Saturday, October 14, 2017

RootsTech Giveaway Contest

As most of you are aware I'm a RootsTech ambassador. This means that in exchange for blogging and promoting RootsTech before, during and after the event that I receive a free registration for the conference. I'm also provided a free registration for 4 days at RootsTech, held on February 28th - March 3rd, 2018, (a $279 value) to give to one of my readers!

The pass includes access to the following:

■ over 300 classes
■ Keynote / General sessions
■ Innovation Showcase
■ Expo hall
■ Evening events (Thursday and Saturday)

Note: The pass does NOT include transportation costs (airfare, car, etc.), hotel costs, computer labs (these are additional add-ons), meals (including banquets and luncheons), printed syllabus, paid workshops.

Contest Rules:

1. To enter to win a free registration, subscribe to my blog
               a. There is a "Follow by Email" on the right hand side. Enter your email address and Click Submit.
               b. A pop up will appear asking you to type a verification code. Enter the code and click "Complete Subscription Request"
               c. You will receive an email from "Feedburner Active Email Subscriptions". Click the link in your email to activate your subscription. Your email must be verified to have a valid contest entry.

2. Email subscriptions must be completed by October 31st at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced in a future blog post in early November.

3. One entry per person

4. If you already booked and paid for RootsTech and are selected as the winner, you will be provided instructions on how to obtain a refund of your registration fee.

5. No purchase necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law.

California State Archives Trip

Front doors of the California State Archives

I just returned from my annual work trip to the Sacramento, CA area for department meetings. On the
way back to the airport I scheduled a quick visit to the California State Archives in downtown Sacramento. It's located about a block away from the State Capitol (sadly I didn't stop to get a picture as I was running out of time).

The Research Room is located on the 4th floor of the building. You are asked to show government ID to the security guard before being allowed to go up.  You then need to fill out a researcher request form which asks for some basic information about who you are, address/phone #, and purpose of visit. They have a nice set up for lockers (and they're free!) to store your purse, laptop bag, etc. You're allowed to bring in your phone (just silence it and don't make/take calls), tablet, computer, paper and pencil (they have plenty of pencils and paper that they can give you). No folders, no notebooks to protect their documents from being taken out. Lockers were nice and deep so I could easily fit my laptop bag in, purse, and sweatshirt. The key is on an old microfilm reel.

Registration desk and view of collections on display 
Once you're all checked in and your belongings are put away, you present your researcher request form to the archivist in the Research room and are handed a Researcher badge to wear. I talked with one of the archivists for a few about what kinds of collections they have and asked for finding aids (these were very helpful). I was also pointed toward the Root Cellar Sacramento Genealogy Library on-site, which is a genealogists' dream. Lots of books to peruse. They have a computer set up for you to search their online catalogue. I mostly browsed until one of the volunteers came in. We had a very nice chat about genealogy and exchanged business cards. I find this setup very unique to have a genealogy society library on-site in the archives. The society helps with lookups in their library and the archives.

Research Room (not seen here is the Microfilm Viewing Room)

Lockers on-site with key on microfilm feel

Root Cellar Genealogy Library

Here are my tips to maximize your trip to any archives:

1. Review the collections ahead of time via their online catalogue (if they have one)

2. Prepare a research log of ancestors who lived in the area of the archives and what records you're looking for

3. Before you make your trip, check their rules on where to store belongings (do they have lockers or are you expected to leave in your car), bringing in imaging devices (some will not allow document scanners, only phones), wi-fi access

4. Contact the archives ahead of time for any documents you want pulled in advance of your visit

5. Research if any local genealogy societies operate in or near the archives to help assist. This will be useful when you're not near the archives and need some assistance pulling documents, assisting with research questions. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Let's Get Family History Month/Archives Month Started

It's officially October, which is also known as Family History Month and Archives Month.

There are many ways you can celebrate working on genealogy during the next 31 days. 

1. Visit a cemetery and fulfill Find A Grave and BillionGraves photo requests (bonus points if you have ancestors buried in those cemeteries)

2. Visit a local archives - it could be its own repository like NARA or the DAR Library, a local museum or even a local library that has its own historical room (much like the one I visited in Steuben County, NY)

3. Contribute to an indexing project. FamilySearch upgraded their indexing tool to be web based so you can work on it on your computer and tablet. No more having to download software and hosting on your computer. FamilySearch is hosting a worldwide indexing event October 20th - 22nd

4. Register for an upcoming conference. The conference season is finishing out over the next few months and will pick up again with RootsTech in February. The Shamrock Genealogist will be in attendance at RootsTech as well as the Ontario Genealogical Society Conference

5. Prune your family tree. Find sources where you have facts noted, research women's surnames where their married surnames are used as placeholders, look for each descendant each of your ancestor had. 

