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

Ensuring The Widest Audience Will See Your Book!

If you have or are currently working on writing a family book, then consider whether you want your book to be found by a wider audience, perhaps online, through bookstores or in libraries and archives. One of the surest ways the general public, distant cousins and future descendants can find your book is through an ISBN number.

What is an ISBN number and why would I need one?

An ISBN number is an International Standard Book Number. It is a unique 13-digit number that identifies a published book. Librarians, booksellers and publishers use it to categorize a book including your family history book. An ISBN number recognizes the title as a unique, and identifies your book as your book.

It’s also how people will find your book – all the search engines key off it (Google, Yahoo, Bing); all of the bookstores organize their whole database listings off of it, and in the web and social networking world (, Facebook, digital libraries) it is vital to getting your book exposed, discovered, and sold.

If you plan to publish a family history book, that you intend to sell  it in bookstores or online you undoubtedly need an ISBN number. If you intend to provide copies to libraries or archives, than you also will need an ISBN number. If your intention is only to provide your book to family members and not provide it to the general public then you will not require an ISBN number.

Where to I get my ISBN number?

You apply for an ISBN number from the country in which you (the publisher) are based. An ISBN is usually the responsibility of the publisher. If you are self-publishing that means you, whoever has the ultimate financial responsibility for the book.

In Canada, ISBN numbers can be obtained through the Library and Archives Canada. This is a free service to publishers and issued within 10 days. Collections Canada requests that you send them one to two copies (based on the number of books that are published) to help preserve Canadian published heritage.

In the United States, Bowker is an official ISBN Agency at . Various packages are available online, starting at $125.00. These costs cover the registration of your book at the Library of Congress.

By ensuring your book has an ISBN number you will guarantee your family history book will be found by the widest audience possible.

The Ultimate Genealogy Gift - A DNA Ancestry Portrait

You read that right, for the genealogist who has everything; you too can be the proud owner of an original work of art.

Through a simple cheek swab, the company DNA11 will convert your DNA into a work of art. DNA 11 sequences your DNA to determine your mt DNA Haplogroup. (your maternal ancestry). After combining your personal order ID number with the numbers and letters that represent mutations in your mtDNA sequence, they create a personal code that is unique to you. This personal code is then transformed into a custom canvas; you get to choose from 3 sizes and 25 custom colour combinations.

If you have already happen to have a DNA test, from say or 23andMe then you can use your existing results to create a work of art.

Once you have found the perfect wall space for your new portrait, simply scan it with your smartphone and open up your very own ancestry page on How cool is that.

Deemed as a great conversation piece....I’m trying to imagine that conversation....What’s that?.... My mt DNA Haplogroup!!!.................(enter the dead silence and blank stares).......while unless I’m having a room full of genealogists for dinner then there would be pandemonium.

Yes, you can purchase a DNA Ancestry Portrait Gift Kit, which can be wrapped and presented to your favourite genealogist. Of course, one of a kind art comes at a price, approximately $440.00; it won’t be something that this genealogist will be ordering anytime soon. My stocking will contain more practical items like.....socks.

What do you think, will a  DNA Ancestry Portrait, be on your Wish List?

Intrigued, check out the video.

Family Recipe Friday - Corn and Oyster Casserole

This recipe is courtesy of family historian Danette Rossi Taylor. Danette comes from a large family of 12 children raised in Richmond, Virginia. This recipe comes by way of her brother Stephen. Stephen is a single father raising five children and as a result, he quickly became a great cook. When the Rossi family gathers  together for Thanksgiving, all siblings brought a dish. Stephen introduced this recipe to the family Thanksgiving meal and it was a hit. Now all the Rossi siblings had adopted this recipe as part of their Thanksgiving tradition and it is destined to become a family favourite for future generations.

The Rossi Family Corn and Oyster Casserole

Cream corn, 3 - 16 oz cans
Select oysters 1 pint
Eggs 2
Butter 2 tbs.
Old bay seasoning 1 tsp
Bread crumbs, unseasoned 1 ½ cups

Mix corn with liquid from oysters and eggs
Sauté oysters with butter until edges start to curl, remove from heat
Halve or quarter oysters depending on size, add to corn mixture
Add enough breadcrumbs to thicken mixture and season with old bay
Sprinkle the top with the rest of the breadcrumbs and bake at 350F for 45-60 minutes until browned and set.

