google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: February 2010

Roots Television Calling it Quits!

I received this newsletter today, and was most disappointed to hear of the news that Roots Television will be closing its website. Megan has undoubtedly been an industry leader, and although this chapter for her is coming to and end I trust she is not done blazing a trail in the genealogy industry.

Here is what Megan had to offer about her decision.

Dear Viewer,

It's with mixed feelings that I'm sharing the news that I will be closing (RTV) as of March 10th. Back in 2006, RTV was launched to fill a void. As I wrote at the time:

"We've been perplexed for a long time. These days, there's a horse channel, a wine channel, a sailing channel, a poker channel, a guitar channel, and even a shipwreck channel. So why, we wondered, isn't there a channel servicing the millions of people interested in genealogy and family history?"

The good news is that this yawning gap is now being filled. Genealogy is finally going mainstream. Some of you are probably already watching Faces of America on PBS and The Generations Project on BYU. And many, I'm sure, have heard of the imminent launch on NBC of Who Do You Think You Are? (a series I'm proud to be affiliated with, and for which, I wrote the companion book). The non-genealogical world is finally waking up to the long overlooked potential of what we roots-sleuths do on a daily basis, as you can read in this article:

Roots TV Becomes New Branch of Reality TV

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to fill this void for more than three years. I hope that you have enjoyed the hundreds of high quality videos that has produced or selected. From the viewing numbers and kind comments, I know that many of you have. It's been a privilege to give the genealogical community this resource, but this seems the appropriate time to move on.

We'll be featuring some of RTV's most popular videos during our final days, so please come on over and enjoy them. Thank you for your viewership and friendship. Og and I will miss you!


Megan Smolenyak2

P.S. If any genealogical entities would be interested in "adopting", I would be open to that possibility, but would need to hear from you immediately (

The Ultimate Family History Journey Sweepstakes - The Ultimate Family History Journey Sweepstakes

With less than 6 six days to go until the premier of NBC'S Who Do You Think You Are? things just started to get a little more exciting. has announced the Ultimate Family History Journey Sweepstakes.

Winner will receive
  • 8 hours of expert genealogy help
  • the help of 5 experts in the specific field pertaining to your family history
  • World Deluxe subscription for 5 of your family members
  • and here's the best part......$20,000 in travel cash to get you to those family home towns.

This contest will run in conjunction with the series which start this Friday March 5th. You can enter every day through until April 30th.
Click the link above to start filling out your entry form. And of course always be sure to read the Contest Rules for eligibility requirements. But hey shout out to my Canadian genealogy friends, this one is open to us.

Follow Friday - Irish Newspaper Archives

I am always on the lookout for a new databasess for Irish genealogy records, so I am excited to discover and share with you the Irish Newspaper Archives. Recently, having spent some time checking out this site, I am comfortable in suggesting those looking for Irish archives will be delighted with this website.

This database states it has the world’s largest collection of online Irish Newspapers consisting of national, regional and local titles. With newspapers dating from the 1700’s to the present, they offer over 2 million pages from 23 titles. They suggest more are on the way.

For genealogists, this website offers a wonderful opportunity to read pages of Irish newspapers on both national and regional levels through the eyes of the Irish press. It also provides you with a window in to the local news, happening in the towns and regions of your ancestors. In addition, these pages offer the family historian a chance to discover detailed birth, death and marriage announcements.

After arriving at the website, I first recommend checking out the Video to help you get acquainted with the site. After that, try the free search option. Once you have entered your search term, you can check out all clippings that are available to view containing your query.

This is where you must subscribe if you want to proceed. Subscription rates are available in a variety of price points.

24 hours for 10.00 Euros, this is the equivalant of about 14.00 Canadian.
48hours for 15.00 Euros
One Week for 25.00 Euros
1 month 60.00 Euros
1 year 350.00 Euros

Should you find an article or clipping you would like to print, you have the ability to print the clipping. However, it will appear with a watermark on it, if you wish to use the article for a book, or website, or project then you may make a request for permission to reprint it, in accordance with their copyright laws.

This website is geared to not only genealogists but also schools, libraries, societies and publishers. As and added feature, should you happen to uncover a newspaper you feel is of historical importance and display, you can purchase either a front page framed print or a leather bound book of the entire edition through their partner website

Irish Newspaper Archives is a very easy to manoeuvre website and it has certainly captured my interest in reading about Irish history in the pages of its newspaper. Even if I never find an ancestor, it definitely offers an up close and personal accounting of a time and culture I would love to know more about.

Related Reading
Irish Family History Foundation                               
Irish Origins

A Genealogy Timeline - More Than Just a Pretty Face

Most of us are familiar with a genealogy timeline. We often see them in a family history book outlining the major events in an individual's life. Creating timelines for your family history can serve several purposes but firsts lets address the two kinds of timelines.

1. The Fancy Kind- this is the timeline that you create for a family history book, to help your reader understand the highlights of an ancestor’s life, a quick snapshot.

2. The Research Timeline- this timeline is a research tool to organize all information acquired from an ancestor’s documents and places it in chronological order.

The main difference between the two, one highlights the major experiences in an ancestor’s life, while the research timeline is extremely detailed, and all though the research timeline can be used to create a fancy timeline, it is not meant for your audience, but as a tool for you the researcher.

Today, were going to address the research timeline. The research timeline is useful for a number of reasons.

• It serves to help organize an ancestors life in chronological order, down to the smallest detail.

• It provides the researcher an opportunity to see gaps in timelines, overlapping events and conflicting data, often revealing opportunities for more research.

• If you have hit a brick wall in your research, a timeline should be your first go to tool, it can often spotlight missed research opportunities.

• A research timeline will be your best friend when it comes time to writing a narrative or a biography of an ancestor.

Now let’s take the timeline one-step further. When writing a timeline, I encourage you to not only organize your ancestor’s life in chronological order but also historical events that occurred during your ancestor’s lifetime, including world events, events within the country, district and town and even within their own family. By creating these two timelines in conjunction with each other, they can often provide explanations as to an ancestor’s motivation or and reason for their life choices, perhaps demonstrating a cause and effect.

Once you have finished using your timeline for research, it then becomes a handy tool for writing a narrative or biography. So make sure your notes are clear and concise. The research timeline makes quick work of pulling ancestors information into a life story and incorporating the historical events for a more creative, an interesting narrative rather than just a reconstruction of dry facts.