6. Keep up with your learning. Legacy hosts free and paid webinars that you can attend. You can find a large amount of genealogical webinars free online through genealogical societies. 

7. Look into submitting your DNA and/or gather family members to test. It's a great tool to use in conjunction with research. I've discovered another line of Corcorans thanks to a DNA match I got in touch with. 

8. Scan your family photographs. With the recent hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico we need to make sure we preserve our past. Scan and upload to sites like Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc. 

What are you doing to celebrate Family History Month and Archives Month?

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

It's the most wonderful time of year...for genealogists!

It's not time for Christmas but it sure feels like that for us genealogists! RootsTech registration opened this week on Wednesday, September 20th.

There are some exciting changes coming for RootsTech 2018. I have summarized below:

1. RootsTech will be a full four days from Wednesday, February 28th to Saturday March 3, 2018

2. The Innovation Showcase will be after FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood's keynote speech

3. You can nominate apps, products or services in the family history industry. Submissions are due 10/15. More information can be found here.

Early bird pricing on 4-day passes are available for a limited time. I recommend buying early!

You can buy the pass and go back to add/change anything for your upcoming trip (such as luncheons, computer labs, etc. These do fill up!

Here's the link to registration:

Need more reasons to attend RootsTech? Here are 8 reasons! 

I also wrote up a blog post about my experience to RootsTech last year as a first timer.

Don't forget that I'll have an upcoming giveaway for a free 4-day pass to RootsTech. Stay tuned for updates!

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Local Libraries: An Undiscovered Treasure

As genealogists we love to explore cemeteries, archives and libraries to dig into our research. On my most recent trip to Steuben County, NY for a business trip, I snuck in some genealogy time to explore the Southeast Steuben County Library. I started poking around the web site and discovered they have a local history room. I asked at the circulation desk and they mentioned it was locked, that a staff person had to open the room and be in the room with me. I asked at the reference desk if they could let me in and they called over one of their staff, Jessica.

Jessica opened the door to the local history room. Below is a picture of the room door. The library is very serious about keeping their collections intact. 

I started exploring the room. They have hundreds of books about local history, maps, photos about Steuben County, New York State, as well as neighboring states. Their web site has a list of some of some of their newspaper holdings and they also have volunteers that will research on your behalf for a small fee by submitting the following request. If you're interested I have a small brochure of additional information I can scan for you. 

One of the interesting things I found was the following article in the vertical files: 

And of course before I left I asked for a picture as part of the #nextgeninaction campaign we just launched at NextGen Genealogy Network

What local libraries have you explored? 

Capture Your Family History Story on Film

Are you intrigued by genealogy TV shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are"? Do you wish you could give your family member a unique family history gift for a special occasion? There is a company called Family History Films based out of Sussex, England that creates personal family history films. The film is approximately 20-30 minutes long (can be made longer upon request) and is composed of interviews with you and members of your family as well as archive footage that is researched by Family History Films crew. In return you receive 10 copies of the film on DVD and a copy is stored online (9/22 Edit: Although it is made to broadcast standard, this is a private film for you and your family only. It will not be published or shown anywhere in the world).

As a special offer to my readers, Family History Films is providing a discount of 10% if you use the referral code "Shamrock1". This offer is valid for 3 months from today (12/17/2017).

Disclosure: I do receive a referral bonus if you take advantage of this offer.

If you're interested, contact FamilyHistoryFilms at to schedule a free evaluation.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Prepping for RootsTech

It's that time of year! RootsTech is about 6 months away and the emails are going out notifying speakers and ambassadors that they've been accepted. I am happy to announce that I have been invited to be an official RootsTech ambassador! I will be blogging before, during and after the event. I will also be holding a contest where I will be giving away to a lucky reader a free 4-day pass to RootsTech. Stay tuned for details in a later blog post.

Hotels for the RootsTech block are on sale and I recommend you start booking your travel accommodations now.  Check out the RootsTech page on what hotels are participating in group conference rates. I personally had to call the Marriott this week to have them honor the conference rate and they did so. Don't give up hope if your first choice is showing unavailable online.

I have a couple of tips as you start booking your travel:

1. The Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson are the closest hotels to the Salt Palace Convention Center with the Marriott being directly across the street and the Radisson and Hilton around the corner. The Plaza Hotel is adjacent to the Family History Library. Depending on where you expect to spend most of your time.