Looking for more old-fashioned family recipes courtesy of family history bloggers:
Squishy Meat and Gravy
Mama's Copper Pennies
Mama's Cornbread
Swiss Steak
1950's/60's Clam Dip
Scallop Potatoes
or more recipes here

Finding Your Irish Ancestor, the Poor Tenant Farmer!

For the most part our Irish ancestors were poor tenant farmers who leased or rented their land, either directly from the landowner or from a leaser. It is not unusual to find many layers of subleasing when it comes to Irish landholdings. Very few people in Ireland actually owned their land. If your ancestor was one of these poor tenant farmers then once again your chance of finding records is faced with yet another challenge.

We’ve also discussed how little exists in the form of census documents for our Irish ancestors. As a result, we are forced to turn to census substitutes and land records as one of the few means of locating our Irish family. Enter the Tithe Applotment Books.

What are the Tithe Applotment Books?

The Tithe books were complied between 1823 and 1837. They consist of 2000 hand written books and constitute one of the most important census substitutes along with the Griffith's Evaulation.  The Tithe Applotment books are the result of a land survey taken to determine the amount of tax payable by landholders to the Church of Ireland. There is a book for almost every parish in the country.

Since many church parishes did not begin keeping records until the 1850's, finding records for ancestors living in rural parishes is scarce, these books may be your only resource.

How will the Tithe Applotment Books Help?

Tithe Applotment Books are a key resource for identifying if your ancestor owned or leased land. These books are arranged by parish. (drilling home again, that identifying your ancestor’s parish is key). Once you have established the parish, the Tithe Applotment books will assist you in identifying the land occupier’s name, townland, area of landholding in acres, land assessment in grades 1-4, and calculation of tithe amount.

Because the tithe was payable only by those who worked the land, you may not find your ancestors included. For instance if your ancestors were labourers who worked land owned by the church, they would not be listed, along with labourers who did not rent land or those who lived in towns.

Only a name is given in these books, with no indication of family relationships, therefore information is speculative. However, these records can provide valuable confirmation, particularly when a land passed from father to son in the period between the Tithe survey and the Griffith Valuation.

Where Can You Find The Tithe Applotment Books?

The Tithe Applotment Books can be found in Dublin at the National Archives of Ireland. The records for the Ulster counties are available at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). You may find individual county libraries with copies of their own local books.

Online access is a mixed bag. Some parishes are beginning to appear on the internet if you search for tithe applotment books and county name, you may get lucky. Generally, the transcriptions are usually just names and notes, and of course, we all know we need to seek out the full record. Subscription genealogy sites are not much better. carries the Tithe Applotment books but for only the six counties in Northern Ireland,

If you’re like most and a trip to Dublin is not in cards then you can turn to the microfilms available through your local LDS Family History centers.

If you're still looking for your poor Irish farmers, a group for which very few genealogical records exist the Tithe Applotment Books are an important source you cannot ignore.

Nominate Your Favourite Genealogy Blog

Family Tree Magazine has once again posted there nomination forms to vote for the 2011 Best Genealogy Blogs.
This year there is a panelist of 4 genealogy gurus who will help direct traffic. Thomas from Geneabloggers, Lisa from Genealogy Gems, Randy from Genea-Musings and Dear Myrtle, need I say more.  There has been a few rules established, and some guidelines for defining blog categories. Of course the coveted prize is to have your blog listed among the 40 Best Genealogy Blogs in the July 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.   
I hope everyone gets out and nominates, writing a blog takes a lot of time and dedication, there is no money in it, and most days you feel like no one is reading or paying attention. For those who have the privelege of becoming part of the list it is a wonderful  pat on the back. So take a few minutes and nominate your favourites.
If you have a few blogs you regularly enjoy reading, then give them their recognition by nominating. You can nominate here, and read all the rules and guidelines. Good Luck Everyone.

Taking a Lesson from Mark Twain and Johanna Skibsrud

Imagine, discovering your great-grandfather wrote his memoirs 100 years earlier. Or that your father's life story will be preserved and honoured in a novel for all to read. This past week a few things happened in the book world that I felt offers some inspiration to genealogists, and particularly to family historians who love to write and those of you who have been procrastinating.

