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7 FamilySearch Record Collections You Shouldn’t Miss

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 14:39

The wealth of records on FamilySearch is constantly growing—sometimes so quickly that even experienced researchers aren’t aware of everything that’s available. There’s no way one article could cover all of FamilySearch’s record collections. Instead, I’ve chosen to highlight a few of the most exciting collections: some are newly released and growing collections, and some are tried and true collections. (If you didn’t know record collections could be exciting, that’s because you haven’t tried these yet!)


1. Italian Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records, which are vital records kept by the government, are some of the most important records for discovering families in Italy. These birth, marriage, and death records as well as unique state of the family records as early as 1806 and can provide details needed to link families together. Although this collection is still a work in progress, there are already many of these records online, and FamilySearch currently has 25 cameras filming more. Only a small percentage of these records have been indexed so far, but many are available for browsing. Browse the collection here. Choose Italy from the map, and type in your ancestor’s hometown, or use the box under “Find a Collection.” Check back often as more records are being added all the time.

2. US Marriages Records

At RootsTech in 2016, FindMyPast announced the US Marriages Project, a partnership with FamilySearch, which will be the largest collection of US marriage records in history. This will be done by digitizing and indexing marriage records covering 350 years for over 2,800 US counties and will include 450 million names. Although the collection will be found in its entirety only on FindMyPast and on FamilySearch for LDS members with FamilySearch accounts and at family history centers around the world, many US marriage records are already digitized, indexed, and available for everyone at FamilySearch. Try searching for marriage records in your ancestor’s county to see what’s available. If you don’t find what you’re looking for now, try again in a few months since this collection is still growing.

3. Freedmen’s Bureau Records

Just last summer, FamilySearch, in conjunction with the National Archives and Records Administration, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Afro­-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum, completed the Freedmen’s Bureau Project in which included indexing and making available online the genealogically important portions of the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau. Created in the aftermath of the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau helped the recently freed slaves adjust to their new lives. The records include nearly 1.8 billion names in marriage, hospital, school, and land records as well as labor contracts, affidavits, letters and other items. Although their usefulness extends to anyone with ancestors in the South in that period, they are particularly valuable in helping descendants of slaves link back to the pre-Civil War era.

4. Census Records (US and Beyond)

Anyone tracing their US family needs to know that FamilySearch has the indexed US census records—the most used collection on FamilySearch. US Census records began in 1790 and are available through 1940 (later census records are still protected by privacy laws). These aren’t the only census records available on FamilySearch; the index for the British censuses are also available here; although, to see the actual images, you will need to go to FindMyPast where fees may apply. Other countries, such as Canada, Argentina, Denmark, the Netherlands and some states in Germany kept at least periodic census records that are now available at FamilySearch as well. Many US states also took occasional censuses. To see what FamilySearch has, type “census” in the search box for the historical records collections.

5. FindAGrave and Billion Graves

You may be familiar with these popular, free websites that help you locate cemetery information about your ancestor. But did you know that FamilySearch has these records on its website too? A search for your ancestor in FamilySearch can bring up a possible match with basic information. To learn more and possibly see a photo of your ancestor’s headstone, follow the link from the search results to the free site.

6. Social Security Death Index

For important leads on more recent ancestors, the Social Security Death Index is a great place to start. It includes information on deceased people who had social security numbers. The earliest records date to 1937 but records are sparse until 1962. You can find records dating up until three years ago. Records often include birth and death dates and the last place of residence that was on file with the Social Security Administration.

7. England and Germany Vital Records Collections

For Germany, FamilySearch has records for births and baptisms, 1558–1898; deaths and burials, 1582–1958; and marriages, 1558–1929. For England, FamilySearch has records for births and christenings, 1538–1975; deaths and burials, 1538–1991; and marriages, 1538–1973. I’ve lumped these all together since they come from a similar background. The important things to know about these collections is that they are huge—the Germany births and baptism collection alone contains 45 million names—but they aren’t anywhere close to complete. This means that the records don’t contain all the information in that category in that country. Many of these records came from the LDS Church’s extraction program and were previously part of the massive IGI (International Genealogical Index). Information often came from church records but is generally found in these collections only as extracted records, without images available.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface of what’s available. Try a search for your ancestor to look at all possible indexed matches or refine your search further by searching a particular record collection. With billions of names in just in the collections described here, chances are good you’ll find something new about your family!


It’s Complicated: Unique Relationships in Historical Records

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 15:01

Relationships can be complicated. Everyone knows that. There are many songs, movies, and plays out there detailing the tangles and twists of relationships, each with their own dose of dramatic flair. And despite what anyone might say about life being simpler in the good old days, complicated relationships are nothing new—as demonstrated by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which was originally published in 1597 and is still the standard for complicated relationships.

Each of us has plenty of these messy relationships in our family tree. Sometimes the juicy details get lost in the abyss of history, but other times family stories that offer glimpses into our ancestors’ complicated relationships survive. Occasionally, evidence of these relationships has been preserved in the records. Of course, you’ve got to be careful when researching these stories. You can’t believe everything you hear or see in your family history—especially when it comes to what might be less-than-exemplary behavior from ancestors. But if you dig deep enough, you’re sure to find a few interesting stories.

Here are a couple relationships with some bumps and bruises from my family:

Runaway Bride

When I was sixteen, I interviewed my great-grandmother who was then in her 80s. She was a vivacious woman everyone called Dolly. When I asked her to tell me the story of marrying my great-grandfather, Walt Mulford, she answered with a mischievous smile, “Now that’s a secret I can’t tell you until you’re older.”

While I had only been mildly interested in the story before, now I was hooked, and eventually I did uncover her story. With her long, blonde hair and love of dancing, Dolly turned a few heads in her teenage years. She lived at home in Escalante, Utah, with her father and siblings. Dolly’s mother died when Dolly was 14, leaving her and her older sister with heavy family responsibilities and little supervision. When Walt Mulford, a handsome, older man came to town and showed interest in her, Dolly was instantly smitten. Dolly’s father, however, did not share her enthusiasm. Walt was more than a little rough around the edges, and the excitement of those rough edges is exactly what drew Dolly to him. She had known him only a few days when he asked her to elope with him and she agreed. Her father tried to chase after them, but he was too late. By the time he found them, they were married. The marriage certificate says Walt was 21 and Dolly was 19. Dolly’s age was a lie—she told the official she was 19 so he would agree to marry them. Dolly was actually 15!

4th Time’s the Charm?

No stories survive about Christoph Harprecht, my fifth-great-grandfather, born in 1743 in Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. But the records have their own story to tell. Christoph, it appears, was the epitome of a man unlucky in love, and it’s all captured in the notes of the comment column in one marriage record. This record of Christoph’s marriage to Anna Katharina Elisabeth Bulls tells us that it was his fourth marriage. Although it doesn’t provide names of previous wives, it does tell us his second and third wives died in 1826 and 1830. A note in the death record of the 3rd wife explains that she died from exposure after going out in a snowstorm and getting lost.

The most interesting part of this 4th marriage record is what it tells us about his first marriage, the marriage I’m descended from. After 20 years, Christoph divorced this wife, something that was very unusual among the peasants in Germany at that time. The divorce was most likely made possible only because of lenient divorce policies that Napoleon put in place during his brief rule.

Christoph’s death record adds the clencher in his sad story. A note written by the pastor states that in Christoph’s final years, he was supported by the parish poor house.

Other Stories

I also have in my family tree someone who married her father’s friend when she was 16 and he was 46. Then there’s Charlie, one of my ancestors, who swore all his life that he was the son of his mother’s second husband, the man who raised him, instead of the son of her first husband, a man everybody detested. Some people couldn’t help noticing, though, that Charlie looked a lot more like the first husband—and the timeline confirms that first husband, unpopular as he may have been, was really Charlie’s father. The second husband wasn’t even in the state yet when Charlie’s mother got pregnant.

The best story of all might be about my husband’s great-grandfather, Leslie Vincent. Just a few years ago, a woman contacted my husband’s aunt, a granddaughter of Leslie Vincent, saying she was also a granddaughter of Leslie Vincent. The two women don’t have the same grandmother, though. Leslie Vincent didn’t marry more than once—he just had two families who lived around the corner from each other in New York City. He never married the other woman and never told his wife that the second family existed. That was the first my husband’s family had heard of it!