2. Salt Lake City downtown is very easy to walk. I felt very safe walking around and spotting my fellow genealogists with their RootsTech badges and tote bags. Most places were easy to walk to so don't worry about getting a rental car.

3. Check your airline rewards accounts. I checked one of mine recently and after buying more points, I found that I was able to get my flight for half the price of a regular flight! You may need to adjust your travel times to make the flight a bit cheaper.

4. Don't forget to also check your hotel rewards accounts to see if you can get a less expensive rate than the conference rate.

5. Check rates on travel aggregator sites like Orbitz, Expedia, etc. I was able to save a few hundred dollars last year combining my hotel and airline. The only drawback was no free breakfast at the hotel (which I basically skipped to get on with my day quicker and eat a more hardy lunch).

6. If time permits, save some time for research at the Family History Library. I will have a whole day there and it's definitely worth it. Get there early when it's not as crowded. Please note that if you don't go before or during the conference, the library is closed on Sundays.

What are your favorite tips for travelling to RootsTech?

I hope to see you there!

Disclaimer: I am an Ambassador for RootsTech 2018. I provide blog posts (in my own words), and social media coverage from now until after the conference. In return, I have free admission to RootsTech. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Extreme Genes Interview

I am honored to be included again on the Extreme Genes podcast. I was interviewed about the NextGen Genealogy Network and how I got involved. Welcome new readers!

My interview with Extreme Genes

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ch-Ch-Changes in the Genealogy World

There have been two major announcements in the genealogy world over the last few weeks. First, FamilySearch will be ceasing microfilm distribution. Second, Ancestry has made the decision to not allow users to manage multiple DNA kits under their account.

FamilySearch Discontinues Microfilm Distribution

Microfilm is getting more expensive to create copies from FamilySearch' vast collection out of the Family History Library and Granite Mountain vaults. Users can rent the microfilm for $7.50 but the cost to FamilySearch is more prohibitive. Amy Johnson Crow blogged about this recently. My tips to get through the next 3 years while digitization efforts complete:

1. Request microfilm before the August 31st deadline for anything pressing
2. Talk to your local Family History Center on microfilm rented out to see if they will send back after the deadline or hold onto it indefinitely.
3. Contact other societies that have microfilm loan services. Some organizations may be able to email you or print off a copy of the pages you need on the microfilm.
4. Check the catalogue to see if the records you are looking for have been digitized and are browsable
5. Leverage social media - you may find a volunteer going to the Salt Lake City library to research something for you.
6. Be patient - it's a change but we'll get through this!

AncestryDNA Multiple Kit Changes

Per AncestryDNA's announcement above, they have made the decision to give the testers a new user role "Owner" (since it is is their DNA) and can choose how to allocate access to their DNA kits. The owner can make someone one of the following roles: Viewer, Collaborator, Manager, The exception is that minor children can remain under their parent's kit.

This change to improve privacy controls is giving more control back to the tester and how their DNA is managed. You need to be a Manager or Owner to download your raw DNA. As someone who has helped adoptees and others locate parents, this change is welcoming. I can be assigned a Collaborator role and can assist with creating mirror trees without having to see messages come in or have the ability to manage or shockingly delete raw DNA from the system.

One of the biggest concerns I have seen in the community is how to manage kits with older relatives. AncestryDNA suggests creating a free account on (they don't have to have a subscription - there is no extra money being made on the account) and work with them to assign you access (once they give you permission). We know it will be a few extra steps but at the end of the day it is the tester's genetic material. They should have the right to decide who should view the results and what can be done with it. Also, not all users test to do genealogy - some just want to know their ethnicity estimates and health risks (esp. if they test with 23andMe or upload to Promethease).

I do like this change because I won't have to necessarily see tester initials when I view their kit in match list. I should see the name of someone that tested, which can be a big help (even if no tree isattached). The Shared Matches feature will still work to show other testers that share DNA with that user.

The change is taking effect on 7/18 and I'm sure it will be a bit bumpy as we help new testers set up their accounts. However, this change should make things more streamlined. FamilyTreeDNA requires a separate account per kit.

What are your thoughts on the changes?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Francis Dougherty and Catherine Clerkin: My Early Canadian Ancestors

Yesterday was Canada Day, the 150 birthday for our northern neighbor. In honor of the occasion, I'd like to celebrate some of my earliest paternal ancestors who came to Canada and eventually to the U.S.

