Saturday, September 29, 2007 Starts to Improve its Search

Search Military Records - Fold3

Fold3 (formerly has been digitizing records ( Naturalization Records, Civil War Pension Index, Revolutionary War pensions, Vital records, and much more) from the National Archives and the Allen County Public Library at the rate of 2 million records a month. Footnote has a sleek Web 2.0 interface which you can see on the new Footnote tour.

The one thing that has kept Footnote from being a really outstanding site is its search engine. The company has already announced that major changes to the search mechanism will be available before long.

Meanwhile, Footnote has made a few small search engine improvements which probably won't even be noticed by most users, but will definitely give more satisfactory search results. It has changed the search default to AND rather than OR for all words in a query. This means better results since the results will now match all terms in the search string.

Meanwhile, until Footnote introduces its new search engine, here are some techniques for better searching at the Footnote site:

  • Name Search with Location - Add a location such as a state name to the search query.
  • County Search - If you know the county, add the county name to the name and state in your query, but be sure to put the county name in quotes.
    • "Thomas County"
  • Single Letter Wild Card - Use one or more question marks ? in place of one letter to search for surname variations.
    • Sorens?n, Sorenson, Sorensen
    • John??n = Johnson, Johnsen, Johnosn
  • Search Within a Specific Title - Limit your search to a specific database:
    • Use the pull-down menu for selecting the database title to search within or
    • Use the brown "Search within" box at the bottom of the page to search. You can also use the advanced search controls described above when searching within a title or part of a title.
Even if you are not a subscriber, you might want to take a look at Footnote. Search results show a thumbnail size of the image for free and in many cases, this is quite readable. The free search results also provide image information such as name and year.

Footnote also has free databases such as the Pennsylvania Archives. If you find something you want to investigate further, you can use the Footnote Free Trial.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Family Tree Maker 2008 Blog

There is now a blog for Family Tree Maker 2008 " to communicate updates, improvements and information about strategic direction to the community as quickly as possible. " The first post promises that comments and discussion are welcome.

Family Tree Maker Blog

Sounds like this is the place to post questions and get an official answer from an Ancestry employee.

Good news about reports. The blog says "customers have been asking for some additional charts and reports in Family Tree Maker 2008. We are working very hard to deliver an hourglass chart, a register report and an ahnentafel report by mid-October via an online program update."

Family Tree Maker 2008

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

World War II Oral Histories

I've been watching Ken Burns Special The War this week and it brings to mind all the times I talked with my dad about what he did during the War. I'm glad I took the opportunity to talk to my dad many, many times about his role in World War II before he died. I wrote down his stories, but when I see the Ken Burns Special, I wish I had done an Oral History and videotaped the all the stories he told me. What a treasure that would have been.

My dad was in Germany just after the war assigned as an agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). No matter how much he told me his role in the war was no different than all the other soldiers, I secretly knew different. He learned to pick locks, do dead drops, follow people without being noticed, and other stuff that seemed to me to be right out of spy novels. He told me of his work with informants - many of whom just disappeared without a trace. He told me the story of his driver - a German soldier who just a few months before had been a bomber pilot who told my dad that he dropped all his bombs in the Channel before he got to his London target. My dad told me of stories of displaced persons and how he helped to reunite them with their families or get them back home. And he told me how Nazis tried to pretend to be displaced persons to try to escape. I never tired of listening to his stories.

Every soldier in World War II has a story to tell. If your father or grandfather is a World War II veteran, ask your questions today before it is too late. Here are some suggested interview questions. These questions are very general so they should be tailored to the soldier's war experience.

To preserve an Oral History, record the interview on videotape. Then make a backup and store in a different location. has an interesting FREE service where oral histories can be recorded with its new audio story telling service. You can record by telephone or record with your computer microphone, and then invite family members to record their stories. It is a free, easy, and private method to create and preserve family oral histories. You can also record and archive video to Ancestry's story telling service by using a webcam. Ancestry's free audio story telling service make it easy to share the oral history with your family.

You could use your own video as well as the webcam or telephone to record the same interview in multiple media. I am always very mindful of preserving precious family history in many different ways for backup purposes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Schwenkenfelder Day

September 24th is Schwenkenfelder Day, the September Thanksgiving, the day some Pennsylvania Germans celebrate Thankgiving.

On September 24, 1734, shortly after their arrival in Pennsylvania, the Schwenkenfelders celebrated their first Gedaechtnisz Tag, the September Thanksgiving. It is the oldest continuous Thanksgiving tradition in America.

The Schwenkenfelders are Plain People who are the followers of the Anabaptist mystic, Kasper Schwenkfeld von Ossig, a contemporary of Martin Luther, born in 1490 of an old aristocratic family in the Duchy of Leibnitz. Schwenkenfelders were prosecuted everywhere in Europe until they fled in 1733 and 1734 to Pennsylvania because of its religious freedom.


Schwenckfelder Passenger Ships:
Pennsylvania Merchant 1733
St. Andrew 1734

Monday, September 17, 2007

Mapping Geotagged Tombstone Photos

Now that I have started geotagging my tombstone photos using Google's Free Picasa, I want to use the latitude and longitude that is now embedded in the photo metatag to map the photos. Picasa is a free software download from Google that locates and organizes all the photos on your computer. In addition, Picasa allows you to upload your photos to the free Picasa Web Album. You can keep the album private or share with your family.