Locating the Complicated Relationships in Your Family

Are you ready to poke around in your own family tree and see what unique relationships you might uncover there? The most straight-forward place to look, of course, is in marriage records. FamilySearch has a large, growing collection of marriage records. (You can read more about those records at Remember that sometimes these records won’t contain what you expected, so be open-minded and creative when you search.

Listen to family stories. Take them with a grain of salt, but don’t just dismiss them. Sometimes a speck of truth in them might be the strangest, least plausible part of the story! Pay attention to dates, and create a timeline when you suspect there might be something askew.

And remember, people have been generating ideas for romantic comedy—and tragedy—since before Shakespeare began writing about it.


Share Your Family’s Food Story

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:10

Did you realize that you’re creating family history every day just by preparing food and eating it together? Good food has a way of bringing families together, and anytime families gather—even to eat—family history is made.

What are your family’s favorite meals? Do you make certain foods for special occasions? Do you make recipes you learned from your parents or grandparents? At FamilySearch we call these “family recipes,” and they’re a special part of your family history that’s worth preserving.

Discover, preserve, and share your family recipe stories by uploading them to

Preserve an important part of your heritage by sharing recipes, photos, or memories of your family’s favorite foods and the stories behind them:

Share Your Inspiring Family History Moments

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 17:07


13 Classes Focused on African Heritage at RootsTech 2017

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 16:25

By Falande Swain

World-renowned experts in African-American genealogy and family history will be on hand at RootsTech 2017 to teach you how to unlock your family’s past and make connections with your heritage. Classes on topics such as getting started, how to use technology in your research, and overcoming genealogical challenges will be explored over the four-day conference.

Here’s a list of 13 different classes focused on African heritage. If you see a class that interests you, add it to your schedule in the official RootsTech app.

Wednesday, February 8 Oral Genealogy: Crossing Generations in Africa

It is estimated that more than one third of the earth’s population is not accounted for in written records. Many of these people live in Africa. This presentation will discuss recent work by FamilySearch to collect and preserve genealogical information from the oral traditions of ethnic groups in Africa. FamilySearch has interviewed more than 16,000 people worldwide, asking participants to share his or her history and up to 15 generations of genealogy. This has resulted in the preservation and publication of over 7 million genealogical records. Interviewers have been recruited and trained to identify and interview ethic groups in Africa with rich oral genealogy traditions. These oral histories will be the primary, perhaps only, source of information about these people that will be available for future generations.

Brent Hansen
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 155D

Documenting My Freedmen Ancestors

This class aims to take some of the guesswork out of documenting your freedmen ancestors. You will learn how to access Freedmen’s Bureau records and how time spent researching your family in the years prior to this time enables you to more easily locate your family members in Freedmen’s Bureau records. You will learn how to identify ancestors who were emancipated. You will also see the importance of researching the family who had enslaved the ancestor’s family. We will see examples of different record types and discuss the reasons why your ancestor may not appear in these records.

Janice Sellers
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Thursday, February 9 Using Genealogical Periodicals for Research

Although genealogical periodicals can be a great source of information, they are often overlooked or underused by family historians. Why? The common excuse is that inconsistent or nonexistent indexes make them hard to search. But the effort is well worth it. The useful information in genealogical periodicals is voluminous, and there are so many possibilities since genealogical and historical societies have published them for decades. This workshop will focus on the value of published cumulative indexes and other time-saving tips to narrow the search for an ancestor using examples found in national periodicals and Alabama’s periodical collection.

Frazine Taylor
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: 255A

Exploring the Testimonies of Former Slaves in the Southern Claims Commission Records

This session will explore the Southern Claims Commission Records that were created from claims filed by residents of 12 Southern states for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. The claimant’s testimony included a list of losses and witnesses to support those losses. These records produced eyewitness testimonies from former slaves, family members, and neighbors. Freedmen provide details about their lives and information about their former enslavers.

Bernice Bennett
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau: New Research Guide

The records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are among the richest for tracing African-American ancestors. FamilySearch recently announced the completion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Project, a collaborative effort to index all surviving Freedmen’s Bureau records. A new website developed by Angela Walton-Raji and Toni Carrier, Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau, is an interactive map interface to help researchers make the most of Freedmen’s Bureau records by identifying the Freedmen’s Bureau field office, hospital, or contraband camp nearest their area of research interest. This session will present an overview of the Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau website and present a case study that illustrates the importance of digging deeper into these valuable records after searching the FamilySearch index.

Toni Carrier and Angela Walton-Raji
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 251D

Census Data: More Than Just a Population Count

Every genealogist is familiar with Schedule I of the federal census as the official population count. However, this schedule does not present the census in its entirety. Every ten years, Congress authorized topical reports in the form of supplemental schedules to describe growth in the country. Titled “Supplemental Schedules” from 1820 to 1880, these reports capture data on agriculture, business, industry, mortality, and other social variables in the newly formed country. Now available in digitized format, these schedules aid in completing family composition. The schedules may identify missing cohort groups and community relations and list those in asylums, institutions, and those incarcerated in a county jail or prison. With the growth of the internet, access to these schedules has increased, providing valuable genealogical, cultural, and community content about ancestors.

Janis Forte
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: Ballroom B

Black Women in the Civil War

This workshop will explore the surprising records that reflect the women of color who served in multiple jobs during the Civil War and will explain how to find them. There are service records and even pension files that describe the work performed by these women. These records point to unwritten chapters in American history, and hopefully they will pull back another layer of many untold stories of ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

Angela Walton-Raji
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: 250D

Freedmen’s Bureau Records on FamilySearch

In 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau was established in the South to assist freedmen and refugees. It provided medicine and clothing, established schools and hospitals, provided transportation, helped with labor contracts, and assisted soldiers with pension claims. For many researchers with African-American ancestry, Freedmen’s Bureau records are a starting point in making that link to that first generation of former slaves. This class will focus on the Freedmen’s Bureau records on FamilySearch, and will teach how best to search the record images, explore the scope of the Discover Freedmen Project, look at the records that were indexed, and discuss a strategy for using the records with other Reconstruction era collections, such as census records and voter registrations.

Ken Nelson
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255D

Friday, February 10 Tech Resources to Begin African-American Research

Do you need to know how to get started researching African-American family history? This class will teach beginners how to start their African-American family history research using free technology resources available online. African-American research is difficult, and ancestors cannot always be found in conventional ways. This class will help participants learn the process, tips, tricks, and resources to research and document African-American families.

Sherri Camp
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Room: 255A

African-American Genealogy for Newbies

America’s youth between 1982 and 2000 now number 83.1 million and are more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group. Many of these millennials identify as African-American and have relatives who likely don’t check the same racial designation box as they do. In this session, you’ll learn the basics of researching African-American genealogy and have a safe space to ask even the simplest questions.

Nicka Smith
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Dealing with African-American Genealogy Challenges

This session will help you consider your research goals, understand what you are looking for, and define what challenges you will face in researching African-American ancestors. In addition, attendees will be provided with some tools and online resources that are available to help combat the inherent challenges of this type of research.

Shelley Murphy
Time: 3:00 p.m.
Room: 255A

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree

Using illustrative examples, this session demonstrates how DNA analysis, when used in concert with traditional genealogical research methods, can help family historians overcome challenges unique to African-American genealogy research.

Shannon Christmas
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

Saturday, February 11 Finding Family Members in Freedman’s Bank Records

The Freedman’s Bank was started so that USCT soldiers and former slaves could invest and save money after Emancipation. The records for these more than 70,000 accounts can show you family members listed together—at times three generations for one account—and sometimes the former slave owner’s name, which is the key to finding more information about enslaved individuals prior to 1865. Examples will show how family relationships can be documented with these records.

Janice Sellers
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Room: 255A

If you haven’t registered yet there’s still time! Register for RootsTech here, and get ready to learn more about your African heritage!


