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
dishes.

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
by FamilyTreeMagazine.com
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
archive
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
website.

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
.

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

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Posted on November 25th, 2016 at 11:01 AM by

Today’s prompt for Family
Tree Magazine
‘s 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge
is:

In honor of Black Friday, review resources like the Sears
Catalog
and “buy” three Christmas presents for an ancestor. Why did you choose
them?

I’m going to cheat and skip the Sears
Wish Book
and choose one gift, because it’s allowed and because I know EXACTLY
what I want to buy an ancestor—my grandfather—for Christmas.

A pig.


Library of Congress

To be more specific, a sow.

If you want to know why, you have to promise not to tell my dad what he’s getting
for Christmas.

Thank you.

Snooping in Dad’s papers while putting together a book about his dad, I found
an essay my grandfather wrote about going to high school at a Texas children’s home.

In Grandpa’s sophomore year, the animal husbandry students had to acquire and raise
a farm animal.

My grandfather spent $75 on a registered sow. He didn’t say whether the school provided
funds. That would be quite a sum for a high school student today, let alone for a
boy in 1919 with no family support.

Unfortunately, the pig fell victim to hog cholera, also called classic
swine fever
. This virus (now eradicated in the United States) is usually fatal
within 15 days. Grandpa’s sow died not long after he bought her.

“In the short space of time,” wrote my grandfather, “I had grown to like my sow so
much that when she died, I cried as if she were my sister.”


Library of Congress

I never met my grandfather. What I know of his personality comes from my research,
relatives, and my dad. The same dad, a mechanical engineer, who taught me to sweep
the kitchen floor in straight lines, following the pattern in the linoleum to ensure
thorough coverage. Other than getting worked up at the occasional soccer game, he’s
pretty stoic.

I get the feeling Dad comes by it honestly. Another of his dad’s essays, titled “Studying,”
includes the recommendations “Each lesson in every course should be allotted a certain
time and studied a certain day,” and “In going over your lesson, study each sentence,
and do not leave a difficult one until you are convinced you must have help to understand
it.”

My grandfather eventually became a civil engineer, one you’d be comfortable having
build the bridges and large river dams you rely on to not fall over.

The orphanage he entered at age 11 wasn’t the stereotypical miserable kind of place
in Little Orphan Annie.
Newspaper accounts describe a pleasant home, efficiently run, with children engaged
in activities. My grandfather had friends and adults who cared about him. His brother
and sister lived there for a time. So I could be wrong, but I can’t help imagining
him as a boy, putting on a brave face despite missing his mother terribly.

Great, now I’m going to cry.

Grandpa wrote that his junior year was when he decided to pursue engineering instead
of agriculture. Maybe losing his pet played a role.

I have no idea how to buy someone a pig, but if I could go back a century to East
Texas, I would make it happen.

 

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Posted on November 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 AM by
This week’s post is from Vanessa Wieland,
online editor for Family Tree University, with gratitude and credit to Sandra Mingua
Stephens for the photos and the inspiration.

A week or so ago my mother’s friend, Sandy, posted some pictures on Facebook.
The first was of she and my mom and some other kids, arms flung around each other
on a sidewalk. The image is quintessential 50s, but while the cars and the clothes
have changed, the neighborhood – not so much. 




The second image she shared was of her father, my grandfather, and two of their other
friends standing guard in uniforms, holding American and Kentucky state flags.

I grew up not just a few blocks from the street
in the photo of my mom. In fact, both my dad and his mother grew up on the same
street I did, and that was only a five-minute stroll from my grandparents on my mom’s
side. My parents met because she lived next door to my dad’s best friend.
 



I’m fortunate to have grown up in a
neighborhood where friendships don’t just span decades – they span generations.
My father’s yearbook contains the same last names as mine and it’s sometimes hard
to tell the difference between census years. I’m certainly not complaining, though.
It means I have a bunch of uncles and aunts, moms and dads, grandparents, siblings,
and even a couple of nieces and nephews, even if they won’t show up in my DNA
matches. While it means that every trip to the grocery store becomes a family reunion
of sorts, it also provides a lovely sense of security and community. 


