Sunday, January 05, 2014

New URL for this blog...

I'm moving this blog to Wordpress; I hope you will visit me there.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How to Order films online

Who knew it would be so tricky?!  At the moment the page on which to order films online seems well hidden. Why would they keep it a "secret?"  I have no inside knowledge, but here is what I think.  FamilySearch has been rolling out online ordering in stages.   As an area converts to online ordering it is responsibility of the Family Research Centers to teach the patrons in that area how to do it.  At the Ann Arbor branch (housed in Saline) we recently had our training session and we explain and demo to patrons as they come in to order.  Now that the whole United States has online ordering the instructions (and a link to the page to start the order) will probably appear in the next update of the site.

In the meantime, here is the link  -- if you don't have the link handy, just /films at the end of the basic url. 

And here are the instructions, posted courtesy of the Genealogical Society of Washtenaw County

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Review of Kindred Trails website

I took a closer look at the Kindred Trails website today.  I often find a reference to pages on the site when I'm searching for information on the web, so wanted to get a better overall feel for the scope of the site.

The front (home) page of the site doesn't give us a very good idea of what is available, so, as is often the case, we must explore...

There are five segments on the site: Resources - Databases - Store - Freebies -News.  One thing I noticed early on was that a number of the links on the site are to pay for use products, most notably,   That will limit the value of the website for non subscribers, but the pages still can still be helpful.

The Resources page is broken down into Links by Locality, Surname, Religion, Convict and Native American.   The databases page covers such topics as birth, marriage, death, cemetery land and others. 

Each page gives some links to online information specific to the topic. Coverage is not comprehensive.  Many links are to commmly used sites that offer a link to a specific kind of resource in each state or jurisdiction.   Nor does the site list all the databases for a topic. 

The Family History Store page offers items that focus on artistic and display products... charts, scrapbooking, needle arts, forms, gifts and gadgets and more.  It is a fun store to browse in, with some interesting items for sale.

The Freebies page lists some interesting and unusual free sites.  I recommend taking some time to check out the links on that page.

And finally, there is a page of  news and events, but as of now the most recent event is from October 2009, so it does not seem to be kept current.

I think the author of this website shares my problem with me -- too much information out there and not enough time to keep web pages current!  But a visit to the site will probably net you at least one or two interesting sites that you didn't know about and that is worth a few minutes time to investigate it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking at a new online service -Live Roots

Blogs are relaying news that a new site is up: Live Roots. Most blogs forward information from the publisher so the new site almost always sounds like it will be of great value to the genealogist. Some are; some are not. I read about LiveRoots at the very time I was thinking to myself "now how will I go about finding what early London newspapers are available as digital copies online?" Live Roots promised to help find information about resources as well as people. Just the thing to help me. So I typed in the url, which is pretty easy to rember (

Once there I typed in the keywords London newspapers and 720 hits emerged... but only 15 (I had to hand count them) were 100% hits and they floated to the top of the list. Of the 15, most were New London Connecticut newspapers, available on GenealogyBanks Historical Newspapers 1680-1980 collection. 2 hits pointed me to books from Heritage Books. The hit was based on the two word each being somewhere in the description.

But the number one hit --top of the list -- told me that's database included images from The Times (London from 1785 – 1820). There well may be more out there -- clearly Live Roots is selecting hits from relatively few large databases -- but it did find a hit that might be helpful to me.

What databases is LiveRoots searching? Ancestry, GenealogyBank, Footnote, World Vital Records, the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild website, Olive Tree and Heritage books are ones I notices in the 720 results. Is there a listing of what all is being serached? Hmmm... here is all I could find:
We've created a unique genealogical database by combining databases from large commercial repositories (e.g.,, et. al.), publication listings from a variety of publishers, individual web pages and collection of offline resources.
When you search Live Roots the results will be presented in two categories: surnames and resources. In the above search, I ignored hits for London surnames because I wasn't interested in London as a surname. There is no better test of a surname search in a database than the surname Smith... so I searched that, even though, thank heavens, I have no Smith ancestors.

184 hits from the LiveRoots Index -- and 14 for the surname Smyth.
1857 from the subscription Index -- and 114 for Smyth.
and... 889 Resource Results.

