Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Family Tree Maker 2014 Download (FTM 2014)

I just noticed something that has had very little, if any, publicity from

Family Tree Maker 2014 is now available as a download. There is no more waiting for the CD to arrive in the mail, although the CD option is still available.  And if you download, you can also order a CD backup.

Notice that there is a choice of  a Ship It button or a Download button on the FTM 2014 order page.

Right now, FTM 2014 is 20% off.  Enter the coupon code G5JXTRY at checkout in the box marked Redeem Coupons for double savings and receive an additional 20% discount.

Download Family Tree Maker 2014

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

1940 Census Image Search Success

Success! I found family on the 1940 census ... at  The National Archives server still cannot handle the load.

Ancestry has begun the task of uploading all the census images, and they happen to be starting with states where my ancestors lived.  And they seem to be getting them up at a pretty quick pace.

Images are available for these states: California, Delaware, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.  Some of the US territories plus the District of Columbia are also completed.

Images for the Bronx, one of New York City's five boroughs, have been uploaded by Ancestry, so I thought I would look for family there.  I quickly found the Enumeration District at the ED Finder since I knew the address (found in an obituary) and went to to begin my search.  The ED consisted of 44 pages that I needed to browse to find my family.  I thought it would take forever, but I was able to find the family in a few minutes - on page 42 out of 44 pages.

My browsing method was simple.  I started at page one of the ED and enlarged the image so that I could read the street name in the left column.  I was able to click through each page fairly quickly by using the arrow button until I found the street the family lived on.  Then I just went down the street numbers until I found the family.

What did I learn?  Well, coming off the Great Depression, salaries seemed rather small.  One family member, at age 22 in 1940, was a typist who made $600 in all of 1939.  That's $50 per month.   I used the Inflation Calculator to calculate her salary in today's dollars and found it was less than $10,000.   I haven't had a chance to absorb all the other information yet.

There were many first-time questions in the 1940 census.
  • The first census that asked people where they lived five years before – providing the first information about the majority of Americans in mid-decade and how they kept migrating for work
  • The first census to ask people detailed income questions, providing a fuller and detailed picture of depression-era work and unemployment
  • The first census to ask if people worked for New Deal emergency government agencies –the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps

Be sure to check the bottom of the page for the supplemental questions.  One of my family members was selected to answer additional questions about Social Security, military service and more.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Attempting to View the 1940 Census

Like everyone else, I was looking forward to browsing the newly-released 1940 US census today.  

Because the census is not yet indexed, the only way to find your family now is by finding the census enumeration  district (ED) and then browsing all the pages of the ED.  To find the enumeration district (ED), you must first know the address - the complete address - not just the street.  At least that is the case for my family who resided in a big city.

I went to Steve Morse's excellent ED finder and followed the directions by filling in my great-grandparent's exact address.  With the ED finder, I was able to zoom in to the exact city block by adding cross streets.  It was really very simple.  However, when I clicked on the ED, I received an error message at the NARA site.  No surprise that the National Archives site is overwhelmed.  Hours later, it is still telling me that it is "preparing image".  I can see there are 34 pages of this ED for me to browse if I only I could get the images to load.  No word when this issue will be fixed.

So I went to  who is also offering the 1940 census for free.  Ancestry is in the process of uploading all of the census records and indexing them,  They have a number of states done, but not the states where my family lived.  Ancestry does have a sign-up and they let you know when the state you are interested in is completed.  The 1940 census will be free at Ancestry and  I had no problem loading the available census here. 

While at the Ancestry site, I noticed that they have their  1940 Era Records for FREE  through April 10.  This includes, surprisingly, the 1930 census, and many city directories that can help find the exact address needed to find the ED to enable browsing of the census. So, I think I will spend my time collecting exact addresses from the free 1940 Era Records at until I can actually view the census images.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blair Underwood's African Roots on WDYTYA?

"I am loving this ride"  That's what Blair Underwood exclaimed while he was learning the story of his family history during the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?.  That same sentiment pretty much sums up why so many people are delving into their own family trees and are actually finding it fun.