My 3rd great grandfather Francis Dougherty and 3rd great grandmother Catherine Clerkein/Clarkin/Clarke) (depending on which document you're reviewing) were born in County Monaghan, Ireland. They married on Valentine's Day (February 14th) 1828 in Tydavnet, County Monaghan. They had 4 sons while they lived in Ireland (Michael, Peter, Owen and Bernard). They immigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada in 1839 and settled in Lot 58 as farmers. They then had 5 daughters (Margaret, Mary, Bridget, Catherine, and another Bridget). In 1888 Francis emigrated to Dickinson County, Kansas to join his son Peter  and his wife Margaret (Cairns) to homestead (you can read about my family homesteading here). Their daughter Margaret also left for Dickinson County, KS ahead of her parents after marrying Patrick Cairns. I'm not sure if Francis' wife Catherine travelled with them as I haven't found her on census records.

There is a newspaper article discussing a 103 year old resident being the oldest person in Dickinson County from Ireland and emigrated from Canada named Francis Dougherty. I have a strong feeling that the article is discussing him but I haven't confirmed yet. I've still yet to find out where he or his wife is buried. Maybe someone here will know.

Open Questions:
1. Where did Francis die and where was he buried?
2. Where did Catherine die and where is she buried?
3. Is there a relationship between the two Cairns spouses (Margaret Cairns and Patrick Cairns)

Source Citations:

"A Dickinsonian Aged 103." Abilene Daily Reflector, 13 June 1891 8 Mar 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Preserving Our Past

“Let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”

This quote is from Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Ebenezer Hazard in 1791, where Thomas Jefferson returned two manuscript volumes about the history of the colonies. Thomas Jefferson was concerned about the original copies held in public offices and how war has impacted these papers in addition to time and accident. This holds true today across the globe where historical papers are destroyed via fire, flooding, and even war.

Across the United states (particularly in the south) we hear about courthouses burning down and records lost. The most famous example is the 1890 census. Most people think the fire that broke out in the Commerce building in Washington, DC destroyed the documents. Yes, there was a fire that broke out but it was the water damage that the firefighters flooded the basement with that destroyed the records. The archivists walked into ankle deep water - it was a nightmare.

In 1922, the Public Records Office in Ireland was destroyed during the Irish Civil War, taking with it such treasures as original wills dating back to the 16th century, parish registers which recorded baptisms, marriages, and deaths and census records from 1821-1851. There are pictures online you can see of the documents strewn on the street after the explosion, a horrible sight to see when you think of your relatives’ documents lying on the street.

What can we do about it? I’ll discuss 3 examples.

One project involves digitization. This involves the use of specialized cameras that will photograph documents. You can go to places like the National Archives in Washington, DC where they have computer labs set up that will allow you to digitize documents that are being held in their archives. I have had several genealogy friends transcribe Civil War pension records they pulled for their research. Now these documents are online for free for anyone to view. Once the documents are digitized, they can now be indexed.

What is indexing? This involves a web site or software program where volunteers review historical documents and transcribe the text. This transcribed text can then be loaded into databases and can be searched. As a genealogist this enables me to do specific research on a family member. FamilySearch, one of the leading genealogy companies, has a web based indexing program where you can select from hundreds of projects and start indexing, all from the comforts of home. Your contributions are then sent to another volunteer to arbitrate or review what you have transcribed and make any corrections (basically a second pair of eyes) before it’s sent on as the final version of that record. When the collection or a large portion of the collection is indexed, the database is published on FamilySearch for use by the public.

Another way that we can preserve our past is to get involved in newspaper archive research. The US Holocaust Museum just started a project called “History Unfolded” where they’re asking participants to research their local newspapers for stories about the Holocaust and America’s response. As of today, 1737 participants have contributed more than 10,000 articles from their local newspapers.

As we approach Independence Day next week, I ask all of you to think of ways that you can help preserve history. Join an indexing project, research newspapers for History Unfolded, digitize your family documents. Be a citizen archivist and do something to preserve our past!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Why The Shamrock?

I've been trying to attend more genealogy conferences as of late. I recently attended the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) in SpringField, MA and RootsTech in Salt Lake City, UT.  I started giving out business cards with my blog information to help get my name out there as well as include details on my family on the back for "cousin bait".


The comment I hear the most when I give out my cards is "Oh shamrock. You do Irish genealogy". It is true that I embrace my Irish roots, which is my father's line.  I've had the most genealogy success going back to Ireland so the shamrock seemed like a good symbol to use.

The shamrock is typically associated with St Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity. It didn't become popular until the 19th century where the shamrock and Celtic harp were used as national symbols. During the Victorian Age it was viewed as an act of rebellion to participate in the "wearin o' the green".

I've never been to Ireland but I view it as another home to explore. So many of my ancestors lived in Ireland and established themselves as local farmers for generations before the Irish famine occurred and then migrated off to Prince Edward Island or to the U.S. for a new life.

