San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Projects, Projects and more Projects

An occasional update on the status of SMCGS' Digitization and Indexing Efforts
Cath Madden Trindle
SMCGS Publications Chair 

1940 Census
Thanks to all of you who are helping with the 1940 census indexing project. I am happy to report that California is over 20% complete! Check the progress at  1940 Census.  If you haven't joined the indexing effort yet, it isn't too late.  Go to The1940Census and join the crew.  Be sure to indicate that you are a member of the SMCGS team and you will immediately be eligible for prizes.

San Mateo County Marriages
This long term project is nearing completion.  Barry Goyette, Russ Brabec, Jo Rebuck, George Zinckgraf  and Norma Sheehan  are down to just a few more volumes in the effort to index all San Mateo County marriages before 1 Jan 1949, the date the California State Marriage Index began.  Over the years others helped with this index, in particular Russ Brabec who moved on to other projects in the County Record Center. Check out the index at SMCGS Marriage Index.

San Mateo County Obits
This project needs help from members who have a scanner at home.  We have received a collection of obituaries from Chris Havenar.  They have been indexed on Obituary Daily Times.  In order to make them easier for our research team to access and fulfill requests for the obituaries we are digitizing them and uploading to our society account on Flickr.  If you have a scanner, a pair of scissors and a few hours email  

Aren't you excited when you find a record online?  Please consider giving back so someone else feels that excitement too.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Digging for Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

In the Blog  for April 10, 2012, Crista Cowan, in a post about the RMS Titanic, wrote the following:
“…I have come to know that family history is both personal and universal.  The things we endure, while filtered through our own unique perspective, are not really unique at all.  We are all born, we live, we love, we work, we die.  Taking the time to know and understand the experiences of others often helps us understand our own experiences, and those of our ancestors, better.
That is one of the reasons I take the time to study more about the history of the time and place my ancestors lived.  I learn about the things they experienced, witnessed, endured.  I look into the news they read, the politics they discussed, the religions they embraced.  I feel I know them better when I can start to see the world as they saw it – whether it was 72 years  ago or 100.  And that makes me feel a little bit like a voyager setting sail into the unknown.

(Used by permission, Crista Cowan,, Setting Sail Into the Unknown”.)
“Setting sail into the unknown” is an apt phrase that many of us could use when working on our family history. In this second part of a three-part series on the Learning Center on FamilySearch, we will explore the FamilySearch Research Courses and how they can help us navigate that “unknown.”
This announcement was written by FamilySearch on 20 April 2011 when they were just starting to enlarge and emphasize this area of  the Learning Center:

“SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH—Ever found yourself researching your family tree and discovering a new branch that extended to another country—and you are not familiar with that country’s records or language? Or perhaps you are a fan of the popular reality show Who Do You Think You Are? and wonder, “How do the producers know what public records to search to find all of those cool stories about that celebrity’s ancestors?” Maybe you’d like to learn more about how to do your family history research but don’t think you can afford to take a class. Thousands of individuals are now satisfying many of those needs through FamilySearch’s growing collection of free online genealogy courses.
In just one year, the number of free FamilySearch courses has grown to over 140—and new courses are added monthly….
“The goal of the initiative is to educate more people worldwide about how to find their ancestors. We do it by filming the experts teaching a particular class of interest and then offering free access to that presentation online—complete with the PowerPoint used and any electronic handouts that the user can download or print for future reference,” said Candace Turpan, FamilySearch instructional designer.

Turpan’s team films presentations made by its staff from the FamilySearch
Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as special guests (the library is frequented by accredited researchers from all over the world). They also travel to industry conferences or other venues where record and research specialists gather. There they film specialists’ presentations and make them available online….

FamilySearch uses viewing software that splits the viewing screen (sort of like the picture-in-picture features on some televisions) so the user can watch the video of the presenter while also seeing the PowerPoint presentation. Most courses are 30 minutes in length. You can also fast forward through the presentation or presentation slides or stop and pick up later where you left off—a luxury you don’t get in the live presentation.

“Maybe you enjoy the thrill of deciphering or reading old records in other languages. FamilySearch also has free courses to help genealogy students understand key words and terms of older foreign alphabets and handwriting, including Gothic,” added Turpin. The intent behind all of these courses is to give people the keys they need to successfully find their elusive ancestors in historic records. “Sometimes they just need a new sleuthing skill or resource. These genealogy courses are perfect for those personal development needs,” concluded Turpin.

To get there go to FamilySearch , click on “Learn” at the top of the page, then click on “Research Courses”.  On the left are links to the Places included, the Skill Level, Subjects, the Format the lesson is in, and the languages in which the lesson is taught.

As of this writing (more are being constantly added) there are 193 lessons.

One of the “places” is listed as “United Kingdom; USA” which intrigued me. I clicked on it and found:

Now I may or may not ever use the knowledge I gained by watching the lesson but being a fan of the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford and having seen the movie at least a dozen times I loved it!

But I digress.

The four formats include Audio, Interactive Slides, Video and Slides, and Video and there are 13 languages used including Chinese, Polish, Russian, and, of course, English.

As an example let’s click on a subject that I’m just starting to get interested in, the “Newspapers and periodicals” link.  

