Tuesday, December 23, 2008

FamilySearch Road Map: Past, Present, and Provisional Future

The FamilySearch Road Map: Past, Present, and Provisional Future
December 21st, 2008
Paul Nauta, Public Affairs Director for the Family History Library, was the dinner speaker at the Annual Banquet for the Salt Lake Christmas Tour. He outlined the FamilySearch Road Map: Past, Present, and Provisional Future.

Director Nauta diagrammed the Past: Preserve Genealogy Records–Collaboration with Archives and Libraries to ensure genealogy records survive–Access Records–Collect and Film Records–Check Records for Quality Control.

The Family History Library maintains more than 200 camera teams throughout the world (more than 45 countries at one time) and makes the records available to the public through over 4500 Family History Centers in 80 countries, including over 200 affiliate public libraries.

The Present approach includes: Collect and Preserve Genealogy Records directly in digital format–convert previous microfilm to digital format–Create Online Indexes to digital records–Distribute film and digital images.

New FamilySearch is being tested in several areas of the LDS Church using a temporary URL open to selected users only.

FamilySearch Indexing which, on 31 October 2008 alone, launched more than 30 million newly-indexed images to online public use. FamilySearch Pilot More than 150,000 indexers are at work producing more than 1 Million new names a day.

And indexers are actively recruited: members of the LDS Church, qualified volunteers from local genealogy groups and commercial research services, patrons of Family History Library facilities. If you are an indexer, you get access to indexed records–whether they have been released to the public or not. To learn more and view current projects visit: FamilySearch Indexing

Family Tree, where you can post your genealogy for personal and public access, will open to the world at large next year (2009).

All of these resources post works-in-progress. They are intended to provide access to data as they become available–not when they are completed. You can check them frequently to speed-up your own work and increase your ability to share your genealogy with others.

The Provisional Future will give us online digital access within 24-hours from the time the records are digitized! Such a time frame is needed to counteract the record loss that occurs at an alarming rate: Nauta estimated that there is no record of existence for 1/2 of the children in the world. Less than 5% of genealogy records are online.

The FamilySearch goal: More records for More people using More effective technology. 25 high-speed machines are currently at work at the Records Vault to prepare records in digital format. The next step is to create a digital microfilm reader online to provide a digital expressway to your home. This will give you access to over 1 Billion digital images now available and not yet indexed.

For example, there are over 1 million books in the Family History Library. 25,000 only are now available online. Family History Library Books

With 20 Billion images stored in the LDS Records Vault, more than 70 Billion images stored in the world at large, and more than 500 million images being created every year–lots of genealogy volunteers are needed. Sign-on today and access what is available. All they ask is 30 minutes of your time each week! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where Did Your Surname Come From?

Do you know where your surname comes from, or how many people you share it with? To find out more about your history, click on 'Search for Surname' and you will open the National Trust Names website which presents the findings of a project based at University College London (UCL) that is investigating the distribution of surnames in Great Britain, both current and historic. It allows users to search the databases that we have created, and to trace the geography and history of their family names. On each page of the website, you will find a Help link on the top-right corner which We hope will answer any questions you might have.

New England Ancestors Free Online Seminars

We are excited to announce our new online seminar series. Lectures will be presented by our staff of genealogists. We will be offering new seminars on a regular basis so please check back frequently for updates.
Online Seminars
Seminar Links
Researching Your Newfoundland Ancestors Part One
Bridging the Atlantic - Methods of Tracing Your 17th Century New England Ancestors Across the Water
An Overview of the NEHGS Manuscript Collection
Library resources at NEHGS
Finding Your Ancestors Online
Who Was Your Mother's Mother's Mother's Mother?
Getting Started in Irish Genealogy Part 1
Applying to Lineage Societies
Genealogical Tips: Transcribing Gravestones
Getting Started in Genealogy - Part 1
Getting Started in Genealogy - Part 2
Getting Started in Genealogy - Part 3
Civil War Pension Research: Union Soldiers
Methods of Finding a Wife's Maiden Name

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Web Search Strategies

CommonCraft Show Sachi LeFever is the project manager, video editor, and "chief party pooper". She gets things done. You can find Sachi on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Lee LeFever is the communicator and idea guy. You can connect to him on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
About the Show
Each new video we publish appears as a free version on this link. You are free to share Common Craft Show videos for non-commercial purposes.
Downloadable, licensed versions can be found in the Common Craft Store.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Small Inexpensive NetBook's : Great for FamilyHistory

Small is beautiful - Dec 4th 2008 From The Economist print edition
Computing: Netbooks are small computers that are cheaper and lighter than full-scale laptops. They have their merits—but do not ask too much of them

STEVE JOBS says Apple does not know how to make a $500 computer “that’s not a piece of junk”. Yet this article was written on a small computer that costs less than that—and barely a quarter of the price of the Apple iMac that sits on the desk beside it. Small, cheap mini-notebooks like this, or “netbooks” as they have come to be called, are not as fast or as capable as a big computer like an iMac, and in performance terms they trail behind most laptops. But they are certainly not junk, and for some people they may be the best computers money can buy.

Netbooks are a hot-selling consumer product. The first to appear on the market, a year or so ago, were aimed at children. But now they are proving popular not just with families and first-time computer buyers but also with power users who want something small, lightweight and cheap.

They typically have screens measuring seven to ten inches diagonally. They have built-in wireless networking, but lack an optical drive for CDs or DVDs. Some use flash memory for storage instead of a hard disk, which makes them more robust and extends battery life. Netbooks generally cost less than $500. IDC, a market-research firm, reckons worldwide sales of netbooks will reach 10.8m in 2008 and more than 20m in 2009, during which they will represent 11-12% of the entire laptop market.

Keep it simple: Most current models, including Samsung’s NC10, much of the Asus Eee range, the MSI Wind and the Acer Aspire One, use Intel’s Atom as their central processor. This is the chipmaker’s smallest processor, designed specifically for low-cost and portable devices, not for intensive number-crunching. But because a lot of things that people do with computers, such as e-mail, writing and web browsing, do not require fancy graphics or lots of processing power, netbooks can still be extremely useful.

The number of netbooks available is growing as more producers pile into the market (but not Apple—at least, not yet). But if you are buying one, avoid the temptation to get the slickest, most powerful machine available. Much advice on offer online suggests souping up the specification of a netbook so it can run Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system, rather than the free, open-source Linux system that is offered as standard on many netbooks.

Yet increasing the specification only makes sense for people who want to run (and to pay for) Windows and specific Windows-based applications. The extra hardware and software costs start to push the price of a netbook towards that of a standard laptop, which will invariably be better because it has a bigger processor and superior graphics. For many users, the basic, free software shipped with a netbook will be quite enough.

