I'm excited to be attending the 2014 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference next month in Richmond, Virginia. It's hard to believe it is less than two weeks away! For those of you who will also be attending, I've highlighted a few tools to help you plan and make the most of your experience:
1) The 2014 NGS Conference Syllabus is now available online for registered attendees. I encourage you to browse through it now so you can start thinking about which sessions you most want to attend, and either print pages for the sessions you wish to attend, or download a copy to your tablet, computer or other device if you desire. To view and download the syllabus, log in to the NGS website at NGS 2014 Conference Syllabus. Please allow up to 10 minutes for the download to complete as the file is very large. Attendees will also receive a digital copy of the syllabus on a thumbdrive at conference check in. You can prepare for the conference before you leave home by viewing and printing syllabi for the sessions you would like to attend. If you're bringing a tablet, then you may want to download the syllabus there while still at home with access to fast wifi.
Count me among the thousands of frustrated users of subscription genealogy website, FindMyPast, who woke up one day last month to find their search experience turned upside down. For those of you who were already using FindMyPast.com, this probably hasn't been a blip on your radar as the search features on the US .com site have been in place for over a year. However, those of us who preferred the search features of the original UK version of the site have some serious changes to get used to. Here are a few resources to get you started:
FindMyPast Responds to Website Criticism - An informative Q&A from Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine published on 8 April 2014.
ReviewCentre.com: FindMyPast.co.uk - Upset reviews from customers, some valid and some just griping. But if you want to learn more about what the fuss is all about...
How to Search FindMyPast - This recent blog post from FindMyPast provides some basic tips for navigating their new search features. The goal of the new interface seems to be to make it easier to search across multiple record sets, but also seems to cause additional scrolling and refining if you (like me) generally prefer to search within a particular record set or location.
My suggestion would be to always begin a search by selecting a particular record set from the "Search" tab at the top of each page (e.g. Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records), or use the "A-Z of record sets" link to search a particular collection (this will take you to the most detailed search form specific to that record set so you don't have to wade through so many irrelevant results). On the A-Z page, first select your country/region of interest, and then use the search box to narrow to the specific type of record you are looking for. For example, selecting "United Kingdom" and then entering "marriage" in the search box, brings up this list of Marriage Records. Alternatively, you can rank the complete list by category and sub-category.
FindMyPast: What's New -- Keep up with all of the search features and tree features as they are added, including some of the search options that were previously available on the UK site and are now being added to the new search (such as the ability to filter UK census search results by gender).
A Handy Video Guide to FindMyPast's New Features - There are still a lot of search features missing for long dedicated users, but if you are only an occasional user of FindMyPast this video will help you become familiar with their new search features.
Findmypast's new site - mismanaged or misunderstood? - Peter Calver shares some great FindMyPast search suggestions in his Lost Cousins newsletter.
The new search does represent a few improvements. There is the option to search census records with a combination of different fields such as occupation and relationship to the head of househhold, for example, but other features are still in "refinement" mode such as the popular ability to search by street address. While they may not have handled the new search rollout as well as they could have, FindMyPast seems to be responding to user suggestions and making changes.
You've found your ancestor's name in an online database, and better yet you can even view the actual digitized record, possibly packed with more details than you were hoping to discover. It's so easy to stop right there and celebrate! Yet, no matter where you find that "ah ha!" clue to your ancestor, take a deep breath and calm yourself down long enough to turn the page. Browse the index at the back of the book. Turn over that marriage record and look at the back. Click the "previous" and "next" buttons to view additional pages in an online record collection. Flip to the beginning and end of the record set to learn more about the records, or view addendums.
Just because your answer isn't found in alphabetical or chronological order doesn't mean it's not there. And finding an answer doesn't mean there isn't even more to see. Here are just a few of many, many examples where turning the page, whether physically or virtually, may yield additional information on your ancestors. Read More...
Even if you can't read French, tracing French-Canadian and Acadian ancestors can be easier than many people expect due to the excellent record keeping of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and the remarkable level of French-Canadian records preservation. Generally, all you need to begin a search are the names of the couple married in Quebec, or the Maritime Provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), and parts of Maine (U.S.), and an approximate marriage date. From there you can often extend the family line back many generations, in some cases to the village or parish of origin in France. It's also not uncommon to find ancestors in the border states such as Vermont and New Hampshire living in the United States, but marrying or baptizing children in Canada...or just moving back and forth across the border.
Researching French-Canadian Ancestors