Organize your digital photo album with the free Picasa.

Google’s Picasa Web Album software has mapping support for geotagged photos. When a photo is uploaded to the Picasa Web Album, this feature shows a small map in the sidebar for each photo that has been geotagged. Here is an example of one geotagged tombstone photo in my Picasa Web Album with the map in the bottom of the right column. The map can be zoomed in or zoomed out.

I have been adding geodata to my tombstone photos via Picasa and Google Earth, but if you are just interested in mapping photos, there is a way to do so using Picasa Web Albums. Since this method is done online, the photo on your computer will not have the longitude and latitude written in its metadata. However, with this method, you can map an album at a time and create one album per cemetery or put all photos into a cemetery album.

Map your Tombstone Photos in Picasa Web Album:

  • Select tombstone photos from one cemetery in Picasa and create a new Picasa Web Album by clicking on the Web Album button on the bottom toolbar in Picasa.
  • Type a location into the Place Taken field. Be sure to click Show location on map.
  • Refine the photo's placement using the drag-and-drop map. Entire albums can be dropped on a location rather than having to set each photo individually.

Whether you want to geotagged your photos on your computer (using Picasa and Google Earth) or are just interested in mapping your photos online, the photo mapping on the Picasa Web Album works the same.

One nice touch is that in the main Picasa maps view, rather than just displaying push pins to mark each photo, Picasa displays a small thumbnail of the image. My Web Album example only contains s one photo, but of course many photos from one cemetery can be added to the album and all would be shown on the map.

Each thumbnail can be clicked on for a larger photo display.

Another highlight of the Picasa Web Album mapping feature is the combination of maps and slideshows. If you select a photo in the map and click on play, the slideshow will move around the map according to the photo location.

I want the photos on my computer to have the geotag in its metadata so I am going to continue to use the Picasa / Google Earth geotagging. And I really like the integration with the Picasa Web Album mapping. I've been working on my tombstone photos, but of course mapping your photos can be done with any type of photo.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Geotagging Tombstone Photos

I've started geotagging my tombstone photos using Google Picasa, the free desktop photo organizer / editor which integrates with Google Earth. Geotagging means adding the geographical identification of latitude and longitude to the photo. The geotag info doesn't actually show on the photo, but it does show on the photo metatag.

Picasa can be downloaded for free.

Picasa allows me to match my photos to a specific location using Google Earth. The Geotagging feature embeds location information within the photo file metadata and also displays the photo on Google Earth.

To Geotag your own photos:
  • Select your photo in Picasa.

  • Select Geotag with Google Earth from the Tools > Geotag menu to launch Google Earth. A small Picasa window will appear in Google Earth's lower-right corner displaying thumbnails of the pictures you selected. Here I have selected one photo in Picasa, but more than one can be selected.

  • Use the arrows to advance through your photos in Picasa. If the place taken information has already been entered in Picasa's folder description, Google Earth will automatically go to the specified locale. Otherwise, you can navigate to the location using the yellow cross-hairs in Google Earth.

  • Find the location you want, and press the Geotag button.

  • When your pictures are tagged, press the Done button which will add the latitude & longitude information to Google Earth's My Picasa Pictures collection. You can also use the Geotag All button to tag all of the selected pictures with the same location information.

Picasa writes the longitude and latitude to the photo's EXIF GPS metadata. If you look at the Image Properties in Picasa you will see GPS Latitude & GPS Longitude. Picasa will display a small cross-hair icon on the thumbnail of a photo that has been Geotagged.

From now on when I visit cemeteries, I will capture the exact GPS latitude and longitude of the grave site. For photos I have already taken, I am using the GPS of the cemetery as I find it on Google Earth. Some of my ancestors are buried in difficult-to-find cemeteries, and I like the idea that my family can find the cemeteries by GPS info.

Once your photo is geotagged, select Tools > Geotag > View in Google Earth in Picasa to fly to the photo's location in Google Earth.

All photos can be geotagged, but I thought the cemetery photos were a good place to start.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Civil War Pension Index

Search Military Records - Fold3

I plan to order several Civil War pensions from NARA before the price goes up on October 1. Usually before I order a pension file, I first look up the soldier in the Civil War Pension Index to get his pension certificate & application number to send to NARA to make sure they will find the correct pension file.

I was looking in the Ancestry Pension Index for a soldier who was in the Pennsylvania Civil War Volunteers, but there were two soldiers with this same name from PA in the index and I wasn't sure which was the one I wanted because there wasn't enough identifying information. I had pretty much decided to order both pensions.

Then I remembered that also has a Civil War Pension Index which is from a different NARA microfilm than Ancestry's Pension Civil War Index. I had originally thought that the difference between the 2 indexes is that they had the soldiers in a different order. But when I took a closer look, I found something that made a huge difference for me to be able to determine which was my correct soldier.