Your timeline can take many forms, but regardless how you choose to lay it out, you must work through this yourself. No program can convey the knowledge you gain from creating a timeline. Hands on is best. I prefer a column style format you can easily create in excel. I also prefer to have my ancestors timeline and the historical timeline on the same sheet. Click here to get my free genealogy timeline worksheet. Feel free to copy and use it for your own personal use.

If you haven't used a research timeline up until now, then I encourage you to look past the pretty timelines and see the value of creating a research timeline for each of your ancestors. It may prove to be very revealing.

Related Reading
The Ulitimate Guide to Writing Your Family History

Preserving Your Family History With Beautiful Genealogy Charts

I recently received this announcement from Generations Map and I have to say  I am intriqued and hope to check out this program once it goes live and will give you a full review. In the meantime, take a read at this new web applicaton to make lovely generation charts and also take a peak the video tutorial.

Introducing Family ChArtist

Beginning March 8th, 12 noon mountain standard time you can log on to and experience first hand this new web application that will make creating and designing beautiful genealogy charts easier and faster than ever before.

Take a look at our video tutorial by Mark Tucker. Check out the wonderful features which include:

• HIGH QUALITY GRAPHICS: Generation Maps offers modern, classic, colorful graphics to beautify and enhance your chart.

• FAST AND EASY: First time users can create beautiful charts in just a few minutes. Previously, chart printing required purchase, installation and juggling of various design software programs, online databases and file formats. Family ChArtist has combined all these elements for you and allows you to simply create what you want over the web.

• GENEALOGY CAPABILITY: Family ChArtist is FamilySearch Certified, applying information straight from FamilySearch to your chart. FamilySearch information can be edited as necessary. Your family genealogical information can also be entered using a Gedcom or manual entry. Generation Maps is working toward future integration with other software and picture database systems as well as genealogy software companies.

• FLEXIBLE OPTIONS: Generation Maps has created Family ChArtist with powerful, user-friendly features. You can adjust the same graphic in many different ways, using transparency, rotation, and scaling controls, to create exactly the look you want. Attractive new enhancements can also be added to each graphic to create very different charts. Family ChArtist is flexible, allowing you to add or correct information about yourself, siblings, cousins, stepfamilies, and other relatives. Additional personal information such as prominent characteristics, careers, etc., can also be included.

• INEXPENSIVE PRINTING: Any 8.5 X 11 chart you create can be printed FREE on your home computer. High quality professionally printed charts range in size from 16"x20" to 36"x48". Inexpensive draft copies on standard bond paper start at $19.95. Other printing options include presentation, glossy photo and parchment papers, as well as beautiful canvas giclees. You can also purchase a .pdf file for $34.95, and minutes after you place your order you will receive an email with a link to download your file for later use. As with all Generation Maps charts, extra copies are always HALF PRICE. Order copies of your chart to give to your children or other family members as meaningful gifts.

Become an Artist

Family ChArtist has been designed with each customer in mind. You are the artist. With beautiful graphics and embellishments it is easy to

create something personalized for your family. You choose the layout, information to be included, size, paper, color, pictures, borders, backgrounds and artistic design. Each chart is a direct expression of your individuality.

Free Offer for Scrapbooks and Albums

With Family ChArtist, you can create an 8.5 X 11 chart free of chargeand save it to your computer to print whenever you choose. If you decide you want to print a larger size for your home, just order from the same menu and your chart will be printed and shipped to you promptly. Whether you are decorating your home, creating a familybook, looking for a special gift for someone you love, or bringing your heritage to life for a family gathering, Family ChArtist will help you fashion a beautiful expression of your family's history for your surroundings. To find out more about Family ChArtist and its outstanding capabilities, go to Janet Hovorka, development director for Generation Maps, will be sending out a new blog post each day until the official release of Family ChArtist. Each ChartChick blog post will feature different functions and design options on the new site. Users will find creative chart suggestions and ideas to help them use Family ChArtist when it becomes available March 8th.

We will post daily updates on The Chart Chick which also will highlight the features of this new program.

Enter our Family ChArtist Contest.

Become a fan at the facebook page for Family ChArtist, or follow us on twitter to join us for a contest in this coming week. Details will be posted on the blog.

(Reprinted with permisson)

Tombstone Tuesday- Size Does Matter

That is what I said, at least to my Great-Great-Grandfather George Vogel, it certainly did. When I first stumbled upon George Vogel’s tombstone imagine my surprise, this chunk of stone was huge by comparison to his ancestors and his descendants. His father Gabriel Vogel, was an early pioneer in Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada, who immigrated in 1833, his tombstone no longer existed assuming there even was one.

However, his son George, a first generation Canadian, would not be forgotten. The size of the headstone caught me by surprise. It didn’t occur to me at the time, that the size of the tombstone was telling me something about this man’s life. It was later, when all the pieces of his story began to unravel through census, birth and death certificates that I truly came to understand the real significance of the size.

 George was a first generation Canadian born in 1843 in a small farming village of New Germany, Ontario, the son of a pioneer farmer. However, when George became of age, he chose a different path for himself. He moved away from farming, and became a general labourer, a wise decision. George's second critical decision was to move his young family to Berlin, Ontario, just 9 miles down the road. Berlin began to experience a real growth spurt, the railroad came to town, and industrialization was occurring on George’s front door step. As a general labourer there was no lack of work as furniture stores, factories and tanneries began to spread across the city.

George worked hard his entire life, even at 66 years old, he was still working a 70 -hour workweek, grossing an annual salary $330.00 in 1911. George died in 1923, his accumulated wealth resulted in him leaving each of his three sons a house in Berlin, Ontario, he had the luxury of spending his final days in an old age home, he also had a substantial life insurance policy of $2000.00, and then of course there is the tombstone.

My opinion of George changed upon uncovering his story. I no longer thought of him as man, with perhaps a rather large ego requiring a rather large tombstone, but a man who felt the weight and responsibility of being a first generation Canadian. A man who felt he needed to make the most of the risk his ancestors took in setting sail to North America, and a man who appreciated the sacrifices his parents made becoming pioneers in this primitive land.

George worked hard, he made his ancestors proud, he left his children with great advantages and he deserved a big tombstone.

