New Genealogy Tips and Tricks

Courtesy of en.Wikipedia.org. Thinking of you, Ukraine!

I’ve been Spring Cleaning so I’m a tad late on posting today. I’m really supposed to be in a local genealogy society’s Zoom meeting but they are having tech issues so I decided to blog while I wait to be let in.

I’m excited to write that I have FINALLY finished scanning my older genealogy collection from my family. I had so much dust, bits of dried brown paper, even glitter from old greeting cards around that I spent the last week plus majorly cleaning. Amazing how those documents permeated nooks and crannies throughout my home!

After I get the outside pressure washed, my favorite job, I decided to scan additional documents, such as medical records, too. I’d like to go as paperless as possible going forward.

Here is some new genealogy news you might find interesting:

ROOTSTECH may be over but if you attended, you should be getting an email notification of your “cousins” that also logged on for the conference. Follow the link (which expires on March 25th) and then click “Roots Tech Relatives.” My relative number is 8,944 – those would be the people who also have a FamilySearch.org tree that matches the people I have in my tree. A map appears and you can click to see folks from your area and be able to contact them if you like. Another alternative is to scroll down the page and click in the Surname box – adding a surname you are interested in connecting with. The default is your current surname and if it’s like mine, Samuelson, is not going to find you much. There are loads of Samuelsons that aren’t related to us because of Swedish naming patterns. I plugged in my top 3 family surnames – Koss, Leininger, and Landfair and discovered that there were 5 Leiningers in attendance but no one with the other two names.

Have New York City families? Then you’ll love the fact that the vital records are 70% digitized and available for FREE. Check out the link. A list of all available records can be found here.

MyHeritage.com continues to improve its site. If you love timelines, you’ll enjoy their new color-coded ones with graphics. This blog article will explain it.

I’m not sure how I feel about their new Live Story which is a tool for you to make animated videos of your ancestors telling their stories. Personally, it’s a little too creepy for me but if you are into AI and liked Deep Nostalgia, this is definitely for you. Try it out here.

On the more traditional genealogy path, MyHeritage.com has increased its French records by adding Filae’s family trees. That 269 million! Read about it here and there is a link in the article to start researching the records.

Sigh, so many records, so little time. Have a wonderful week searching!

Genealogy Education

Photo courtesy of teachhub.com

The weather outside appears to be frightful for much of the U.S. and parts of Europe, so my dear readers, nothing like cozying up with your tech device and working your brain muscles to learn additional tips and tricks genealogy-wise.

I live in an area that has the largest Greek population outside of Greece; if you don’t and are of Greek heritage you might think your ancestor hunt is a dead end. Think again! Last weekend the Tarpon Springs Public Library held its 2nd Greek Genealogy Conference. No worries that you missed it – it’s available, handouts and all, on YouTube.

I have to share this story from Tuesday. . . I volunteer at my local hospital which is in the process of renovating. There is a very calming beach scene mural that was placed on the wall in the family waiting area. A woman got off the elevator and gasped. I asked if I could help and she just stared, pointing at the mural. She replied, “That’s the view from my home in Greece!” She then showed me a pic her husband had texted her that morning of the snowfall. Yep, same buildings as in the mural with a light dusting of snow. Definitely a small world and I love how she educated me about the mural that has no identifier as to where it was located.

The National Genealogical Conference registration is now open with a DISCOUNT for their May 24-28, 2002 Family History Conference in Sacramento, California. Your options are to select in-person, virtual, or on-demand so you can view lectures later in the summer. Check out their catalog here. I’m thrilled that there are options available as I love attending but am not yet comfortable with traveling there in May.

MyHeritage.com has introduced a 40 lesson Intro to Genealogy course that takes about 5 hours to complete; you don’t have to do it in one sitting. I haven’t taken it myself but as soon as I’m done with my scanning project (sigh) I plan to take a look at it.

Speaking of scanning, I had two wonderful comments to my last week’s blog that I need to share. Bob recommended that I also save my digitized photos to an external hard drive. He is so right! Randy reminded me that MyHeritage.com has awesome photo software to enhance your old photos. It also just happens to be free through tomorrow. Check it out here if you’re not a member. Thanks, Randy, I sadly discovered my wedding album is fading. Luckily, I did scan those photos years ago but I do have some other photos that could use a facelift. I plan on using those features once I’m done.