A Ready-for-RootsTech Guide to DNA

Fri, 02/03/2017 - 16:51

Preparation is a key to success. When it comes to RootsTech, the largest genealogy conference in the world, it can make all the difference, especially if you’ve set specific goals you want to achieve at the conference. If one of your goals is to learn more about DNA testing and genetic genealogy, this guide is for you.

Why DNA?

There are usually two reasons individuals test their DNA for genetic genealogy: 1) to learn ethnicity estimates, and 2) to connect with genetic cousins for reunions or for information about their common heritage paper trail. There will opportunities at this year’s RootsTech conference to learn all you need to for either of these scenarios.

This year CeCe Moore, a prominent genetic genealogist, will address RootsTech attendees Saturday morning as a keynote speaker. In addition, RootsTech will offer over 20 sessions covering genetic genealogy ranging from beginning to advanced, and 5 pre-registration lab classes to inform and educate participants on this timely topic. The Expo Hall will host five genetic genealogy companies who will have representatives available to answer your questions: 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, LivingDNA, and MyHeritage DNA.

Prepare Now
  1. Create a list of your questions. First, write down any DNA questions you have at this point. When you have finished reading this post and its associated links, review your questions to see if you have discovered your answers. If not, organize them and bring them to RootsTech. You will then be prepared to ask these questions in any session where the presenter offers a question-and-answer time, or you can bring your questions to the Expo Hall to have your questions answered by representatives of the different DNA companies. Clear, concise, and thoughtful questions are always easier for the experts to answer.

  2. Define your goals. If you’ve seen a news report on the topic of DNA testing or watched one of the televised shows using genetic genealogy and wonder, Where this is all going?, you may want to attend “How Will DNA Continue to Disrupt Our Industry?”on Wednesday afternoon. Scott Fisher of Extreme Genes will moderate this panel of DNA experts from a variety of DNA-related fields.

    If DNA testing for genealogy is new to you, your goal might be to learn what tests are available. Sessions that may be helpful are Dianhan Southard’s Wednesday 3:00 p.m. presentation, “DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together” or Tim Janzen’s Thursday 11:00 a.m. presentation, “Family Finder, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA: An Introduction.” The latter presentation is focused on the long-standing direct-to-consumer testing companies, including Family Tree DNA, who pioneered using DNA for genealogical use.

    If you are of African descent, Shannon Christmas will be presenting an intermediate session titled, “Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree”on Friday. There are many other intermediate sessions and a few advanced sessions to instruct you this year at RootsTech.

    If you are interested in citing DNA results or writing up your results, there are two session that may be helpful: Thomas Jones will present an intermediate session on Thursday titled, “Writing about and Documenting DNA Results,” and Angie Bush will present an advanced session on Friday titled, “DNA: Citations, Proof Arguments and Conclusions.” Thomas Jones will also present a session for advanced practitioners titled, “Using Autosomal DNA to Help Extend a Lineage.” You can see the full list of classes below.

  3. Become familiar with the 5 DNA companies represented in the Expo Hall. If you are planning to test your DNA as a result of what you learn at this conference, become familiar with the 5 DNA companies and what DNA tests are offered by each. Also learn about the legal notices for each company, such as their terms of service and privacy policies. Each company’s legal notices are different. Presenters have their own vested interests as employees, affiliates, and business owners and may only cover a portion of relevant material in any given session. Time is limited. Not all companies may be represented in each session you attend. Understanding the legal notices before coming to RootsTech frees you to make an informed decision at the conference. Most, if not all, companies will offer special pricing on their kits at the conference. Many individuals test with more than one company. Here is a summary of the companies that will be at RootsTech:







    Year company founded

    April 2006 (As of Oct 2015, meets FDA standards)

    May 2012

    Early 2000 (Y-DNA & mtDNA)
    Family Finder May 2010



    Autosomal DNA (atDNA)

    Yes: $99—ancestry portion; $199—health and ancestry

    Yes: $99

    Yes: FamilyFinder: currently $79

    Yes: $159

    Yes: $79

    Y-DNA (patrilineal line)

    Yes—for males only. Select locations—included in the price of the atDNA test


    Yes—for males only. Starting at $169 (depends on # of markers)

    Yes—for males only. 20,000 markers tested—included as part of a 3-in-1 test


    mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA—matrilineal line)

    Yes: select locations—included in the price of the atDNA test


    Yes: mtDNA+—$79
    mtDNA full sequence—$199 (most accurate)

    Yes—4,000 markers tested—included as part of a 3-in-1 test


    Method of collection of sample

    saliva sample

    saliva sample

    cheek swab

    cheek swab

    cheek swab

    Additional subscription necessary to maximize use of results






    Legal notices (If interested in purchasing a kit at RootsTech, please read before the conference—it saves valuable conference time.)

    Terms of Service

    Privacy highlights

    For US:
    Terms and Conditions
    For International:
    Terms and Conditions
    Additional Privacy Policy:
    Privacy Statement

    Privacy Policy, Terms of Service, and Refunds

    For US:
    Terms and Conditions

    Privacy Policy

    Terms and Conditions

    Privacy Policy




    Family Tree DNA is the official testing partner for National Geographic‘s Genographic Project.



    Company headquarters

    Mountain View, CA, USA

    Lehi, UT, USA

    Houston, TX, USA

    Frome, Somerset, United Kingdom

    Or Yehuda, Israel

    Official website

    Expo Hall booth #

    Booth 638

    Booth 303

    Booths 535, 537, 634, 636

    Booth 233

    Booth 502

  4. Create a DNA testing plan. Creating a DNA testing plan will provide focus, save you money, and give you the best chance of answering your research questions. Be familiar with each of the three DNA tests used for genealogical purposes, and be confident that the kit you order will answer the family history question you want answered. Read more about how to create a plan.

Do you still have questions? These sessions may have your answers!

Day, Time, & Location
Session #

Title and Presenter

Level and Notes

Wednesday 3 p.m.—155A

How Will DNA Continue to Disrupt Our Industry?—Scott Fisher, Moderator

Beginner—no handout

Wednesday 3 p.m.—Ballroom J

DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together—Dianhan Southard


Wednesday 3 p.m.—251A

Nature and Nurture: Family History for Adoptees—Janet Hovorka and Amy Slade

Not stated

Thursday 11 a.m.—Ballroom J
RT 1490

How to Use DNA Triangulation to Confirm Ancestors—Kitty Cooper


Thursday 11 a.m.—Ballroom A
RT 1129

Family Finder, 23andMe, and Ancestry DNA: An Introduction—Tim Janzen


Thursday 1:30 p.m.—Ballroom G
RT 3000

Writing About and Documenting DNA Results—Thomas Jones


Thursday 1:30 p.m.—Ballroom J
RT 1353

DNA Matching on MyHeritage—Dana Drutman


Thursday 3 p.m.–Ballroom I
RT 3245

My Ancestors Are in My DNA—Angie Bush


Thursday 3 p.m.—251E-LAB
LAB 1176
Pre-registration required

From Click to DNA Connection—Diahan Southard

Intermediate—Also offered Friday 4:30 p.m.

Friday 11 a.m.—250A
RT 1094

Using Genetic Evidence in Your Family Tree—Ross Curtis

Intermediate—No handout

Friday 11 a.m.—251A

Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey—Israel Pickholtz


Friday 11 a.m.—Ballroom G
RT 3002

Using Autosomal DNA to Help Extend a Lineage—Thomas Jones


Friday 1:30 p.m.—250A
RT 9835

Putting Your [Ancestry] DNA Matches to Work—Anna Swayne


Friday 3 p.m.—250A
RT 7452

How [Ancestry] DNA Works: The Science Behind Your DNA Results—Harenda Gaturu


Friday 3 p.m.—251E—LAB
LAB 1616
Pre-registration required

Introduction to Chromosome Mapping—Paul Woodbury

Advanced—Also offered Saturday 1:30 p.m.

Friday 4:30 p.m.—255A

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree—Shannon Christmas


Friday 4:30 p.m.—251D
RT 1153

DNA: Citations, Proof Arguments, and Conclusions—Angie Bush


Friday 4:30 p.m.—251B-LAB
LAB 1176
Pre-registration required

From Click to DNA Connection—Diahan Southard

Intermediate—Also offered Thursday 3 p.m.