How Do I Start My Family Tree? - Eight Easy Steps

Here are eight easy steps to help even the newest armchair genealogist kickstart their family tree. For the purposes of this article I have focused on free and online resources.

Start with Yourself

1. Always, always, start with yourself and work backwards- record all your family history knowledge, root through all your photos documents and start scanning and organizing them.

Interview the Living

2. Ask your relatives for information – the most valuable and free resource you can have is the knowledge and information your living relatives have about their ancestors. Don’t under estimate this step. Take the time to interview your living relatives and record this knowledge in your family tree.

Choose a Software Program and Online Site

3. Choose a free online site to help you organize your information, my recommendation is My This site  provides a free download of family tree software to organize your information, they also offer search capabilities, message boards, and the ability to create your own family history website. It is a great all inclusive site to start your family history for free.

Choose Your Focus Person

4. Choose a relative you wish to learn more about- after organizing your information and setting up a family tree, choose an ancestor you wish to learn more about. Focus on what information you have on that individual and identify what information you are missing before heading out to the internet to find your answers.

Post on Message Boards and Forums

5. Visit websites that offer message boards and forums and begin posting on  in specific terms what you are looking for, this is a great way to pull cousins out of the woodwork. A great message board to start with is Rootsweb World Connect Project or GenForum Message Boards.

Create Your Tree Online

6. Post your tree online at numerous locations. The more sites that you post your tree to the better chance you have of uncovering a family tree that may cross branches with your tree. Sites like Tribal Pages and My Heritage,  are great places to start and both are free. However, tread cautiously when viewing other trees, if there is no citation offered than be weary of copying any information. Other trees can offer leads into expanding your search but are not consider a primary source. The more websites you post your tree to, the more you increase your chances of meeting a distant cousin.

Search for Published Family History Books

7. Look for published family histories, you just may get lucky and find others who have gone before you and have all ready published a family history book. Check online digital libraries such as Google Books or  Our Roots. You just might strike gold.

Visit a Variety of Free Databases

8. Begin your search with free databases, continue to focus on your individual, websites such as and (the free trial option) can quickly uncover some new information. However, don’t discount more specific types of databases such as immigration databases, like Ellis Island or Ship’s List, cemetery online databases such as Dead Fred or Find a Grave and newspaper databases such as  or Google News Archive Search.

With these eight easy steps you no longer need to be intimidated or can procrastinate when it comes to starting your family tree.

Related Reading

Creating a Family Tree  Online
5 Tips for Choosing an Online Database 

Genealogy Television- Bring Your Story to the Big Screen! - Follow Friday

With genealogy television at an all time high, many of us have been sitting back and watching some famous and not so famous individuals reveal their family history for the world to see. Faces of America, Ancestors in the Attic, The Generations Project, and the upcoming release of NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, round-out the options for genealogy television viewers.

However, many of us in the family history field do not really feel we need to have famous people to make for a great genealogy story. A famous person certainly is a great draw but it is the story of these individuals that make great television, and it is their stories that draw us to watch and keep us coming back.

Have you considered that maybe your story is worth telling? Perhaps there are no famous actors, comedians, chefs or royalty in your family tree, however, every family has its share of famous individuals. I believe not only will the newest rage of television shows encourage people to become their own family historians it perhaps will encourage individuals to consider a slightly different approach to recording your family history...through digital video.

Although family history books are still very much popular, the digital video is a great alternative to preserving your family history. Telling your family history on video presents the unique opportunity to really bring to life your ancestors story.

Not sure what part of your family history is worthy of the big screen, consider these possible options.

1. Planning on taking a genealogy vacation and visiting your ancestral village, then pack your video camera and consider taping your journey.

2. Consider following the path of one of your prominent ancestors from their birth to death.

3. Re-enact the journey of an immigrant relative from their homeland to the new world.

4. Follow the life of an ancestor from poverty to prosperity.

5. Meeting with newly realized cousins or discovering relatives in your ancestral village makes for a   very moving television moment.

6. Consider videotaping the oral history of a current family member.

These are just a few of the many ways you could bring your family history to video tape. Once you have made your own genealogy television program then consider having a viewing party in your home, or prepare a screening at your next family reunion or a presentation to your local historical society or submit your production to Roots Television.

This brings me to the Follow Friday portion of this post – Roots Television

I have been following Roots Television and been envious of the many who are contributing their family history and genealogy knowledge and sharing it with the rest of us. However, I soon realized these individuals are no different then you and I, and there should be nothing stopping us from submitting content to the Roots Tube Channel. I have outlined below Roots Television stipulations for submitting, however it appears very clear to me that they are very much opened to anyone who may be bringing something new, creative and exciting to the table.

If you’d like to be considered as a vlogger or as talent on one of their shows or would like to share a sample of your own family documentary then pull out your camcorder submit a non-returnable MiniDV sample video to:

Roots Television, LLC
Wells Fargo Center
89 N. University Ave., 4th Floor
Provo, UT 84601

Or alternatively, you can upload a sample to Google Video or YouTube and email them a link.

They prefer submissions that are:
• 30 seconds to 5 minutes in length (although longer ones may be considered)
• in QT, MOV or AVI formats
• less than 50MB in size
• without profanity and otherwise objectionable material

Go to Roots Tube and learn how you can be on Roots TV.

Family History Books- Made Easy with Print-On-Demand Publishing

Gone are the days of their only being two options to printing your family history book, the full colour, leather bound coffee table book or the homemade photocopied, scanned and 3 hole-punched style book. Today’s technology offers us many options in between. If you are looking for an easy and affordable format for publishing your family history book, then look no further then Print-On-Demand Publishing.

What is Print-On-Demand?

Print-on-Demand is a process by which you provide the company with a digital file of your written family history and they will turn it into a beautiful family history book. The beauty of print-on-demand as the name suggests allows you to order as many copies of your book as you need, when you need them. Anywhere from one copy to hundreds of copies.

Traditional printers usually require a minimum order and the price of the book is usually set around how many copies you order. The more you order the cheaper the book becomes. With POD, the price is set and you can go back as many times as you like ordering your book as the need arises. Many companies also provide a service so relatives can order the book directly from them eliminating the work of your family having to go through you.

The Advantages of Print-on-Demand

Cost: For the family historian print-on-demand publishing can save you money over traditional publishing. Printing your own books can also be costly, home use inkjet printers can be unreliable and ink cartridges are expensive. A traditional printer is far too expensive for most family historians. Print-on-Demand offers an affordable middle ground.