The most basic model of the Acer Aspire One can be found for £179 in Britain and around $300 in America. It simply switches on and runs with the minimum of fuss. It has 8 gigabytes (GB) of flash storage and 512 megabytes of RAM, which is a bit puny. But that is perfectly adequate to run the customised version of Linux that comes pre-installed on it, along with a suite of software, including Open Office. With no hard drive, and a switch to turn off the wireless connection (not the fastest in the world), power can be conserved. So a bigger, bulkier battery may not be necessary either, unless you want to use the computer untethered for long periods. Because it boots up in a few seconds, rather than thinking of the Acer as a mini laptop it might make more sense to view it as a beefed-up personal digital assistant, such as an old PalmPilot or Psion, but with a better screen and a proper keyboard.

But what about the lack of storage? Again, the way the machine can be used addresses this problem. First, netbooks are designed to be used with the net, which is where an increasing number of people now store a lot of their stuff, such as e-mail, videos and photos, and where people do other work with online applications. Second, with three USB ports it can always be plugged into devices, such as a portable hard drive, to store things locally. Storage space can also be boosted by plugging a small SD-card flash memory (16GB versions are now widely available) into one of two ports, one of which is designated to act as semi-permanent storage.

As for the software, Open Office was surprisingly easy to use—a doddle for anyone who has used Microsoft Office. Moreover, the ability to save work in different formats presented no compatibility problems when sending files to a Windows-based machine. Photo software and other applications were simple to use too. The machine is not up to much for playing games, but then a dedicated games console beats most computers when it comes to games anyway.

The Acer has a built-in webcam, which makes it ideal for video-calling services such as Skype. Admittedly, installing third-party software can be a bit of a fiddle, and some of the advice available online threatens to lure users into the tangled depths of the Linux undergrowth, where few people will want to venture. But as netbooks become more prevalent, such difficulties are likely to ease.

The upshot is that netbooks are great as cheap, simple and small computers for performing basic tasks—especially if the pre-installed software does what you want it to. They will never satisfy power users who want to edit video and play elaborate games, but they are not meant to. Provided they do not expect too much, most users will be delighted with them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

25,000 Historical Titles Now Free Online

FamilySearch Digital Preservation Initiative Hits a Milestone

Salt Lake City, Utah—FamilySearch International reached a milestone today with the digitization of its 25,000th publication online. It began the initiative in 2007 and is ramping up to do even more—and faster. The effort targets published family, society, county, and town histories, as well as numerous other historical publications that are digitally preserved and made accessible for free online. The digital publications can be searched at www.FamilySearch.org (Go to FamilySearch.org, then click Search Records, then click Historical Books).

The 25,000th digitized publication was A History of Lewis County, in the State of New York, from the Beginning of Its Settlement to the Present Time by Franklin B. Hough. The book was published in 1860. The lengths of titles digitized to date vary in length, but the average is about 350 pages. There are even publications in Spanish, German, French, and Russian.

FamilySearch has nearly a million publications in its famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and there are millions of similar publications elsewhere in the United States. “The problem with the collection [of out-of-print titles] is limited access,” said Ransom Love, FamilySearch senior vice president of Strategic Relations. “To view the publications, patrons have to travel to Salt Lake City or one of FamilySearch’s affiliate libraries. If you are lucky, you might be able to order a microfilm copy, but then you have to wait for it to arrive at your local family history center. And there’s the inconvenience of having to read it on a film reader,” added Love.

FamilySearch aims to change all of that. Working with volunteers and select affiliate libraries, it plans to create the largest digital collection of published histories on the Web. It is targeting a wide range of historical publications—for example, users might be pleasantly surprised to find digital copies of Hawaii Sugar Planters Association Filipino Laborer files (1909-1949), medieval family history resource titles, and oral history abstracts (mostly from Hawaii), and numerous gazetteers.

“These are publications that were usually limited in the number originally printed and therefore only accessible in a few libraries or special collections worldwide. Yet there can be some great information of genealogical significance in the publications that only a few people would have access to prior to now,” said Love.

Through its Records Access Program, FamilySearch is digitally preserving a copy of the publications and making them available online for the masses. Once digitized, the collections have "every word" search capability, which allows users to search by name, location, date, or other fields across the collection. The search results are then linked to high quality digital images of the original publication.

FamilySearch is not stopping with its own collection either. Over the past year, it announced that it is also helping to digitize and publish collections from the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University—Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Houston Public Library, in Houston, Texas, and Mid-Continent Public Library Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, Missouri. When all is said and done, there will be over a million publications in the digital collection online. It will be the largest free resource of its kind.

New FamilySearch (Where we are now)

New FamilySearch (NFS) is a single family tree that all of us share and work on in common, as if we all shared one PAF file. FamilySearch is temporarily calling it New FamilySearch and it is temporarily located at http://new.familysearch.org. But eventually it will be called FamilySearch Family Tree and will be relocated to www.familysearch.org. The 1.0 version will be available to all, members of the Church and non-members alike.

However, the first priority for NFS was to stop the flood of duplicate temple ordinances by replacing TempleReady and the associated need to check the International Genealogical Index (IGI) to avoid duplication. Accordingly, a version 0.9 was written to this end. It lacks many niceties considered standard in a genealogy product, but those features are not central to replacing TempleReady and can wait for a 1.0 product.

After alpha and beta testing were complete, a multiple-phase rollout was commenced on 26 June 2007 when St. Louis started using NFS. From that moment on, NFS has not been in some extended beta test as some suppose, but has been in real use in real temples.

Early users of NFS found bugs, of course, as well as user interface problems. That is one reason for doing a phased release. But these problems were nothing, in retrospect. Like the hero of a tragedy, NFS 0.9 contained an unknown fatal flaw that doomed it to failure as soon as the rollout began. Ironically, the flaw arises out of the problem that NFS is designed to avoid: too much duplication.

Our hero's tragic flaw

Somewhere along the line, two conflicting mantras were established for NFS. Our hero's fatal flaw results from an unforeseen interaction between the two.

No one can change your data except you.
To keep things simple, New FamilySearch combines Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File and the International Genealogy Index into one database.
Not knowing the number of duplicates beforehand, the first mantra was kept by keeping a full copy of every piece of data, no matter how often duplicated. After the rollout began, users began combining duplicates from these three databases. Some individuals were duplicated many, many more times than expected and when NFS users combined them, "individuals of unusual size" (IOUS) started to grow.

Steps were taken to slow IOUS growth. The addition of PRF disks was halted. The import of complete GEDCOMs was frowned upon. And NFS continued to perform its primary function, adequately replacing TempleReady.