The Live Roots Index appears to index websites, many of which would have to be explored to find where the name appears. Because there are only 184 hits the number of websites being searched must be quite limited. The Subscription Index consists of a collection offered by GeneaogyToday -- who also offer the Live Roots search. The resource results for the name Smith consists of resources available from etc. that have the word "smith" in the description. Definitions also appear, for example Black Smith.

I only spent about 20 minutes on the site and as with most sites, especially new ones, it takes time and effort to familiarize yourself with the best practices for using the site. But my conclusion after this 20 minute visit is that it is a site worth bookmarking and visiting on a regular basis.

Thumbs up.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Planning a Genealogy Trip

I am happily engaged in planning a spring genealogy trip. A friend and I are going to visit the Connecticut State Library -- both of us have had some difficult times last year and we think a research trip is just what we need.

First we had to decide when to go. After comparing calendars, we settled on the week of June 14th. Of course we checked the library's website to make sure there would be no unhappy surprises when we arrived, such as a closure due to construction. Then we had to decide on how to get there (we'll drive) and where to stay (a very inexpensive, but newly refurbished La Quinta Inn).

Next I looked at what was nearby that might be enticing and found that the Genealogy & Local History Library of the Connecticut Valley in Springfield, Massachusetts is open Wednesday-Saturday noon-4. That is about a half hour a way and I have some Springfield research to do, so I will plan an afternoon trip there one of the days. A note on this site's web page warned that the Library "will close on June 27, 2009, and reopen in the new Museum of Springfield History in October 2009", so I'm going to get there just in time.

I also have extensive interest
in Windham County, Connecticut, so think I will also supplement my research at the CSL with trip to the library of the Killingly Historical Society, which is open 10-4 Wednesday-Saturday and has a very substantial collection relating to Windham County.

More on our plans as time goes on and we start to prepare.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wikipedia can be a helpful resource

I've been working on my Guide to German Ancestors page -- and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, let me add my gratitude that I don't have to go Germanic research! One tool I've used earlier, but found exceptionally helpful when dealing with an area that is completely new to me is Wikipedia.

What is Wikipedia? It's a Wiki. What is a Wiki? It's a website that is created by users. Someone needs to host the Wiki, of course. At an open Wiki, anyone who can figure out how to do it can add information. And anyone can search and read he information added. Doesn't that mean silly, erroneous or even objectionable material can get added? Yes. But most Wiki's are closely watched and such information gets removed or corrected fairly quickly. Some Wiki's limit who can add or view information.

Look up a place name in Wikipedia and you usually find a succinct but helpful history, links to related jurisdictions, with further information, a map (that's not always very good) and sometimes links to websites that might provide further helpful information.

In the case of Germany, the links to related jurisdictions are quite complicated because of power and boundary changes over time and I'm still working on making sure I have links to the useful ones on my website. Usually it it is not this tangled.

If I go to Wikipedia and search Lapeer --where I grew up -- the result tells me there is a Lapeer, Mich, Lapeer County, Mich and Lapeer Twp., Mich. Also that there is a Lapeer, N.Y. Linking to Lapeer County I find a map that locates Lapeer Co. in Michigan, dates of county formation, listing of surrounding counties, with internal links to information about those counties and at the bottom of the page internal links to information about the cities, villages and townships in Lapeer County. Internal links take you to other Wikipedia pages. The Lapeer page ends with external links to online information summarized on the page in a "notes" sections. And at the very bottom of the page, any external links that might be relevant and helpful. In this case we get only one: a link to a bibliography of Lapeer County created by the Clarke Historical Library. When I get to the list I learn it only contains material owned by the CHL.

Wikipedia pages aren't created for genealogists, so as with much of what we use, we have to find the information we need as best we can. Wouldn't it be helpful to have a Wiki that was by and for genealogists? Oh Wait!! Some are already available! Familypedia is a Wiki you can use to create (or read) pages about your ancestors. We Relate is another. WikiTree is a place to link (and fine people in) family trees. Dick Eastman's Encyclopedia of Genealogy is a Wiki. And the one that will probably prove to be most valuable to genealogists over time is the Family Search Research Wiki.

As always... for more information, follow links on Cyndi's List Wikis For Genealogists page.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Online Research with Google

On my page "Your Guide to Finding Ancestors with Google" I mentioned that that there were several books available about using Google, but none specific to using it for genealogy -- yet.