On the left of the lesson page there is a sidebar which tells the Place[s] involved, the Skill Level, the Subject, the Format, and the Language[s] of the lessons.

On the right you will find a list of the lessons which, in this case, include such things as an episode of the TV show Ancestors, two lessons on Finding and Using Historic Newspapers, Using the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library's Newspaper Collection to Assist with African American Research, and, for you Anglophiles, The London Gazette: Not Just the Brave and the Bankrupt.

When you click on one of these topics you will find a clickable “View this lesson”, and below that a link to any handouts, outlines, bibliographies, etc.

I just wish I had the time to watch all of the lessons but for now, I would suggest you dip into them whenever you run into that brick wall.

If you are really anxious for the volunteer 1940 census indexing project to finish you can keep up on its progress by going to Mouse over any state and a pop-up will appear showing you the percentage of records that have been indexed so far by FamilySearch.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Digging For Roots Online

By Dennis L. Maness, MLS

As did many of you I spent the last week of March preparing for the 1940 Census and the first week in April searching it. I was successful in some searches and failed in others and will have to wait patiently (hah!) for a name index to be made. Besides the joy of finding my parents and grandparents I also found my first bit of humor in what I’ve always thought of as interesting when it came to my family but otherwise a basically dull document. I was searching in the town of South Gate, Los Angeles County, when I found that, at the end of that section of the E.D., the enumerator, N W Haddon, had written:
            “Here Ends Block No. 1
              And My District
              Thank the Lord”


In the first of my columns for this Blog I stated that I would be learning right along with you about some of the sources that can help build a family tree and history. This column is an instance of that.

Have you ever wished you could have the free help of expert genealogists when you hit a brick wall or a rough patch in your search for your family history? I certainly have and I think I’ve found out how that can happen.

FamilySearch is one of the best sites on the Web for genealogy. And I’ve discovered at least 3 ways of getting help from those experts that I mentioned above—#1 is in the FamilySearch Forums. To get there go to FamilySearch and, at the top of the page, click on the word “Learn”. In the section called “What’s in learning resources?” on the right side of the page is a link to the Discussion Forums with the statement “FamilySearch also offers numerous free research discussion forums. With over 2,000 registered volunteers all over the world, it’s a pretty good bet that if your question hasn’t already been answered, someone is ready to help out.” Click on either the picture or on “Browse the Forums” below the statement. Once you get there you might want to bookmark the Forums page for quick access.

Since FamilySearch seems to be constantly changing (and improving) some of what I write today may have changed by tomorrow.

On the opening screen at the top there is a search box which you will be using a lot. Below that there is a blue line that contains these links/tabs: “Register”, “FAQ”, “Community”, and “Today’s Posts”. Below that is a green “Welcome” section which states: “Please be our guest to browse any topic listed below for helpful family history research and FamilySearch product information provided by experienced FamilySearch patrons. Simply select the forum of your choice to search for information, ask questions or offer answers to others. An LDS or FamilySearch Account is now required to post to the Forums.” That last part is quite painless and will be important because the reason you are here in the first place is to ask questions.

The next tab is for the FAQ. Click on the tab and then click on the “Click here to access all our video demos” link. If you click on the “Forums” link a drop-down menu will give you various videos to play. The best place to start is the “FamilySearch Forums Overview” link. This will explain “Threads”, Sub-Forums, Posts, and more.

One of the things I like about the asking-a-question section is that either you or the person answering one of your questions can attach a picture which may make the question or answer more easily understood. The forums are organized into “Localities” (i.e. Places) and “Non-locality” (i.e. Subjects, Things, or basically anything that isn’t about a place). The three examples given in this section are “Beginners and General Questions” (“What Do You Do When You Have Virtually No Information?” which had 115 views and 4 replies. This is my kind of question!), “Using Technology” (“Citing as a Source for a Document”—681 views and 6 replies), and “Latin Translation”. I suspect I’m going to be using that last one when I look for old church records in my European searches.

There is also the ability to “subscribe” to a particular forum so that you will be notified when other questions or answers on the subject you’re interested in are put on the site.
I’m not quite sure how one might use the next tab, “Community”, but I see that one of the categories listed is “Social Groups”, under which is “Surnames”. This looks like a good place to put one of your brick wall surnames to see if other people are working on the same family. There were 122 different surnames listed as I write this.

The next tab, “New Posts” is self-explanatory. When I clicked on it there were 290 new posts listed, one of which, “US 1940 Census” (sound familiar?) had almost 4000 views!

The last tab is “Quick Links”. Here you will find links to “Today’s Posts”, how to mark forums read, a reminder of which Threads you are subscribed to, and a list of private messages you have sent or received from people posting questions or answers.

At the bottom of the page, after other useful links to FamilySearch areas, is a “What’s Going On?” section that shows the activity of this site; the last time I visited it read “Threads: 10,968, Posts: 52,378, Members: 32,989, Active Members: 967” which, even though this is a fairly new and unknown part of FamilySearch, shows a healthy use and growth.

FamilySearch Forums appears to be an excellent way to learn more about a subject and get your difficult questions answered or at least discussed. I suspect I will be using it more and more as I build my family history.
Remember, as Legacy Family Tree’s Geoff Rasmussen says,

“Life is short; do genealogy first!”