. There’s just something about crossing the big, wide ocean that makes their trail grow a little fainter, a little harder to follow. But the good news is FamilySearch.org is packed full of records and resources that make locating those elusive immigrant ancestors much more manageable. Here’s a look at a few of these resources.


Laying the Foundation: Guides and Resources

Before you dive into immigration research, it’s useful to take some time to get oriented. Understanding a little about the immigration process, the records it created, and how to access these records can make your journey easier. Here are some resources at FamilySearch.org that can help you do just that:

Learning Center. To access FamilySearch’s Learning Center, click Get Help in the upper right corner of the home page. Then in the drop-down menu, click Learning Center. In the search field, you can type Immigration Research or any other topic of interest to you. A list of lessons related to that subject will appear. These presentations, often 10 to 60 minutes long, cover such topics as “Norwegian Emigration: The Experience” and “Ireland Beginning Research: Immigration Strategies.” You can also search for articles in the Learning Center. The presentations and articles often walk you through the research process, direct you to relevant resources, and get you on the fast track to success in tracking your immigrant ancestors.

Presentations such as this one in FamilySearch’s Learning Center can
help you be more effective in your research.

Wiki. Another important resource to get acquainted with when tracing your immigrant ancestors is the FamilySearch Wiki. The wiki offers guides and lists to help focus your research. Many of these resources include explanations of where to look, along with links to the most important online resources. A few wiki articles particularly useful for immigration research are the following:

Another great way to jumpstart your search for your immigrant ancestor is to visit the wiki for their home country by typing the country’s name in the search box on the main wiki page, and then clicking Go. In the new page that opens, click Emigration and Immigration in the research topics box. Here you can learn about major reasons people left their home country, what ports they used, and how to access records about these emigrants. The wiki articles often include links to connect you to the records about emigrants and immigrants.

Diving into Research: Immigration Records at FamilySearch.org

Once you have spent some time becoming acquainted with immigration research, it’s time to start searching for records.

Many types of records are available at FamilySearch.org that can help researchers discover new information about their immigrant ancestors. We’ve chosen just a few to highlight here. As always, you can find ancestors in records by using the main search fields for historical records or by selecting individual record collections to search.

Passenger Lists. One of the most important kinds of records in tracing immigrant ancestors are passenger lists. Lists were often created both when people left a port and when they arrived at a new port. FamilySearch has a strong collection of arrival lists for the United States, including lists from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and more. Most of these records are searchable. FamilySearch has some departure lists from other countries as well, and many others can be accessed through partner sites such as Ancestry.com or findmypast.com. (Free subscriptions to these partner sites are available for Church members who have FamilySearch accounts). Hover your mouse pointer over Search, and then click Records. On the new page, you can type in your ancestor’s name to search all records or type the name of a specific collection in the Find a Collection box.

To search a specific group of records, hover your mouse over Search, and then click Records.
Then type the name of the collection in the Find a Collection box.

LDS Immigration Records. FamilySearch also has resources that are specific to the immigration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For example, you can search the Mormon Migration Database from FamilySearch.org. While you can see search results on FamilySearch.org, to view the actual information you will have to leave FamilySearch.org and head to the official Mormon Migration site, which is hosted by Brigham Young University. Here, you can view passenger lists, see photo of ships, and scan lists of passengers aboard the ship. You can also see any accounts that were written of the voyage by your ancestor or by others on board the ship.

Other Immigration Records. Other records besides passenger lists were often created when our ancestors immigrated, and FamilySearch has some excellent collections of some of these records. Among FamilySearch’s collections are border crossing records from Canada (starting in 1895) and Mexico (starting in 1903) to the United States, nearly 1.5 billion United States passport applications dating from the period 1795–1925, and the Belgium Antwerp Police Immigration Index (1840–1930) among others. You can browse a list of collections here.

Other Records. Keep in mind that other types of records can help you trace your immigrant ancestors. For example, naturalization records can be important. Check FamilySearch’s list here to see what naturalizations are available online. FamilySearch also has naturalization records that might not be microfilmed yet but that can still be accessed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City or by ordering microfilm from your local family history center. FamilySearch also has a large collection of other records that might have information about your ancestors and can help you target your immigration search more effectively. The guides in the Learning Center and the wiki can help direct you to the most useful of these records.

Ready to trace some immigrant branches in your family tree? Then stop by FamilySearch.org to see how the resources and records here can help you.


Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Record Trail

FamilySearch - Sat, 07/01/2017 - 15:39

Although stories of ancestors stowing away on ships are dramatic and exciting, they are almost never true. In reality, immigration came with a lot of red tape—just as it does now. And for a genealogist, that red tape is useful because it often left behind a trail of records as our ancestors went through the immigration process.

While each immigration story is unique, many of our ancestors passed through similar checkpoints and created similar records. The immigration path of my ancestors Georg and Mina Albrecht highlights a few of the records that might also help you uncover the path of your immigrant ancestors.


In Germany

The church in Goldebee where Georg and Mina were married.