Professional Looking: A POD service not only will be cost effective but also will afford you a much more professional looking family history book.

Timely: Turn-around time on receiving your submission to a printed book is generally a few weeks, providing you with more time to prepare your book instead of months of waiting on the finished product.

Creative Services: While some family historians have the time and talent to provide a completed manuscript with a beautiful layout and design, some of us do not have that luxury or talent. Many POD services will provide a variety of services including design, typing and editing, of course this comes at an added cost, but it is nice to have the option.

For all these reasons when you are ready to take your family history book to print, consider a print-on-demand publisher. A simple google will provide you with a variety of choices, do a little comparison-shopping and then choose the best fit for your family history book.

Related Reading
A Canvas of My Own
Step One in Creating Your Family History Book
How to Determine the Size and Scope of Your Family History Book
Determining a Budget for Your Family History Book
How to Unlock the Facts and Folklore through Interviews – Part 1

Genealogy Magazines - Digital Versions Still Have Some Work To Do!

It has taken me awhile to commit to the digital age particularly when it comes to my books and magazines. As an avid reader and writer, I love the idea of a book in my hand. I look forward to opening up a shiny new magazine for the first time with pristine glossy pages. Therefore, when downloading magazines, newspapers and books started to take shape....well, I was reluctant. I really felt I would miss the feel of a book or magazine, and I certainly wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy reading something so lengthy on a computer screen. In the past, I have downloaded e-books and newsletters, but several months back I downloaded my first full-length book. I am now hooked. So recently, I decided to focus on changing some of my magazine choices to digital format.

I live in a smaller community, where most of my favourite genealogy magazines are not readily available. This problem could easily be solved with a subscription, however, like I said I have several favourites, and I can’t afford all of them every month. I like to head to my local bookstore( which is not local, 50 km away) and look through the copies and decide which one this month peeks my interest and maybe addresses my genealogy needs, either in an article offering me some new possible leads, tweaks my genealogy knowledge or just plain entertains me.

Then, there is the problem with the growing stack of genealogy magazines. I cannot bear to part with them, yet I know I can’t continue to acquire them at this rate. I began to see the practicality of online magazines. I quickly realized my choices were limited, but I was happy to find two of my favourites.

Internet Genealogy – I like this magazine because its primary focus is researching your family roots online. This magazine is published six times a year, by Moorshead Magazines, and for me to pick up this magazine at my local bookstore will cost me $6.95 Canadian, to subscribe for a year is $28.00. However, the online edition is $15.00 for a year (six issues) and comes to me in a downloadable PDF format.

By choosing the online option, my cost is nearly cut in half, (perhaps affording me the luxury of downloading several favourites a month), I have saved a few trees, and I have but a halt to the magazine pile. Other magazines in the Moorshead line-up include Discovering Family History, Family Chronicle and History Magazine; however, they are not available in digital format as of yet.

Upon subscribing to this online magazine, I was informed it would take 3-6 weeks to process my order. Huh! I did promptly receive an email from Moorshead notifying me of my subscription, once again, the message in the email indicated it will begin with the next issue and will take 3-6 weeks to process.

There seemed to be a website problem when entering in my full credit card number, and within an hour, I received a second email informing me to call. I explained to Jennifer at Moorshead, the website would not allow me to enter the full 16 digits and she assured me she would have the webmaster look into it. Within an hour, a final email arrived providing me with a link, a username and a password. I quickly was able to download the February/March issue of Internet Genealogy and I was happy.

Apparently, Internet Genealogy has a few kinks to work out, and the 3-6 week wait applies only to print formatted subscriptions. However, I was pleased with the result, it is easily readable and to my surprise, I was just as excited and satisfied opening up and flipping the pages of my digital version as the printed format.

Next.... I went to my other favourite magazine to see what they had to offer.

Family Tree Magazine – This magazine also offers online resources, genealogy resources and genealogy learning all available in a downloadable format. The online version is only available by single copies at $5.99 each. I saw the March issue available but imagine my surprise to discover that I could only order the current issue in a print format, not yet available in digital format.....very disappointing. However, they offered all past issues in digital format. It would appear at this time Family Tree does not provide a current issue for download.

Next, I went to Amazon and Sony Reader to see if these two magazines were available in a download format but with no luck. After trying many search possibilities, no genealogy magazines were available at either website. To the credit of genealogy magazines, they are not alone, as the number of magazines available on Kindle is 39, very small relative to the number of magazines on the rack at any given Chapters. So why are magazines not jumping into digital downloads?

I can go to Amazon or Sony Reader and download a New York Times best seller in a matter of minutes. With music, books, and newspapers all converting to digital downloads why do magazines seem to be the last one to the party? Perhaps there are still plenty of individuals like myself, who are slow to responding to the online book and magazine trend and therefore the industry is merely adapting at our rate of change?

I think what the magazine industry needs to keep in mind, is the numerous online e-books and newsletters, some free and some paid for subscriptions that can be accessed immediately online, and I am certain others, like myself have been and will continue to look to these online sources as an immediate budget friendly alternative source of information. So I remain a little bit at a loss as to why there is so little to choose from when it comes to a digital download of the most recent issue of my favourite genealogy magazines.

As much as I would like to congratulate the genealogy magazine industry for going digital, there is still some work to be done to offer the consumer choice, along with current material and a process that is quick and easy.

Happy Family Day to Canadians

Today in Canada, we celebrate Family Day. In honour of this day, I will not be posting. Instead I will be spending quality time with my family. I believe my ancestors and readers will forgive me.
Back tomorrow.

To my fellow Canadian familly historians, enjoy your Family Day.

Genealogy News- A Television Show, A Chat Room, A Podcast......and some new records!

It has been a very busy and exciting week in the genealogy world.

Faces of America

Faces of America launched its first episode on PBS; if you happen to miss it, you can catch it online or you can purchase the DVD of all upcoming episodes.The second episode is set to air next week Wednesday 8pm EST, but check your local listings for time. If you did leave happen to see if then I well your feedback, I've shared mind here.

