Family History Daily - photo research

genealogy research help, news and stories
  1. MyHeritage has released an update to their DNA matching system which has greatly improved the number and accuracy of matches, and added a much requested chromosome browser.
  2. From Mesopotamia to ancient Rome, it seems tax collection has been around since the beginning of civilization. While many may find taxes a burden, the records left behind are priceless to any genealogist. 
  3. American Ancestors, the online research website from the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is offering completely free access to its database of records that include more than 1.4 billion names from 18 countries. You'll only need to register for a free guest account to search and view these family history records right now. Access is typically almost $90 per year.
  4. With prices lower than ever and curiosity about our genetic past at an all time high, DNA tests were some of the most popular gifts this holiday season.

    If you treated yourself to a test, or unwrapped a kit over the holidays, here are some important things to keep in mind while you’re waiting for your results.

    Family History Daily teams up with many genealogy companies we like to bring you updates, news and special offers. We may earn a fee if you choose to use the services of the companies on this page. 

    1. Expect Some Delays

    Unprecedented numbers of DNA kits were sold over the holiday season (we’re talking millions) and you can bet that will mean some slowdowns in processing time.

    Although almost all of the top companies promise results in 6-8 weeks it is not uncommon for it to take longer even under normal circumstances. Although we cannot say with any certainty that delays are a definite, or how long they will be if they happen, it seems very likely that many will be waiting longer to see their results come in than expected.

    2. Your Results Should Not Be Taken at Face Value

    The excitement of seeing your results once they do come back is usually well worth the potentially long wait. But after scanning your ethnicity report and peeking at your genetic matches you might find yourself scratching your head trying to figure out what it all means.

    Many people who have not tested before will be expecting to get a nice, simple report that tells them exactly where their ancestors come from. But, although companies like AncestryDNA, MyHeritage DNA and Family Tree DNA are always improving the accuracy of results (and the beauty and simplicity of their reports) what you will see in front of you should not be taken at face value – especially as it pertains to your admixture (ethnicity or ancestry breakdown).

    The key to understanding your results is understanding how these tests work, and their limitations. Because your ethnicity report is created by comparing your unique DNA sample to specially selected populations in the database of your testing provider (some of which are broader and some more granular), and because many of these populations have overlaps and are limited in their scope, the ancestry report you receive is not a perfect look at your genetic past. Instead it is a best guess created by advanced computer algorithms based on available data.

    It is not unusual for someone to show matches to regions or groups their ancestors were not actually part of (this is especially true for small percentages, but can be equally true for large ones).

    And it is just as common that findings you expected simply don’t appear. This can mean that some of what you know about your past is incorrect or partially incorrect, or it can simply mean that what you are seeing is a different perspective on your past based on available information, or that your connection to that region or group is more distant than you expected.

    Take [...]

  5. Ancestry is following up on the extremely popular 50% off flash sale they ran in November with a similar offer for the New Year.
  6. U.S. Census records offer a unique look into the past and a chance to discover valuable details about your family's history. Our quick guide for genealogy is designed to help beginner and intermediate family history researchers alike by addressing basic questions about using the census for genealogy research and providing detailed summaries of the information found in each census year.
  7. If you’re taking the time to gather with family over the holidays, you’ll no doubt be hoping for the opportunity to collect some family history information at the same time. But while we all know how important it is to talk with relatives about our family’s past, may of us feel hesitant to ask others to break out the memories, photos and records when the time comes.

    How can we broach the topic of sharing family history gently, and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone?

    How do we ask someone for their memories without making them feel unconformable?

    One of the best ways to approach the collection of family history at a holiday event, or any gathering, is to keep things simple and fun. If you’re not prepared to sit down and conduct organized interviews or request the right to scan every old photo in the house, try some of these more casual ideas instead. You may not walk away with every detail available, but you’ll go home with some wonderful new tidbits to add to your tree.

    1. Ask for a Little, Get a Lot

    Bring a notebook or handheld digital recorder and pass it around at the gathering. Ask every person in the room to share one memory of their childhood and/or one family story they’ve been told. Then, if time allows, gather everyone together to listen to these stories to further open up the conversation.

