Posted on January 13th, 2017 at 11:00 AM by

How does four days of free access to 1.9-billion genealogy records sound?

Findmypast announced today that they
would be making all birth, marriage, census and death records free to access, starting
today and ending January 15th, 2017. A happy weekend for genealogists, indeed!

If you have Irish ancestry, you will want to check out their collection: their free
records include over 10 million Irish Catholic Parish registers. Many of their parish
records are not available anywhere else.

Also available are 703 million United States and Canadian Census records, 538 million
UK BMDs, over 338 million United States and Canadian BMDs, 140 million United States
marriage records and millions of other documents.

If you haven’t used Findmypast before, download
our Findmypast Web Guide
. This easy-to-use instant download will show you
how to search and use Findmypast with step-by-step guides. It also includes handy
shortcuts and details about major records you will want to check out.

In their official statement, Findmypast explained why they were allowing free access
to the genealogy records: “By providing four days of free access to these essential
records, Findmypast hopes to encourage fledgling genealogists to start building their
family tree and discover at least one new ancestor through their records. Researchers
will also be provided with daily getting started guides, expert insights and useful
how-to blogs over the course of the free weekend.”

- Madge Maril, Associate Editor of Family Tree Magazine

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Posted on January 10th, 2017 at 11:45 AM by

We’re really looking forward to bringing you the Family
Tree University Winter 2017 Virtual Conference
, coming up March 3-5!

If you haven’t been to one of our Virtual Conferences, here’s what’s terrific about
it: It brings the learning and camaraderie of a genealogy conference right to you

No need to book a hotel, take time off work and spend your retirement fund on airline
tickets and eating out. Your computer and all your research materials are right there,
so you can immediately use the genealogy tricks you learn.

Your conference registration includes 15 video classes (yours to download and watch
again and again), daily live chats with genealogy experts, networking via exclusive
conference message boards, and a digital swag bag of genealogy goodies from

This year’s Virtual Conference classes will

  • introduce you to genetic genealogy tools like DNALand
  • help you organize your research in manageable bursts
  • show you how to convert paper research to digital research in Evernote
  • provide strategies for researching World War I ancestors (this April 6 is the centennial
    of the United States’ declaration of war against Germany)
  • help you find ancestors from Prussia
  • … and more. You
    can see all the classes at

Participating is easy: Your emailed registration confirmation will give you instructions
for setting up a Family Tree University account (if you don’t already have one). Then,
just log into your account anytime during the Virtual Conference weekend. Live chats
happen at designated times, but the video classes and message boards are ready whenever
you are.

Right now, there’s an early bird discount that’ll save you $40 on your Winter
2017 Virtual Conference registration
–just enter
EARLYVCWINTER when you check out at


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Posted on January 6th, 2017 at 11:00 AM by

Library of Congress

“Recording your own stories” is one of Family Tree Magazine’s list of 17
genealogy habits for success in 2017
(part of our hot-off-the-presses January/February

How many of us spend months or years tracking down every possible record of an ancestor’s
life, the whole time wishing he or she had left a journal revealing personality, opinions,
interests, hopes and pet peeves?
But then we neglect to record all those things about ourselves—whether for our own
children or for children from other lines who may one day wish to really know us.

FamilySearch has launched the #52Stories
encouraging you to write one brief story about your life each week. Find
motivation, weekly writing prompts and links to others’ stories on the #52Stories home

Sunny Jane Morton’s book Story
of My Life
has in-depth guidance on writing your life story, as well as fill-in
forms and questions that help you organize and tell your stories. Her helpful tips
and exercises for remembering the details of your life events, which will make your
stories more meaningful to you and to others, include: 

  • Free associate. Start with a blank page and write a person, place or event
    at the top. Then begin with “I remember” and write anything that comes to mind, even
    if it’s not a complete thought. For example, if my page was titled “Grandma,” I’d
    might write “sewing” (she was a skilled seamstress), “potbelly bear” (she gave me
    one for Christmas when I was 6), “purple” (her favorite color) and “Wellesley” (the
    street where she lived). Keep going until you run out of memories.

  • Immerse yourself. Go to a place related to a time in your life you want to
    recall. Visit your childhood neighborhood, walk around your high school, have a drink
    at the dive bar where your friends gathered when you were young singles. Listen to
    the music and eat the food you liked.

  • Read about the places and times you want to remember. Books, contemporary news
    articles and photos detailing events and eras like the assassination of President
    Kennedy, Summer of Love and the turn of the millennium will bring back mental images
    and memory snippets of what you were doing at the time.