Live Chat Room at Geneabloggers

I cannot let this opportunity pass without bringing to everyone’s attention that Thomas from Geneabloggers hosted a chat room after the first episode of Faces of America, on Wednesday night. Many of us joined the chat room at 10 pm to discuss our impressions of the episode. I enjoyed the chat, it accomplished several things, it was a great opportunity to bring genealogy bloggers together to discuss something we are all passionate about, we had some laughs, shared a sense of community, exchanged some ideas, and left renewed and motivated.

Thomas plans to continue these chat rooms throughout the genealogy television season following both Faces of America and Who Do You Think You Are? There were a few kinks to work out, as it was a first time experiment for both Thomas in moderating this chat room, and some of us who had not participated in a chat room before, but despite being newbies there were very few hiccups.

However, from my perspective, I felted it was successful and I encourage you to stop in next Wednesday at 10 pm EST and join the conversation, it is open to Geneablogger members and any who  in genealogy field. If you would like to join, contact Thomas at Geneabloggers, before next week and pick-up the password.

Sign up at

Use your Twitter or Facebook account to login, this allows everyone to sign in with a name as opposed to being recognized only as a guest.

Email Thomas at and request the chat room password.

If you think it’s too late in the evening, and you’re in your pj’s by that time, or you are not fit for public view, no worries, no one can see you; however, we can all see Thomas via his webcam. You do not need a webcam to participate.

Follow the conversation, type in your comments, and sit back and participate in the conversation from the comfort of your chair.

Join the chat next Wednesday at Geneabloggers, the more the merrier!

Genealogy Gems New Podcasts

Genealogy Gems has a new podcast out,  Lisa Cooke's regular free series Episode 80
GEM: Interview with Irene Johnson: Tips for Visiting the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

Tomorrow Sunday, Valentine’s Day be sure to tune in to a very special episode, Lisa interviews Lisa Kudrow, from Who DO You Think You Are? The anticipation of this new genealogy television program is reaching a fever of excitement. The genealogy community is doing its part to Spread The Word. Genealogists love the idea of bringing what they love to others and introducing it to new people, so be sure to check out Lisa Cooke’s special interview with Lisa Kudrow on Valentine’s Day.

Be sure and tune in to The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 81 on Valentine's Day to hear Lisa Kudrow, producer & star of the new genealogy themed television series Who Do You Think You Are?!The anticipation of this new genealogy television program is reaching a fever pitch. The genealogy community is doing its part to Spread the Word. Genealogist love the idea of welcoming newcomers into the genealogy world, and we are doing are part to get the message out. You can help check out Spread the Word.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The momentum is building in expectation of the upcoming genealogy television program, Who Do You Think You Are? Lisa Kudrow and NBC are rallying the genealogy community in anticipation of the release of this program. This program, which is sponsored by, is looking forward to engaging and drawing in many more into the genealogy community.

The anticipation of this new genealogy television program is reaching a fever pitch. The genealogy community is doing its part to spread the word. Genealogist love the idea of welcoming newcomers into the genealogy world, and we are doing our part to get the message out. You can help check out Spread the Word. offers new releases this week

Vermont birth records, marriage records and death records, 1909-2008
Connecticut divorce records, 1968–1997
Delaware birth records, 1800–1932, marriage records, 1806-1935 and death records, 1811-1933
Ohio Obituary Index, 1830–2009
UK: London Bishops’ Transcripts, births and baptisms, 1813–1906,
marriages and banns, 1754–1921 and deaths and burials, 1813-1980- Update

FamilySearch offers some New Records

FamilySearch continues to make progress on indexing the 1910 and 1920 United States Censuses, with five new states released this week. In addition, new international projects are available for Germany, Spain, Jamaica, and Norway.

New Projects in the Past Two Weeks

• Deutschland, Baden, Achern—Kirchenbücher, 1810–1869 [Part B]

• España, Malaga—Registros Civiles, 1846–1870

• Jamaica—Civil Births, 1878–1899 [Part A]

• Norway—1875 Census [Part B] (In partnership with DIS-Norge)

• US, Alaska—1920 Federal Census

• US, Hawaii—1920 Federal Census

• U.S., Illinois—1910 Federal Census

• U.S., Indiana—1910 Federal Census

• US, Iowa—1910 Federal Census

Open Thread: Your Impressions of Faces of America

I just finished watching the first episode of Faces of America. I thought the stories were impressive. It was interesting how they didn’t follow one story from start to finish, instead told several stories at once. I believed this helped to drive home the point this shows is attempting to showcase, the diversity of the American people.

I always love to see how moved people are when they begin to learn the stories of their ancestors. You can't help but be moved as well.

I could connect to the idea that we immortalize our ancestors through traditions. I related to Mario, who keeps his connection with his Grandma alive through his cooking, I can definitely relate to that. Mike Nichols certainly learned a big lesson to take the time to get to know your relatives while they are alive.

Two quotes I loved although we saw very little of their stories last night

Meryl Streep “We are the sum of all the people before us” and Stephen Colbert “I feel like I’m surrounded by other people."

If you haven't seen the espisode you can watch it entirely on their website today.

So now I turn it over to you guys, what was your impression of Faces of America. Leave your comments.

Your Family History Research: What’s Holding You Back?

"What have you been putting off and what is holding you back in your family history research?"

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons for putting things off – timing is important and you can’t do everything at once however if you’re anything like me there are things that you know you probably should be doing that you’re simply procrastinating about.

One of the biggest procrastinations for me, up until last week, was ordering some German records through the Family History Centre as well as ordering some microfilms from the Ontario Archives. Now I know some of you who have been doing this much longer than me are scratching your heads... Why?

Answer: Because I’m an armchair genealogist and the majority of my research and the majority of my learning has taken place online. I believe I am part of the newest generation of family historians, who turn to online databases as our first and sometimes only source of information; archives are unchartered ground for us. Believe it or not confession time, I have never used a microfilm reader (I can hear you all gasping now). I believe this just speaks to the incredible amount of information that is available online, with records being digitized by the boatloads, there has been little call for me up until this point to seek out a document from an archive. Well there has, but either I wait for them to be digitized or I get myself into the archives and learn.

I knew there were records available for my ancestor’s church in Germany, but I was not familiar with the Family History Centre, so I procrastinated, until last week when I took the plunge. (I will keep you posted on how I made out)

Why didn’t I do it earlier? Was it laziness…. or busyness….? If I’m honest about it, I’m sure it would be a bit of both of those things, however I suspect it was also partly fear that held me back.