That is about to change. Dick Eastman posted a blog today about a new book -- Google Your Family Tree. Of course I immediatley went on line to reserve a copy of the book.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Your Guide to Using Newspapers for Genealogical Research

I've done some recent updating of my newspaper page, in preparation for a talk I gave this week. And I was happy to read on Eastman's Online Genealogy blog that the first of the newspapers scanned in the National Digital Newspaper Program are now online. NDNP is a successor of sorts to the United States Newspaper Project, which was responsible for getting thousands of newspapers microfilmed. When I went to the site to check it out -- Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers -- I was happily surprised to find they offer a directory of newspapers published in the U.S. I suspect it is an updated version of Gregory's American Newspapers 1821-1936: A Union List of Files Available in the United States and Canada, but it doesn't say that.

While I am grateful for all the newspapers now being made available digitally, the current situation is quite frustrating.

First, it is extremely difficult to find what has been published digitally. You must check such a variety of subscription databases. And even if you have access to several or all of them, checking is not easy because they are constantly updated, so each time you check, you find everything you already found, plus what is new. If only there were a way to limit these searches to content added after a certain date. Ideally, of course, they would recognize you and offer to check for new content only.

Another problem is that OCR (optical character recognition) that allows us to search for any and all words in the publication simply can't be accurate on the quality of print found in newspapers -- especially very old, microfilmed newspapers. So there are a LOT of false hits. Lots and lots of false hits. And probably some misses that we'll never know about. The software does seem to err on the side of caution, looking for anything that might even conceivably be construed as the letters you are looking for.

And finally, even with millions and millions of pages being posted, it is still drop in the bucket. Your chances of finding the very newspaper for the time period you need are quite slim, even if you are willing to pay subscription costs (oruse the large libraries which are willing to pay for the newspaper electronic resources so as to have them available to patrons), as well as scour the intranet to see what is provided for free.

The final word: for much of our research we will still have to order the microfilmed copies on interlibrary loan and go through the pages one by one to find the information we seek.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Guide to Researching South Carolina Ancestors is now finished

I finished the South Carolina page. I hope those of you with South Carolina roots will find it helpful. I've done no research in this state, so welcome advice on good sources. Whenever I look for material on the web, I'm struck by how difficult it can be to navigate sites. A number of reasons contribute to this: poor website design, ambiguous language, hurried readers such as myself, who don't take time to read what is there. It is easy to become confused or overlook important pages. I try to give important links within a site on my Guides pages, but it is too unwieldy to do so for everything.

A case in point is the South Carolina Department of Archives and History Digital Collections page, which is linked to from their main page, where it advertises "Archives' Documents and Images Online". This page specifies a number of projects: Confederate pension applications 1919-1938 , insurance file photographs 1935-1952, grand jury presentments 1783-1877, national register of historic places and a collection named "curiosities". Then mention is made of a current project -- the scanning of colonial plats.

At the top we are told that all of these collections can be searched in an index, and indeed, clicking on most of them takes you to the index page. A link to the index is also provided at the top.

Once on the index page, however, we are pleased to discover that in addition to the collections named on the preceding page, there are also files of criminal journals 1769-17776, legislative papers 1782-1866 and will transcripts 1782-1855 and a mysterious index to a mysterious "multiple record series 1675-1929." and plats for school land grants 1784-1868-- presumably not the colonial plats listed on the front page. Not listed as being included in this index are the grand jury presentments, the colonial plats or the curiosities.

Underneath the chart of included topics is a table of boxes. We can choose to click Help - - Copies - - SCHAH Hme -- Search Page -- Corporate Names -- Document Types -- Locations -- Topics -- Series List.

Well given a good database, any blue blooded genealogist is going to click the most attractive link: Search Page. Once on the search page, we can search all databases or select individual databases from a drop down list. Missing from the drop down are the grand jury presentments database, colonial plats and curiosities but when I search all databases for individuals named Smith, the first hit I get is one for what appears to be a colonial land grant -- is this the plats?

More clicking on the links at the bottom of the page gives me more -- and better -- information, but it is still confusing. By this time, I'm long past ready to give up. Rather than try to figure it all out, I elect to just do the search, on all databases, and collect what information I get with gratitude. I never do know exactly what I'm searching or if I'm missing something, but I hope that by cutting a wide swath, I'll get most, if not all, of what is offered.

I'm certainly not going to fault web page designers for not coming up with a perfectly clear navigation system, that anticipates my every whim and pops an answer up just when I need it, although I do make a plea for web designers to take time to test, edit and revise sites, so material is presented as clearly as possible. The point I take from all this is that it often takes a great deal of time and effort to understand the whole of what a website offers. If I want to benefit from the site, I must spend the time and make the effort.