First, the release of Mark Twain’s autobiography, written or rather dictated 100 years ago. This autobiography was released this week under his specific instructions not to be printed until 100 years after his death.

Then there is Johanna Skibsrud. Johanna is the winner of the 2010 Giller Prize, Canada’s leading literary prize, for her novel The Sentimentalists. There are couple of reasons that make Johanna’s success significant, the content of her novel, and the manner in which her book is being delivered to the public.  According to her publisher The Gaspereau Press,

“ Johanna Skibsrud’s debut novel connects the flooding of an Ontario town, the Vietnam War, a trailer in North Dakota and an unfinished boat in Maine. Parsing family history, worn childhood memories, and the palimpsest of old misunderstandings, Skibsrud’s narrator maps her father’s past.”

Johanna has taken her family history and more particularly her father’s personal stories from the Vietnam War and incorporated them into her fictional novel.

Both Mark Twain and Johanna Skibsrud have a lesson for us; write your story and the stories of your family.

Mr. Twain has given this world a gift in his autobiography. Have you given thought to how your own descendants would love to read or listen to your own story 100 years from now? You don’t need to be a Mark Twain, for this to happen. In addition, Johanna has reminded us that the greatest stories come from our families.

An interesting contrast between Mark and Johanna, Mr. Twain wrote his story 100 years ago, and today you can find it online, and in hard copy and audio. It is being mass-produced the world over. However, Johanna a 30 year old from Nova Scotia offers her hand-printed book by a small boutique-publishing house in Kentville, Nova Scotia. The Sentimentalists had no more than 800 books in print at the time of her receiving the Giller Prize Award last week. Last year’s Giller Prize winner, The Bishop’s Man sold over 70,000 copies.

At the time of this post, The Sentimentalists is due to be released November 19th through in hard copy only. You can pre-order now. Two very different approaches, while the 100 year old dead guy is being marketed to death (forgive the pun),  the young poet/novelist is sticking to an old-fashioned, organic approach.

Regardless, of their approach, the lesson is the same.

As a genealogist, the value in what what these writers have given us is golden. You don’t have to be a Mark Twain fan to know the importance in what he has done. However, as a genealogist, you certainly should appreciate it more than anyone should.

Take a lesson from Mark Twain; record your own life for future family historians. Dictate it or write it. The result is the same, a legacy to your family.

From Johanna Skibsrud your lesson; write your ancestors stories, whether incorporated into a fictional novel or as a family history book. The vehicle does not matter; the only thing that matters is that you write.


Who Do You Think You Are Returns!

NBC has just announced the return of Who Do You Think You Are? this January. WDYTYA? will begin its second season on January 21 on Friday nights at 8pm/ 7central. Hopefully in the coming weeks we will learn who this year's celebrity line up will consist of, those who produced an interesting enough family history to make the cut for this very successful genealogy program.
If you missed any of last seasons episodes you can watch them online here.

Check out the video, in this bonus material, Lisa Kudrow learns how difficult is was for her grandmother to be a poor immigrant in America.

Tuesday's Tip - Making the Switch to Digital and Audio Books

Having recently obtained my first Kindle, I now get it. I get what all the fuss is about. I will be honest when the Kindle first arrived on the scene I was reluctant. I am a romantic, and that means I love the feel of a book in my hands. I didn’t think I could appreciate a book without holding those written words on a printed page. As a writer, I felt I owed a sense of duty to the author to purchase a paper book. As someone who wishes to some day hold a copy of her own published book in her hands, I was adamant about keeping the dream alive.

However, that handy little device that offered me the option of carrying around all my books in such a small, portable and convenient way intrigued me. I am also practical, and, and the cost of a book on Kindle can be half the cost, sometimes less. Once I started downloading books to my Kindle, it became clear I could get just as romantic about this Kindle...and it just makes sense.

I’m impressed by what is available on Kindle, everything from New York Times bestsellers to newspapers. At the same time, I am equally dismayed by what is not available. There seems to be some problems with copyright laws, and if you live in Canada, you are prohibited from certain book titles. I am saddened that genealogy magazines are not available in Kindle format, however, you can read your favourite genealogy blog on your Kindle (and yet I can read them for free, so I’m not sure that makes much sense to me).