Friday 4:30 p.m.—Ballroom E
RT 9206

Transitioning Genetic Genealogy to the 21st Century with DREAM Technology—Eran Elhaik, University of Sheffield

Beginner—No handout

Saturday 11 a.m.—254B-LAB
LAB 1767
Pre-registration required

GWorks, Strawberries and More!—Angie Bush

Advanced—2-hour lab; Must have an account with and client installed on your computer

Saturday 11 a.m.—155A

Let DNA Tell the Story—Dianhan Southard

Getting started pass holders only

Saturday 1:30 p.m.—255D
RT 1440

How to Get More from Your DNA with—Shannon Christmas

All—No handout

Saturday 1:30 p.m.—251E-LAB
LAB 1616
Pre-registration required

Introduction to Chromosome Mapping—Paul Woodbury


Saturday 3 p.m.—150
RT 9542

Supercharge Your Research with DNA—Emily Aulicino


Saturday 3 p.m.—250A
RT 9834

Beyond Ethnicity: How DNA Connects Us to Our Past—AncestryDNA team, Anna Swayne, Moderator

No handout

Not all individuals need DNA testing to answer their family history questions. But, as you will hear from CeCe Moore and others at RootsTech, DNA testing offers those who have unanswered questions, such as adoptees, amazing results in extending their biological pedigree. It is a source that relies on the permission of family members to obtain. All people who test must agree to the legal notices, such as terms of service and privacy policy, of the company they use for testing. These policies are different for each company and are best read in an environment conducive to understanding the terms. Read more about DNA terms and conditions.

Genetic genealogy is an exciting and developing field. It can provide answers to family mysteries. It has brought joy to many and sorrow to a few. It is a topic worth learning about so you can make an educated decision about how DNA testing can potentially help you strengthen your family relationships among the living and add to your family tree.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is for information only. The final decision to act upon this information is your own and you take sole responsibility for all outcomes.


What’s New on FamilySearch—January 2017

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 16:01

Each month, FamilySearch publishes a list of new changes and updates to the website. This list includes changes to Family Tree as well as other parts of In some cases, these changes will also be published as individual articles where the need to do so exists.





Recently Released Family Tree View My Relationship

When Family Tree calculates your relationship to a person, it now follows your line and calculates the relationship using the preferred spouse and parents that you have selected for your tree.

Historical Records Search

When you are signed into your FamilySearch account and you are searching for historical records, FamilySearch identifies which records in the search results are already attached to a person in the tree. Ancestors located in the record and in your family tree are marked by an icon, which allows you to:

  • See vital details about the person as they are recorded in the Family Tree.
  • Navigate quickly to that ancestor in your Family Tree to see his or her recorded details.
  • More easily make sure the record is attached to the right person in your Family Tree.

If there is an icon, the record it attached. If there is no icon, the record is not attached.

If you are not signed in to your FamilySearch account, FamilySearch will encourage you to log in to see attached records of your ancestors.


FamilySearch Memories have been improved to help you in your family history efforts:

Memories Navigation

A new overview option was added to the Memories main navigation menu and to the secondary navigation menu.

The overview page includes information on a link to the new Gallery List View.

Memories Gallery

The List View displays items in the Gallery in a list and allows you to add an event date and an event place to the items.


Web indexing will be rolled out in 2017, starting with stake indexing directors and priesthood leaders in February. The public will be invited in the coming months. Look for communications coming through and your stake indexing director.


Share Your Comment or Question

The bottom of every FamilySearch page has a “Feedback” link. Clicking that link is the best way to provide suggestions, compliments, or complaints to the people at FamilySearch who can do something about it. While they may not be able to respond personally to every suggestion, FamilySearch engineers personally review each piece of feedback and consider what might be done. Your voice will be heard. Don’t be shy!


How to Start Family Food Traditions from Scratch

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:30

In my younger years, I found myself drawn to the exotic food traditions of those around me, feeling like my own food heritage was, well, unexciting. Compared to the standard American meals we ate at home, it seemed other people’s kitchens were brimming with rich culinary traditions, such as:

  • A grade-school friend whose Cuban mother would bring various spiced dishes for us to sample on special occasions in the classroom.
  • A college roommate with proud Dutch ancestry who would enjoy homemade oliebollen, a doughnut-like pastry, with her family around the holidays.
  • A work colleague whose Mexican mother made incredible tamales for their traditional Christmas meal.
  • A friend of a friend who brought seeds back from Italy so he could grow the specific pepper he needed for the incredible spaghetti sauce recipe handed down from the old country.

Given that the most recent immigrants in my family tree arrived in the late 1800s, my food heritage involves the typical small-town All-American fare: roast beef and mashed potatoes, casseroles, grilled hamburgers and macaroni salad, fish sticks and mac ’n cheese. (And, because my parents and grandparents hail from a small Mormon town in Idaho, various combinations of Jell-O, Cool Whip, and fruit cocktail.)

As I’ve started cooking for my own family, enjoying the increased confidence that comes with age and experience, I’ve (mostly) let go of ridiculous comparisons to other people’s family recipes. A meal doesn’t have to impress someone else for it to be meaningful to me. Tamales and oliebollen only seem exotic because I grew up eating something different. As hard as it is to imagine, there’s probably someone out there who considers macaroni salad a rare and luxurious treat.

Whether you cook traditional recipes handed down for generations or are starting your food traditions from scratch, here are three ways to weave your own unique heritage into your family meals, both on special occasions and every day of the week.

Tip #1: Celebrate the Food You Grew Up Eating

As a newlywed, I loved trying new recipe after new recipe, boldly forging my own path in the kitchen. In recent years, as I’ve come to appreciate my mother and grandmothers more and more, I’ve decided to be more mindful about cooking the food they cooked. Here are a few ways I’ve embraced my family’s food traditions:

  • At Easter time and any other time we cook a ham, I proudly whip up my Grandma Mona’s mustard sauce. I’ve also baked several recipes from the cookbook she typed up for a family reunion in the 1980s.
  • Every Independence Day, I relish the chance to make the most traditional American 4th of July meal imaginable: grilled hamburgers, my mom’s macaroni salad, corn on the cob, potato chips, a bowl of black olives to slip on little-kid fingers, and strawberry shortcake (with blueberries added in honor of the red, white, and blue).
  • When my husband’s not looking (he’s not a fan), I make a comfort food from my childhood: American goulash. Nothing like the Hungarian original, our version involves elbow macaroni, ground beef, Italian seasoning, mom’s bottled tomatoes, canned corn, seasoned salt, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Your Turn

Embrace what’s unique about the food you grew up eating, and take the time to document some of the memories surrounding your childhood meals. Even consider preparing some of those dishes, for old times’ sake. If you have old recipes in your mom’s or grandma’s handwriting, take pictures with your smartphone and upload them to the FamilySearch app, adding your thoughts and memories for context. Or share a story on our special recipes page.

Tip #2: Research New Family Dishes

The lack of so-called glamour in the recipes handed down by my forebears hasn’t stopped me from bringing my heritage into my kitchen in other ways.

Because we have distant Irish ancestry, my mom often prepared corned beef and cabbage soup on St. Patrick’s Day—not an old family recipe, just something she started. That particular dish doesn’t fly with my family, so I’ve started my own March 17th tradition: corned beef paired with colcannon, a mashed-potato-and-cabbage dish I found online that quickly became a favorite. Who cares if it’s not a family recipe? It’s still a fun way to honor my remote Irish roots—and spark protests from my husband and stepson about failing to honor their much more recent Norwegian heritage. (My husband’s grandmother emigrated from Norway.)

So I did a little research and discovered that Norway’s Constitution Day is May 17th—exactly two months after my Irish holiday—and is a great excuse to prepare Norwegian fare for my two favorite Vikings. I rejected anything involving lutefisk, pigs’ feet, or a whole sheep’s head, and finally landed on something much more palatable: Norwegian pancakes.

Your Turn

Weave your deep ancestry into your current food traditions. Search online for traditional dishes from your ancestors’ home countries, and find special occasions on which to prepare them. You might make homemade guacamole on Cinco de Mayo, stir-fry around Chinese New Year, or pasta e fagioli on Italy’s Liberation Day.