  • Reach out. Ask folks who knew you when what they remember about the junior
    high class trip to Washington, DC, or the day of your father’s funeral. Their memories
    might fill in where yours gets fuzzy.

where to view all 17 habits for genealogy success in 2017
, here’s
where to pick up the January/February issue
, and here’s
where to get the book Story of My Life


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Posted on January 1st, 2017 at 11:16 AM by

Need some motivation to jump-start your research in 2017? Online Community Editor
and Family Tree University Dean Vanessa Wieland shares her journey from hapkido newbie
to black-belt expert:

A few years ago, I joined my sister and several other people in our first class to
study hapkido—a form of martial arts. We’d been taking my nephew for years and watched
as he developed into a confident, successful leader in his classes. But for my sister
and me, the first class was rough. Never much of an athlete or physical person, I
usually exercised by lifting stacks of books and walking around libraries. So even
during warmups in this first class, I felt like I was in over my head, given that
I couldn’t do a single pushup on my own.

Like other forms of martial arts, hapkido has a series of belts that chart your progress:
11 in total, from white (the first) to black (the last). Six weeks after I started
classes, I tested for my first belt. In those six weeks, I’d learned how to fall without
breaking my arm or hitting my head, how to break someone’s hold on my wrist, and,
yes, even do some situps and pushups.

It takes a lot of work to get to the black-belt level, and only two people of the
10 who I started with earned their black belts. I tested for and earned mine in February
2015. By then, not only could I do push ups, but I could also break any kind of hold
an attacker would attempt, immobilize and flip my opponents around, and break boards
with a swift kick, punch, or jab of my elbow.

I also learned a lot about myself: that I can face my own fears, that I’m not that fragile
or clumsy, that I’m strong, and that I’m capable of pushing myself further than I
ever thought possible without breaking. Most importantly, I learned that I can accomplish
just about anything when I put my mind to it, and take it one step at a time.

That’s the key to achieving any goal or resolution, whether it’s starting a new fitness
program, organizing your genealogy or learning a new skill.

We’re starting off 2017 with the Family History Fitness Challenge. Each day in January,
we’ll provide a new task that will help you whip your genealogy into shape! If your
New Year’s resolution is about researching and organizing your family history, this
challenge will start you off on the right foot and set the tone for the whole year.
You can find each day’s prompts on our homepage or
on the Genealogy
Monthly Challenge landing page
, so follow along with us there or on Facebook and Twitter.

And while you’re setting genealogy goals for the year ahead, we’ll be here to help
you accomplish them. Check out the Family
Tree University calendar of classes and workshops
to determine which opportunities
you want to take advantage of. We’ll be offering plenty of new resources and techniques
for researching your family history.

Here are three educational events I’m particularly excited about:

  • Research
    Logs Made Easy,
    January 16: In this class, you’ll learn the benefits to using
    research logs to guide and organize your genealogy research, the elements of a good
    research log, and the various types of research logs you can use.
  • Analyze
    Your DNA Results Workshop
    , February 20: This workshop will put you well on your
    way to learning just what your DNA test results can tell you.
  • 2017
    Winter Virtual Conference
    , March 3–5: This weekend-long conference contains a
    plethora of new tools, techniques, and strategies for researching your family history.

So get working! There’s no black belt in genealogy, but you can still become a master
of your family history.


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Posted on December 29th, 2016 at 11:02 AM by

Library of Congress

Farewell 2016, hello 2017! It’s been a busy year for my family, but I still can pat
myself on the back for accomplishing few things, genealogy-wise:

What about you? Make a list of your genealogy accomplishments, however small.

Then, let’s raise a toast to our genealogy feats in 2016, and look forward to even
more fabulous ancestor finds in 2017.

Happy New Year from Family Tree Magazine!


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Posted on December 20th, 2016 at 11:17 AM by

Christmas afternoons when I was little were spent at Grandma’s
house. After dinner, the grownups would talk in the kitchen upstairs
and the kids would play downstairs, eagerly listening for some aunt
or uncle to yell “Kids—DESSERT!” 

The spread always included two of mom’s pecan pies.  I remembered this recently,
when I found her “easy” recipe written in the margin of her 1983 cookbook, next to
Betty Crocker’s less-easy one.

Pecans are native to the Southeast United States, and recipes for using them in pie
first appeared in Texas cookbooks in the 1870s. Pecan pie’s popularity picked up in
the 1920s, when Karo provided a recipe for it on cans of corn syrup (Mom’s recipe
uses two kinds of corn syrup, dark and light).

It’s still a Southern dish by reputation (half of my maternal family tree is in Kentucky),
but people from all over love it. See
more pecan pie history here

I’d “help” Mom make the pies. She had a pastry mat marked with concentric circles
for rolling out pie crust, but I think she usually turned to Pillsbury. As for the
filling, it couldn’t be easier: Just measure everything and stir it together. Chop
the pecans if you like them chopped, leave them whole if you don’t. Then pour it into
the crust and bake.