Fear that I didn’t know what I was looking at, fear that nobody would help me, fear that people would critique me for calling myself a family historian but not being really very savvy with non digitized archives.

Actually, saying I was too busy sounds a bit better because the latter makes me sound very insecure.

In the end, I knew that if I didn’t order these records and take the plunge I couldn’t move past the brick wall. I’d be kicking myself later. The time came for me to draw a line in the sand and just do it. I didn’t have any secret strategies for taking the plunge other than an attitude adjustment.

I did tell a couple of others that I was doing it....can’t turn back now. I did some homework before going in so I could tell them specifically what I was looking for....try to at least give the impression I knew what I was talking about. All of that helped get me going. In addition, when I arrived at the family history centre I pleaded ignorance and all was good.

They were warm, inviting, helpful, Thanks Jim! (And know they didn’t try to get me to join their church) I paid my $6.50 and now I wait for my microfilm to arrive from Salt Lake City. I ‘m not even sure I’m going to be able to read it, but Jim tells me, he will be able to help me with that as well.

what’s one thing that you have been putting off that would improve your family history research? (what’s stopping you from tearing down a brick wall?)”


picture used through Creative Commmons license

Genealogy Television- Faces of America - Premiers Tomorrow!

Faces of America premiers tomorrow night on PBS

If you are not yet familiar with this new series that is about to set off a line up of new genealogy television shows; Who Do You Think You Are? Faces of America, The Generation Project, Ancestors in the Attic(currently playing Canada) then you are in for a treat when Faces of America premiers tomorrow night on PBS.

Faces of America will focus on the diverse backgrounds that make up America. Host Henry Louis Gates enlists the help of genealogy and genetics, to uncover the ancestors of some prominent Americans, all with very diverse backgrounds. An Italian chef, a famous TV heart surgeon from Turkey, an Olympic Champion with Japanese-American roots, a movie actress with German heritage and a comedian with an Irish American perspective.

Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. premieres nationally Wednesdays, February 10 - March 3, 2010 from 8 - 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings)
If you miss it tomorrow night you can watch the first full-length episode online on Thursday, February 11,
or you can purchase a collection of all the episodes on the Faces of America DVD .

 Check out this humorous exchange between Henry Louis Gates and Stephen Colbert discussing Stephen's genealogy and Faces of America.

A few other snippets to wet your appetite
Dr.Oz reveals his earliest discussions of his family history with his Grandmother.
Or Mario Batali talks about Grandma Batali.

I'm looking forward to the next couple of months of TV viewing, and hoping to exchange with you some thoughts, impressions and reviews the morning after.

Hockey is as Essential as Breathing

You cannot be born into the Kowalsky family and not like hockey. Even if you never played the game, you come to love it, because hockey is as essential as breathing in this family. In my family, where did the enthusiasm for hockey begin, like the game itself it is steeped in history and a little murky.

My great-grandfather Adam Kowalsky arrived from Poland in 1905, and hockey had already been well established in Canada. The early 1800’s saw the first primitive version of ice hockey in Canada and the game believed to have spread throughout Canada via Scottish and Irish Immigrants and the British army. Many presume ice hockey is derived from field hockey that was being playing in Britain at the time. However, the name hockey has been attributed to the French word hoquet (shepherd’s stick); and the game itself has a long and rich heritage in Canada.

My fourth great grandfather James Stapleton arrived in Canada around the early 1800's from Ireland, (his granddaughter would marry Adam Kowalsky). Is it possible that he was among one of these early immigrants to bring this sport to Canada? Is it possible that the Kowalsky hockey gene all began with a young boy from Ireland?
Even before Kowalsky’s were being born in Canada the rules for the game of hockey had already been established by students at McGill University in Montreal Canada and by 1879 several amateur clubs and leagues were established in Canada by the late 1880’s.

By the time my grandfather and his siblings were born the game of hockey was well entrenched in the culture of Canada. My grandfather Jerome, first born Canadian Kowalsky loved hockey and every one of his six sons would go on to play the game. My father would begin playing hockey as a very young boy finally retiring from the game a couple of years ago at the age of 70. My brothers along with many of my cousins lived and breathed the game, actually most still do.

For myself, I learned to skate at a very early age, yes not long after you learn to walk in this family the skates come out. My first introduction to ice was in my backyard. For many years, my Dad, as his last fatherly duty before retiring for the day was to head outside around midnight, and pull out the hose and water down the backyard to create our own ice rink. It was on this rink that I learned to skate.
(Pictured left my brother and myself on our backyard rink,I had just turned 4)

Saturday nights were reserved for hockey. As routine as going to school, having dinner and putting on your socks in the morning, we sat down every Saturday night around the television and watched Hockey Night in Canada. There was no deviating from this plan no matter how important you thought your priorities might be.

Although some of my uncles and cousins have longed for a career in hockey it has been my cousin Rick Kowalsky, who has managed to take his hockey skills to a national level. He currently is the head coach for the Trenton Titans in ECHL where he has become one of the up and coming coaches in the league, winning coach of the year in 2008/09, Rick was once drafted by the Buffalo Sabres back in 1992.
(Pictured above my Dad and brothers)

My Dad and my uncle Bob will also claim a small piece of history for coaching two young hockey players named Rob Blake and Dwayne Roloson, who undoubtedly go on to hockey fame.

In 1979, two generations of Kowalsky men, came together, and formed the Kowalsky Hockey Team and played a game of historic proportions. The male members of my family gathered on February 4th, to play a local team. Surrounded by family and friends, the Kowalsky men displayed their skill and love of the  game, winning the match, Kowalsky’s 5, the other guys 4. I believe there were a few rematches in the years to come but that was our miracle on ice.

As for me, well I was unfortunately not born with the Kowalsky sports gene. I took figure skating for many years but Dorothy Hamill I was not. Nevertheless, I love sports yet somehow the co-ordination of playing them has escaped me. However, I have been an avid supporter of my Dad, brothers, uncles and cousins. Over the years, I have paid my dues, huddled under a blanket, in the stands of ice rinks across Ontario, where I have watched my family play this game they love so much.