The Arizona

Then on 5 February 2008 the rollout hit Arizona. Because of the large number of Church members there who are descended from early Church members, the growth rate of IOUSes exploded and IOUSes became large enough to swamp the computer servers running NFS. The system was sometimes too slow to use. I'm sure within a week FamilySearch knew they had big problems. The decision to freeze would have been gut wrenching and probably had to reach to the highest levels. On the 19th, word first leaked out. On the 21st, official word was sent out. The rollout was stopped, frozen solid.

Emergency steps were taken to rehabilitate system performance. Hard limits were placed on the number of duplicates that can be combined. (I believe it is currently 85?) GEDCOM import size was restricted. I imagine the length of the delay was predicated on how long it took database engineers to scan through all the millions of individuals in NFS to find and split the IOUSes into pieces small enough for the system to handle.This had to be done while the system was in operation, actively serving 26 temples.

The result was an NFS that worked near flawlessly as a TempleReady replacement for anyone who doesn't have ancestors that were famous or were members of the Church. These ancestors were the ones becoming IOUSes. When the freeze thawed, the rollout could continue only in districts where most members didn't have many ancestors fitting this characterization. By 14 October the tragedy had run its course. Utah, Idaho and Las Vegas have been on hold ever since, waiting for a true fix to the IOUS problem. Rumors have pointed to Q3 or Q4 of next year before this newer than New FamilySearch will be ready.

Family Tree

While all this was going on, work on a 1.0 user interface was progressing. Developers are using a system called Agile Development that encourages regular user interaction during iterative development. This allows us, the future users of the program, to try things out along the way, identify design flaws and influence the product before it is set in stone. If you have a New FamilySearch account, you should feel a responsibility to do this at labs.familysearch.org.

That brings you up to the unexpected announcement that Vegas was going live without the rest of us! What does that mean? Obviously, FamilySearch feels like the system is robust enough to handle the additional traffic and that letting Las Vegas start using the system is worthwhile, despite members inability to combine all duplicates together.

Originally published on "The Ancestry Insider" Blog.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Genealogy Spot

About GenealogySpot.com

Simplifying the Search for the Best Genealogy Resources Online

You will find this site to be a useful and time-saving tool for researching your family history online.

"What's nice about GenealogySpot is the editorial picking-and-choosing that guides the site's content."
- Family Tree Magazine

"GenealogySpot finds references around the Internet that will help you with your genealogical searches."
- Ancestry.com

GenealogySpot.com is a free resource center that simplifies the search for the best online genealogy resources for beginners and experts alike. Sites featured on GenealogySpot.com are hand-selected by our editorial team for their exceptional quality, content and utility.

From the site, quickly and easily find the best resources to perform ancestor searches by state, country, ethnicity and religion, browse historical records, access reference tools, locate lost family members, join genealogy communities and much more.

Surname Distribution Maps

Enter a surname (last name) into the form on this link and you'll get a map of the United States showing the distribution of people with this surname within the 50 United States.

Family Tree Searcher

Easiest way to search family trees

Use Active Searches. This allows you to search major sites by entering your information just one time. Also, this determines the best type of search for you at a particular site (all sites are not created equal).

World Vital Records

Internet Genealogy Magazine Reviews WorldVitalRecords.com

Internet Genealogy, July 2008 We simply couldn't have said it better ourselves! The most recent issue of Internet Genealogy magazine includes a 4-page article by Diane L. Richard detailing the incredible growth and benefits of an online subscription to the worldvitalrecords.com content collection. Read the entire article. Here are a few quotes:

"UK BMD and Census Records. The addition of these records helps make the World Collection comparable to Ancestry's World Collection."

"Each subscription service on its own was just a bit too narrow for my limited needs, or had enough overlap with other databases that I currently subscribe to, to make it hard to justify individual subscriptions. That is now a moot point as I can 'one-stop-shop' at WorldVitalRecords.com"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

FamilySearch Affiliates and Product Certification

FamilySearch Certified Affiliates are third-party companies and organizations that provide products and services with features that are compatible with FamilySearch programs. Certification indicates the affiliate’s declaration of compliance with FamilySearch requirements. Note that these products and services are independently developed and supported by their respective organizations, not by FamilySearch.

Certified PAF Add-Ins are programs that allow PAF users to access, print, update, and sync with online information in the new FamilySearch program. These add-ins are intended primarily for patrons who wish to use their PAF 5 program to read and write PAF 5 and Gedcom files in conjunction with the online family tree at new.FamilySearch.org

Summary of Certified Features
Access - Search and read new FamilySearch family tree

Print - Print multiple reports using data from new FamilySearch family tree

Update - Publish to new FamilySearch family tree in addtion to Access. Also includes request to combine matched individuals.

Sync - Sync both ways, match/combine persons in addition to Access and Update

Ability to keep FamilySearch family tree current with Affiliate's application for selected persons and information ("Sync-up")

Ability to Affiliate's application current with FamilySearch family tree for selected persons and information ("Sync-down")

Multi-Language - Ability to have Navigation, Content, Help and all messaging translated in at least the languages supported by FamilySearch family tree. These translations, when available, can be easily installed by users.

PAF Add-In - This Add-In to FamilySearch PAF program makes it possible for the PAF program to Access, Print, Update, and Sync with new FamilySearch family tree. PAF user can continue to load and save information to the PAF file format.

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. The initial focus of the CWSS is the Names Index Project, a project to enter names and other basic information from 6.3 million soldier records in the National Archives. The facts about the soldiers were entered from records that are indexed to many millions of other documents about Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Other information includes: histories of regiments in both the Union and Confederate Armies, links to descriptions of 384 significant battles of the war, and other historical information. Additional information about soldiers, sailors, regiments, and battles, as well as prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, will be added over time.

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a cooperative effort by the National Park Service (NPS) and several other public and private partners, to computerize information about the Civil War. The goal of the CWSS is to increase the American people's understanding of this decisive era in American history by making information about it widely accessible. The CWSS will enable the public to make a personal link between themselves and history.

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. The initial focus of the CWSS is the Names Index Project, a project to enter names and other basic information from 6.3 million soldier records in the National Archives. The facts about the soldiers were entered from records that are indexed to many millions of other documents about Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Other information includes: histories of regiments in both the Union and Confederate Armies, links to descriptions of 384 significant battles of the war, and other historical information. Additional information about soldiers, sailors, regiments, and battles, as well as prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, will be added over time.

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a cooperative effort by the National Park Service (NPS) and several other public and private partners, to computerize information about the Civil War. The goal of the CWSS is to increase the American people's understanding of this decisive era in American history by making information about it widely accessible. The CWSS will enable the public to make a personal link between themselves and history.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Free GEDCOM Estimator

The GEDCOM Estimator was developed by Vegard Brox as part of his 3rd year project at University of Newcastle upon Tyne during the academic year 1999-2000. The supervisor for the project was Professor Brian Randell.