Though they might not show up in my official family tree, they do contribute quite
a lot to my family history. 
After
all, who better to tell you stories about your mother’s childhood than her childhood
best friend? Our parents’ friends can offer a unique perspective and set of memories
that we might never get from them – plus, it’s really fun to gather them together
and get them talking about the “good old days.” 
It
certainly makes doing cluster searches a lot easier. 


Both images were new to me and they’re
both fantastic. I’m grateful to have new sources and looks into the past. Why not
take some time this week and share some old photos online? Believe me – you’ll make
someone’s day.

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Posted on November 18th, 2016 at 11:00 AM by

Madge Maril, associate editor of Family Tree Magazine, here with some exciting news: If you’re a fan of HGTV’s Property Brothers, you’ll be happy to hear that FamilySearch announced today that the two brothers, Jonathan and Drew Scott, will keynote the 2017 RootsTech conference.

RootsTech is the largest genealogy conferences in the world, aptly held in Salt Lake
City, Utah. Organized by FamilySearch, RootsTech is sponsored by Ancestry, Find My
Past, MyHeritage and other beloved genealogy websites and organizations. Former First
Lady Laura Bush, New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler and many well-known genealogists
like Lisa Alzo, Lisa Louise Cooke and Judy Russell have all been speakers at RootsTech.

Jonathan and Drew shot to fame as the stars of the reality TV show Property Brothers.
The show consists of the brothers guiding homebuyers through the process of renovating
old homes, all while sticking to a budget. Due to the success of Property Brothers,
the two have starred in spin-offs like Brother vs Brother, Property Brothers at Home,
Buying and Selling and Property Brothers At Home on The Ranch. So… why are they speaking
at RootsTech?

RootsTech notes in their press
release
that “the brothers will talk about their unique family ties, and the can-do
attitudes it fostered, their positive outlooks, and childhoods, their careers, their
shared passions for buying and renovating property, and for the entertainment industry.”

While it’s possible they can’t tell difference between microfilm and microfiche, hearing
about “unique family ties” may prove to be inspirational for many genealogists. After
all, half of researching your family history is the family part. The
two may also tie in their knowledge of antique and vintage homes, along with the playful
rapport that has made them so well known.

Learn more about other speakers and purchase tickets for RootsTech 2017 on the official
website
.

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Posted on November 16th, 2016 at 11:02 AM by

November rolls on! We’re at the halfway point of our 30-Day Family History Writing
Challenge, and guest editor Andrew Koch shares his response to today’s prompt in this
guest post:

“Pick an ancestor from the 1800s, drop him into today, and (as your ancestor) write
a letter to family members still in the 1800s. How would he describe today? What surprises
him? What questions would he have?”

In this letter, my third great-grandfather, a 25-year-old clothing repairman named
Henry Winter (1853–1926), writes to his wife, Isabella (1857–1894):

My dearest Isabella,


I’m writing to tell you of the most strange and marvelous adventure I’m having. I
find myself in a new—and terrifying—world, full of people and inventions I’ve never
even imagined.

Our city looks nothing like we know it. The buildings rise high into the sky, and
I can hardly see the top without bending over backwards. The noises and smells are
overwhelming…so many people, and so much movement. The streets are crowded with horseless
coaches in all variety of colors and shapes, and people rush past each other without
speaking to each other. Instead, they barely look up from their hands—Many of them
carry strange devices that they speak into. I heard them called “sell fowns,” though
it seems more than just salesmen carry them.

But what confounds me most are the people’s dress. Such indecency! Such scandal! Men
strut through the streets in just a shirt and trousers, with garish ties and unshined
shoes. And the women—why, they’re hardly dressed at all! Many wear men’s trousers,
and some don only nightdresses as they go from place to place. And citizens of both
sexes wear those new-fangled denim trousers—some with holes in them! You can imagine
the fit my supervisor would have should he see how they are all dressed. You’d think
they had never even heard of a clothing repairman!

I pray I will someday return to you and our familiar life and home.

I have the honor to be yours,

Henry

Follow along with our challenge on
our website
, and share your responses with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Posted on November 11th, 2016 at 11:04 AM by

In honor of Veteran’s day, some genealogy websites grant free access to online military records as well as other genealogy resources.