The Kowalsky Hockey Team

Go Team Canada!
( This post is a submission to the 8th edition to the Carnival of Canadian Genealogy, topic Canadian Winter sports)

Follow Friday - Irish Origins

I joined Irish Origins last year in my attempt to uncover my Irish ancestors. I had only just begun to research my Irish family tree and I had little knowledge of Irish records. I found the Irish origins site to be very helpful in not only providing a database of documents but in providing me with critical information on the history of Ireland, the records that are available or not available for my ancestors and the meaning and history of each of these collections.

Irish Origins is part of the Origins Network; this is a database offering records for tracing your British, Scottish and Irish ancestors. The collections date back to the 13th century. It contains over 3000 books and cds that are available through the Origins shop. You can also view rare and vintage books, photos and maps online.

The subscription comes in several different packages, you can purchase a total subscription, which includes British, Irish and Scottish records, or you can purchase these subscriptions individually.

For the purpose of this post, we are going to focus entirely on the Irish Origins subscription.

Irish Origins offers a very affordable starting point for researching your Irish family. My Irish ancestors arrived in Canada 1832 and records prior to this date remain scarce. Irish origins offer me some glimmer of hope. As of this post, they offer the following collections for you to search.

Griffith’s Primary Evaluation of Ireland
1851 Dublin Census
Irish Wills Index 1484-1859
Rare 19th century directories
Irish Royal Garrison Artillery Militia Attestations 1872-1915
William Smith O’Brien Petition 1848-49
Irish Ports to USA 1890 Passenger Lists
Irish Origins Library
Children’s Employment Commission Part II
Census of Elphin 1749
Tithe Defaulters 1831
Electoral Register for Land 1832-38
Memorials of Dead – Galway and Mayo
Brian J. Cantwell’s Memorial of the Dead
Transatlantic Migration 1858-1870
Directories of Ireland
Griffiths survey, maps and plans

This database understands that you may not require a long-term commitment and has made their subscriptions very flexible. You can sign up for 72 consecutive hours for $7.40 US or subscribe to a month for as little as $14.74 monthly. This is handled via credit card online and should you take the 72- hour plan you are charged once. If you subscribe to the monthly plan, you will be charged each month until you cancel your subscription. Which is easy and quick so do not feel like you will be purchasing more then you require.

I now check back regularly to the What’s New section of the website, where I can see if they have added any new collections since my last membership. This website offers very detailed information about the individual collections including dates and geographic locations that the collections pertains to, so you know upfront whether a specific collection applies to your needs.

If you discover a document that identifies an ancestor, you save a screen shot to your computer, or you can order a hard copy for an added fee.

In my opinion Irish Origins should be included in your ‘to follow” list if you have Irish ancestors in your family tree.

Other Irish databases to consider read about
Irish Family History Foundation

Genealogy Blogs- A Free Source of Online Learning

Web-based genealogy learning is a wonderful and effective way to expand your family history knowledge. In previous articles, I have discussed the different formats in how genealogy learning presents itself online. We have reviewed podcasts, webinars, and online genealogy courses.
Today, we are going to add yet another online learning opportunity for armchair genealogists, the genealogy blog.

There are many genealogy blogs and this community is growing daily. Individuals start genealogy blogs for many reasons. They use it as a way to put their family information out on to the internet in the hopes of drawing out individuals who are searching the same ancestry. Others create a family history blog to share their research, with their own family members. However, some use their own personal experiences to create a genealogy blog in the hopes of sharing their knowledge with the online community.

Do not discount genealogy blogs when it comes to advancing your learning. Written by numerous family historians, at all levels of expertise, their collective knowledge is immense. Since many of these family historians are already well connected to this industry, they have their pulse on the genealogy news and can keep you informed on new developments in the area of online databases and software programs.

Step 1- Determine Your Focus

The first step to finding a blog that will  be of value to your research is to determine what information you wish to learn and then focus in on the blogs that post on that specific data. You can narrow your focus by your heritage, Canadian, Irish, German, African-American, or you can narrow your choice by geographic location. There exists many blogs for specific regions and individual states. You can also focus in on specific areas of learning, for instance writing a family history book, internet genealogy, or learning about cemetery research, or dating old photos.

Your choice of genealogy blogs should be just as unique and individual as your family history.

Step 2 – Use a Blog List

The best way to choosing a blog is to use a blog list. Blogs lists will often already have done the work for you and categorized these genealogy blogs into their specific areas of expertise.

The following three genealogy blog lists offer plenty of choices to get you started.

Geneabloggers by Thomas MacEntee

Cyndi’s List by Cyndi Howell

The Genealogy Blogfinder by Chris Dunham

Step 3 – Read and Subscribe

Once you have chosen a few blogs that have captured your interest then start reading. Try to set some time aside each week to seek out and read new blogs as part of your ongoing learning. Find a blog or blogs that addresses not only the content you are seeking but also offers a style of writing that appeals to you. Can you relate to the writer? Once you have found a blog that resonates with you then subscribe to its feed and let the learning begin.

Below are a just a few examples of many genealogy blogs, the few mentioned below, I personally learned from in recent weeks.

Elyse’s Genealogy Blog – Elyse offered a wonderful 3-part series on organizing your genealogy. It helped me to re evaluate and fine tune by own organizational skills.

Nick Gombash’s Genealogy Blog – Nick provided a great list of Latin words and their English translations. I have struggled through translating some marriage certificates recently, and Nick’s list I snatched up for future reference.

Brophy's Irish Genealogy Blog - Michael informed me through his blog of a new free website that is putting Irish church records online.

Genwriting - Phyllis confirmed by belief in how citations should be handled when writing your own family history book.

WeTree- I haven't yet attended a family history expo, so I live vicariously through Amy Coffin's experience.


As your knowledge and experience in genealogy blossoms your interests may change, which will create a need and desire to search a few more blogs and start learning again. That is the wonderful thing about learning, it never ends. If you experience brick walls in your family history research then deem this merely as an opportunity to learn and consider a genealogy blog as a valuable resource.

A Canvas of My Own - Creating a Family History Book

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers  offers us a some advice on creating a family history book through his personal experience with My Canvas.

It has been over two years since I last used’s self-publishing site and I thought I would not only re-visit the site but also relate my experiences of creating memory books for my family.

What was Ancestry Press back in 2007 is now called MyCanvas but from all outward appearance the functionality is the same. In fact, I was pleased to see that the two books I created back in 2007 were still sitting there on the ancestry site, waiting for me to edit or order new copies for family members.