Tip #3: Pioneer Your Own Food Traditions

My friend Wendy was raised in a middle-class home by parents who both came from disadvantaged backgrounds. In forming their own family, Wendy’s parents had to start from scratch when it came to many basic life skills. Her mom learned a rotation of recipes that she was comfortable cooking, and she rarely departed from it. The dishes are practical and affordable, nothing fancy or exotic, but they are meaningful in their simplicity. Wendy cooks some of those recipes for her own children, including the church-potluck staple Hawaiian haystacks.

Wendy has also taken a pioneering role in her family in thinking more deliberately about the food legacy she wants to leave.

  • As a nod to their European ancestry, Wendy hosts crepe parties for her family, providing a wide variety of savory and sweet toppings.
  • She started a tradition of baking and decorating hundreds of sugar cookies with her kids and their cousins around Christmastime, and it’s still going strong more than 20 years later.
  • She regularly prepares shepherd’s pie in honor of her husband’s LDS mission to England before they were married.
  • Now that three of her sons have served missions (to French-speaking Canada, the Philippines, and Peru), she tries to prepare a dish from each country around the holidays.

Another tradition started after the death of Wendy’s brother, when a neighbor brought a rice-based comfort dish made with hamburger and tomato juice. One of her sons loved it so much that it has become known within the family as “Justin’s rice,” and it will certainly be remembered by her children and probably future generations as well.

Your Turn

If you don’t have established food traditions, take the initiative to start your own. I have plenty of cookbooks that I’ve used over the years, but I collect my favorite recipes in a three-ring binder, where I handwrite the instructions and always include notes about where the recipe came from, when I started making it, and why we love it. I hope it will be a wonderful keepsake to pass down to my daughter and her children. I haven’t yet included goulash in the book, but I have a spot saved for it under the Pasta tab.


Preserve an important part of your heritage by sharing recipes, photos, or memories of your family’s favorite foods and the stories behind them:


>>Return to Recipes Main Blog Page

>>Watch Family Recipe Videos

>>Print Recipe Cards


Discover Your Family’s Recipe Story

Thu, 02/02/2017 - 15:30

by Linda Clyde

Mom’s Autumn Surprise

As a kid, every year in my hometown when the warm playful days of summer turned into the cooler, more serious days of fall, I’d head back to school with my sisters. One lucky day, when the obvious crispness of fall could be felt in the air, we’d trudge home from school lugging our newly filled backpacks and open the door of the house to a delicious smell—apple crisp. I can’t even think about it without my mouth watering. To this day, every time I feel that first chill in the air I get a hankering for my favorite family dessert. But there’s more to it than the smell or the taste—it’s the memories. Apple crisp reminds me of my mom and gives me a sweet feeling of being connected to her, my sisters, and my maternal grandma—because she used to make it too.

Making Food and Family History

You might not have considered food as being connected to family history, but it is. Good food has a way of bringing families together, and anytime families gather—even to eat—family history is made.

What’s a Family Recipe?

Every family has a recipe or two that they cherish—family recipes. Family recipes are certain foods that remind us of warm feelings and happy memories with the ones we love. These can be foods our family always makes for celebrations and events and, more often, foods we enjoy eating together all the time. Some family recipes have been passed down for so many generations that we aren’t even sure where they originated. Other family recipes are in their infancy. These are recipes that you try for the first time and they stick. We call these “keepers” at my house.

Family recipes tell a story. They’re often connected to people, places, and special memories. They have a who, a where, and a why. You’re making family history when you prepare and eat these foods with your family.

Take some time to write down who has shared family recipes with you. Where did the recipes come from? Why are they meaningful to you? Even better, share your family recipes online by uploading them to Here they will be preserved and accessible to your family members and friends near and far. You can also share your family recipes on social media by using the hashtag #FamilySearch. This is also a fun way to discover exciting new recipes shared by families from all over the world.

Click to download printable version
Discover Your Family Recipe Story
  1. What foods did/does your family eat on a regular basis?
  2. Did your parents, grandparents, or loved ones teach you how to make certain foods?
  3. What food(s) do you look forward to on special occasions/holidays?
  4. Who likes to cook in your family? Ask them if they’ve collected any family recipes.
  5. Is there a recipe in your family that you and all of your extended family make?
  6. What foods do you make that your family asks for?
  7. Are there foods your family makes at certain times of the year?
  8. What foods do you associate with good memories?
  9. Who is the oldest person in your family? Ask them if they have any family recipes to share. Do they have recipes from their parents or grandparents?
  10. Are there any recipes in your family that require special ingredients or skills to make?


Preserve an important part of your heritage by sharing recipes, photos, or memories of your family’s favorite foods and the stories behind them:


>>Return to Recipes Main Blog Page

>>Watch Family Recipe Videos

>>Print Recipe Cards


Discovering My Passion for Genealogy

Wed, 02/01/2017 - 11:43

by Kenyatta D. Berry, JD, Genealogy Roadshow (PBS)

How did you get started in genealogy? What is the most interesting thing you have discovered about your ancestors? These are the top two questions I receive from fans of Genealogy Roadshow. I got my start in genealogy while in law school. Unlike most professional genealogists who start by researching their own families then moving onto friends, I began this journey by researching the family of a former boyfriend whose ancestors were prominent members of the African-American communities in Atlanta, Fayetteville (NC), and Philadelphia. Spending long hours at the State Library of Michigan in Lansing, I roamed the stacks looking at biographies and reviewing various online databases. During this time, I developed an interest in genealogy and quickly discovered it was my passion!

I had heard that my maternal great-grandmother Esther Lewis Kendrick was from Le Roy, New York, near Rochester. I wrote to the town historian in Le Roy requesting information about her and other family members. The Le Roy historian put me in touch with my first cousin three times removed, Marion Sellers Phillips. Marion informed me that my third great-grandmother Emily Carter Sellers (Esther’s grandmother) migrated to Livingston County, New York from Culpeper, Virginia around 1886 or 1887.

Emily Carter, a former slave, was emancipated at the end of the Civil War. She lived in Madison and Culpeper Counties in Virginia before migrating with her family to New York. Like most African-Americans with enslaved ancestors, my research hit a brick wall at the 1870 census. In 1870, my fourth great-grandfather Lewis Carter (Emily’s father) resided in Madison County, Virginia with personal property valued at $1,150 and real property valued at $4,700.1

How did a former slave have so much real and personal property in 1870? To answer this question, I focused my research on the Freedmen’s Bureau2 records at the Library of Virginia in Richmond. I located a labor contract for Lewis Carter and Dr. John W. Taylor in Madison County, Virginia dated January 8, 1866. The term of the contract was for one year.3 Further research indicates that Lewis Carter renewed his agreement with Dr. Taylor every year until about 1871.

To learn more about Emily’s life before migrating to upstate New York, I traveled to the Culpeper County Court House. During my visit, I came across a book called Some pre-1871 Vital Statistics on Colored Persons of Culpeper County, Virginia, by Robert Allen Hodge.4 At the time, I did not realize this resource was a compilation of cohabitation records.

Years later, I decided it was time to focus on my paternal family. Early in my genealogy journey, my father gave me a copy of a lawsuit from the Supreme Court of Arkansas. After reviewing this document, I was surprised at what I learned about my paternal family history. My fourth great-grandfather “Old Joe” Edwards was a slave in Union County, Arkansas. According to a distant cousin, Old Joe was a basket weaver who was allowed to leave his owner’s plantation and sell his baskets in the county. Old Joe had a family on the plantation where he resided and a family at the neighboring Gantt plantation. Old Joe had thirteen children by three different women. His son Jim W. Edwards died in 1946 with two oil-producing wells on his land. When Jim died, half of his estate went to his widow while the Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled that the other half should go to the descendants of ten half brothers and sisters. One of those half siblings was my fourth great grandmother Patsy Gantt. The Arkansas Supreme Court recognized the validity of a slave ritual known as jumping the broom as a legal family bond. I was able to identify all of the half siblings and most of their descendants from one case!