The shamrock is also associated with good luck, even though it's not officially a four leaf clover (which we associate with leprechauns). In an Irish bride's bouquet you may find a sprig of shamrock to bring good luck to the couple. In genealogy there are times that we do get lucky - we find a document that should have been lost, the family bible turns up from a long lost cousin who got in touch, a DNA match that helps you break down a brick wall on a family line. I've been fortunate to have had much luck exploring my family tree. May you have luck in your genealogy research!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Road Trip to Springfield, MA: My Recap of the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium

This past week I attended the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium ( in Springfield, MA. It was my first solo road trip to Massachusetts and was overall a great conference.

Here are some highlights from each day:

Wednesday (Pre-Conference Day)
Springfield Genealogical Bus Tour - we visited the Forbes Library to see the presidential Calvin Coolidge collection, lunch at the new Irish Cultural Center, a visit to the Springfield Armory and then a quick drive by the Springfield cemetery. Very fun tour - only wish we had more time to see more.

NextGen Meetup - we had a happy hour meet and greet with a few members and discussed genealogy.

MOSH Reception - meet and greet reception at the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History and Archives. There was also a tour of the local archives and library held at the museum.


Opening session with Mary Tedesco. She discussed how genealogy research has evolved over time from the earliest genealogical society to the GEDCOM file development.

Luncheon with speaker Thomas MacEntee - he discussed how we have more privacy today than our ancestors, where so many details were captured in newspapers

Death Records as a Starting Point by F. Warren Bittner - open discussion on different questions to ask when reviewing a very small death notice record

Genealogy Do-Over: A Year of Learning from Past Mistakes by Thomas MacEntee - this course discusses how to conduct a genealogy do-over and do a "reset" on your research

The Cemetery: A Valuable Resource for Genealogists by Brenda Sullivan (The Gravestone Girls) - this course discussed the different symbols used on headstones that tell more about an ancestors life (occupation, social memberships, etc).


Jewish Names and Eastern European Locations: Who the Heck is Ida Gerskill by Meredith Hoffman - discussed how to search for records using different Yiddish variations and Soundex techniques

Locating Famine Immigrants in Griffith's Valuation by Donna Moughty - excellent course on how to read Griffith's Valuation records

Mapping Irish Locations Online by Pamela Guye Holland - discussed the different locations and jurisdictions of Ireland and how to review each of the maps available.

Jumping the Pond: Finding the Origins of Your Irish Ancestor by Donna Moughty - discussed how to use records in the U.S. to get back to Ireland

Ukrainian Genealogy by Michelle Chubenko - this course had a lot of great information for conducting Eastern European research

Banquet with speaker Kenyatta Berry - she discussed some favorite moments behind the scenes of Genealogy Road Show


NYC Municipal Archives: Undiscovered Collections & Vital Records - gave an overview of the types of records available at the NYC Municipal Archives with some samples from the NYG&B book on the NYC Municipal Archives

Using Online Resources to Find and Analyze the Law - this was an interesting approach that I haven't seen in other conferences about the different legal resources available to look at cases that involve your ancestors

Luncheon with speaker Jane Wilcox - she shared stories from her female ancestors and the types of artifacts left behind that tell more of their stories

Understanding Probate and Deed Records in New England by David Allan Lambert - a great overview of the different types of probate and land records available with most collections available at the New England Historical Genealogical Society

Family Clusters and Chain Migrations: Keys to Tracing Immigrant Ancestors by Shellee A. Morehead - discussed how to trace entire clusters of families, friends, neighbors that may come from the same area of Europe

Banquet with  speaker Thomas MacEntee - he discussed some tips on how to work with other genealogists and archivists

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tracing My Prince Edward Island Ancestors Through Newspapers:

Several generations of my father's family immigrated from Ireland to  Prince Edward Island, Canada before ultimately coming to the United States. One of my favorite web sites to research my ancestors is It's a web site managed by the Robertson Library at the University of Prince Edward Island. Newspapers are digitized back to the early 1800's through the early 1990's. My favorite newspaper to find obituaries and other articles is The Guardian. It contains a wealth of information, including information about current events going on at that time throughout the world.

Sadly the newspaper articles aren't indexed like other newspaper sites (think: and GenealogyBank). I would love to help out on an indexing project for this site to help make a database available. Optical character recognition software was used to digitize the newspapers that is used through the search function. This site can be compared to Old Fulton Post Cards. You have to use different search terms to find articles that pertain to your family and not every reference will come up if a character was read differently by the OCR software.