General Index to Pension Files - 1861-1934.
Microfilm T288. 544 rolls. Alphabetical Soldier Index. This is the Civil War pension file available at

Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900 Microfilm T289. 765 rolls. Indexed by state, then by service (infantry, cavalry, artillery), then by regiment, and then alphabetically by veteran's surname. The information is similar to the information contained on the General Index to Pension Files T288 at Ancestry with one major difference. At Footnote's index, if the soldier died after the war, the card includes the soldier's death date and where he died at the bottom of the card.

Here is the death date from the Footnote Civil War Pension Index for one of the 2 soldiers with the same name that I was trying to decide between:

The death date gave me the info I needed to be able to order the correct pension file. The soldier I wanted had been enumerated on the 1900 US census so I knew the soldier who had died on July 26, 1891 was NOT the soldier I wanted.

Even if you have no intention of ordering the pension file from NARA, it is good to know that the Civil War index is another place to check for death dates and in some cases, place of death.

You can search the Fold3 (formerly site for free and see a thumbnail of the actual record. If you find something you want to investigate further, you can Start Your Free Trial with .

Friday, September 07, 2007

Family Tree Maker 2008 Service Packs

For those who were concerned about the genealogy reports that were not in Family Tree Maker 2008 when it was first released, good news. These will be added to the program via a free patch in October.

Here is the most recent communication from Family Tree Maker to its customers:

Essential Upgrades to Family Tree Maker 2008

Dear Family Tree Maker Customer:

Thank you for your recent purchase of Family Tree Maker 2008. We are continually working to improve the product and wanted to let you know about some upcoming enhancements.

Free Program Updates

Service Pack 1:
We just released a program update that resolves some performance issues that have been brought to our attention. If you have registered your Family Tree Maker software, the next time you open the program you will automatically receive a message prompting you to install the program update (you must be connected to the Internet to receive the automatic notification). The installation process is quick and secure. We urge you to take advantage of this program update, which will improve your experience using the software.

Service Pack 2:
In mid-October we will enhance the program’s Publish capabilities. In particular, this release reintroduces several popular reports from previous versions of Family Tree Maker. Again, if you have registered your software, you will be automatically notified when the program update becomes available. You can also access up-to-date information about program enhancements by visiting the Program Updates page on the Family Tree Maker website.

Book Publishing
Many of you have asked about our plans for expanding the program’s book publishing capabilities. Some Family Tree Maker customers have already explored Ancestry Press, our new online self-publishing application, and are excited by the possibilities it offers for creating customized family history books. Other customers have contacted us to say they would feel more comfortable using a desktop book building tool. Our goal is to offer an integrated solution that combines the advantages of both an online application and a desktop application.

Ancestry Press:
In the coming months we will be adding many new features and templates to the Ancestry Press book building tool. We are also working to improve the integration between Family Tree Maker and Ancestry Press. Next month you will receive a coupon for 50% off your first professionally printed Ancestry Press book.

Desktop Tool:
We are developing a desktop book building tool that we will provide free of charge to all Family Tree Maker 2008 customers next summer. This tool will allow you to print your book from home or, if you prefer, create a PDF that you can have professionally printed and bound through the Ancestry Press book printing service or another vendor of your choice.

Customer Feedback
Family Tree Maker
2008 represents a new strategic direction for the software and provides a robust platform for future development. While we are excited about the program’s many new features and the opportunities to extend its functionality, we recognize that the new approach is a departure from previous versions of the software and that some of our loyal customers have concerns about switching to the new version.

For information about specific features that have changed, please visit the Knowledge Base on the Family Tree Maker website. If you don’t find an answer to your question, please let us know. You can use the enhancement request form to submit questions and comments as well as suggestions for new features. While we cannot respond personally to each message, we do consider all suggestions and will post answers to frequently asked questions on the Knowledge
Base for the benefit of the whole community.

Best wishes,

The Family Tree Maker team

A NOTE ABOUT PRIVACY: When you upload your family tree to, you can control the privacy settings on your tree and on projects you create in Ancestry Press.

If you choose the Personal Tree setting, other Ancestry members will not be able to view your tree, but the names of deceased individuals in your tree—as well as their birthdates and birthplaces—may appear in the search index. Ancestry members searching for those individuals can contact you anonymously through Ancestry’s Connection Service to request more information. If you choose the Public Tree setting, other Ancestry members will be able to view your tree and, if they find common ancestors, merge specific lines into their own family trees. Ancestry members who are doing research on your family lines can contact you anonymously through Ancestry’s Connection Service to request and share information. Regardless of your privacy setting, information about people who appear to be living is automatically hidden and will not be displayed in the search index. By default, any project you create in Ancestry Press is completely private unless you choose to share it with specific individuals or with the community. Beginning in October, you’ll have the ability to invite your family members to view and contribute to your project—even if they are not Ancestry subscribers.

I like Family Tree Maker 2008 , and I think that the program will continue to be improved as time goes on. I've been using it since it was first released. This week, I have been using the Source Management Workspace to clean up sources that I had entered in much older versions of FTM when their sourcing feature was rather basic.

Here are many of the features I found in FTM2008 - FTM 2008 Thoughts

Family Tree Maker 2008