Category Archives: How To

Discoveries in the Courthouse

Junel Davidsen gave a really interesting talk during our October 2018 monthly meeting about researching Deed records and other similar documents and other discoveries you can make in Courthouses!

We have here the handout containing resources and links that Junel provided at the meeting. The file is a PDF with “live” links. Download and enjoy.

Discovering in Deeds

Immigration Records now at Family Search!

Given that Adam and Eve were born in some country other than the United States (Garden of Eden) then therefore everyone here in the USA is either an immigrant or is descended from immigrants. (Native Americans also immigrated — just longer ago than most!)

Many of our immigrant ancestors came to this country through the portals of Ellis Island. It has always been a challenge to search the records at Ellis Island. I know that Stephen Morse has made it easier on his One-Step web site. And he will be the September speaker here.

BUT — a recent blog post from FamilySearch.org announced that the complete archive of Ellis Island passenger records is now available on their website, today! They are completely indexed with the real imagine available too. Hooray.

Click here to see the blog announcement:

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/archive-ellis-island-records/

The free records include the following:

New York Passenger Lists (Castle Garden) 1820–1891

New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island) 1892–1924

New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists 1925–1957

Start searching for your ancestors now. What are you waiting for!


“There is a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.” – Raymond Reddington


Family Tree Visualization

This is a quick note to tell you about a web based tool I just discovered tonight. It is so much fun that I had to pop this post so you can try it too (before it goes away?).

The tool is called “Family Tree Visualization” and it can be found here:
https://learnforeverlearn.com/ancestors/

The tool analyzes your family tree (from the gedcom you upload) and then gives you an interactive display of the tree on your screen. But don’t stop there, move the mouse pointer around, click on the places where I have marked in red below (see left side too), scroll the mouse wheel, experiment => the darn thing is full of information about your tree. This is an excellent tool that is both fun and useful.

The display only shows your ancestors, but the statistics include summarizations from all of your tree! So upload a full gedcom. Use this on your desktop or laptop computer because you need the mouse. No iPads here!

“Wow, this is amazing.” If this is old news to you, then I can only say “Why didn’t you tell me before?”


Local Land Records

A couple of weeks ago, Junel Davidsen gave a talk at the Santa Cruz Genealogical Society. her talk was about Researching Local Land Records.

I wish I had been able to be there. The lecture was about finding and using local land records. Local land records contain more than property descriptions, names of buyers/sellers and legal jargon. Records kept by local officials for hundreds of years hold a treasure-trove of information. Finding these records can reward researchers with biographical information, evidence of relationships, clues to migration and more.

Junel has made the handout she created available for downloading, not only at the Santa Cruz site, but also here. Having this file, which is full of hot links, is almost as good as being there!

To get the file, Click here.

Meanwhile, if you see Junel, perhaps Wednesdays at the FHC, give her a big thanks.


Online U.S. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

(The article below is from Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. Credits are given at the end of the piece.)

One of the more useful tools for genealogists is the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries created by the Newberry Library in Chicago. When I first started in genealogy, one of my biggest frustrations was trying to find records of ancestors in the county where they lived. Many genealogical records are created by counties. In many cases, I knew the town where they lived and I also knew what county the town was in. Yet I couldn’t find the records that normally are kept in county courthouses, such as probate records or the deeds of land transfers.

As I gained more experience, I soon learned that the problem was mine. I had looked in the country records for the county lines of today. In many cases, the county lines had moved over the years, even though my ancestors had not moved an inch. Once recorded at the county courthouse, records normally remain at that courthouse forever, even if the county lines are redrawn later and the property or the town in question is then “moved” to a different county.

For instance, if your ancestor lived in the town of Smallville in Washington County when the information was recorded at the courthouse and later the county lines were redrawn so that town of Smallville and your ancestor’s location were later in Lincoln County, you still need to look for older records in the Washington County courthouse. Existing courthouse records usually are not moved to a new courthouse when county lines are redrawn.

Experienced genealogists all know that you need to look in the county courthouse for the correct county as of the date the records were filed. But how do you find the correct county lines as of the date(s) your ancestors lived there and left records? You can find several books at well-equipped libraries that will provide that information. However, the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries will provide the information as well without requiring the time and travel expenses of visiting a well-equipped library. Yes, you can find the information without leaving home. The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries web site is available FREE of charge. You can even download the files to your own computer and save them or use them as you please. The online atlas has been available for years but I find that many genealogists are unaware of its existence and do not know how useful it can be.

With the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, you can view records on a per state basis, an interactive map, or choose the time slots that best meet your requirements. You can search by location or by time or by both. To use the web site for the first time, select a state from the map on the site’s home page to view all of the Atlas’ content related to that state, including shapefiles, chronologies, and metadata. If you cannot quickly find the information you seek, narrow the search by choosing from the available list of options. Probably the most useful option for genealogists is to display maps by dates.

A lot of helpful information about the site can be found on the “Using the Atlas” page at: http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/usingatlas.html

This is a web site worth bookmarking. You probably won’t need to use it often but, if you do ever have a need, it can supply the information you seek quickly.

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is available at the Newberry Library’s web site at: http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/


Randy Majors left this comment to the above blog posting:

Your readers may also find this free tool I built based on the excellent Newberry source in your article: https://www.randymajors.com/p/maps.html

Simply type a PRESENT-DAY address, city or place, then type any HISTORICAL date, and the historical county boundaries from that date will appear overlaid on a familiar Google Map (including satellite view). Then optionally overlay research locations on the map such as courthouses, cemeteries, churches, and libraries, and link right to them for more information. It also displays the statute that formed the boundary, and optionally animate the change in boundaries over time for that location. Over 60,000 visits to this tool I think largely due to its simple usability.


The above article and comment are from and are copyrighted by the Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter at www.eogn.com. Many thanks go to Dick Eastman for his continued support of the genealogy world.


As a reminder, the best PC program ever that shows county boundaries over time has been AniMap. It is still for sale as version AniMap 3.0.2 at the GoldBug Software web site: https://goldbug.com/animap/
And remember, the Monterey FHC has a copy of AniMap that can be used inside the FHC.

But, for sure, the above ONLINE and FREE options can be used at home, now, as we need.


Transferring DNA from one company to another

If you have taken an autosomal DNA test at one company, sometimes you can transfer the data to another company and get a discount on the new reports.  Sometimes the volunteers at the FHC get asked “what can be transferred where?”  Personally, I can never remember.

I found this chart online at the blog of Roberta Estes at DNAeXplained that shows what can go where and thought you might find this useful.