Image via Library
of Congress

This year you can browse Findmypast’s military category free in honor of Veteran’s
day. Their collection of more than 70 million military records will be available starting
04:00 EST November 10th and ending 18:59 GMT November 13th.

The category on Findmypast is called “Military,
Armed Forces and Conflict,”
and includes 43 million US and Canadian military
records, 89,000 Revolutionary War Pensions, 1.3 US Army enlistment records and more.

Findmypast will also be hosting a free Remembrance Day webinar on November 11th at
11:00 EST. You can register
> for “Unpicking the past: revealing secrets in old military photographs” now.

FamilySearch is hosting a photo gallery
of veterans
> for the holiday, submitted by users on the site. Reading through the stories
of the veterans is a great way to celebrate.

As with any genealogy website that allows free access to honor holidays, may need
to create a free basic registration with the site in order to view records, and downloading
record images may be restricted.

Madge Maril is the editorial intern at Family Tree Magazine

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Posted on November 8th, 2016 at 11:09 AM by

MyHeritage today debuts MyHeritage DNA,
an international, mass-market, home-testing autosomal DNA kit it says “is simple,
affordable and will offer some of the best ethnicity reports in the world.”

The $79 (plus shipping) kit includes a cheek swab to collect cells from the inside
of your cheek. Testers mail the sample to the MyHeritage lab (located in the United
States) for analysis, wait three to four weeks, and view results on the MyHeritage
website.

This post includes a few screenshots of what results look like.

MyHeritage DNA Test Results

Results initially include ethnicity results, which map your ethnic origins, and DNA
matches among other testers at MyHeritage. Additional features are planned for the
future.

Good news! When I asked whether a chromosome browser would be available, spokesperson
Brandon Weinstock answered “Yes, sometime in the future.”

DNA Matches & Family Trees



MyHeritage DNA match list

According to the press release, “MyHeritage provides its DNA customers with features
not offered by most competing services including 23andMe, such as viewing family trees
of the majority of their DNA Matches to pinpoint the connection path, and automatically
identifying which surnames and geographical locations they have in common.” Viewing
family trees of matches will be free.

Until now, Ancestry DNA was the only service
that combined DNA test results with test-takers’ family trees, and test-takers on
that site need an Ancestry.com subscription to view their matches’ trees.

DNA testers at MyHeritage can add a family tree to the site and link it to their test
results. MyHeritage trees are free for a limited size (250 people when I last looked);
upgrading to a Premium or Premium Plus subscription lets you add more people and media
storage.  


Illustration showing where a matching person might be on your family tree, based
on the amount of shared DNA.

Ethnicity Results & Founder Population Project


Ethnicity map of your genetic origins

Ethnicity results currently can include 25 ethnicities, but MyHeritage expects to
increase that number with its Founder Population Project, also unveiled today. “More
than 5,000 participants have been hand-picked for this project by MyHeritage from
its 85 million members, by virtue of their family trees exemplifying consistent ancestry
from the same region or ethnicity for many generations.”

Once the Founder’s Project participants’ DNA is analyzed over the next few months,
MyHeritage will have a DNA data set for more than 100 ethnicities. By comparing this
data to the DNA of new testers, MyHeritage will be able to provide testers with ethnicity
results with greater resolution that what’s currently available. When available, these
improved ethnicity reports will be provided at no additional cost to current MyHeritage
DNA customers.

What You Should Know

According to the
site’s Informed Consent agreement
, MyHeritage testers can opt in to allowing their
results and family tree data to be used for a study “intended to assist academics
or researchers to better understand the human species, learn or confirm certain facts
and make predictions about future trends.”

MyHeritage DNA is integrated with the site’s other services on its DNA and mobile
platforms. A new, stand-alone mobile app called MyHeritage DNA also lets you explore
your results.

If you’ve tested autosomal DNA with another service, such as Ancestry DNA, Family
Tree DNA
or 23andMe, you can add
your results to your MyHeritage tree
to find matches among the site’s other members.

MyHeritage DNA is available in all major countries except France, Poland and Israel.
Now that it has its own testing service, MyHeritage will no longer offer DNA tests
from third-party companies.