The professional genealogists on the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?  talked about the difficulty of African-American genealogy because a "Wall" is reached once the African-American family traces its family tree back to the time of slavery.  Since the US census is one of the foundations in building a family tree, many times the African-American genealogy trail stops in 1860 during the time of slavery.  While the census of the free population lists every family member by name in the 1860 census, the slave population is only listed by their owner's name plus the slave's gender, age and race (black or mulatto).  The slaves are not listed by name.  Because of this, many African- Americans hit  "the Wall" in 1860 when the paper trail stops.

DNA testing was able to help Blair Underwood go beyond the paper trail to find his roots in Africa.   Through DNA testing, they were able to find Blair Underwood's 10th cousin (or so) living in Africa today.  A 10th cousin  means they had a common ancestor about 250 years ago - assuming 25 years per generation -  which would mean they had a common ancestor sometime around 1700 - 1750 during the time of the slave trade.

His 10th cousin,  Eric Sonjowoh, is a college student in the African nation of Cameroon.  In last night’s episode, Blair Underwood flies to the village of Babungo in Cameroon with his father.  They are met by Eric and his father and all take part in the celebration and watch the tribal dances.

I wondered how it came to be that his cousin had submitted his DNA to the Ancestry DNA database, but Eric explained that "a guy" told him that many African-Americans are looking for their African roots, so many in Africa are contributing their DNA to help them.   Because of this, there is the possibility that other African-Americans could find also find a distant cousin in Africa. 

Dr. Kenneth Chahine, general manager of Ancestry DNA, walked Blair through his DNA analysis.  DNA analysis determines ethnicity and found  Blair is 26% European and 74% African which Dr. Chahine said is typical of African-Americans today.

Not only can the DNA test tell African-Americans the country in which their ancestors originated, but also the tribe.  Blair's ancestors are associated with tribes found in the western part of Africa: 27% Bamoun, 22% Brong, 13% Yoruba and 12% Igbo.

What the TV show didn't mention is that the DNA test performed on Blair Underwood has not yet been released. The new autosomal DNA test was announced at RootsTech in early February and will launch in late March or thereabouts. You can put your name on the contact list at DNA, and they will notify you when the new DNA testing is released.

At the end of the episode while he is standing in the African town of Babungo, an obviously moved Blair Underwood said, "We have come full circle to reunite our family.  When we started this odyssey, who I thought I was,  is different than I know I am today."

Want to know more about your family? Start your FREE family tree online to enter what you already know about yourself and have help you find your family story.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Martin Sheen on WDYTYA?

Last night's (Feb 3, 2012) episode of Who Do You Think You Are  followed the family history quest of Martin Sheen, American actor and the child of immigrants from Ireland and Spain.  I found it interesting that Martin Sheen,  also a political activist,  has ancestors on both sides of his family who also had a passion for social justice.

Martin Sheen has always been interested in his maternal uncle who was involved in the Irish Civil War, so that is where he began searching for his family history.  I had to chuckle to myself when Martin Sheen began by searching on for his mother's brother, Michael Phelan,  found his death certificate showing he died in County Tipperary, and then said,  "Looks like I'm going to have to go to Ireland myself to find out more about Michael Phelan.  I'm going to go the Military Archives in Dublin (Cathal Brugha Barracks)."

Well, heading off to Ireland at the beginning of a family history search makes for interesting television, but the TV show makes it seem as traveling to your ancestral homeland is the only way to research your family tree.  If that were true, that would make genealogy a hobby out of reach for most of us.   You do not have to travel around the world to start your family history search.  Instead, if interested in an uncle's involvement in the Irish Civil War, most of us would just do additional search on the Internet.  I poked around a bit and it didn't take long to find the Irish Military Archives, which is the repository for  the Military Service Pensions Collection where Martin Sheen found his uncle's pension:

I read in the Archives FAQ and found out how to do the same research by mail that Martin Sheen traveled to Ireland to do.  And note the pension records are only available to next of kin and only available by mail - definitely the type of thing to double check in advance before booking a trip to the homeland.