At this page, you can get information about the GEDCOM Estimator, download the program, view the help pages, download source code and even view the dissertation for the project.

Google Your Family Tree

Table of Contents

Following are the chapter headers as they appear in the Table of Contents for Google Your Family Tree. The 352-page text includes numerous screen shots, tables, and other diagrams that combine to make this a must-have book for every family historian — hobbiest or professional.

Foreword by Paul Allen, CEO of FamilyLink.com, Inc.; Co-Founder Ancestry.com, Inc.
Introduction by Dan Lynch

Chapter 1 — Search Engine Basics
Chapter 2 — Interpreting Web Search Results
Chapter 3 — Advanced Search Techniques
Chapter 4 — Language Tools
Chapter 5 — Google Books
Chapter 6 — Google News Archive
Chapter 7 — Blog Search
Chapter 8 — Images & Video
Chapter 9 — Google Alerts
Chapter 10 — Google Maps
Chapter 11 — Google Earth
Chapter 12 — Google Notebook
Chapter 13 — The Google Toolbar & Google Chrome
Chapter 14 — Other Tips & Tricks
Appendix A — Getting Started in Genealogy
Appendix B — Top Sites for Genealogists
Appendix C — Other Internet Search Engines
Appendix D — Web Search Engine Defined
Appendix E — Syntax Summary & Quick Reference

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rare Opportunity: See the other half of the LDS Church's Family History Equation

If you're planning a visit to the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City in the next several months, an opportunity is available that you shouldn't miss. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced an open house and public tours of the Draper Utah Temple. The open house will extend from 15 January 2009 until 14 March 2009.

Unlike chapels of the Church, temples are normally closed to all but worthy members of the Church. The completion of a new temple provides a rare opportunity for the general public to view the interior of these buildings, each revered by Church members as the House of the Lord. The Draper Utah Temple will be just the 129th operating temple of the Church worldwide.

Open house tours are free but require tickets, and convenient times may be scooped up quickly. Tickets may be obtained starting Monday, 1 December 2008 at 10:00 AM MST by contacting 1-800-537-6181 (toll-free), 1-801-240-7932 (toll) or online at www.lds.org/reservations.

If you're planning on visiting the FHL during the open house, call right away to get your tickets. I don't know if the FHL will provide a shuttle between the library and the new temple for visitors who are not members of the Church. I'll suggest it to Don Anderson. But, first worry about getting tickets and if this is your first tour inside a temple, I'll drive you myself if I have to. I think it's that important of an opportunity to see the other half of the Church's family history equation. The Draper Utah Temple is a 23 mile drive south of the FHL and Google estimates a drive time of 33 minutes.

There is no preaching, no sermon and no pressure. In fact, talking inside the Temple is discouraged. Individuals walk through the temple in a long, continuous line. Wheelchairs are typically accommodated. No guide will accompany you and there is no audio tour. Prior to entering the Temple a short video (8 to 15 minutes?) introduces basic information about the Temple and its place in Church doctrine. Placards placed throughout the building identify the names or purposes of rooms as you walk through the building. While Church volunteers are present throughout the building, they provide crowd control and maintain reverence. Questions should be held until after exiting. Like I say, no pressure.

And in my opinion, a definite "not to be missed." The Ancestry Insider

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Howard's Delicious Bookmarks

What is Delicious?
Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows you to tag, save, manage and share Web pages all in one place. With emphasis on the power of the community, Delicious greatly improves how people discover, remember and share on the Internet.

Things you can do with Delicious
Bookmark any site on the Internet, and get to it from anywhere
Instead of having different bookmarks on every computer, Delicious makes it easy to have a single set of bookmarks kept in sync between all of your computers. Even if you're not on a computer you own, you can still get to your bookmarks on the Delicious website.
Share your bookmarks, and get bookmarks in return
If your friends use Delicious, you can send them interesting bookmarks that they can check out the next time they log in. Of course, they can do the same for you. As you explore the site and find interesting users, you can use our Subscriptions and Network features to keep track of the Delicious tags and users you find most interesting.
Discover the most useful and interesting bookmarks on the web
See what's hot with Delicious users by checking out our popular tags. By looking at popular bookmarks for a tag, you'll be able to discover the most interesting bookmarks on the topics you're most interested in. Browse bookmarks on just about anything from the best programming tips to the most popular travel sites, all in an easy to read format.

Delicious has a bold new design that is more powerful and easier to use, along with a revamped search that's faster and more robust. It's also full of useful features that people have been requesting for years.

• Save a new bookmark
• Navigation
• New organization
• Fast contextual search
• Contextual sub menus
• Tag Bar
• Tag navigation
• Autocomplete
• Sorting
• Bookmarks
• New layout
• Blue boxes
• Details page
• Sidebar
• Top 10 tags
• New bundles
• Private nicknames
• Action Box
• Contextual actions
• Tag Descriptions
• Public Profiles

Click on the Title Link at the top and see Howard’s ever growing bookmarks (mostly related to Family History and Genealogy). Click here to see video describing DELICIOUS.

The Ireland Roots Website

If you are looking for your Irish Roots you have come to the right place.

From here you can visit the Irish Roots message board. It covers every county in Ireland and it is a free service.

You can choose a link directly to the county you are interested in from the menu on the left. If you are not sure of the county your ancestors are from use the "Ireland Section".

Michigan Family History Network

This site holds a collection of genealogy transcriptions and records to help Michigan Family researchers. Our main concern is get data on the internet. We do transcriptions to put online and many people have helped by transcribing and donating data to this site.

In putting this site together we hope to make files available in different formats that are not available for one reason or another on the other sites that we have created. An internet tie up someplace, a server being down, etc. and eventually new format that may be easier to navigate for visitors.

New files are being added continuously so make sure you stop by often.

The files here are free for you to look through, as long as you understand that they are under copyright protection by the person who did the work to get them formatted to go online and cannot be copied for commercial purposes.

If you have web pages with Michigan data please use our new Linking Database feature and put a link from your pages back to ours, please.

Michigan Family History Network

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you find something you can use in your family research.

Legacy 7 : Free Family Tree Software

1. Mapping – Use Microsoft Virtual Earth to automatically pinpoint and plot important locations in ancestors’ lives from within Legacy. See 3-D, satellite and bird’s eye images of where your ancestors lived. Now it is easy to track your ancestor’s migration.