This journey has been remarkable, overwhelming, and deeply satisfying. I enjoy the challenge of slave ancestral research, and I look at every document as a piece of evidence whether it is direct or circumstantial. Understanding my heritage gives me a greater sense of self, a connection to my ancestors, and a hope for my future. Everyone has a story, and it’s important to tell these stories in a historical context. African-American voices need to be heard, and family connections should not be lost in the basement of a courthouse, on the pages of a deed, or as inventory in a probate case.

1Lewis Carter household, 1870 US Census, Madison County, Virginia population schedule, Locust Dale Township, Madison Court House post office, page 74, dwelling 482, family 490.
2Freedmen’s Bureau was a government agency established in 1865 to aid former slaves with education, employment, labor, and other disputes.
3Record of the Proceedings of the Freedmen’s Court – December 26, 1865, Freedmen Bureau Records, Madison Courthouse, Madison County, VA.
4Hodge, Robert Allen
. Some Pre-1871 Vital Statistics on Colored Persons of Culpeper County, Virginia. 1978.


You may also like:

Tracing Your African-American Ancestors

The Freedmen’s Bureau Project: Success Stories Are Possible

African American Resources on Social Media


#NotAtRootsTech 2017? Here’s How to Participate Virtually

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 15:33

RootsTech 2017 has arrived! Over the next 4 days (February 8–11), thousands of enthusiastic family storytellers and historians will converge on the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah to learn about collecting, preserving, and sharing family stories.

But the world’s largest family history conference isn’t just available to those living within the intermountain west. In fact, many of the sights and sounds and much learning from the conference will be streamed live online for free. In 2016, more than 150,000 people tuned in to watch the conference remotely.

If you can’t make it to RootsTech physically, here are a few ways you can participate virtually:

Watch the Keynote Speakers Live Online

For the first time in RootsTech history, each of the keynote speakers, including the keynote speakers of Wednesday’s Innovator Summit, will be streamed live online. Check out this year’s lineup:



Wednesday, Feb. 8
9 A.M.–10 A.M. MST

Innovator Summit
Liz Wiseman and Steve Rockwood

 Thursday, Feb. 9
8:30 A.M.–10 A.M. MST

RootsTech Thursday
HGTV’s Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott

Friday, Feb. 10
8:30 a.M.–10 A.M. MST

RootsTech Friday
LeVar Burton, from Reading Rainbow and Star Trek

Saturday, Feb. 11
8:30 A.M.–10 A.M. MST

RootsTech Saturday
TLC’s Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro

See the full keynote speaker schedule here.

Watch Select Classes Live Online

Following the keynote speakers, various RootsTech class sessions will be streamed live online. These classes cover topics such as DNA research, how to trace your female lines, creating an effective research plan, and how to preserve your personal history.

See the full streaming schedule here.

Social Media Contests for #NotAtRootsTech

This year at RootsTech, we’ll be hosting a number of giveaways and prizes on our Twitter page. These giveaways will be available for both in-person and virtual attendees. Watch for an official giveaway Tweet from the RootsTech account (@RootsTechConf) on Thursday, February 9. Then, to enter, simply tweet a photo of you watching the conference online with the hashtag #NotAtRootsTech. Winners will be selected at random during the day. If your photo is selected, prizes such as a RootsTech t-shirt, hat, or backpack will be mailed to you.

Join a Growing Online Community of Passionate Family Historians

At RootsTech, we’re dedicated to building up and participating in an enthusiastic online community of people who share our love for family heritage. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and receive helpful genealogy tips and tricks directly from the conference! Here’s what to watch for:

  • Facebook Live interviews with genealogy experts to help you in your research.
  • Daily wrap-up videos of all RootsTech events.
  • Videos of industry leaders sharing family history hacks.
  • Links to the brand new RootsTech blog with content on topics such as how to use Google for genealogy success, cemetery crowdsourcing, and how to identify an old family photo.

Watch the highlights of the 2016 conference.

Questions? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.


You may also like:

7 Reasons to Attend RootsTech 2017

5 More Reasons to Attend RootsTech

A Survival Guide to RootsTech 2017


Watch RootsTech 2017 Keynotes Live on

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 15:18


Every year the RootsTech conference features fascinating and knowledgeable keynote speakers, and this year is no different. What will make this year better than ever is that, for the first time ever, keynote speakers from all RootsTech sessions, including Wednesday’s Innovator Summit, will be streamed live online at

Take a look at the full keynote speaker lineup, and plan to participate from wherever you are.

Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch International

Rockwood currently serves as president and CEO of FamilySearch International. Over the past two years, he has made it his mission to emphasize the personal side of family history work, inspiring people to focus on the stories of ancestors and encouraging the use of technology to make records, photos, and memories more accessible.

You can watch Steve Rockwood’s remarks on Wednesday, February 8, from 9 to 10 a.m. MST and Thursday, February 9, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. MST.

Liz Wiseman, author and business leader

Wiseman, a best-selling author, teaches leadership strategies to executives and emerging leaders around the world. She is a frequent lecturer at BYU, the Naval Postgraduate School, and Stanford University.

You can watch Liz Wiseman’s remarks on Wednesday, February 8, from 9 to 10 a.m. MST.

The Scott Brothers

Drew and Jonathan Scott, more commonly known as the Property Brothers from the popular HGTV show, have built an impressive entertainment empire by working together in film, entertainment, and home renovation. At RootsTech, they’ll share stories from their past and explain why their family heritage is an important part of their lives.

Watch the Scott Brothers’ remarks on Thursday, February 9, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. MST.

Learn more about the Scott Brothers.

LeVar Burton

Award-winning actor, producer, and director, LeVar Burton will be the keynote speaker on Friday, February 10. Burton burst on to the acting stage with his role as Kunta Kinte in ABC’s 1977 award-winning television series Roots. He is also widely recognized as the host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow. Burton also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generationas he took the role of Lieutenant Geordi La Forge.

Watch LeVar Burton’s remarks on Friday, February 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. MST.

Learn more about LeVar Burton.

Buddy Valastro

More commonly known as the Cake Boss from the hit TLC television show, Buddy Valastro will be the keynote speaker on Saturday, February 11. At RootsTech, Buddy will share why mixing eggs, sugar, and butter means a lot more than “making a cake.”

Watch Buddy Valastro’s remarks on Saturday, February 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. MST.

Learn more about Buddy Valastro.

CeCe Moore

CeCe Moore is a genetic genealogist that uses DNA to uncover hidden truths about family relationships. Her work has been used to help adoptees reunite with their biological families.

Watch CeCe Moore’s remarks on Saturday, February 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. MST.

See a full list of RootsTech speakers.

Questions? Tweet us @RootsTechConf.


You may also like:

7 Reasons to Attend RootsTech 2017

5 More Reasons to Attend RootsTech

A Survival Guide to RootsTech 2017


Tracing Your African-American Ancestors

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 11:23

Since February is Black History Month, it’s a great time to look at some of the resources available to trace African-American ancestors—and, if you have African-American ancestors, it’s a great time to get started finding them! Particularly as you work through the Civil War and into earlier periods, locating African-American roots can be challenging. The good news is there are some fabulous resources that are becoming more accessible all the time.

Post-1870 Research

If you’re tracing African-American ancestors in records after 1870, your research path looks similar to the research path of any US-based family line. To begin this research, start with yourself and your immediate family, and work back using standard US records, such as censuses and vital and land records. You can use FamilySearch’s online US Research Guide, which includes a clickable map of the United States that directs you to research information for each state.

The Transitional Period

For many people tracing African-American roots, the period during and right after the Civil War is key to their research. In 1860, there were nearly 4 million enslaved individuals living in the United States, representing just under 13% of the population. They were considered property and so were not included by name in most records before emancipation in 1863. By following your ancestors closely in the records back through the Civil War and its aftermath, you can often see clues that lead finding them in earlier records.

In addition to the enslaved individuals, in 1860, there were also 476,000 “freed color persons” living in the United States. If your family fell into that category, they should be included by name in many more records.

