The American Civil War Began 154 Years Ago Today

The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

Canada’s Parliament Buildings were Built on top of a Dump Full of Wine, Beer, and Champagne Bottles

Recent archeological digs outside the main buildings of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa have turned up tens of thousands of artifacts from the early 19th century. The site previously was called Barrack Hill and was a staging ground for the British Royal Engineers to undertake the construction of the nearby Rideau Canal. The local town was called ByTown although the name was later changed to Ottawa.

“When you think of early Bytown, it’s often portrayed as a swamp, as a back country area, but it’s interesting to see the officers still enjoyed a gentlemanly life that was expected of them,” said Kopp, who has worked on other archeological digs on Canadian military sites.

There was lots of evidence of drinking — wine bottles, beer bottles, champagne bottles, tumblers and glasses.

Latest Version of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring America Ferrera is now Available on iTunes

If you missed last night’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring America Ferrera, you can now retrieve it from iTunes for $2.99. Previous episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? are also available. A Season Pass to all of this year’s episodes costs $14.99.

To view the episodes, launch the iTunes Software on your Windows, Macintosh, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch device and search for “Who Do You Think You Are?”

(+) Endangered Species: CD and DVD Disks

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

CD-ROM disks and the newer DVD-ROM plastic disks have been the standard of data storage for years. However, that is rapidly changing. The disks may last a long time, but it appears that CD and DVD disk READERS are about to disappear.

A well-prepared genealogist will handle the change easily. However, anyone who ignores the change in technology will be left with a stack of plastic disks that are about as useful as the old computer punch cards.

On the Road Again

Just a quick note for your information: I am going on a trip starting Monday morning, April 13, and will not return until the following Monday, April 20. I will attend the Who Do You Think You Are? Live conference next week in Birmingham, England. Because of my travels back and forth over the Atlantic plus the fact I will be a bit busy during the conference, I probably will not be posting as many articles as usual in the next week.

International Conference on Jewish Genealogy Early Registration Discount Extended

The following announcement was written by the organizers of the 2015 IAJGS 35th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy:

Happy Passover from the 2015 IAJGS 35th International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. For the ease of those who are vacationing over the holiday, we have decided to extend the Early Registration Discount fee through Wednesday May 6, 2015. Visit to register now! And since we promised a drawing for prizes those registered by April 15th your chances of winning are now double! Be patient if we are slower in answering e-mails, Israel is on vacation until April 12. Ortra our Conference Organizer, like most non-essential businesses in Israel, is closed for all but emergencies. I and most of our volunteers will be answering questions as rapidly as we can.

Our Preliminary Program now is now listed in the Program & Schedule section of the website in the “Program” tab at You’ll see why we are boasting that this will be “A Conference Like No Other”. The schedule will become interactive after Passover.

Genealogy Data Entry Techniques

In the course of a week, I get to see a lot of genealogy data. Some of what I see is abysmal. Many otherwise highly-skilled genealogists do not seem to know that their keyboards have a SHIFT key! Instead, they simply press their CAPS LOCK key and then ignore upper and lower case after that.

Of course, the use of UPPER CASE text has a long history in the computer business. The mainframes of the 1960s and 70s only used upper case text. Data typically was entered on 80-column punch cards. The IBM 026 keypunch machine, the most popular keypunch machine ever built, indeed did not have a shift key and was incapable of entering lower case text.

By the late 1970s, all of this had changed, and data was being entered from computer terminals in normal upper and lower case. However, not everyone got the word. It seems that a number of people do not realize that the keyboards of the twenty-first century have improved since those “stone age” computers of 40 or 50 years ago!

Kim and Khloe Kardashian Visit their Ancestors’ Homeland

I wrote about the Kardashian family’s genealogy earlier at This family certainly is not my favorite group of personalities but I find the story of their ancestors’ hardships and persecution fascinating, regardless of the antics of present-day family members. Kim and Khloe Kardashian also seem interested as they visited their ancestors’ homeland of Armenia this week.

National Genealogy Conference in Canada has been CANCELED

A National Genealogy Conference had been scheduled to be held in Halifax on July 17 through 19. A very brief announcement at now says the event has been canceled. The reason for the cancelation was not given although I suspect a low number of pre-registrations may have had something to do with it.

A 9th-century “Leechbook”

I have had a few medical problems during my life and have been treated by a number of doctors. I am glad I didn’t live during the 9th century!

“Bald’s Leechbook” is not a book about blood-sucking worms. It’s a medieval tome written in Anglo-Saxon, probably during the ninth century, which outlines the practices of English doctors (sometimes referred to as “leeches” at the time) concerning care and treatment of a variety of human maladies. The book can now be found in London’s British Library.

Book Review: MindMaps for Genealogy

The following book review was written by Dick Eastman:

MindMaps for Genealogy
by Ron Arons
71 ppg. Published by Criminal Research Press

I have read a lot of genealogy books over the years but MindMaps for Genealogy was not like any other book I have read before.

A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information. The diagrams created by mind mapping techniques visually “map” information. Mind maps can be used as an aid to studying and organizing information, solving problems, making decisions, and writing.

In this book, author Ron Arons introduces the basic concepts of mind maps: what they are, how to create them, and how to use them for planning genealogical research. He also shows how mind maps can complement the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), considered to be a standard for determining and proving genealogy research results. Mind maps are particularly useful for helping solve “brick wall” problems that are common in genealogy research, including:

America Ferrera featured on the U.S. Version of Who Do You Think You Are? Sunday

For the first time ever, Who Do You Think You Are? heads to Honduras as actress America Ferrera sets out to search for a connection to her father, whom she barely knew. The episode airs this Sunday, April 12 at 10/9c on TLC.