MyHeritage has also had some changes to how you can view their historical records, now in a table view. Check out their blog article about it.

Let’s not forget that we, as a genealogy community, are great sources of educating each other. I was contacted on Ancestry.com by my 7th great step-cousin last week on my Hollingshead line. We were discussing her 7th great-grandmother’s will and I shared how surprised I originally was when I saw she had bequeathed her slaves to one of her children. Step-mom lived in New Jersey from about 1720 to 1771. Cousin recommended a good read that her local genealogical society had recommended when she shared the will with them. It’s available on Amazon and I selected the Kindle download for Elaine Buck and Beverly Mills If These Stones Could Talk: African American Presence in the Hopewell Valley, Sourland Mountain and the Surrounding Regions of New Jersey. It is a fascinating read and timely for Black History Month!

Upcoming Genealogy Changes You Don’t Want to Miss

You might not want to miss the following:

Elizabeth Shown Mills lecture on Legacy Family Tree Webinars is offered FREE through October 31st. This is Elizabeth’s LAST LECTURE as she is retiring from lecturing. I will greatly miss her.

Special thanks to reader Tess who responded regarding my earlier blog mentioning problems I encountered with RootsMagic 8. She recommended posting on the RM Users Group on FaceBook so I’d like to pass that tip along if you are having difficulties. Before doing that, I viewed the FREE webinars that are available on YouTube and that solved my issue. More will be coming so here’s the link to register in advance.

The root of my problem was I was trying to reconnect to Ancestry.com due to a pop up on RootsMagic 8. I did not need to do that as the webinar stated if you were already logged into Ancestry.com on RM 7 you would automatically be connected in RM 8. That would explain why the program froze for me. My tree is very large which doesn’t help. I logged out and waited a day. When I logged back in I followed the directions provided on the video and have had no problems since. I absolutely LOVE version 8 – kudos to the RootsMagic staff for their hard work.

If you are doing French research, two changes are in the works. Geneanet.org has been purchased by Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com has acquired 90% of Filae.com. I’m not sure when databases will roll from the old company to the new one or what you do if you were a member of the old company. I recommend contacting the company for details. MyHeritage did blog about the new content so check that out here. I had a free Geneanet membership and never subscribed to Filae.

Fantastic Photos! MyHeritage.com Does It Again!

Do you have DAMAGED PHOTOS that break your heart because you can’t appreciate the picture while fixating on the ugly part?  I do and I was never able to use the photos in family projects because I couldn’t restore them to their former glory.

Thanks to MyHeritage.com, it is now simple, quick, easy and free (some limitations apply) to return the photos to better than new.  Here’s how:

First, upload your photo to be repaired by logging into MyHeritage.com and click on Photos in the ribbon, then click the Upload box on the right.

Once uploaded, the photo appears with your media items.  Now, click the photo needing to be repaired.

Above the photo on the right hand side, the following options are shown:  Repair, Enhance, Colorize, Animate.  To correct the photo it’s recommended you select options from left to right.

Once I click Repair and MyHeritage.com does it’s magic, the photo will be shown as follows:

Much improved but still not perfect.  Sure, I can clip out the damage to the upper portions of the photo but I want to restore the picture to as close as new as possible so here’s what I’m going to do – On the upper left hand side of the photo, click on the gear icon which is the settings option.  The photos are first repaired Gently – that’s the default setting.  I’m going to click the box Extensive Repair Option and Preview. Now look at what it does:

Isn’t that AMAZING?! You can stop there but I wanted to make the photo even more defined so I next clicked on Enhance.  Here’s what the result was:

Due to the size limitation on my blog, the subtle improvements are not as apparent as on my larger computer screen but when you try it you’ll notice the difference.
Next I decided to go ahead and colorize it. I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of colorizing because I like to know FOR SURE if what I’m presenting in my research is accurate.  It is fun, however, to imagine what the original outfits looked like so I decided to click the Colorize button to see what the program would select:

I again used the Settings (gear icon) to tweak the saturation manually as the first colorization picture showed a pink hue on right side of the dress.  Knowing the individuals as I did, that wouldn’t have been the color choice.  The brown/silver grey was more in keeping with the time period (1917) fashion and the wearer’s preference.  
In my excitement to get the photo corrected I neglected to tell you who the people are!  This is a photo of my paternal grandparents, Edwin and Lola Landfair Leininger, and their oldest child, my dad, Orlo Guy Leininger.  He was born June 4, 1917 so I guess this must be a photo that commemorated his first Christmas.  Nothing was written on the photo back (of course).  I received the photo 5 years after my father’s death in a box that was kept in a damp unheated northern Indiana basement for probably at least 10 years.  I’m fortunate that the photo survived, albeit damaged.  I’m thrilled that it has been restored.  Thanks, MyHeritage.com for your new feature!
For the ethic minded, I also appreciate that MyHeritage.com acknowledges that the photo was altered.  You can see the After written in the upper left hand corner of the photo and on the bottom left, icons appear showing exactly what features were used to change the original picture.  
I’ve blogged before about the animation feature but it has since added many new features, too.  I couldn’t resist animating my Dad, I’m sure he would approve:

New(er) Genealogy Resources For Your Toolbox

I’ve been consumed with my Hollingsheads for the last two months so I’ve not blogged about a few awesome resources I’ve come across that may benefit you.  Some are free, some are not.  Here they are:

  • MyHeritage Photo Enhancer is a wonderful tool not just to fix blurry photos but also get a better view of fuzzy documents.  I tried this out in June when I was having difficulty transcribing handwriting from a Quaker document.  I also tried it on an extremely blurry group photo I had of my husband’s Harbaughs but the original photo was too small so it didn’t work well.  You can read more about this here.
  • New York Genealogical and Biographical Society began Beta testing in March their new online collections.  I was not a participant due to other commitments though I did use it briefly in June and July when I was in need of New York records.  Here’s more info about the update.
  • Want to attend a training/conference/Zoom/GoToMeeting, etc. session but know you’re not available at the day/time it’s being presented?  No worries – most organizations will record and make the session available for viewing later.  Go ahead and sign up anyway.  You’ll probably get an email with a link to view later.  I had to miss an APG Virtual Chapter meeting in June and an American Ancestors class in July but was able to watch what I missed at my convenience later.  So, go ahead and sign up for the event even if you can’t attend!
  • Academia.edu is a new tool in my toolbox and I honestly couldn’t have analyzed my Hollingsheads in Barbados as I did without it! There is a membership fee, ballpark about $50 annually, that I’ve more than gotten my money’s worth in the last two months.  The site allows you access to unlimited journal articles and papers by educators on a wide variety of topics.  I selected history and the Caribbean in particular to learn more about the time period I was researching (1650-1750).  That allowed me access to archaeological studies recently done to gain a better perspective of what life was like then, historical works revisited (so I could easily find primary sources), and opportunity to contact social scientists with questions directly.  The site is not just for history enthusiasts but that’s the only part I’ve used.  Membership also provides you your own website, which I have not set up since I already have my own, but it’s a nice feature and looks like it’s quick and easy to use if you’re new to webdesign.  If you’ve used JStor, this is similar but I’ve found that it contains more info if you’re focusing on a sliver of time and place.  
  • Don’t forget YouTube and your local Genealogy Society!  I recently watched a wonderful video about River Pirates.  I had no idea there was such a thing in the Midwest, nor was I aware of some of the terror that reigned in small communities due to deranged families. It also never occurred to me that there was poor workmanship back in those days that resulted in lives and supplies being lost.  I heard about the topic from my local genealogy society; one of the member’s brother was the speaker and I’m so glad I viewed it.  Hubby and I went to school in Indiana and that topic was never addressed in the curriculum!
  • Last but not least, and probably more important than everything mentioned – if you haven’t noticed Ancestry.com has updated their messaging system.  Gone are the folders you may have previously used to save correspondence with other members.  You can download it so you don’t lose anything.  I strongly urge you to do so TODAY as it will be gone this month.  I don’t know what they did yesterday but I had 11 messages.  I had recently reached out to several folks who had some Hollingsheads in their trees but it wasn’t 11.  In reviewing the messages, I discovered most were not new (9) and the two that were were old – one was from November 2019 and the other from June 24, 2020.  Guess they got lost in cyberspace but it did make me look bad as I try to respond within 48 hours!  Check out this feature to see if the update they did before dawn’s early light this past week affected your messages.