Mmmm, rich and sweet. See
the pecan pie recipe (along with other desserts) here

One nostalgic dish can bring back a lot of memories. What recipes do you recall enjoying
with your family during the holiday season?

From egg nog to Scripture Cake, we
at Family Tree Magazine are sharing those we remember—one every day in December—on
our website


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Posted on December 15th, 2016 at 11:08 AM by

Ever since RootsMagic announced back
in February 2016 that it was collaborating with Ancestry on the sync
, inquiring
genealogy minds have wanted to know, “how much longer?”

An answer of sorts came yesterday in an open
letter from RootsMagic head honcho Bruce Buzbee
. Although initially, “by
the end of the year
” seemed like a safe deadline, he writes that more time is
needed to complete and properly test the new syncing feature.

Bruce includes a good explanation of the behind-the-scenes technical challenges: The
API, the “system that lets Ancestry and RootsMagic talk with each other,” is brand
new and needed lots of testing as well as additional functionality, which took time.
His team also has needed to remove and replace code to improve how the software performs
certain tasks.

So the bottom line is, RootsMagic won’t sync with Ancestry by Dec. 31. But “it is
close, and it looks amazing,” Bruce writes.

See the full letter on the RootsMagic
. If you’re interested in being a beta tester for RootsMagic’s Ancestry sync
features, click the link to the application at the end of the letter.

New to RootsMagic? Been using it awhile but know there’s more to it? Check
out Family Tree Magazine‘s Mastering RootsMagic independent study class download,


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Posted on December 9th, 2016 at 11:39 AM by

This is a guest post from Online editor, Vanessa Wieland.

While most of America (or, at least, most of the Americans I know) think of Thanksgiving
as their favorite meal of the year, in our family, it’s Christmas day brunch. It used
to be Thanksgiving, where we’d get together with all my dad’s siblings and their families
for a massive meal. Once the 13 cousins started having children of their own and started
scattering to various parts of the country, it got too big and unwieldy to fit inside
any one of our houses, so new traditions have evolved.

That is my dad and I, many years ago.  

It’s interesting, how family changes over time – and with them, the traditional celebrations.
While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family anymore, we’re
still a close-knit group. However, the nucleus has changed. While it used to be my
dad and his siblings providing the center around which we revolved, now we celebrate
Christmas with my sister and her husband’s family.

My definition of family has expanded to include my sister’s in-laws. We have words
for our relatives by blood – mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, aunt
uncle, cousin, niece, nephew. We have the in-laws – brother-in-law, father-in-law,
sister-in-law, mother-in-law- but there are no easy or common ways to reference my
relationship to my sister’s nephews or niece, at least not in English. How do you
describe your nephew’s aunt on the other side, or your niece’s cousins on their other
side? In their marriage, my brother-in-law and sister combined two families into one,
but that means the relationships can get a little more difficult to define.

Both holidays involve sitting down together to eat a large meal that we’ve all contributed
to, but food-wise, I prefer breakfast. Maybe it’s a throwback to all the Sunday mornings
my dad – disgustingly cheerful morning-person that he was – would make breakfast for
us. He’d drag us out of bed with the scents of coffee and bacon. Our dog, Princess,
got her share of eggs as well, since my father took his breakfast preparation rather
seriously. Things had to be just right. If an omelet wasn’t perfectly shaped, into
her bowl it’d go. Luckily for her, my dad always had one “oops” that went into her

You can see Princess here, waiting patiently for her omelet.

It could also be that from the time I was a toddler, I’d head over to our next door
neighbor’s house for “second” breakfast. See
“Mawmaw” Marge’s Coffee Cake recipe
in the 30-day cooking challenge, which is
my mom’s contribution to Christmas brunch.

Unlike my father, I’m definitely not a morning person, so brunch is far more of an
appropriate time of day to eat breakfast foods. And Christmas brunch is the best brunch
of all. Everyone contributes, which means there are far more types of foods than any
one person can eat in one sitting. Pancakes, waffles and coffee cake indulge those
with a sweet tooth; there is also usually toast, potato breakfast casserole, and biscuits
and gravy. There are also sausages and bacon, and fruit, but the best part are the
omelets. My brothers-in-law make omelets to order. Omelets can have everything from
ham and green peppers to mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and cheese. It’s the job of
one of the older kids to go around and take everyone’s order for their omelets.