Mina Haker and Georg Albrecht married in 1864 in the parish church of Goldebee in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a state in northern Germany. Over the next 15 years, the family appears in local parish records having nine children, one of whom died as a baby. A one-page family history tells that Georg encountered missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while on his way home from work one day. He and his family made the decision to be baptized and then to follow the Church’s encouragement to immigrate to the United States and make their way to Utah.

Leaving one’s country was not as easy as just packing a bag and buying passage on the next ship. Often our ancestors had to get permission of some kind from their home country. Georg and his oldest son, Johann, sent in papers showing they had completed the required military service. Unfortunately, these papers are available only in the local German archive. Other areas have easier access to records of people emigrating that can be of use to genealogists. For example, the website German Roots links to many emigration databases for the German states. In Copenhagen, the police kept records of people intending to emigrate, which are now largely indexed and available online. The Antwerp police did something similar, and the index is now available on FamilySearch. To see what exists for your country, visit the FamilySearch Wiki home page, and do a search for your ancestor’s country of origin. Then click in the menu on the right to read that country’s Emigration and Immigration section.

Crossing the Ocean

The next record in the Albrecht family’s immigration process is a Hamburg passenger departure list dated October 1880. Here, Georg and Mina are listed with eight children. Theoretically, information for our ancestors should be included in two sets of passenger lists: departure lists showing when they left their home country and arrival lists showing when they arrived in their new country. In reality though, it’s not always possible to find both lists. In the United States, the magic date is 1820—most immigrants who arrived after 1820 are included in arrival lists that are indexed and searchable through FamilySearch and elsewhere. The availability of departure lists can be inconsistent. Check the FamilySearch Wiki for your departure country to learn more.

This depature list from the port of Hamburg shows Mina and Georg’s family and provides a hometown for them, making it easier to search farther back.

Mina and Georg lived in northern Germany, which meant the port of Hamburg was the most obvious choice for port of departure. And they did use this port—as did one third of all people leaving from Central and Eastern Europe at this time. Not all of our ancestors chose the closest port though. They often took into account other factors such as cost, waiting time, and ease of traveling to that port. The Albrecht family’s choice of Hamburg is fortunate for me because these lists have survived and are indexed and searchable online. Records from the other major German port, Bremen, were destroyed. While finding the departure list may feel redundant and sometimes difficult, it’s worth the effort. The all-important name of a person’s hometown (necessary to continue tracing the family in the country of origin) is much more likely to be recorded in departure lists than in arrival lists.

The Albrecht family’s New York arrival record incorrectly tells us the family is from Sweden, making it difficult to find them in indexes.

The Albrecht family arrived in New York on November 3, 1880. Once again, a passenger list gives a quick snapshot of the family. Interestingly, the Albrecht family is not included in the index Germans to America, nor can they be found on FamilySearch.org or Ancestry.com or in any other database indicating their departure from Germany in 1880. A closer look at their New York arrival list explains why. At the top of the page in the column for origin is the word “Sweden” with a squiggly line going down the page to indicate everyone on the page was from Sweden. This detail always reminds me of the importance of experimenting with searches—you never know when information might be recorded or indexed incorrectly.

BYU’s Mormon Migration website includes a photo of the Wisconsin, the ship that carried the Albrechts to New York.

Because the family were members of the Church, another website can give me insights into their journey. The Mormon Migration site, hosted by Brigham Young University, includes all Mormon voyages that took place during the period 1840–1890 as well as some other databases. Along with passenger arrival lists and photos of ships, this website provides links to all known accounts of the voyages. That means I can read details that others wrote about the voyage, even if my own ancestors wrote nothing.

Settling In

The naturalization record for Georg and Mina’s son John Albrecht (Johann in Germany), provides only very basic information. Other naturalization records are more helpful.

Once on this side of the ocean, your ancestors could be included in numerous records—including records that give insight into their immigration experience or their lives in their home countries. One of the best records to try is naturalization records. Prior to 1906—the year naturalization became a federal process—naturalization could take place in a variety of courts and involved several steps that could create different records. Keep in mind that through much of history, women did not naturalize separately but took on the citizenship status of their husbands. For more information on naturalization, read FamilySearch’s United States Naturalization and Citizenship wiki article. Georg and his son Johann both naturalized in Utah—although their records provide scanty information. Some naturalization records are much richer in detail.

Other records can also be helpful. Besides including names, ages, and relationships, beginning in 1900, census records also asked for an immigration year and citizenship status. The 1920 census asked for year of naturalization. This information can help focus your search. Other records such as church records, vital records, newspaper obituaries, and even family and county histories among others can fill in details of your ancestors’ stories and provide hints about their immigration journey.

Although each immigrant ancestor followed a unique path, your ancestor (particularly those who immigrated to the United States after 1820) almost certainly left a record trail of some sort, just as Mina and Georg did. With a little searching, you can uncover their trail and follow them along their journey.


The Melting Pot of America: Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestors

FamilySearch - Sat, 07/01/2017 - 11:54

by Katy Barnes

Immigration, always a hot topic in the United States, has been a common part of the historical and political discourse since the founding of the nation, largely because immigrants make up such an enormous part of our history and heritage as Americans.