2. Wall Charts – Experience the enjoyment of showing off your family tree by producing stunning full-color wall charts – ancestor, descendant, fan, hourglass, bow tie, and even DNA charts. Use them for your next family reunion or for a deserving wall in your home.

3. SourceWriter – Cite your sources easily and correctly with the new SourceWriter. SourceWriter makes it simple for you to select the correct input screen so that you enter all the pieces needed to correctly cite any source of information in the thousands of formats that exist for them. The information you enter is correctly and precisely formatted to match the genealogy industry standards for source citations when printing footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies. Multiple citations for an event can be combined into one paragraph, thus avoiding a long string of superscripted numbers within the report body.

4. Interview Reports – Choose from over 1,200 carefully pre-written interview questions and memory triggers to help you capture your family’s memories before it is too late.

5. Guided Setup Wizard – Getting started with Legacy is even easier now. The new guided setup wizard takes you by the hand and guides you through the setup process in an easy-to-understand way.

6. New Relationship Calculator - See how any two people are connected, not only through direct blood relationships but also by marriage. A person might be the "great-grandfather of the wife of your 2nd great-grandnephew. You can also specify how many of these non-blood relationships you want to see.

7. More Powerful Searching – Searching your Legacy data is easier than ever before. You can now search for individuals that are missing parts of names, birth or death information, marriage information and much more. You can also search for missing source citations as you document your family files.

8. Now Attach Any Document to Individuals and Marriages - Along with attaching pictures, sounds, and video to individuals, events, locations, and sources, you can now also attach any other kind of document (PDFs, Word files, etc.).

9. Enhanced Backups - Legacy can now backup your family file and multimedia files at the same time, making it easier to transfer everything to another computer.

10. Edit Records from the "Used By" Lists - All of the master lists in Legacy have an option to view the individuals who use the items in the list. You can now edit those individuals right from the list instead of having to exit the list and edit them separately.

11. Standardization Tips – New alerts will appear if something questionable has been entered in the Individual's Information screen. This helps users keep their data standardized. The Standardization Tips comply with Getting it Right.

12. Privacy – enhanced privacy options ensure that only the information you want to share will be visible to others.

13. Best Fit Child Columns - The new Best Fit option in the Family View expands or contracts the child list columns to fit the number of children for the current couple. No more trying to guess the optimum number of child columns. Legacy does it for you.
Click here for the Legacy 7 Video Tour.

FREE Genealogy on the Web

The USGenWeb Project is a group of volunteers working together to provide free genealogy websites for genealogical research in every county and every state of the United States. This Project is non-commercial and fully committed to free genealogy access for everyone.

Organization is by county and state, and this website provides you with links to all the state genealogy websites which, in turn, provide gateways to the counties. The USGenWeb Project also sponsors important Special Projects at the national level and this website provides an entry point to all of those pages, as well.

Clicking on a State Link (on the left) will take you to the State's website. Clicking on the tabs above will take you to additional information and links. You can also use the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner which will also take you to the State's website of your choice

All of the volunteers who make up The USGenWeb Project are very proud of this endeavor and hope that you will find their hard work both beneficial and rewarding. Thank you for visiting!

Minnesota Historical Society : Online Resources

FAMILY HISTORY RESEARCH - The Minnesota Historical Society has a variety of resources to help you learn about your family's history. Your research will be more productive and fun if you proceed in a systematic way.

Family History Research in 8 Easy Steps
Step 1: Start with what you know.
Step 2: Decide what fact(s) you want to find.
Step 3: Determine the kind of record you need.
Step 4: Record your results.
Step 5: Decide what you want to find out next.
Step 6: What you can do at home.
Step 7: Read about the areas in which your ancestors lived.
Step 8: Read about doing family research. Join a society.
Types of Records

There are a number of resources available to individuals interested in conducting family history research. In this section, Library staff have provided access to a large number of these Minnesota Family History Resources.

Genomics : Family History and Health

Health care professionals have known for a long time that common diseases - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - and even rare diseases - like hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia - can run in families. If one generation of a family has high blood pressure, it is not unusual for the next generation to have similarly high blood pressure. Tracing the illnesses suffered by your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives can help your doctor predict the disorders to which you may be at risk and take action to keep you and your family healthy.
Create your own family history of health

Monday, November 24, 2008

Free Commander Windows File Manager

FreeCommander is an easy-to-use alternative to the standard windows file manager. The program helps you with daily work in Windows. Here you can find all the necessary functions to manage your data stock. You can take FreeCommander anywhere - just copy the installation directory on a CD or USB-Stick - and you can even work with this program on a foreign computer.

Main features in FreeCommander:

* Dual-panel technology - horizontal and vertical
* Tabbed interface
* Optional tree view for each panel
* Built in file viewer to view files in hex, binary, text or image format
* File viewer inside archives too
* Built in archive handling: ZIP (read, write), CAB (read, write), RAR (read)
* Nested archive handling
* Built in FTP client
* Easy access to system folders, control panel, desktop and start menu
* Copy, move, delete, rename files and folders
* Multi rename tool
* Wipe files
* Create and verify MD5 checksums
* File splitting
* File properties and context menu
* Calculation of folder size
* Folder comparison / synchronization
* Modification of file date and attributes
* Folder / program favorites
* File searching (inside archive too)
* File filters for display
* User defined columns for detailed view
* DOS command line
* Multiple language support

Houston Public Library Joins FamilySearch in Digitization Effort

November 24, 2008 - The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Thousands of publications that capture the diverse histories of Gulf Coast states will be accessible for free online. FamilySearch and the Houston Public Library announced a joint project today to digitally preserve and publish the library’s vast collection of county and local histories, registers of individuals, directories of Texas Rangers, church histories, and biographical dictionaries. The digital records will be available for free online at FamilySearch.org and HoustonLibrary.org.

“Houston Public Library has one of the top 10 genealogy libraries in the nation and a very strong Gulf Coast and international collection,” said Susan D. Kaufman, manager, Houston Public Library's Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. “Visitors come from all over the country to visit the library. Researchers will benefit from the convenience of online access to the collection targeted under the joint venture with FamilySearch,” added Kaufman.

In 2007, FamilySearch announced its plans to create the largest and most comprehensive collection of free city and county histories online. Over 23,000 digital publications have been made available online since then. The addition of Houston Public Library and its collection furthers that goal.

Under the agreement, FamilySearch will digitally preserve thousands of Houston Public Library's historic publications collection and provide free access to the images online. The targeted publications range in date from 1795 to 1923.

The new digital collections published online will have “every word” search capability, which allows users to search by name, location, date, or other fields across the collection. The search results are then linked to high quality digital images of the original publication. Users will also be able to just browse or read the publications as digital books online if they prefer.