Some tips for using IslandNewspapers:

1. Don't rely on asterisks for wild card searches - due to the OCR you may be drastically reducing your search

2. Try different spelling variations for surnames

3. Not all women are recorded with their first name. You may have to use variations of the following "Mrs Bernard Rooney, "Mrs Rooney", "Miss Rooney" to pull up possible articles

4. Browse newspaper editions around the time of the event you're researching to see if you can find articles pertaining to that event. Obituaries were recorded weeks, sometimes months after the time of death (particularly if the person died overseas).

5. Use the year filters on the left hand side to narrow down your searches based on when your ancestor lived.

6. Search using the towns your ancestors lived in along with the surname. It will help bring up other possible ancestors living in the same area.

7. Don't discount smaller articles - there's a wealth of information about people that lived on Prince Edward Island. Newspapers were akin to our social media today for keeping in touch on what everyone is doing and where they are going.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ancestry Genetic Communities

Today Ancestry launched the genetic communities feature for current Ancestry DNA testers.

Ancestry defines genetic communities as "groups of AncestryDNA members who are connected through DNA most likely because they descend from a population of common ancestors, even if they no longer live in the area where those ancestors once lived". My current genetic communities show below, which I previously confirmed through research to be accurate.

When you click on each genetic community, a map comes up like below showing the countries and regions where you match with other AncestryDNA users for that community. When you're on the Story tab, you can see a history overview and a more detailed timeline for the area on the left hand side. I have a genetic community in Northern Ireland, where my father's line descends from.

When you click over to the Connection tab, you can drill into your DNA matches that share that same community. I can view my matches as well as see the surnames associated with the community.

When you go to your Match List, you have the option to select which Genetic Communities you want to filter by

Clicking on the surname brings up a family history snapshot, which includes items like this surname distribution map. You can click on the different country tabs to see the number of families with that surname based on census data.

Overall, the feature has some great visuals and can filter lists (which is a god send when you're working with endogamous populations).

What have you discovered with this new feature?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Irish Soda Bread: A Family Recipe Passed Down Generations

St Patrick's Day is coming up quickly this week. It's the time of year where I use the family recipe for Irish soda bread. It was passed down from my grandmother, Rose Alice Corcoran, who was passed down the recipe from her mother, Bridget Connelly. Who knows how far back this recipe has been passed down? I was taught the recipe from my aunt Rose as my grandmother passed away when I was a little girl. 

I'm reminded of Steve Rockwood's speech about family recipes at RootsTech. He shared his grandmother's rocky road fudge recipe that has become a holiday tradition. Recipes can be captured online as memories through FamilySearch at

Here is the Family Recipe: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Sift together the following ingredients:
5 cups of flour 1 cup of sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 heaping teaspoons of baking powder tip of teaspoon baking soda
Mix in 1 bar of butter with fingers (try to soften the butter prior - makes it easy to mix)
Add cup of raisins
Add approx 1.5 to 2 cups of whole milk, light or heavy cream (I personally use light cream)
Work with your hands until dough starts sticking together. Just keep adding milk or cream until it does.
My aunt taught me to make scones - they're poppable and easier to give out to friends and coworkers in the office.
Just put little balls of dough on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approx 25-30 minutes. When toothpick comes out dry-they are done.

Depending on the size of your scones, this recipe can net anywhere from 4 to 6 dozen. Be prepared for a lot of scones!

Here is what the scones should look like before going into the oven

Here is the final result - they should be browned and be crisp on the outside but soft on the inside.


What are some of your favorite family recipes?

As heard on Extreme Genes

Sunday, February 26, 2017

RootsTech: The WrestleMania of Genealogy Conventions

I recently attended my first RootsTech in Salt Lake City, UT. It was one of the most amazing experiences I ever did. It was my first solo trip to travel across the country that wasn't for work reasons. I'm very thankful and appreciative to my family and friends for pitching in for me to go this year. I had the privilege to come in a day early to research at the Family History Library and then attend the entire conference, including some of the innovator summit sessions.

 RootsTech was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center. This place was pretty huge - you had multiple ballrooms on the main level, and then classrooms going on and on for another two floors. Depending on when your next session was, you needed to hustle a little bit to make sure you found the correct room and were able to get a good seat. The featured lunches were all the way across the convention center on the 3rd floor. You definitely worked up an appetite by the time you got there. The Expo Hall housed hundreds of vendors. I've never seen so many genealogy related companies! It's very easy to get overwhelmed. I took time during when a lecture was being held to walk through and check out what was there. Of course I found my way to Maia's Books and perused the latest book selections while it wasn't so crowded.