Why You Should Share Your DNA Results

I have uploaded by DNA results to several sites and you could benefit from doing that, too.  The reason is simple – think about why you tested with the company you chose.  I tested with 23andMe because I wanted to find out the amount of Neandertal ancestry I  carry and that feature wasn’t available through the other major sites (Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com).  

Some folks may have selected a company based on pricing.  Others may have received a kit as a gift.  In the U.S., Ancestry.com commercials are everywhere but that’s not necessarily true in other parts of the world.  You stand the greatest chance of maximizing your DNA results by uploading them to sites that accept results.

Last week, I received an email from MyHeritage.com that I have several new DNA matches.  Typically, they are 3rd to 5th cousins that I’ve connected with in the past.  This time, was different.  Luckily, I recognized the surname as one of my maternal line’s great grandmothers of which I have scant information as she had died young in childbirth.  

Immediately, I clicked on the “cousins” tree which only contained 10 entries, most of which was private but I could see the geographic region and I knew that this proved promising.  I wrote the cousin an email and was happily surprised when he responded a few hours later.  We wrote back and forth all week.  The irony is that he lives just a little over 100 miles from the homestead but has no knowledge of the family.  Why?  His grandfather had relocated the family during World War II and never spoke to his children about the family’s history.  The grandfather died a few years before the cousin I was corresponding with was born so he could never ask him directly.  There is now only one elderly relative, in his 80’s remaining.  He plans on taking my family stories to the elder.  I’m anxiously awaiting his knowledge.  

No telling what you might discover from connecting with a family member across the pond!  DNA matching makes it easy and inexpensive.  

An Odd Genealogy Connection

I’m going to be helping out at my local genealogy society’s Ask A Genealogist Day today so I’ve got to make this brief.  I had the strangest connection a few weeks ago and I wanted to share the weird workings of the internet.  

I have an online presence beyond this blog and my website since I keep my trees public.  Usually I get connections through Ancestry.com, followed by MyHeritage.com, then through my website which is my historical home for my blogs.  Sure, I get connections through other social media platforms and occasionally, from someone Googling an ancestor and my info comes up but the latest connection was by using Newspapers.com.  

An unrelated gentleman from Scotland is writing a book on those who left  Beauly in the late 1700’s.  He discovered through Newspapers.com that I had saved a newspaper clipping from the Philadelphia [PA] Packet dated 9 Oct 1775 regarding the ship, the Clementina, arriving and that there were many workers ready for indenture.  I suspected that my 4th great grandfather, John Morison, was on that ship.  I could be wrong, though.  There were several John Mor[r]ison’s in Philadelphia at the same time and I saved every shred of evidence on all of them hoping to sort them out and discover which was my real great grandfather.  

I had mistakenly thought the author who connected with me had found my information on Ancestry but he said he didn’t have a subscription and his local library didn’t have one, either.  I was flabbergasted when he told me that he was using Newspapers.com and it flagged that I had saved the article and provided my contact info.  I didn’t know that was even an option.  

I’m glad it was as he has been a wealth of information and let me know that my Morison family most likely wasn’t always using that surname as two Morrison families originated in the mid 1600’s from other lines.  He also gave me lots of information on another Morrison family that emigrated on the same ship.  Peter, his wife and daughters were most likely connected with two other Morrison teenagers on the same boat.  Peter had been what we’d call today a game warden overseeing salmon.  I had thought, with no proof, that the families emigrating were all related but couldn’t find proof.  It’s because both boys later joined the Revolution and were taken prisoner in New York.  Both parents requested visitation to them while they were held on a prison ship.  The author was able to provide me their baptism records, too.  I had no idea that not all children were recorded in Scottish church records since parents had to pay for the recording.  Looks like Peter had the eldest children recorded but stopped after the 3rd child.  

The author was a wealth of information and I’m so glad we were able to correspond for a few weeks sharing our findings and analyzing what we had found together.  We’ve reached the conclusion that ALL the Morrisons in Philadelphia from 1775 to 1800 were related.  There was a father-son both named John who must have come some time earlier; both were in the metal trades.  Then the next wave of Morrisons came on the Clementina.  We suspect that John, a weaver, was the brother of Peter.  John came with a wife and son.  The wife was noted to be a spinster by 1790 so I believe he had died.  She and the adult son died in 1793 from the “plague”, a mosquito epidemic most likely yellow fever.  Peter’s son, John, likely is the man who comes and goes from the records as he was a ship’s carpenter.  I still haven’t figured out who my John is but I’m working on it (just not today). 
 Even so, I’m closer because of this unlikely connection thanks to Newspapers.com.  Happy Hunting!