The digitization efforts have already begun, and publications are now viewable online. Texas records are the first publications targeted by the initiative, followed by other Gulf Coast states. The project will take up to five years to complete.

Digital publications will be noted and hyperlinked in the Family History Library Catalog at FamilySearch.org as they are digitized. The growing collection can be accessed currently at FamilySearch.org (go to Search Records, and then Historical Books).

“We are honored to be part of such an important and beneficial initiative with a world leader like FamilySearch,” said Kaufman. “The digitization and online publication of Houston Public Library's historic collections will help increase the inquisitiveness of library patrons and create a heightened sense of awareness of the library’s resources—which then brings customers back more often with more research questions. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Kaufman added.

FamilySearch is providing the computers, scanners, and camera operators required to complete the project. FamilySearch previously announced projects with Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, and FamilySearch’s own Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

The Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research is also a FamilySearch Affiliate Library. That means local patrons have access to millions of microfilms from FamilySearch’s vast genealogical collection in Salt Lake City, Utah. Patrons can order research material from FamilySearch through the library and use the library’s film readers and copiers to further their genealogical efforts.


FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,500 family history centers in 70 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

NARA records on Footnote.com - November 2008

Footnote is second only to Ancestry.com in the number of NARA publications available on its website. And unlike Ancestry.com, all Footnote.com content is available for free to patrons (that includes you) at a Family History Center near your home.

On the other hand, unlike Ancestry.com, Footnote.com doesn't provide a way to assist the researcher to find a publication using the NARA publication number or the NARA title. Hopefully this is an inadequacy Footnote.com can soon fix.

For the present time, the good folks at Footnote.com provided me a current list of NARA records available on Footnote.com. I'm not certain if the titles shown are the NARA publication titles or the Footnote.com titles. Also, no indication is provided as to the number of NARA microfilm rolls currently included in the Footnote.com publication of the same, so there is no way to compare the roll count to the total number of rolls currently available from NARA.

In the list on this link, I've created hyperlinks for each publication. Click on the NARA publication number to go to Footnote.com's online, digitized copy of that publication. The publications are sorted in publication order. Use your browser's find or search capability to quickly locate a publication number or search for a keyword in the title.

At the bottom of the article in this link are six publications or collections without NARA microfilm publication numbers. Presumably, these are collections that Footnote has digitized directly, saving the time, expense and trouble of going to microfilm before going to digital. If that is the case, then these are records that previously were never visible outside the walls of the National Archives and Footnote.com deserves kudos for going beyond digitizing NARA microfilm.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

110 Years of Historic Photos from Life Magazine

Search millions of historic photos

Search millions of photographs from the LIFE photo archive, stretching from the 1750s to today. Most were never published and are now available for the first time through the joint work of LIFE and Google. Add these great history images to your genealogy and family history.

Monday, November 10, 2008

FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Collections

The FamilySearch Record Search Pilot is still under development. This release is considered a PILOT. This means that at times Record Search will not be available while we add additional records and improve some features. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We look forward to receiving your feedback. However by clicking above you will see how much is available right now.

Find Your Ancestors on Record Search
Search millions of indexed records for your ancestors. Browse through images of records waiting to be indexed. More records are being added every month.

For example, if you have a need for Ohio death certificates from 1908 to 1953 they are available free of charge on FamilySearch.org.

When you get there - choose the tab at the top that says "Search Records" > "Record Search Pilot" > "Search In Specific Collection" > "Ohio Deaths 1908-1953".

It may take a few minutes to get familiar with the results you find and how to enlarge them and print them -- but it is defintely faster and cheaper than sending to Ohio for them. The name you look for may show as a deceased person, a parent, a spouse or a child. It may take a bit of study, but that is what we are all good at, isn't it?

These are certificates that have been digitized for the Family Search Indexing Project. It is amazing to me to see the results of such a massive project so soon.

The "Search In A Specific Collection" also holds many other offerings similar to the one described above.

Do Your Part. Become an Indexer.
Join thousands of volunteers around the world who are helping to make more free records available online through FamilySearch indexing. Find out more

Sunday, November 09, 2008

PAF52 on a Flash Drive

One of our PAF-LUG members purchased a new Cruzer 16GB Flash Drive and wanted to see how I had set mine up. I made the following PDF file which can be either downloaded or viewed on line:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

FamilySearch Lessons Now Online

The LDS Church’s Family History Library has been providing classes to patrons for many years. In the past, a patron would have to travel to the Library to take advantage of these classes, but no longer. The Library will begin testing different methods of exporting these classes to patrons who reside outside of the Salt Lake City area. The first method to be tested is a set of five lessons in a classroom setting in a video format. These lessons are now available on www.familysearch.org and cover the basics of getting started with family history research in England. The five lessons are called

Lesson 1: Research Overview
Lesson 2: Census Records
Lesson 3: Civil Registration
Lesson 4: Church Records
Lesson 5: Find Your Ancestors

We invite you to visit familysearch.org, view these lessons, and then give us your feedback by using the feedback link there on the online classes’ page.

Simply go to www.FamilySearch.org and click on the link for Family History Research Series Online.

Wordle Family History Word Cloud

Create your own Family History Word Cloud with Wordle, a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.
I used PAF to print a list of Family Names to a text file and used Search / Replace to remove words that were not family names. The above is just one example of many different designs you can create. Have FUN!

Old Maps

Great Online Old Map Collection

Genealogy in the National Archives

Genealogists/Family Historians

The National Archives offers insight into the lives of people, their families and our history. Because the records at the National Archives come from every branch of the Federal government, almost all Americans can find themselves, their ancestors, or their community in the archives. Knowing how a person interacted with the government is key to a successful search.
NARA Genealogy Site

LiveRoots Search Engine

Getting Started with Live Roots

The home page states, "Live Roots is an information resource that assists you with locating genealogical resources, wherever they may be stored." Okay, so what does that really mean?

First, here are some quick hints:

1. Try searching for the surnames that you are researching. (You may enter multiple surnames in the keyword box at once)
2. Try searching for the place names of your ancestors. (Best results achieved by searching for one location at a time in the keyword box)
3. If the surname and/or place name is somewhat common, you'll need to add either a first name or try adding the county name.
4. Do NOT attempt to search for broad topics (e.g. census) as the search engine will respond by telling you there are too many results to present in a meaningful manner. Typically, you'll want to combine broad topics with something to clarify what you are looking for (e.g. federal census) or a place name or year.
5. You can initiate a search from any page on the Live Roots web site using the keyword search box on the left hand side of the page.
6. If you enter a phrase in double quotes it will perform a title search. You don't need to enter the entire title, just the first few words. It matches your phrase to the beginning of the titles.