I highly recommend that each genealogist go to RootsTech at least once in their lifetime. Get out there and network. So many great people in the industry as well as doing it for fun. There's always something new to learn.

Here's a Recap of Each Day including the Sessions I Attended and the Links to the Sessions if Available:

Wednesday (2/8)

Innovator Summit General Session: Liz Wiseman was the key note speaker. Liz Wiseman spoke about her rookie moment and how to embrace it to succeed in business.


Industry Trends and Outlook: Panel Discussion with Ben Bennett; Craig Bott; Heather Holmes; Nick Jones; Robert Kehrer

Innovation: Best Practices and Applications - Cyndi Tetro

NextGen Genealogy Network Meetup - I co-coordinated the meetup for NextGen genealogy members for a casual lunch. We had a great turnout!

3D Printing the Past - Joey Skinner

Deciphering Foreign Language Record - Randy Whited

Jewish Genealogy Resources on the Internet - Daniel Horowitz

Welcome Party: We Don't Need Roads - this was the kickoff party and was a lot of fun. The theme was 80's so 80's dance music, 80's video games, candy bar. This was so much fun!

Thursday (2/9)

General Session: The Scott Brothers (Jonathan and Drew) keynoted the presentation. The Scott Brothers' presentation was fabulous! They also took photos with RootsTech attendees afterwards.

How to Use DNA Triangulation to Confirm Ancestors - Kitty Cooper

FamilySearch Sponsored Lunch: Who Moved My Microfilm?

Tips for Tracing Your Jewish Roots - Schelly Talalay Dardashti

Organizing Evidence to Reveal Lineages - Thomas Jones

RootsTech Opening Event: Music It Runs in the Family - Fabulous performances by the Mormon Tablernacle Choir and guest soloist Dallyn Vail Bayles. It was touching to hear stories from Oscar "Andy" Hammerstein about his family.

Friday (2/10):

General Session: LeVar Burton was the key note speaker. His speech was very emotional and there was not a dry tear in the house when he was presented with his ancestry.

Innovator Showdown Final: One of my favorite parts at RootsTech is learning about some of the latest start-up companies and the products they developed. Congrats to the winners!

FindMyPast Sponsored Lunch. A Narrative Worth Telling: The Family History Journey - Jen Baldwin

Finding Books, Books, Glorious Books - Helen Smith

How Do I Find That? Secrets to Find Unique Sources - Joshua Taylor

MyHeritage RootsTech After Party - This is an invite-only party I had the privilege of going as a guest. Great food, fun games, and karaoke.

Saturday (2/11):

General Session: Buddy Valastro was the key note speaker. I always love hearing stories about his family. And of course there was a cake decorating contest that was being judged.

Finding My Irish Story: Going Beyond the Free Stuff  - Brian Donovan

Creating Google Alerts for Your Genealogy - Katherine Wilson

RootsTech Closing Event: Celebrating Life with Music and Cake: Great performances by all of the dancers!

Monday, February 20, 2017

I am honored for the shoutout on this week's Extreme Genes episode. I highly recommend this genealogy podcast to all of my genealogy friends.
As heard on Extreme Genes

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My First Trip to the Family History Library (A Genealogist's Disneyland)

Last week was my first trip to RootsTech, the annual genealogy conference held in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. I came in a day early to get some research done at the Family History Library before I started attending classes.

Steve Rockwood, CEO for FamilySearch, was right when he calls the Family History Library "Disneyland". There were so many floors to pick from - U.S. & Canada Books. U.S. & Canada Microfilm, British Isle, and International records. I spent time on each floor as I started going through my family tree. When I first signed onto my computer, I did have the conundrum of which ancestor to start with. I decided to start on the British Isles floor to research my Irish ancestors.

My first few minutes on the British Isles floor wasn't uneventful. I needed to purchase a flash drive as I forgot mine at home. Luckily the library has one on each floor. I purchased the flash drive with no issue after inserting a $20 and receiving the change. I then inserted the change into the machine to get a copy card and nothing would vend. I though this isn't looking good. I broke the machine. Luckily there is an engineer on-site that came and fixed the machine and refunded my money. Lesson learned - use the bill change machine for big bills.

I was a bad genealogist and didn't prepare a list of records that I needed. I used the library's catalogue to start looking up some records for Northern Ireland. I figured I would start with the books since until digitized they are going to be the hardest to get a hold of. There were a number of books published by genealogical societies, the most helpful being the cemetery headstone transcriptions. I found a few references I was missing.  The scanners set up on each floor were very helpful. I was able to save my records to the flash drive and then pull up on my laptop to rename and attach to my Ancestry tree.  These scanners had a lot of helpful features including emailing the files to yourself so you could save on cost and double check your files are clear before leaving the library. I highly recommend you rename the files on your flash drive when you pull on your laptop to something descriptive of the source and ancestor. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to backtrack months later.