Identifying Tree Errors – A New Approach

My online family tree is aging and just like we humans need as we get older, regular check ups are important to maintain its vigor.  I think I just discovered a different approach to identify errors to keep my tree robust.

My first computerized tree was done on a TI99 home computer.  I had to insert a cartridge to view the genealogical program (which is now in my attic). In 1995,we had switched over to a desktop system and we were online thanks to AOL.  I downloaded PAF from FamilySearch.org and spent a few weekends transferring my info from the old software to the new.  I’ve been transferring that same tree as it grew ever since.

Around 1997, I created a tree on Rootsweb (now owned by Ancestry.com).  My old tree is frozen in cyberspace and I cringe at some of the errors I’m not able to correct.  I believe that’s the only tree I’ve got stuck in time.

Over the years I’ve transferred the root tree to various online sites – Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com, FindMyPast.com, Geneanet.com, WikiTree.com, and AmericanAncestors.  I’ve used Legacy Family Tree, RootsMagic, and Family Tree Maker software to help identify and correct errors.  Last weekend I found another source to fix mistakes in lines I haven’t looked at in years.

Geneanet.com allows you to view tree statistics, whether you’re a member or not.  Simply click the down arrow next to your tree’s name which accesses the menu.  Under the heading Family History, click Family Tree Statistics.  Although the number of people in your tree with the same first name is interesting, it’s not going to fix errors.  (As an aside, the largest number of my peeps are named John and Mary, just like my grandparents).  To find errors, click “The 20 who lived the longest.”  There I discovered I had an ancestor that lived over 500 years and he wasn’t named Methuselah.  Clearly, I had entered John Clark’s death date in error, typing 1918 for 1418. 

The next individual, Thomas Eaton, had lived for 311 years but not really.  He had been pruned once from his line so I deleted him.  He was just an unlinked soul lost in my tree. 

Now click “The 20 oldest persons still alive” and you’ll be able to identify folks you know have passed but you haven’t found their death date.  My oldest was Melba L. Jones born in 1899.  Using FindAGrave, I discovered she died 2 Jan 1993.  I like how this feature helps me keep my tree current on lines I don’t check often. 

I like that only 20 questionable individuals are provided at a time so it makes the task less onerous.  It’s still a pain to maintain trees at various sites so I’ve been keeping one current which is linked to my desktop and then every 6 months, update the others.  In the interim, when people find me at the other sites, I just redirect them to my always maintained tree.  

Now that I’ve Spring Cleaned my tree, I’m ready for more research.  Happy Hunting!

The U.S. – A Nation of Immigrants


Although my family lore claimed I had Native American blood, DNA has proven that the legend was not true. I seldom (well, have never) written about current political issues as that is not the point of my blog. That changes today.

If you reside in the United States, you have an ancestor who once emigrated here. You’re probably also a mutt like me – that great melting pot permitting people to marry due to love and not by ethnicity alone has created a wonderful mix of blended cultures, customs and genetics.

I’m blessed that my family has been here awhile. My most recent immigrants were my maternal grandparents, John and Mary Kos[s] who naturalized in the 1940’s. My grandmother visited the Old Country nearly 50 years after she had emigrated here with her parents and was so thankful they had made the difficult journey in her childhood, she promptly kissed the soil when she arrived back in the states. My grandfather had no desire to return, even for a short visit.

Because of my Great Grandparents dream for a better life, they left behind family, friends and belongings to start over. Learning a new language, back breaking work where ever they could find it and facing discrimination because of their ethnicity, religion and acceptance of diversity, my ancestors looked at the positive this country had to offer and steadfastly remained so that their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren could have a better life.

I understand why people from all over the world still attempt to come here. Think back to your family and I’m sure you’ll agree, your forefather’s efforts were worth it.

Due to the present government stance new arrivals have experienced not just a perilous crossing but a breakdown in family structure. I applaud MyHeritage.com for stepping up to help reunify children with their separated families. To my knowledge, no other company has come forward to assist. MyHeritage is providing up to 5,000 free DNA kits to insure that the correct child is returned to the right family. You can read more about their efforts here. Kudos, MyHeritage.com!