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Posted on November 7th, 2016 at 11:09 AM by

We’re six days into the NaNoWriMo-inspired 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge. 
Today’s post is from guest editor, Vanessa Wieland, who writes in response to this
prompt:

Select your favorite family photo, and write about the moments just before and/or
after the photo was taken. Why was it taken? Was your ancestor happy to be in it?

This is a portrait of my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Samuels. The occasion
of this photo is presumably a happy one. According to the note on the back, it was
taken on her 80th birthday. She seems to be listening here, perhaps to the photographer
directing her to tilt her head just so and look over his shoulder. Perhaps she’s reflecting
on her birthday plans. Was there a party? Perhaps the thought of cake is inspiring
that smile.

My grandfather instilled in me an appreciation for my Welsh heritage, but seeing this
photo was the first time I felt such a strong connection to an ancestor I’ve never
met. As it turns out, I was born on my great-great grandmother’s birthday.

My grandfather mentioned loving her accent as a child, but he didn’t talk about her
that much; his family stories tended to revolve far more around his Uncle Dan. Yet
it’s her voice that echoes through them both in the strong sense of family she instilled
in them – and through them, to my mother, my sister, and myself. 

When we first found this photo, it was as we were cleaning out the house of another
of her descendants. The occasion was not a happy one; my mother’s cousin had passed
and my grandfather was the closest living relative, so it fell to him – and us – to
sift through a near-stranger’s belongings and tie up any loose ends.

Yet within those belongings, we found two items of note that my mother claimed; a
cameo brooch and this photo. My mother found the brooch first and recalled seeing
it as a child, but could not remember where. It wasn’t until a few days later that
we came across this photo, and saw the same brooch pinned to Elizabeth’s blouse. The
brooch was surprise enough, but even now, I’m struck by how much my mother looks like
her.

I love this photo not just because I was born on her birthday, and a few decades after
this photo was taken, but because the smile on her face seems to reflect a genuine
contentment along with a sense of anticipation. I imagine her thinking, “I’m really
looking forward to celebrating with my family, and a nice piece of cake.”

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Posted on November 6th, 2016 at 11:02 AM by

We’re six days into the NaNoWriMo-inspired 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge. 
Today’s post is from guest editor, Vanessa Wieland, who writes in response to this
prompt:

Select your favorite family photo, and write about the moments just before and/or
after the photo was taken. Why was it taken? Was your ancestor happy to be in it?

This is a portrait of my great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Samuels. The occasion
of this photo is presumably a happy one. According to the note on the back, it was
taken on her 80th birthday. She seems to be listening here, perhaps to the photographer
directing her to tilt her head just so and look over his shoulder. Perhaps she’s reflecting
on her birthday plans. Was there a party? Perhaps the thought of cake is inspiring
that smile.

My grandfather instilled in me an appreciation for my Welsh heritage, but seeing this
photo was the first time I felt such a strong connection to an ancestor I’ve never
met. As it turns out, I was born on my great-great grandmother’s birthday.

My grandfather mentioned loving her accent as a child, but he didn’t talk about her
that much; his family stories tended to revolve far more around his Uncle Dan. Yet
it’s her voice that echoes through them both in the strong sense of family she instilled
in them – and through them, to my mother, my sister, and myself. 

When we first found this photo, it was as we were cleaning out the house of another
of her descendants. The occasion was not a happy one; my mother’s cousin had passed
and my grandfather was the closest living relative, so it fell to him – and us – to
sift through a near-stranger’s belongings and tie up any loose ends.

Yet within those belongings, we found two items of note that my mother claimed; a
cameo brooch and this photo. My mother found the brooch first and recalled seeing
it as a child, but could not remember where. It wasn’t until a few days later that
we came across this photo, and saw the same brooch pinned to Elizabeth’s blouse. The
brooch was surprise enough, but even now, I’m struck by how much my mother looks like
her.

I love this photo not just because I was born on her birthday, and a few decades after
this photo was taken, but because the smile on her face seems to reflect a genuine
contentment along with a sense of anticipation. I imagine her thinking, “I’m really
looking forward to celebrating with my family, and a nice piece of cake.”

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