    2. Make Sharing Super Simple

    Create a simple interview sheet with no more than 5 questions on it and give one to every person in the room. Ask them to please take a few minutes to fill them out (bring pens) and give them back to you. Choose your questions wisely!

    3. Create a Casual Conversation

    Bring along a few (not 50!) photos from your own collection and pass them around – or causally share one of the most interesting stories you’ve discovered in your research. The simple act of sharing these photos and stories will likely be enough to get everyone talking about the people in them and the past.

    4. Give the Gift of Sharing

    Give away memory books as a gift to older family members. This is a wonderful way to let someone know that you want to know more about their lives without burdening them with an on the spot interview. They can take the time they need to fill the book out after the event and return it to you.

    5. Look Beyond the Obvious

    Bring along some index cards and record any family recipes that are being prepared. These recipes provide invaluable clues to your family’s cultural past and recording them honors those who came before. Look for other unusual family history information that may be hiding in plain sight – like the stories behind old knickknacks or furniture.

    6. Be Prepared for Anything

    Download an app like Google’s PhotoScan (or bring along a handheld scanner or digital recorder) so that you are prepared to record family photos or memories that may be shared during the event. Family gatherings often involve swapping of memories in some way [...]

  8. One of the most common research mistakes that family historians make when building their tree (especially for the first time) is also one of the most limiting and potentially detrimental. We like to call it the Direct-Line Mistake, and its effect on your research outcomes is pretty huge.
  9. ‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry - yet it’s difficult to envision our strait-laced ancestors as engaging in celebrations involving alcohol.  My dad’s side of the family were teetotalers (those who practice abstinence from alcoholic beverages) so I didn’t initially investigate records linking them with liquor. That was a mistake!
  10. If you’ve ever transcribed the text of an old genealogy record by hand, you know how time-consuming the task can be. Even if you just plan to pull out the most important information from a record to include in your family tree the process can be daunting. Many of us simply never find the time for it – especially if we have many records that need full transcriptions.

    Luckily, modern technology has made it easier than ever to hand that task off to a computer. We’ll show you how.

    Why should I transcribe my genealogy records?

    Transcription means to copy the information from an image (or PDF) based document (an otherwise unreadable and unsearchable file) and turn it into text that is easily readable, searchable and editable.

    Most family trees allow you to add a transcription of an image (or PDF) based source when attaching it to your family tree and doing so can make your research easier in the future. Once the information from a record image is transcribed, the text is easily added to your tree in a variety of ways and is then searchable – either by you on your own computer, through your family tree program, or by others when using a collaborative online environment (as with Ancestry).

    Here’s a look at the transcription box on Ancestry when citing an external record (a record you found elsewhere and added to your Ancestry tree) OR a record you found on Ancestry.

    Taking the time to extract the text and place it with your citation information makes your records more valuable to everyone. (If you’re not sure how to attach external sources to your Ancestry tree, or edit sources you’ve found on Ancestry, you might want to take our Ancestry Crash Course where we cover this in detail).

    You may also like to have a full transcription of a record saved to your own personal files so that you can search for records and information more easily in your note keeping program or on your computer. Or perhaps you would like to publish your finds online, want to turn your research into a book one day, or share your research with family via email. In all of these cases a transcription of the document image could be a huge help.

    Transcribing documents also allows you to take the information from a PDF or record image and store it and share it in places where only text is allowed. One of the biggest benefits of this is for translation. Foreign documents can be transcribed by OCR, cleaned up and then copied into a translation tool like Google Translate. You will not get a perfect translation this way but it is a good start toward better understanding your ancestors’ lives.

    You might find yourself wanting to transcribe:

    newspaper clippings sections of old family books vital records pension files draft cards sections of census records wills or probate records and the list goes on and on

    Here’s how to create transcriptions easily, and for free.

    While there is never a replacement for careful hand transcriptions, the simpler solution for transcribing your [...]

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