And as do most sites, this site has a clearly marked link "CONTACT US". Whenever I've done so, I've always received prompt, courteous and knowledgeable answers to my question. I highly recommend adding this step to those above.

Monday, January 29, 2007

5 Things You Didn't Know About Me...

Why am I writing this? Because I've been "tagged" as one of a series of genealogy bloggers. It's in an effort to try to get the genealogy bloggers more well known, a cause I fully support. So here are my five...

1. I don't really understand blogging! Actually, if you've read any of my blogs, you may have already figured this out. I've been stumbling through it and until recently haven't really searched to find what else is out there. But now I've I've been finding and google-bookmarking those I find for the past few weeks. I also use bloglines to give me a webased collection of rss feeds for those I want to track. So I'm slowly figuring it out. Tips and hints welcome.

2. I just learned recently that I have a (very distant and very indirect) connection to Yul Brynner. As a child, my husband's mother lived in a Russian community called Novina. Novina was a resort in Korea that catered to Russians in exile and Yul Brynner's father was connected to that resort, and perhaps the Brynners were related to the Yankovsky family of her step-father. Yul's son, Rock Brynner, has researched his family's origins and recently published a book about his family, Empire and Odyssey: The Brynners in Far East Russia and Beyond. My husband and daughter have ordered the book and are now in communication with researchers who also have interest in Novina, so I will write more about this in a separate blog.

3. From the third grade through the 7th, I went to a one room school, where I was the only one in my grade. The teacher was visibly displeased when she learned what grade I was in, since it meant adding a grade to her already full day. Each day she would call each grade up to the front of a room for a recitation in a round of subjects. First grades k-8 would be called up, one by one, for reading, then for arithmetic, then after lunch these rounds would be repeated for for social science and science. Penmanship every day for twenty minutes after lunch hour. This was also the time when the teacher held surprise desk checks to make sure our desks were neat. My desk never surprised her... it was never neat. We also had spelling, but I forget how she fit that in and art class was every Friday afternoon. Once the teacher learned I could read, my daily routine consisted of turning in my math assignment and very rarely being called up to recite. The rest of the time was all mine to read whatever I wanted. I thought it was a fine education.

4. I can't sing and am not musical. All my in-person friends and family know this, of course, but so far I've been able to keep it a secret on the web.

5. I can't keep up with everything I promise I'll do. Oh... that's no secret to anyone?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Updated the census page

Good grief! I was thrilled and appalled to see that my census site got mention on the rootsweb list. Thrilled, of course first... but then I immediately wondered if it had bad links. So I checked... and it sure did. I couldn't believe how many. Some due to my own carelessness...some because the sites had disappeared and some for reasons that mystified me.

At any rate, I got to work and the page is sparkling clean now -- or was as of five minutes ago -- and I've run Xenu Link Sleuth on the rest of the site and will get to the numerous bad links it found over time.

My next page... South Carolina.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Your Guide to Using Archives for Genealogical Research

Working on a webpage for private manuscript sources necessitated doing one on using archives. Most genealogists are very proficient at using libraries, but some are hesitant to make full use of archives. They seem more daunting... and as I prepared this page, I could see why! But material in archives is getting more and more accessible and I hope this web page will help you renew your efforts to find material in archives.

Click on the header of this blog to see Your Guide to Using Archives for Genealogical Research.

Your Guide to Using Diaries, Letters, Personal Papers and Other Manuscript Sources

I got this site up today, in preparation for that talk I mentioned in my earlier blog. Researching this topic reminded me how much is out there...and how many ways there are to find that material. The web has provided a terrific boost to our ability to find manuscript sources, but as I worked on these pages I am reminded again at how much valuable information is in the print sources. Not only will the print sources guide you to information you may not find on the web, they also provide the information needed to make better use of the web. For example, if you use a print source to find diaries of interest to you, you can then search the web using some of the key words found in the description. The two sources.. print and web...simply enhance each other. Neither is best, neither is comprehensive.

Click on the heading of this blog to go to the website Your Guide to Using Diaries, Letters, Personal Papers and Other Manuscript Sources

Friday, November 17, 2006

Putting an old diary online --the diary of Louise B. Hancock

I was preparing for a talk I'm giving on diaries and manuscripts and came across this site, which is part of a larger one on e-scrapbooking. This diary begins in 1916, when Louise was still in high school and ends it in 1919.