Not Just Books - A Variety of Items

Before I describe the books I created back in 2007, realize that MyCanvas offers more than just books - there are a variety of items including:

• Posters, especially posters displaying family tree charts

• Photo books

• Calendars

• Collage Posters

From Blog Post to Book

In my case, I wanted to turn a long blog post about my cousin Kenneth VonRonn into a memory book. Kenny was killed in Iraq in January 2005 at the age of 20 and I had interviewed his mother in late 2007 to discuss Kenny’s life, death and the impact he had on the family.

The blog post was long enough and had enough photos that it would make a very nice keepsake for my cousin’s family plus if other family members wanted copies, I could always order more in the future. This was one of the most attractive features of MyCanvas for me.

How It Works

The back-end program is Adobe Flash which displays an easy-to-use interface where you can create your project. An added plus is that with your account, you can import data and photos from family trees you’ve already created.

In the case of my story, Kenny’s Choice, I had all the text and photos on my blog post, I just needed a starting point. So I pulled up a book template and then added a military page and I was off and running!

Huge Design Choices

When I first created this book in late 2007, I was amazed at how creative I could get with available layouts, backgrounds and more. But now it is even better! There are close to 5,000 embellishment items when I last checked - when MyCanvas first started I think there were only about 200!

I’d have to say that is one of the biggest issues for me - there are too many choices and it is very easy to get lost in the creative process. You get started and next thing you know it is four or six hours later!

Easy to Use

I found the Editor interface easier to use than many other self-publishing sites. I could copy large blocks of text from one page to another - in fact I could clone an entire page and then change text or item placement.

Importing photos was a snap and one nice feature: you are warned if the photo resolution is too low. This prevents you from creating a book in which the photos will be fuzzy or out-of-focus and your family will be disappointed.


I’ve found that overall self-publishing using various web sites is not a cheap venture - it can be downright expensive. But you are creating a keepsake after all - you are taking years worth of genealogy research that the rest of the family might find boring and turning it into an interesting gift item. It is much easier for the children to become interested in their family history when you present visuals with photos and maps and narratives for them.

The MyCanvas pricing appears to be competitive and in fact between now and February 1, 2010, you can save 15% on orders.


For a program that is simple to use, abundant with creative options, and doesn’t require an subscription, MyCanvas is a great place to turn your genealogy research into keepsakes - or a place to simply try your hand at creativity and practice putting your family stories into print.

[Disclaimer: in early January 2010 I was the guest of for their annual Blogger’s Day event. Please read the full disclaimer here.]

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

If you wish to contribute a guest post to The Armchair Genealogist on creating a family history book,  submit your idea to

My Shares Some Big News

With some recent acquisitions My has just grown in size. This online database now consists of 13 million family trees, 47 million members and 530 million profiles, they are the largest international site dedicated to families on the web.

They have just acquired from the Hamburg, Germany-based OSN Group, a network of leading family sites, including (Germany), (Poland) and (USA)

New technologies from OSN are being integrated into My with the Family Crest Builder, which went live today February 2nd. A new version of the web tree viewer was released yesterday for easier navigation and better visual graphics. You can include a crest as a background image for the tree.

This will help North American members connect with their European relatives and ancestors. As part of the acquisition, will be establishing an office in Hamburg where experienced OSN team members will be based.

With this recent announcement, My is certainly worth investigating if you are not already one of its many members.

Writing a Family Biography (Part 2) - A Handy Template

A Family Biography Template

Many people shy away from including too much writing in their family history books, assuming it takes some special talent. Often this results in a quick rendition of the facts of a person's life, born, worked, married, died. Not exactly creative.
Below I have prepared a simple template anyone can use to write a creative biography about an ancestor or a living relative. This template provides an added element, a family element. This tool will  help you reveal not only the individual, but the family he was a part of and how they connected. After having completed your preparation and research from Part 1, you are ready to start writing a family biography. Insert your research into this easy to use template and begin.

Create an Outline

Outline the major events of the life of your main subject such as education, relationships and jobs. Your outline can be in point form, one or two words. Aside from the facts, you may also wish to dig a little deeper, try to understand the person behind the life, what did their life mean. Writing a good biography is not just about a rendition of facts, ask yourself what is their story? Include other noteworthy accomplishments, events, tragedies and successes, offering more interest and colour to your biography. This is a family biography, therefore we will draw on other family members and their memories, recollections and stories of family life that revolved around your focal character. All of this information you will have drawn from your research, your interview questions and the family group sheets you completed in Part 1 - Preparing to Write a Family Biography

The Beginning

Try to avoid starting your biography with the subject’s birth. Instead, make your opening statement an interesting little known fact or an intriguing event of your ancestor’s life. Sometimes the 'theme' of person's life emerges after having written the biography. Do not be afraid to write the beginning at the end.

The Middle

With your outline and research in-hand write the subject’s life out in chronological order. At this point, you may wish to include family memories, thoughts and childhood recollections. For instance, if you were writing a family biography of your grandfather, then you could insert childhood memories from his children and grandchildren. Now, your reader not only has a window into the biography of your focal person but the biography of the family that surrounded him, his connection with others in his family and how they connected with him.

The End

If the person is still living, end with an uplifting conclusion, future endeavours, or an outlook on life. If they are dead, then conclude with one of their greatest acomplishments , or how they influenced others in their life.

Rough Draft

Always start with a rough draft. Just start writing. There will be plenty of time to fine tune, get the facts down, the main ideas and the events of your relative's life into words. I have yet to meet a writer who puts down the perfect sentence right out of the box. Expand your outline, taking each point from your outline and develop it into full sentences and paragraphs, offering more detail, and complete thoughts.

Read and Revise and Rest

Read and revise your draft, then let it rest. Let your first draft sit for maybe a day, a week or a month depending on your deadline, while your creative battery recharges. Then, look at it with fresh eyes and re- read it and revise. You may need to repeat this step several times. Give the draft to a trusted reader and be open to any comments the reader offers. Based on their feedback, be willing to revise it one more time.

If you wish, you can use this template for each family member. When you do this, suddenly, a wider family history is revealed, as many members of a family may share similar experiences while others may offer a different perspective or unique memory. Inevitable, a theme will emerge and before you know it you will have written a portrait of a family.

You are now ready to start writing your family biography. Happy Writing!

Related Reading
Part 1- A Family Biography - A Lesson in Writing
Family Interview Questions