Your ancestors who served during the 1916 Rising or during the War of Independence may have made application for a medal or pension in respect of their service during that time. Pensions were awarded under the 1924 and subsequent Pension Acts. Due to data protection requirements, these pension records are currently available to direct next of kin only. Direct next of kin should write to the following address for information in respect of their relatives’ service during 1916 and the War of Independence:
Veterans Administration Section,
Department of Defence,
Renmore, Galway, Ireland
Please provide Veterans Administration Section with as many personal details as possible to include full name (and any variations in spelling), date of birth, the address/s resided at during the period in which they may have made the application (1924 to 1949 most likely) and the name of any next of kin at that time.

Here are some additional websites that can help you find out more about Irish Ancestors:

I think people are fascinated by family history because it helps them understand themselves.  We see our own selves reflected in those who came before us.  In Martin Sheen's case, the same passion for political activism was present in both his maternal and paternal ancestors.    Martin Sheen described his involvement in political activism:  "You do it because you cannot NOT do it".    He discovered his ancestors felt the same way.  It's in his DNA.  As the TV show says, "To know who you are, you have to know where your story began."

You can see the entire Martin Sheen WDYTYA episode online

Want to get started in your own family history?  You don't have to travel the globe.
 Get started in genealogy.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Google Introduces Verbatim Search

Google has just introduced Verbatim Search which can be used when you want an exact search to your query.

Doesn't Google already give exact search results?  Well, actually, Google may make the following changes to a search query:

  • Make spelling corrections
  • Personalize your search by using information such as sites you’ve visited before
  • Include synonyms of your search terms (matching “genealogy” when you search for [family history])
  • Find results that match similar terms to those in your query (finding results related to “burial” when you search [cemetery])
  • Search for words with the same stem like “obituary” when you’ve typed [obit]  
  • Make some of your terms optional, like “circa” in [died circa 1843]

Google call these changes to a search query "normal improvements"  and most of the time these improvements really help broaden your search and give better search results.  But for the times you want an exact search, you may want to try Verbatim Search.

How does a Verbatim Search affect your Google search results?  With Verbatim Search:

  • Every search term must be included in results 
  • Spelling must match exactly (even if your search term is mis-spelled) 
  • No word stemming - obit and obituary will not match, cemetery and cemeteries will not match, research and researching will not match.

Verbatim Search is NOT the same as putting a phrase in quotes.  A phrase in quotes must appear on the page exactly in the same order as the search query.  The words in a Verbatim Search must appear on the page but do not have to appear consecutively.

A few weeks ago, Google announced they would replace the Google + operator used to search for exact terms with double quotes around the word.   I think Verbatim Search may be Google's answer to the many requests to bring back the + operator.  But Verbatim Search and the + Operator are not the same.  With the + operator, you could choose only one of the words in your search query to be exact.  With Verbatim Search, all the words in your query must be exact.

You can access the Verbatim Search tool under “More search tools” on the left-hand side of Google Search Results.

When Verbatim Search is enabled, the word Verbatim in the left column of your search results will be red.

Try the same search query with and without Verbatim Search and you will see the huge differences in search results.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cached Pages in Google Search Results

Google has removed the cached page link from the search results page.  Until last week, it used to appear with every link in the search results.  In its place, if you hover your cursor over a search result, you will notice two arrows in a light gray box appear.   

Click on the arrows in the box, and you will see a preview thumbnail of the website along the new location for the link for the cached site.

I use a website cache for many reasons:
  • On cached pates, each search term is highlighted instantly and in a different color making keywords easy to find especially on long pages. 
  • Cached pages load faster. 
  • Cached pages are available for pages that are altered, deleted, hard to load, or firewalled. 
  • Cached pages are available for pages that are updated frequently such as forums, blogs, and news, many times taking me to the page that has moved on that contains the search items.

Once you try using cached pages for the above reasons, you may find them useful, also.

To me, Google's "Instant Preview" of a website is pretty much useless.  It's too slow to load and too small to read except perhaps the title.   I'm always accidently clicking on it - it gets in my way while viewing the search results page.   And with a pop-up blocker turned on or javascript disabled, you may not even be able to see the arrows.  But that is now where you have to get the link to see cached results.

I find the new method to click on the link for cached pages user-unfriendly.  Now, there are two extra steps to use the cached links.  First, you must hover over the result to make the arrows appear and then click on the instant preview arrows and wait for the "instant preview" to appear (which on my computer isn't always instant). Then click on the cached link.  Much more time consuming to get a link for something I consider very useful and necessary. 