And of course, with the food there must be beverages. There’s coffee, tea, orange
juice and my favorite contribution – mimosas. I’m fine with leaving the cooking to
those suited to it. After all, there are plenty of debates and schools of thought
about crafting the perfect cup of coffee or tea, and creating a sparkly, tasty mimosa
is an art form that allows me to exercise my creativity far from the stove. I can
stay out of the way and still be part of the activity.

You can see two of my
mimosa recipes
on the drinks page; one alcoholic and one friendly to kids, new
moms and people wishing not to imbibe.

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Posted on December 6th, 2016 at 11:40 AM by

We at Family Tree Magazine are
sharing 31
Days of Family Holiday Recipes
in December to honor the folks in our family histories
who prepare mountains of cookies, pies, fancy entrees, beverages, coffee cakes (my
mom-in-law has about 40 stashed in friends’ freezers all over town) and other special

For those of us who enjoy the fruits of our baking relatives’ labor, the holidays
just wouldn’t be the same without their culinary creations.

Of course, all this cooking and baking takes time, which you might find in short supply
at this point of the year (and all the other points, too), so the recipe I’m sharing
today is easy.

My sister, arguably my family’s best chef, taught me the secret of starting with boxed
mix and making it better with a few adjustments.

My husband is a big fan of homemade frosting so I make my own (though I do keep a
backup tub of store-bought in the pantry just in case).

I just made these cupcakes for our publisher Allison Dolan’s milestone birthday (I’ll
keep you guessing which one), and they’re pretty good if I must say. 

You will need:

  • Your favorite cake mix
  • Cocoa powder if using chocolate cake mix
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Your favorite frosting (Mine is cream cheese from my mom’s recipe: Beat together 1/2
    cup softened butter and 8 oz. softened cream cheese, then beat in a splash of vanilla
    and 4 cups powdered sugar, plus a tablespoon or two of milk.) 
  • Sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or other decoration

What to do:

Prepare your favorite boxed cake mix, but use melted butter instead of oil (the same
amount) and milk instead of water (also the same amount). If using a chocolate mix
(which I do 99% of the time), sprinkle a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder into the
dry mix for more chocolately-ness. Beat the batter with an electric mixer (instead
of by hand) for about 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners and bake according to the instructions on the box. Let cool and
frost, Be sure to add sprinkles or other decorations before the frosting sets.

Follow us on Facebook, visit
us on Pinterest
and stop
to see all 31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes!


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Posted on December 1st, 2016 at 11:22 AM by

David Rumsey
Historical Maps

We published our annual list
of 75 top US state genealogy websites
in the December
2016 Family Tree Magazine
(you can see
the list right here

These state-focused genealogy websites stand out for their digitized historical records,
searchable indexes to vital and other records, and how-to advice.

But our list is just a starting point. There are many more state-focused genealogy
websites to mine as you research American ancestors. Nonprofit and government sites
don’t have a lot of money to market themselves, so it’s easy for them to slip under
a genealogist’s radar. Here are five types of state-focused genealogy websites you
should look for in every state where your ancestors lived:

State Archive

Google a state and “state archive” to find the website for the state archive,
which usually manages records created by the state (such as state censuses and adjutant
general records), may archive old county records, and often collects newspapers, city
directories, federal censuses and other records that cover citizens of the state.

On the website, look for:

  • an overview of genealogy-related holdings
  • links to digital collections
  • tips on research topics of interest to you, such as vital records or burned counties
  • a catalog of holdings you can search for your ancestor’s town and county, as well
    as other terms, for a list of records that might cover your clan
  • locations, hours and visitor information
  • a “research services” or similar link to see if you can borrow items through interlibrary
    loan or pay for an archivist’s research time
  • links to genealogy resources for more websites to check or guides to consult

State Historical Society

Search for the name of a state and “historical society.” Some historical societies
are affiliated with the state government (in Ohio, the state
is part of the state historical society, called Ohio
History Connection
), and some are independent membership organizations. Look for
the same features as on a state archives website.

State Library

Search for the name of the state and “state library.” The state library may
or may not be part of the archive (as for the Texas
State Library and Archive
), and it may or may not hold genealogical materials. Indiana’s
State Library
has a description
of its genealogy holdings here
. Look for the same features as on a state archives

Digital Library or Memory Project

Search for the name of the state and memory or “digital library.” Many
states have online memory collections with old photos, maps, yearbooks and other digitized
records contributed by organizations and individuals around the state. Check
out Florida Memory here

Digitized Newspapers Site

Search for the name of the state and historical (or historic) newspapers.
Some state libraries, archives or historical societies run websites where you can
search and view digitized newspapers. The
Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is here
; Utah
Digital Newspapers is here

in for research guides, webinars and video classes for doing genealogy
and discovering your ancestry in every state in the USA


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