Some of the best selling popular genealogy books are available on Kindle, while some others are not. Are others just late to the party like myself, or is there good reason for the hold out. For instance, none of Elizabeth Shown Mills books are available through Kindle with the exception of her historical novel Isle of Canes. In addition, not to call her out, but as someone I highly respect I have to ask why? Does she know something we don’t?(She generally does).

I suspect another growing trend will be audible books. Audible books although they been around for a while are still not mainstream. I love the idea of listening to books. Downloading a book to my MP3 player and listening to a book while I go for my daily walk, push the vacuum around the house or scoot around town doing errands. For those who cannot read in the car, this is a great alternative.

Readers can shop, purchase, and download audio content from Once downloaded to their PCs and Macs, they can then transfer the audio content to MP3 players, PDAs or smart mobile devices. Readers can also burn the content to audio CDs.

Your Kindle is equipped with a text to speech capability, if a book comes with this function, you already have the capability of listening to your books. I have yet to download a book with this function. However, my Kindle also has MP3 capabilities, so I can download an audio book to my PC and then load it to my Kindle or MP3.

You can sign up with an Amazon company. You can choose from a variety of plans. Your membership benefits include up to 75% off CD audio books, access to member only sales and promos, free daily audio subscriptions of The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. With your monthly subscription price of $14.95, you receive two credits. Members receive credits each month that can then be used as currency; one credit equals one audio program. Monthly plans allow you to carry over up to 6 rollover credits where annual plans allow up to 12 rollover credits. You can cancel your subscription at any time. Currently you can subscribe and get your first month free, allowing you two free audio downloads.

An book seems like an affordable and portable way of listening to books. I will warn you Audible books do not have a vast library, however it is improving and in regards to genealogy books, it is non-existent. Maybe an opportunity for the genealogy industry. Perhaps Ms. Mills will consider converting her books in audio format. I would like having  my own genealogy expert whispering sweet citations into my ear.

If you haven’t been able to make the jump to Kindle, today's tip is to seriously consider it, and by all means check out if for nothing more than then two free audio books. I know as family historians we can get caught up in the past, but at the same time, we cannot be afraid to stay current.

Family Recipe Friday - Grandma's Lemon Cake

Grandma Desmarais used to make this cake on a regular basis. I don' t know where she got the recipe from and based on the packaged ingredients involved, it isn't a recipe that dates back too far in history. However, my mother also makes Grandma's lemon cake for special occasions. It makes a great brunch cake. I love lemon, so it has become one of my favourites and it always evokes memories of Grandma Desmarais. It will certainly become one of those recipes that I will continue to make for my children and grandchildren (when that day comes, not to soon please kids). Please enjoy Grandma Desmarais Lemon Cake.

Grandma Desmarais Lemon Cake

1 Duncan Hines lemon cake mix
1 pkg lemon instant pudding mix
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup of water
2 tbsp soften butter
2 tbsp water
2 cups icing sugar
1 lemon

Mix cake and pudding mix together. Add eggs, oil and 3/4 cups of water. Beat. Pour into large  9x9 inches. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from oven and poke lots of holes on top with a fork.
Mix icing sugar, soften butter with water ( 2 tbsp)  and the juice of lemon.
Pour this over hot cake.
Turn off oven and return cake to oven for 5-10 minutes or until glazed.

Here are some other great old-fashioned family recipes brought to you by the genealogy community.

Grandma's Coffee Cake
Mom's October Christmas Tradition - Christmas Fruitcake
Vera's Tuscan Chicken and Peas
William's Lentil Soup

Tuesday's Tip - Google Search Updates

This Tuesday I wanted to bring you an update on the newest search tips available on Google. After some research it occurred to me that I needed to deliver this message through one woman; Lisa Louise Cooke. Lisa from Genealogy Gems has done an exceptional job at showing the genealogy community how Google works for family history research. In her lastest video,  she provides the viewer with some of the newest research tips in Google, including your social circle webpages, pages similar feature and searches related to list and finally the google timeline tool.

Simply click play for a quick 5 minute lesson and be up to date on Google's latest search techniques.