There are two basic ways that genealogists search. They either search for the title of a resource (or its description), or the names that it contains. Live Roots helps with both types of searches. Let's start with title searching.

Live Roots lets you search the titles of resources by entering keywords. You may enter a surname, a place name, or any word that might relate to your research needs at the moment. If the keywords you chose are somewhat common (e.g. Smith), you should also add a keyword that more closely reflects what you are looking for (e.g. probate records).

Enter your keywords into the search box on any page on the site, and the Live Roots search engine will hunt through its catalog for matching resources. These resources may include transcribed or digitized records that are online, books that you may purchase from a variety of publishers, and individual web sites and pages.

The resource results will list the matching resources sorting them based on how accessible they are (e.g. online transcriptions listed first). Next to each result will be an icon that gives you a visual indication of what the resource is. Clicking on the result will bring you to a resource page detailing the resource and providing the means to access it.

Where does Live Roots get the resource information? We've partnered with genealogy companies and publishers to include their catalogs, and we've combine this with link databases we've been compiling for years.

So what about name searching? Currently, Live Roots offers a search of the names contained within SOME of the resources in the catalog. On a regular basis, additional resources are indexed.

To begin a name search, simply enter a surname as a keyword (or several surnames are once). The Live Roots search engine will provide results from three databases: (1) the Live Roots index, (2) the Transcribed Ephemera collection for GenealogyToday.com, and (3) subscription data from Family Tree Connection.

The results will list each surname and the number of resources that contain matching results. Click on each surname to see a listing of the resources. The resource listing will show you each title and the number of matches for that surname. Click on the resource title to see the actual names. Options to narrow your search are offered once you have selected a surname and/or resource.

Included in the results from the Live Roots search engine (both title and name searches) will be resources that may not be available online, but are available offline to researchers that you can hire to access the information on your behalf.

Okay, so you understand how Live Roots works, and now your asking yourself "So what?" I know, on the surface none of this sounds all that new or different. But, what is unique about Live Roots is that it is allowing you to search a variety of catalogs IN ONE PLACE and highlighting where the same resource may exist in multiple locations.

For example, take some of the major genealogy sites: Ancestry.com, Footnote.com and GenealogyBank.com. Combined they all publish images and/or transcribed information from thousands of different publications and sources. Yes, you could visit each site and figure out how to browse through their catalogs to find something, but Live Roots lets you do this with a single query.

And Live Roots doesn't just include the major sites; it includes catalogs from dozens of small and medium publishers as well. And, it is updated daily with any new resources made available (check out the Discover option for the most recent additions).

So, to summarize the two major points of distinction. First, there is the "roots" advantage: Live Roots lets you conduct a variety of searches across the catalogs from hundreds of different data providers and publishers all at once and with the most up-to-date versions of their catalog listings. And second, there is the "live" advantage: the same searches you conduct will include resources that you may obtain information from with the assistance of a live person that you commission for a nominal fee.

Where to Find Obituaries

Phyllis Matthews Ziller, M.L.I.S.
Subject Area:
The Value of Archival Newspapers in Genealogy
Authors's Website:
Newspapers are perhaps the most useful yet most often overlooked resource in genealogical research. Historic newspapers chronicle the lives of our ancestors. They allow us to see the world in which our ancestors lived and offer details about the everyday life of ordinary citizens. Newspapers were the primary communication tool for our ancestors before radio and television. Daily and weekly editions were eagerly anticipated and read thoroughly.

Reading historic newspapers is like stepping back in time. The writing was prosaic. The issues of the day were quite similar to those we face today. Children rebelled and neighbors were concerned about the upkeep and appearance of their dwellings. Politics were often debated and civic issues were presented to encourage a debate. Politics was not an issue for just large cities–the small town folk, too, were interested in local as well as broader politics.

Researching historic newspapers allows us a glimpse into the daily lives and social customs of our ancestors. Reading historic newspapers from the town where my ancestors lived brought fresh new insights into their everyday lives. I learned my great-great-grandfather was an avid, and well-respected, fisherman. Of course, the largest fish always got away! My great-great grandmother was an envied cook whose sumptuous feasts were cherished by all who were privy to an invitation to her table.

Newspaper research can help chip away at brick walls by providing detailed family information in obituaries, marriage announcements, and other articles of personal interest. Family relationships can be either explicit or inferred in many newspaper articles. Family migrations can be discovered, whether across town or across the country. Newspapers can pinpoint a particular person at a particular place at a particular time.

Spend some time getting to know your ancestors' local newspapers. You might be amazed at the nuggets of genealogical information waiting to be discovered.
Phyllis Matthews Ziller, M.L.I.S.
12 August 2008
Download Obituaries.PDF
Online Obituaries Research Guide

Understanding Land Records

Look to the Land: Understanding Land Records
By Carolyn L. Barkley

When I first began to attend genealogical conferences, I heard a speaker from the North Carolina State Archives say, “When I hear someone ask for marriage records or wills, I know that the individual is a genealogist; when I hear someone ask for land records, I know that the individual is a researcher.” That quote has resonated throughout my own research ever since.

I set myself a goal of reading all the Barkley deeds in the Northampton County Court House in Jackson, North Carolina (a job, I should admit, that isn’t complete yet). Very quickly, I discovered the value of taking on this type of comprehensive study. My research focused on the family of George Barkley who had migrated to Northampton County from Isle of Wight County, Virginia, sometime in the late 1760s. George’s son Rhodes had twelve children during the span of two marriages. I knew nothing more than the name of one of his sons, William Barkley. However, in transcribing the Barkley index entries from the deed indices, I found a deed dated 27 January 1818 for a William Barkley (grantor) and Rhoades [sic] Barkley (grantee). I immediately checked the recorded deed and experienced one of those golden moments of genealogical research. In this will, William Barkley of Sumter District, South Carolina, had returned to Northampton County to deed to “my father Rhoades Barkley of Northampton County, North Carolina…all my right, title, interest, and claim in a certain tract of land lying in County, on the north side of Wiccany swamp, being the land enured by Richard Allen Senr Patent granted him, and I the said Wm Barkly do for myself, my heirs jointly relinquish, warrant and ever defend my said wright unto him the said Rhoads Barkly…” I knew that Rhodes Barkley’s first wife had been Allice [sic] Allen, so William was probably talking about his grandfather, Richard Allen. From this one deed, I learned the residence of William at the time, learned that he may well have been a son of Rhodes’ first marriage, and opened an entirely new line of research on this Barkley family, this time in South Carolina. I was hooked on land research!