Often a key for success to finding your ancestors in records before this transitional period is locating the names of those who owned your enslaved ancestors. Knowing owners’ names can focus your search on specific records of that family, which may also include information about your family. Here are some records to look for in this important period that can help you understand your ancestors’ lives and possibly help you locate the names of their owners so you can push their lines back further:

  • 1870 US census. This is the first census to include formerly enslaved individuals. It lists all members of each household, which provides a foundation of knowledge to build on.
  • 1867 voter registration. As part of re-entering the United States, Southern states had to meet certain requirements including registering all African-American men over the age of 21 to vote. Some of these records haven’t survived, and some weren’t very thorough. However, with the mandate to include useful information such as “place of nativity,” they can be of great help if your ancestor is included.
  • Freedmen’s Bureau and Freedman’s Bank records. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, operated out of 35 field offices across the South with the goal of helping the people who were emancipated transition into society. The bureau distributed rations, ran hospitals, legalized marriages, intervened in contract disputes, assisted with land distribution, and performed other tasks. Records of these activities include nearly 2 billion individual names along with fascinating insights into people’s lives. These records are probably the most important for tracing African-American ancestors in this period. They cover the years from 1865 to 1872, and they are now indexed and searchable at FamilySearch. Records from the Freedmen’s Saving and Trust Company, often referred to as the Freedmen’s Bank, date from 1865 to 1874 and are included with the Freedmen’s Bureau records. A thorough guide to the Freedmen’s Bureau records is also available in the current issue of Family Tree Magazine.
  • Records of United States Colored Troops (USCT) in the Civil War. Over 186,000 African-Americans served as part of the USCT. Some of the records have been microfilmed, and some are available online. You can read more about the collection and how to access them in the FamilySearch wiki.
Before the Civil War

Before attempting research earlier than the Civil War, make sure you’ve gleaned all the details you can from the transitional records. Tracing enslaved ancestors prior to the Civil War often requires you to explore new types of records. Census records, which theoretically moved from only including heads of the households in 1840 to including every name starting in 1850, did not record names of those enslaved. Even slave schedules, kept with the 1850 and 1860 censuses, typically only include information on enslaved individuals by gender and age—although there are a few exceptions. See How Do I Decode Slave Records? for more information.

When searching for information prior to the Civil War, your ancestors will typically be linked with information on their owners if they were enslaved. Records from this time that are likely to list information about slaves include:

  • Will and probate records of slave owners. Since slaves were considered property, they were often included with other possessions bequeathed to family members and others. Enslaved ancestors may be listed by name here.
  • Deed records. Although we generally think of deed records as relating to land, since these enslaved people were unfortunately classified as property, records of buying and selling them can be included here too. Slaves were even sometimes used as collateral in loans.
  • Plantation records. Many enslaved individuals worked on plantations. Personal papers from plantation owners often contain information about them—but they can be difficult to locate and sift through. Indexes for some but not all records are available.
  • Other local records. In some areas, names of enslaved individuals were included in other records, such as tax records or vital records. These records varied by time and place.

For more details on finding and using these records, see FamilySearch’s African American Slavery and Bondage Guide.

For Further Information

If you’re ready to jump in but would like a little more guidance, there are some great resources online to help you. Here are just a few to get you started:


16 Classes about DNA Research at RootsTech 2017

Fri, 01/27/2017 - 17:25

Exploring and understanding one’s DNA has quickly become an important part of genealogy research. After all, DNA can help you discover where you came from, where your relatives lived, and why your eyes are the color they are.

Because of the wide interest in using DNA for genealogical research, a number of classes will be taught on this subject over the course of the four-day RootsTech conference. We’ve compiled a list of them here. If you see a class that interests you, add it to your schedule in the official RootsTech app.



Thursday, February 9 How to Use DNA Triangulation to Confirm Ancestors

In this intermediate class, popular genealogist and DNA expert Kitty Cooper will explain DNA triangulation and demonstrate its effectiveness through various case studies. One case study will show how DNA triangulation was used to confirm descent from a specific ancestor that was possible, but not definitive in the paper trail.

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: Ballroom J

Family Finder, 23and Me, and AncestryDNA: An Introduction

In this beginner level class, Tim Janzen will teach you how to maximize your experience with each of the three major autosomal DNA tests available: Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder, 23andMe, and AncestryDNA. Learning the ins and outs of these important DNA tests will help genealogists know the pluses and minuses of each and how they can best be applied to personal research.

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: Ballroom A

DNA: The Glue That Holds Families Together

In this beginner level class, Diahan Southard will explore how she was able to use a combination of genetic and genealogical tools to connect with her own biological family. You’ll come away from this class with ideas on how to apply such methods to your own personal research.

Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: 255D

Writing about and Documenting DNA Test Results

This class, taught by Thomas Jones, uses published case studies to focus on the interaction of DNA and documentary evidence used in establishing genealogical proof, including how to integrate both kinds of data in proof arguments—both visually and in text.

Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: Ballroom G

My Ancestors Are in My DNA!

Angie Bush from Ancestry ProGenealogists will explore how the DNA in your cells can be followed from your ancestor to yourself. She’ll also explain how to follow ancestors through historical records and learn about the roles they played in history. You will come away with the understanding that combining the historical and scientific narrative can lead to a rich story that will help you understand science, history, and themselves in a new way.

Time: 3:00 p.m
Place: Ballroom J

From Click to DNA Connection

This lab class, taught by Diahan Southard, will help you determine what to do after completing a DNA test. How do you find your best matches? Do you need to upload to Gedmatch? With so many options, it can be difficult to know where to focus your genetic genealogy efforts. This class will help you explore different options and help you gain confidence in this area of your research.

Time: 3:00 p.m.
Place: 251E–Lab

Friday, February 10 Using Genetic Evidence in Your Family Tree

Ross Curtis from introduces you to the tools that are available through AncestryDNA to help you add DNA evidence to your family story.

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: 250A

Using Autosomal DNA to Extend a Lineage

Thomas Jones will explore a case study that shows how targeted autosomal-DNA testing supplemented documentary research to identify the father and grandparents of siblings born in New York State in the 1820s. Besides genealogical methods, Jones’s presentation addresses locating people to test, interpreting documentary research and DNA results, and applying the interpretations to help answer genealogical research questions.

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: Ballroom G

Jewish DNA: Successes and Lessons from the Journey

Marrying within a closed community, also known as endogamy, creates special challenges for the genetic genealogist and these are only beginning to be addressed by the general community. In this class, Israel Pickholtz brings a “how I did it” approach, demonstrating the successes he has had in his own Jewish families and the lessons that are applicable to all genetic genealogy. His goal is to inspire his listeners and readers to say “I can do this!”

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: 251A

Putting Your DNA Matches to Work

Drowning in DNA matches? This class is for you! Come and learn how to filter, sort, and search through all of your DNA cousins and find answers to real questions. You’ll learn how to use your AncestryDNA results to find the hidden pieces of truth you need to advance your research.

Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: 250A

Identity by Descent: Using DNA to Extend the African-American Pedigree

Using illustrative examples, Shannon Christmas demonstrates how DNA analysis, when used correctly with traditional genealogy research practices, can help family historians overcome challenges unique to African-American genealogy research.

Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: 255A

DNA: Citations, Proof Arguments, and Conclusions

Like all genealogy research, DNA research requires the same elements of genealogical writing and sourcing. In this class, Angie Bush describes DNA evidence should be cited and how proof arguments should be constructed.

Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: 251D

DREAM: An Advanced DNA Test for Genetic Genealogy

Eran Elhaik from the University of Sheffield explains the DREAM Chip, a tool aimed to improve genetic investigations, shed light on individual’s modern and ancient ancestry, improve biogeographical inferences, detect familial relatedness, and identify biological adaptations.

Time: 4:30 p.m.
Place: 251A

Saturday, February 11 Let Your DNA Tell the Story

Your DNA, by its own nature, is one of a kind. In this class, Diahan Southard will cover all three kinds of DNA test types and discover ways you can use this unique record to tell the story of your family history. Learn how to strip down your DNA results into essential parts and learn to use this information to tell an engaging story of your past.

Time: 11:00 a.m.
Place: 155A

How to Get More from Your DNA with

In this session, Shannon Christmas explains how to mine your autosomal DNA results for genealogical gems using the most popular third-party tools for genetic genealogy.