When Larry Johnson saw it on E-bay, it caught his interest and he purchased it. He and his wife(Annette Lamb) then set about finding out everything they could about the person who kept the diary and the environment she lived in. Using official records, yearbooks, books that covered the history of the events of that time, census records and a variety of other sources, they created a vivid and detailed account of the life of a young woman.

It turns out that Louise Hancock is no one's direct ancestor. She married in 1922, but suffered from tuberculosis and died at the age of 25 in 1924, leaving no children. Larry Johnson and Annette Lamb brought her back to life... and on their site they tell how they did it. It's a great site... combining human interest, inspiration and instruction.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Updated my page on Sweden

I usually don't link to a site that is completely in a foreign language, so I was pleased to learn that the SVAR website has an English language portal and I updated the page to add that link. I also added a link to the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center. I don't have Swedish ancestors -- if I did, I'd be busy planning a trip to that facility!

Bobbie's Genealogy Classroom

My website is intended as a background for classes I teach and talks I give, as well as a handy way for me to keep track of important websites and information. I don't yet have pages up for every topic and even when a page is up, it constantly needs to be updated. I keep plugging away at it, bit by bit... but it's hard to keep track of what has changed. At the bottom of some (and eventually all) pages is a date last updated, but that doesn't give any information about changes. I thought I'd use this blog to track changes. I hesitate to add something because each time I work on the blog, that's a change I'm not making. But I will try to use it to track some of the major changes I make. In the meantime, I hope you visit my website and find something useful. I appreciate notification of bad information and suggestions of material I might want to include.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I already knew that...

This is an etc. blog, with only a slight genealogy connection. A few days ago a friend sent me a a tip that the Sanborn maps are available electronically at our University Library. She prefaced it by saying "You probably already knew this..." (I didn't) and today at coffee mentioned that she almost didn't send me the information, since I probably already knew it.

I've been noticing lately, with some irritation, how quick people are to inform the bearer of any information "Yes, I knew that." Now why would you announce that? Is it to be sure everyone knows how much you know? Is it to chide the person for wasting your time by saying what you already knew? Is it to cut the conversation off, then and there? I can't think of one gracious reason for making such a statement.

When I said it was only slightly genealogy related, the connection was not the Sanborn maps. It is that often at the LDS library, where I volunteer, or at conferences or in discussions, people say things that I -- and a lot of other people who have been doing genealogy a long time-- already know. This is especially so when talking to someone who is new at research and just learning these amazing and varied bits of information that make research so challanging. In my opinion, it behooves us all to refrain from announcing that we already knew that and rather encourage the discussion and passing of information necessary to enable people to become proficient users.

You probably all already knew that.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Average Time of Indenturship

Today I had to find out approximately how long one could expect an ancestor to work as an indentured servant. I had heard an average of 7 years, but could I find a source for that information? Anthing that explained it in more detail? I did a quick and dirty search of my reference books and found nothing, so I turned to the web. I googled the word and found a helpful defintion on a Houghton-Mifflin site, "The Great American History Fact Finder" Here is the definition given there:

" a person who worked without wages, usually for a period of five to seven years, in exchange for payment of the person's passage to the American colonies. The contract, called an "indenture," entitled the servant to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Devised by the Virginia Company in the late 1610s, the system provided cheap labor. It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of all European immigrants to the colonies participated in the system, some voluntarily, some as victims of penal servitude. The practice disappeared after 1800."

An entry at Wikipedia / The Free makes this note, indicating an indenturship of ten years was not uncommon.

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons".

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Well... here it is 2004 and I still haven't figured out blogging. But something brought it to my attention lately and I remembered that I had started a blog somewhere, so here I am again. Still trying to get junk from the past out of my life, which means I've come to know and depend on Purple Heart, Recyle Ann Arbor and any other place I can find that might find a use for accumulations of various sorts. By far my BIGGEST accumulation, though, is paper... mostly genealogy info I've collected over the years. I'm trying to get it in all in the computer, but so far I've not come close and I'm getting carpal tunnel syndrome. Since three years have gone by, I suppose I should change the name of the blog. It started out "Life at 56" Given my track record, I don't think it is a good idea to rename it with any numbers. I think I'll make a genealogy blog out of it.