I work for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in researching and finding immigrant ancestors. Many of the research requests I receive involve helping a client identify his or her pre-American origins and immigration stories. Some of them are more recent, like tracing the whereabouts of an Italian man who arrived in New York, or the life of my own grandmother who came to the United States from Germany in the early 1960s. Others take some real digging through multiple generations of American citizens, like longtime Southern families hoping to explore their 18th century Ulster Scotch roots, or East Coast families seeking information on where in England their colonial ancestors lived before coming to the New World.

The Making of America’s Melting Pot

1600–1830: The earliest settlers in America were more ethnically diverse than is often discussed. Of course, the bulk of the permanent immigrants in the 17th and 18th centuries were from the British Isles—explorers, planters, soldiers, indentured servants, and religious refugees. These settled mostly on the East Coast. Additionally, however, there were the millions of Africans imported unwillingly as slaves throughout the entire western hemisphere.

The Dutch had a sizeable, thriving colony of their own in New York. The Big Apple was originally a trading post called Nieuw Amsterdam [New Amsterdam], and the Dutch influence can still be seen in the names of many geographic locations within the area (think Harlem, Rensselaer, Bleecker, Stuyvesant, and even Bronx).

The French may not have had as large of a presence in terms of permanent settlement, but there were still a number of fur trappers living in the then-frontier areas like Illinois, Ohio, and even further west into the Rockies. The Acadian French Catholic settlements in southern Louisiana and Maine began in the 1700s when a group of over 10,000 people were forcibly expelled from Canada.

Finally, the Spanish retained communities in the American Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and California, for example), mostly in the form of missions. Later, beginning in the 1830s and 40s, this same region saw settlement by the Basques, a separate ethnic group from Spain who ranched and raised sheep and were often mistaken for being Spanish or French. There are still large populations of people of Basque descent today living in Idaho and California.

1830–1850: As time wore on in American history, immigration continued, though the different groups often fluctuated. The period of 1830–1850 was especially intense. The Chinese began arriving at the West Coast around the time of the California Gold Rush (1849–1850). The United States saw a large influx of Germans during the 1840s as well, thanks to political and military conflicts in their home country. Norwegians also began arriving, and both groups settled predominantly in the Midwest and Plains states, ranging from Indiana and Ohio to Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. The Danish were also well-represented, although the majority came as a part of conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith and joined other congregants in Utah. Finally, the devastating potato famine of the 1840s led to a huge diaspora of poverty-stricken Irish. It is estimated that as many as 25% of Ireland’s entire population left the island during that decade.

1850–Today: The latter half of the 19th century brought the Castle Garden and Ellis Island eras beginning in the 1850s, but ramping up in earnest in the 1890s. Italians, Eastern Europeans (particularly Jews escaping the pogroms of Russia), and Syrians, as well as even more Germans and Scandinavians came during this period. Today, most immigrants to the United States are of Hispanic and Asian origin, with Mexico, China, India, and the Philippines representing the largest groups.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

So how do you go about finding records of your own immigrant ancestors and their origins? Here are 4 rules of thumb to follow:

Check Nonimmigration Records

Check Immigration Records

Keep an Open Mind

Get Creative

Check the simple, nonimmigration records. Documents and records like census enumerations will usually at least list a country of birth for the individual or his or her parents. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a census taker will have been extra dedicated and included the town or province of your ancestor’s origin as well. If your ancestor was male and born after approximately 1872, be sure to also check World War I draft registration cards, as these usually list the birthplace of the registrant. And of course, you should never leave birth, marriage, and death records out of your search.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Check passenger lists and naturalization records. Where possible, check not only the immigration records at the port where the ancestor landed, but also search emigration records created by the country he or she left. These include passenger lists created in the home country, as well as documents filled out by the emigrants as applications to leave their country. A great resource for this is the Immigrant Ancestors Project, a research project from Brigham Young University which works to extract and publish emigration records exclusively. Sites like MyHeritage and Ancestry also have similar collections. Also, naturalization records were created whenever an immigrant decided to apply for American citizenship. These can contain a wealth of information, including the hometown of the ancestor.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Keep an open mind! The ports in New York (particularly Ellis Island and Castle Garden) are the most famous, but millions of immigrants came through less publicized cities. Don’t forget about Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, New Orleans, and San Francisco, as well as various cities in Florida and even Mobile, Alabama. The area of the United States in which your ancestor ultimately settled may be a clue as to the port in which he arrived.

Finding Your Immigration Origins

Get creative! There are a number of other record types which may help you find your ancestor’s immigrant origins that don’t seem obvious. For example, local and county histories (many of which can be found digitized for free on Google Books) can contain fairly detailed information. Also check cemetery records, as many immigrants retained ties to their homeland through ethnic and religious organizations relating to a specific European city or region. Often, when an immigrant died, he or she was buried in a plot owned or sponsored by that organization, or buried near fellow countrymen. For example, we did research for a client this year whose Jewish immigrant ancestor was buried in a section of a cemetery owned by a fraternal organization for people from a certain area of what is today Belarus. This was an enormously helpful clue!

With dedication and diligence, in most cases it is possible to trace your family back to their country of origin and extend their lines. It’s a wonderful feeling to know more about where you (and your family) came from.

Finding Your Immigration Origins