Throughout her journey, America uncovers the fascinating details of her paternal great grandfather, who was a General in the army and led numerous revolts against Honduran leaders to fight for the people’s rights.

Key details from America’s episode include:

New UK and Australian Records available to Search on Findmypast

The following announcement was written by the folks at Findmypast:

The latest installment of Findmypast Friday marks the release of over 1.3 million UK and Australian records. The latest additions include fascinating Australian prison and government records from the state of New South Wales, an Index of will beneficiaries from the English county of Essex, First World War records covering the district of Craven in Yorkshire and over 5.3 million new British Newspaper articles.

Australian Records

Containing over 29,000 records, the New South Wales Goal Photographic Books 1871-1969 consist of entries of prisoners from 14 different gaols around the state. The records are particularly fascinating as they contain not only transcripts and scans of the original prisoner entry listings themselves, but also the mug shot photographs of individual inmates. The original series, held by the State Records Authority of New South Wales, was created as per the ‘Gaol Regulation’ which was proclaimed in the New South Wales Government Gazette on 19 February 1867. This required that description books be maintained to keep track of incoming and outgoing prisoners. Each record includes a transcript and image.

Dacuda PocketScan – The World’s Smallest Scanner

This seems to be the week for articles about scanners. One new device has been announced but is not yet in production: Dacuda PocketScan. It claims to be the world’s smallest scanner. It is about the size of a stapler. It is so small that it cannot scan an entire page or even a photograph all at once. Instead, the user moves the handheld scanner over the item to be digitized and the PocketScan software automatically stitches the scans together into one image. It will work wirelessly with iPad, Macintosh, Windows, and soon should also work with Android devices.

PocketScan performs character recognition for 130 languages. The device measures 95 x 50 x 27 mm (3.75 x 2 x 1 inches), weighs 85g (3 ounces) and can scan 400 times between charges. The cheapest PocketScan will cost $99 for Kickstarter users who pay in advance, a $50 discount from the anticipated retail price. The producing company hopes to ship it in December. Competitors include NeatReceipts and ScanSnap.

Ottawa, Ontario, Museums and Archives Virtual Collections Catalogue

Ottawa’s history is going online with the launch of the Ottawa Museums and Archives virtual collections catalogue. The virtual catalogue includes digitized records and artifacts ranging from old military gear to letters to old bylaws and maps. So far it has 34,000 records active on the website, and it will continue to grow.

Wounded as a Slave, Died Free

Thanks to a genealogist’s death certificate research, a Civil War story has been uncovered and the original story corrected.

Hannah Reynolds was the lone civilian death at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. She died a slave at 60, hours before the war to end slavery unofficially came to a close. A century and a half later, Reynolds’ story is being rewritten: a new discovery by a genealogist shows that she lingered for several days — long enough to have died a free woman.

(+) How to Obtain Information from the 1950 and Later Census Records

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

Anyone who has been researching U.S. ancestors for very long is probably familiar with the U.S. census records. The census records of 1940 and earlier are publicly available; anyone may view them. However, the census records of 1950 and later are sealed and not available to descendants until 72 years after the date of the census. Or are they?

Click on the above image of a 1950 census form to view a larger version

In fact, genealogists can obtain limited information from the 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, and even the 2010 U.S. census records. To be sure, the information available is limited, and the fees are high. However, this service is valuable to some people.

Updated: Security Guard is Shot at U.S. Census Bureau Headquarters

Final Update: The two-hour ordeal seems to be over with one security guard dead, the perpetrator and one policeman wounded. The incident apparently happened following a domestic argument between a man and a woman and apparently had nothing to do with the Census Bureau.

Details may be found in a Washington Post article at


Update #2: Washington, D.C. police say the suspect who shot the Census Bureau headquarters guard also led police on a chase through the District of Columbia, firing at police on the wild trip. The suspect was eventually shot by police and reportedly was seriously wounded.

The incident reportedly started as an armed kidnapping. Police are now piecing together the details.


Update #1: FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson said the incident at the Census Bureau headquarters has “ended” and a loudspeaker announcement declared the all-clear at the facility.

Other authorities say a suspect was shot on H Street NE in the District after a dramatic chase and shootout there.

Still developing…

Mother Gave Birth to her Own Brother and Sister

OK, this gets confusing. Pay attention.

Ellen Bown, a woman from England, gave birth to all three of the children in the picture below. But only one, Maddy, is her ‘official’ child.

This graphic explains the complicated biological and adoptive relationships that are present in Ellen Brown’s (far right) family.

When it comes to Alex and Ruth, Ellen acted as a surrogate for her own mother, Jenny. Ellen used her own eggs, fertilised with her stepfather Tony’s sperm. So, biologically, twins Alex and Ruth are teenager Maddy’s half-brother and half-sister. But legally — having been adopted by Ellen’s mother Jenny and stepfather Tony a week after their birth — they are now her aunt and uncle.

Which brings with it another mind-boggling twist.

Dallas Genealogical Society 2015 Writing Contest Closes April 30

The following announcement was written by the folks at the Dallas Genealogical Society:

Dallas, TX , April 7, 2015 – -The Dallas Genealogical Society’s Publications Committee cites an age-old question: “How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.” The same might be true of how you write a family history – one story at a time, until you have a collection that can be passed down for generations. Even if you have only one story you want to write, that is a worthy accomplishment.

Enter that story in the DGS 2015 Writing Contest by April 30. The contest is open to both members and non-members of DGS as well as amateurs and professionals. Only original material not previously published elsewhere in any format is eligible. Winners will be announced in July, 2015.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,306 other followers