I proceeded up to the U.S. & Canada floor to see if I can make some headway on my Prince Edward Island (PEI) ancestors. I found a few references to my Rooney cousins in the book "The History of Vernon River Parish 1877-1977", where my ancestors served as sisters in the local church. I went through some of the indexes to cemetery headstones which referenced their immigration from Ireland as well as some indexes to obituaries from various newspapers. I found a reference to an obituary I'm trying to obtain for my 3rd great grandfather Philip Rooney who came to PEI from County Fermanagh. I'm hoping that it will have more leads to trace his family further back. I found a Patrick Clarkin, a native of the parish of Tydavnet, County Monaghan. That sounded familiar. My 3rd great grandmother Catherine "Kitty" Clerkin married my 3rd great grandfather Francis Dougherty in Tydavnet, County Monaghan. I definitely need to investigate more to find out about Patrick and see how he may fit in my family.

After lunch, I decided to try the International records floor. I've been having a hard time finding information on my Eastern European ancestors. I can get back to the country and sometimes the town based on naturalization records but then the trail starts to go cold. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything new but I was able to help a friend review microfilm record for a German marriage record dating back to 1688. I'm so jealous that she could go that far back! I can only go back to early 1800's/late 1700's if I'm lucky on any line.

Using the microfilm machines was an experience. I read a few blogs beforehand and was advised to try the electric microfilm reader to avoid having to crank as hard to scroll through the film. I found one that wasn't in use but there was barely any instructions. Luckily I was able to get a hold of an elder to help me with the machine. He was learning with me and we used the diagram on the machine to figure it out. I was able to pull up the record easily but it was very difficult to read - a lot of ink spots. My friend was happy that I was able to pull the record. I wanted to try to get a better image of the record so I used one of the manual microfilm readers. I was really struggling with loading the microfilm on the spool - thankfully there was another researcher willing to help me out. I was able to pull up the record after a few cranks (which you can really get arms like Popeye after a while) and it was easier to read.

My head was spinning at the end of the day with all of the different things I was researching all day. It's certainly easy to be overwhelmed when you first go to the library, esp. during a busy time like RootsTech week. I recommend that if you're going to go to the library, you use these tips:

1. Prepare a list of microfilm records/books you want to research (side note - you may not be able to see the catalogue description unless you're in the FHL or another Family History Center).

2. Bring a flash drive (or cash in small bills to purchase one at the library)

3. Use the catalogue to research books on-site

4. Ask questions if you don't know where something is. There are so many people willing to help.

5. Explore - it's an experience just going to a library like this. You never know what you will find.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Finding Ancestors in Cemeteries

I know it's been forever since my last post. Life got in the way and then the holidays. I am going to try to be more punctual with my posts. My apologies for the wait. 

Today I am going to talk about headstones and cemetery records. I have made a lot of progress in my family tree using sites like Find A Grave and Billion Graves to fill in some gaps. 

Over the last few months, I recently upgraded to Billion Graves Plus and renew on a monthly basis. I have not regretted this decision. I was able to use the nearby family plots feature (where people with the same surname are buried) to find other possible ancestors in the same cemetery. I had the greatest amount of luck in Prince Edward Island, Canada where my father's ancestors are buried. I easily found an additional 20 plots that I didn't have in my tree. 

Through the help of some of my cousins, volunteers on Billion Graves (as well as Find a Grave), and obituary records I was able to pinpoint most of my ancestors' final resting places. For those ancestors I couldn't find in PEI, I was able to use the obituary records to locate the cemetery they were buried in and then contact the cemetery to get the plot number. Each person I contacted has been incredibly helpful (helpful fact: list the name, date of death and other possible family members related to them in your email to ask for the plot #'s). 

Headstones can also be used as cousin bait. I contacted a user on about a headstone I found through a search that was possibly related to one of my Corcoran ancestors and included my email address. He contacted me back and included the headstone photo, and provided some information on the family. One story he recounted was how my 2nd great uncle Bernard Corcoran became blind.  Apparently he fought for the famous Irish "Fighting 69th" in WWI and was shot by a sniper in 1918. The injury caused him to lose his sight. Here's where it really gets good. He included the cemeteries in County Louth where some of the headstones can be found. I now have some more research to do! And yes I confirmed we are indeed cousins. 

How have you used cemeteries to assist records? 

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