I'm sorry to see Google making such user-unfriendly decisions recently - see Google Removes the + Search Operator.  The great search results and interface simplicity are what drew me to Google years ago.  Cached pages are one thing that makes Google unique - Bing and Yahoo don't have links for cached pages.

Google is always on a quest for greater search speed hence Google Instant  which shows results as you type and Google says takes 2 to 5 seconds off each search.  It surprises me that they would then make two changes  in one week that makes things slower on the user end.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Google Removes the + Search Operator

Google has just recently removed the + search operator and replaced it with quotation marks functionality.  Instead of placing the Google + operator before a single word that you want to appear in your search results as-is, you now must add quotation marks around the word.  Quotation marks have always worked to give exact results for a phrase, but they now also give exact results for a single word.

If you search using the + operator, you will get a message that says:

The + operator has been replaced.
To search for an exact word or phrase, use double quotation marks

When asked why the + functionality was removed, a Google employee replied:
 "We've made the ways you can tell Google exactly what you want more consistent by expanding the functionality of the quotation marks operator. In addition to using this operator to search for an exact phrase, you can now add quotation marks around a single word to tell Google to match that word precisely. So, if in the past you would have searched for magazine +latina, you should now search for magazine "latina".  "

I'm not sure I see this as an improvement - it will now take two keystrokes to replace one, and I have to remember not to do something that has become second nature to me during my searches.

How does this affect genealogy searches?  Well, now if  I want to search for any word, including surnames, and get exact results, I must use quotation marks.  For example to search for the surname Meyer without getting results that also show Mayer, Myers, and other spelling variations, I must now search for the surname in quotes.  "Meyer"  

It almost seems counter-intuitive to have to tell Google that you want to search for an exact word, after all, isn't that what you expect when you enter a keyword?  But if you remember that Google does synonym searches, it becomes easier to remember that you have to tell it when you want an exact search.  Sometimes getting spelling variations and synonyms in search results is a good thing as it broadens your results and helps you find things you might not otherwise find, but there are time when only exact spelling results are appropriate.

I just hope Google doesn't do away with any other operators such as the minus sign and the OR operator.  So far, they are still working.  Check out the Easy Google Genealogy Searcher for other ways to use Google.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

15 Days of Free Databases 15th Anniversary Sweepstakes 15th Anniversary Sweepstakes

Starting October 1st, will celebrate its 15th Anniversary with 15 days of free databases and a sweepstakes giveaway with prizes awarded everyday!  

Each day for the next 15 days a new database will be opened for free.  And each day day a new prize is awarded.

The Sweepstakes Grand Prize will be a trip to California to go behind the scenes of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are, meet Executive Producer Lisa Kudrow, the celebrity guest, and see how the show is made.

PLUS, have a variety of daily prizes throughout the promotion!

Now this is one contest that really interests me.  I would love to go behind the scenes of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are to see how the show is made.

Enter Here to Win Daily Prizes

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Family Tree Maker 2012 About to Ship

The 20% pre-sale discount for Family Tree Maker 2012 ends Wednesday, September 28, at about 10:00 AM MST and, shortly after, Ancestry will begin shipping the pre-orders.   Yes, the much anticipated FTM 2012 with TreeSnyc will start to ship tomorrow.

If you are planning to order FTM 2012, you can still get the pre-sale price until the morning of Sept 28.  And you can receive an additional 20% discount if you use the coupon code G5JXTRY at checkout in the box marked Redeem Coupons for additional savings.  If you miss the pre-sale discount, you can still use the coupon code for a 20% discount.

There are a number of FTM 2012 versions:

  • FTM 2012 Complete
  • Family Tree Maker 2012 program plus:
    • Printed version of the The Companion Guide to Family Tree Maker 2012
    • The Family History Toolkit on DVD,
    • Photo Explosion Album

The FTM 2012 for Mac pre-sale will be available sometime mid to late October and the ship date is mid to late November.

FTM 2012 Blog Posts:

  1. Questions and Answers About FTM 2012
  2. Family Tree Maker 2012 List of Improvements
  3. Differences Between the FTM 2012 Tree and Ancesty Member Tree