As researchers, it is important for all of us to learn more about land development in order to better understand land records and their contents. Land was not developed uniformly during the colonial period. In New England, townships were the predominant form of development. First the general court of the colony would grant approval for a new township, usually about six miles square in size, and then proprietors of that township would assign the land to specific inhabitants. One of the strengths of New England land records is the existence of landowner, or plat maps, dating from very early in a locality’s development. In the southern states, land development was quite different. Colonists asserted their individual choices in selecting property in a system originally driven by the head right system that granted individuals fifty acres for every individual (head) brought into the colony. This method was not one of controlled settlement, formal surveying was seldom done prior to settlement, and boundaries were often self-described. For the most part, southern property was not laid out around a town center, but rather was clustered around transportation routes – rivers, streams, and the coastline.

Lands that were controlled and granted first by foreign governments, and then by colonial or state governments, are known as “state-land states.” These states include Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia (and later West Virginia). The most common surveying method for state-land states is the “metes and bounds” system that describes markers, measurement, and directions for each piece of property. A metes and bounds survey starts with a designated marker (tree, stone, road, etc.) and then proceeds through a series of straight lines (or geographical boundaries of the course of a stream, creek, swamp, etc.) from point to point until it returns to the starting place. Each “course” or line is described by the name of the land owner whose property shares that line or the water course it borders; each corner may be described by another designated marker. Finally, each segment of the description also indicates direction (north, south, east or west), degrees (compass direction between 0º and 90º) and distance, measured in rods, poles, perches, chains, and links). Tables help convert these surveying measurements into actual lengths: 1 chain = 66 feet, 1 link = 7.92 inches; 1 rod/pole/perch = 16.5 feet. One mile equals 80 chains or 320 rods/poles/perches.

The land records in states that were initially controlled and dispersed by the United States government are completely different. These federal-land states include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Federal-land records comprised the largest single-subject group of records until the advent of twentieth-century records, and include a wide variety of types of records such as homesteads, military bounty lands, mining claims, and agricultural and timber management. They are very rich in genealogical information. These lands were first granted to individuals in 1785, with the first land office opening as early as 1797. The original intent was to raise revenues to compensate for the costs of the Revolutionary War; to grant lands (rather than financial payments) to soldiers; and to sustain burgeoning migration to the west. These land transactions were not described by metes and bounds, but instead were surveys based on meridians.

A meridian is an imaginary line running north to south, from pole to pole; base lines are horizontal lines running east and west that intersect the meridian line. (A map of meridian and base lines can be found at the Bureau of Land Management’s website.) Distance to the east or west is measured from a specific meridian. The meridian region is divided into no more than eight tracts, each twenty-four miles square. Each tract is then divided into sixteen townships, each approximately six miles square. Imaginary lines called ranges run north to south six miles apart, the width of the township. Each township is divided into sections one mile square and containing approximately 640 acres. Each section is numbered beginning in the northeast corner and counting westward. If you have ever flown over the mid-west and looked down on the landscape, the land divisions are seen easily. Sound confusing? You may want to read “Graphical Display of the Federal Township and Range System” or “Range Maps for Dummies” web pages to obtain more of the details involved in this system. The first article discusses the system in general; the second focuses on Illinois land descriptions. Both provide clear, informative descriptions.

A variety of print resources are also available to assist you in your understanding of land development and description. I highly recommend the following two titles if you want to understand more of the basics: Land and Property Research in the United States by E. Wade Hone (Ancestry 1997) and Dividing the Land: Early American Beginnings of Our Private Property Mosaic by Edward T. Price (University of Chicago, 1995). Both will give you a clear understanding of the history of land transactions as well as the specifics of the two systems of land descriptions discussed in this article. In addition, check for printed compilations of land records specific to a state or locality. A good example of a state-specific resource is found in the three volumes of Ohio records by Ellen T. and David A. Berry (Early Ohio Settlers, Purchasers of Land in Southeastern Ohio, 1800-1840; Early Ohio Settlers, Purchasers of Land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840; and Early Ohio Settlers, Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840) and in Albion M. Dyers’ First Ownership of Ohio Lands, all published by Genealogical Publishing Company. These titles are also available in a CD entitled Ohio Land and Tax Records. The CD also includes Early Ohio Tax Records by Esther Weygandt Powell and is available from GPC.

Several resources are available if you are interested in searching original records. The four-volume Federal Land Series by Clifford Neal Smith (Clearfield, 1972, reprinted 2007) contains a “calendar of archival materials on the land patents issued by the United States Government, with subject, tract, and name indexes.” The focus is on land patents, the first transfer of land to individuals by the government and by Virginia during the period 1788 to 1835. The best resource online is the Bureau of Land Management’s Official Federal Land Records Site that “provides live access to federal land conveyance records for the public-land states” as well as images for more than three million land title records issued between 1820 and 1908 for eastern public-land states. New additions to the site include survey plats and field notes. Select the tab for land patent searches in the upper navigation bar. The basic search tab will allow you to search for an individual or a surname within a specific state. Searching for land patents for any Barkley in Alabama, for example, I found 38 entries. For each entry, I had access to a patent description, a legal land description (here’s why you need to understand how to read a land description), a document image (GIF, PDF or TIFF options are provided), as well as the ability to order a certified copy of the document. If you want to search all states, you must choose the standard search tab rather than the basic. A search for all Barkley patents in all states yielded seventeen pages of hits. Be aware that the “all states” choice is at the end of the list of state names in the drop-down box. In order to search the original surveys, you must have a specific land description to enter into the search form. You should also check Arphax Publishing Company’s family maps land patent books. These books include “county by county, state by state [maps] for original settlers whose purchases are indexed either in the U. S. Bureau of Land Management database or the Texas General Land Office database” and are available for Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. Check for the availability of your county, as all counties may not have been completed yet for all states. These books provide surname indices and maps that allow you to locate your ancestor’s federal or Texas land purchase (first-land-owners), as well as their neighbors and the history of settlement of the particular area. The web site also offers you the ability to look at samples of their products.

Knowing how to draw a plat from its description is a great way to enhance your understanding. Plan to attend a land platting workshop offered either in your area, at a national conference, or as part of an institute such as the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research held at Samford University in Alabama each June. At the latter, an entire week’s course covers land platting in depth, including both metes and bounds and range systems. (This course is not given every year, so check the course offerings.). Deed Platter is an online application to help you plat your deed. In addition, software programs such as Deedmapper will provide you with the tools to create plats, join plats together into neighborhoods, and then export them to Google Earth or superimpose them on a USGS topographic map.

To me, land records are one of the most important resources in genealogical research. Being able to put your ancestor’s feet on the ground in a specific place, at a specific time, with specific neighbors is the key to an enriched understanding of the life he or she led and the neighbors who shared that same place and time.

Happy research and platting.