Time: 1:30 p.m.
Place: 255D

Supercharge Your Research with DNA

Genealogy research periodically comes to a halt in the absence of records. This may happen if you are adopted or if there was a name change by an ancestor, whether it was intentional or not. In this class, Emily Aulicino will help you discover which tests can help you with your brick walls and learn how your matches could add to your information.

Time: 3:00 p.m.
Place: 150

Register for RootsTech today and further your knowledge of genetic genealogy research!


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Time-Saving Family History Mobile Apps for Beginners

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 04:37

You can do almost anything on your phone now: schedule appointments, pay bills, map driving routes, take photos and videos—and yes, even do genealogy! The giants of online genealogy have had mobile apps to go along with their websites for a few years, and now others are joining the fun. These great apps make doing genealogy quicker than ever, and they are geared toward people of all levels. So even if you’re just sticking your toe in the genealogy pool for the first time, there’s something for you. In fact, here are three apps you can try right now—no matter what your family history experience is (or isn’t):

1) Find a Grave

Available on iPhone/iPad and Android (free).

With a tagline that says “Introducing the greatest addition to Find A Grave since Marilyn Monroe,” who can resist taking a peek at this mobile app to see what could earn a designation like that? If you spend a little time with it, you’ll see that this free app is a breeze to use even if you’ve never entered a single name into Family Tree.

Find a Grave has been helping people locate graves of ancestors worldwide for almost two decades now. With information on 120 million graves in half a million cemeteries and numbers increasing by the thousands every day, they’ve increased your chances of locating Great-Uncle Bob’s headstone. And the app makes the process even easier. Of course, the most common thing people do at Find a Grave is search for the grave of a specific ancestor. Besides learning where your ancestor is buried, you can often glean useful details from the transcribed and photographed headstone.

Locating gravesites is something you can do on the app, but there’s much more: you can upload a photo of your ancestor’s grave with your phone and add the grave’s GPS location. You can also use the app to locate cemeteries near you, create memorials for ancestors, take virtual strolls through cemeteries, and request a volunteer to look in a specific cemetery for a headstone. The app makes it simple to share your discoveries by text, email, or Facebook.

2) Saving Memories Forever

Available on iPhone/iPad and Android. (The app is free. Basic membership is free. Premium subscription is $3.99 per month.)

Saving Memories Forever, a relatively new enterprise, was designed to have the website and mobile app work together to preserve recorded stories and memories. After installing the app on your device, you begin by adding a “storyteller”—the person you want to collect audio recordings from. From there, you can record and preserve stories based on questions and prompts in different categories. Tap on a question to reach the recording screen. After recording the story or memory, you can upload it to the website or share it on Facebook.

Once stories are uploaded, you can access them through the website after you log in. You can tag the stories to make them easier to find or share them with others by sending friends and family an email that invites them to come and listen. You can also upload photos and documents to the site.

Although the basic membership is free, this won’t get your very far. You’ll need to obtain a premium subscription to make full use of the capabilities here.

3) FamilyTree

Available on iPhone/ipad and Android (free).

FamilySearch’s Family Tree app makes the features of the FamilySearch website available on your mobile device. If you haven’t used Family Tree before, first create a free FamilySearch account here Then download the app, and you’re ready to get started. The app syncs with the website, so changes or additions you make on your phone will show up on the site.

The Family Tree app opens to a screen showing your personal family tree. If you’re new to Family Tree, you can enter your information directly into the program with the app directing you through the process. You won’t be able to see other living people in the program to protect their privacy, but when you enter deceased people, the app will automatically search for possible matches within the tree. This avoids duplicates and links you to material that might already be available on that person. For more information on an individual, tap on her or him. From the personal page, you can choose “Memories” on the bar near the top to upload photos, written stories, and audio recordings.

Running across the bottom of every screen are some menu choices. Clicking on “More” here will display some particularly useful options. On this screen, you can select “Help” and then “Frequently Asked Questions” if you get stuck. You can also choose “Search Historical Records” to access FamilySearch’s vast collection of free historical records and search for your ancestor in them.

The three apps described here are only a starting point. There are many more out there, and new ones are becoming available all the time. With these apps at your fingertips, why wait until you have a few solid hours to sit down and work on family history? All you really need is a few minutes to make headway uncovering your ancestors. So the next time you pull out your phone while standing in line at the grocery store, try working on your family history!


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Five Interesting Facts about the Scott Brothers

Mon, 01/23/2017 - 14:16

by Tyler Stahle and Miryelle Resek

On Thursday, February 9, 2017, Jonathan and Drew Scott, more commonly known as the Property Brothers from the popular HGTV show, will grace the RootsTech stage as keynote speakers at the world’s largest family history conference. At RootsTech, the brothers will talk about their unique family ties and the can-do attitudes their family fostered, their positive outlooks, childhoods, careers, and their shared passions for the entertainment industry and for buying and renovating property.

You might be familiar with their show on HGTV or their line of Scott Living Collection home decor. Here are five interesting facts you may not know about the Scott brothers:

1. Entrepreneurship runs in the family.

The twins have been entrepreneurs since they were seven years old when they started JAM Enterprises (which stood for Jon, Andrew, and Mom). As a team, they sold decorative hangers adorned by nylon, which sold by the thousands. Perhaps this is where they got their eye for turning something ordinary into something extraordinary.

“We would go door-to-door in our neighborhood, and people thought it was cute,” said Jonathan in an interview with Parade.

Their older brother, JD, is also involved with the Property Brothers TV show. He hosts behind-the-scenes coverage of the twins online, and he helps grow the family business with his out-of-the-box approach. Together, the three Scott brothers founded Dividian Production Group in 2004—a company that helped indie films with content writing and directing. Eventually, this company helped the brothers launch their own projects.

2. They love entertaining.

Both Jonathan and Drew began their entertainment career when they were eight years old. They dressed up as clowns for local parades, birthday parties, and other kid-friendly events.

“We were 8 years old, and my dad said we had to get a job,” recalled Jonathan in an interview with Real Style. “We were thinking of different things. We saw that there was an ad, like, ‘Learn how to be a clown, and you’ll be hired for parades.’ We thought, ‘That sounds awesome!’ We did that. We were actually making pretty good money as kids.”

Eventually Jonathan, tired of the makeup, chose to go into magic.

“I [segued] into doing more magic as opposed to the clowning and it built from there,” he told Real Style. “I won a lot of awards for my illusions. My illusions are a full Vegas-style show where there’s music and dance and special effects and all kinds of stuff.” 

The brothers have also acted together in Breaker High, and later acted individually—Jonathan appearing on The X-Files and Drew on Smallville and Madison.

The two have been on comedy sketches, played in the 2016 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game and with the Harlem Globetrotters, and have recorded country songs, one of which was number 38 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

3. They’ve been involved with real estate since they were teenagers.

The Scott brothers were ahead of their time, restoring houses before it was a popular thing to do. With $250 down, they bought their first house across from the University of Calgary—and ended up selling it for a $50,000 profit.

Their success with flipping homes was so profitable that they continued, and they started a real estate and construction business known as Scott Real Estate, Inc., which eventually caught the eye of producers and led to the beginnings of Property Brothers.

4. They are country boys at heart.

Growing up on a ranch in Vancouver, Canada, means that country living is secondhand to the brothers. Some of their fondest family memories include hiking, camping, canoeing, and horseback riding. The Scott brothers say their strong work ethic is a result of the early-morning responsibility of caring for and feeding the family’s various farm animals.

Drew and Jonathan Scott even went back to their roots to help family friends renovate their country ranch in under 10 weeks. Both of the country songs they recorded debuted in their Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch series.

5. Their relationship is built on trust and friendship.

From competitive bagpipe playing to karate to working together, the brothers have spent an enormous amount of time with each other. So how do they manage to not get on each other’s nerves?

In multiple interviews they talked about how they immediately address any problems or issues they’re having. “We say what’s on our mind, good news or bad news,” said Jonathan in an interview that appeared in the Deseret News. “People always are asking if we ever argue and fight and, to be honest, we don’t.”

The Scott brothers also enjoy making each other laugh, whether with magic tricks or pranks. It’s just one more piece of evidence that shows the brothers enjoy spending time with one another and have a great relationship.

Register for RootsTech today, and don’t miss this opportunity to hear from the Scott Brothers.


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