Viewing Film Images on Familysearch.org

In 2017, Familysearch.org changed our access to their film catalog that they have for genealogical records. They made digital images for the records on most of their films and allowed us to view them on computers from various locations.

We can determine where we can view the digital image by finding the film in the film catalog, and looking at the icon on the far right will tell us where to view the film. If there is a roll of film, we can view the film only at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If there is a small camera-shaped icon on the far right, we can view the film online. If there is a key over the camera, we cannot view the image at our present location. Clicking on the camera icon will tell us where to view the digital images of the records. If the key is missing above the camera, we can click on the key icon, and the digital images of the records will appear. If the key is above the icon, one of three error messages will appear when we click on the camera icon:

  1. To view these images, do one of the following: Access the site at a family history center or Affiliated Library.
  2. To view these images, do one of the following: Access the site at a family history center.
  3. You may be able to view this image by visiting one of our partners’ sites or the legal record custodian (fees may apply). Note this replaces an earlier error message that indicated that the image could be viewed at a Family History Center but only to Church Members. (Basically, this option means that you can view the images only on the films in Salt Lake City.)

My strategy is first to try to view the film from home. If available from home, my research will progress faster because this is the most convenient option.  If the key is above the camera icon, click on the icon to see where you need to go to view the digital images for the film and plan your trip.

I try to visit affiliated libraries because they usually have hours and locations that are more convenient. Before visiting a Family History Center, I review their hours and site instructions very carefully because some are open only by appointment. I also have the phone number for the Family Center with me, because entry to the building may be a challenge.

DNA and Dark Secrets – expanded comments

If your DNA results do not make sense, ask yourself these questions before you try to uncover the answers:

  • Do you need to know the answer?
  • Are you prepared to deal with a dark secret that may upset the family?
  • What will you do with the information once you know the answer?

Be prepared for bad news and dark secrets!

Finding answers to your DNA test results can change known relationships by uncovering the existence of previously unknown biological parents. You may immediately think of adoption as the cause for unknown parents, but researchers have also identified unwed mothers and infidelity as significant sources of DNA surprises. Another frequent reason for unknown parents would be the remarriage of a spouse after the other spouse dies young, leaving children. The new relationships may affect your parents, grandparents, or with earlier generations. Please remember, genealogists must respect the privacy of family members when uncovering “secrets” in documents and now DNA testing makes privacy issues even more critical because of the nature of the information revealed.

Suddenly finding out we have an unknown biological parent or grandparent in our family history will probably cause immediate emotional issues.

  • If they were not due to adoption, how did it occur?
  • How can I find the name of my unknown parent or ancestor?
  • Should I find out?

The search for the answers will be challenging if the problem was in an older generation because the documents probably do not exist, and people who knew may be dead.

Before you take a DNA test, try to understand the possible outcomes of a DNA test. After you submit your sample, be prepared for unexpected issues. Once you have your results, handle problematic information responsibly by responding discreetly.

Be sensitive to your family members. Please consider that some family members do not have to know, but some family members need to know. Everyone will react differently and be careful with who you tell and how you say it.

The only way to prevent the disclosure of problematic genealogical information is to avoid all genealogical research and DNA testing.

Lettin‘ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin‘ it back in.

 

by Will Rogers

Problems with Names

Finding the documents for your ancestors is thrilling. It may lead to an addiction to genealogy and family history. However, there is a challenge when their names are difficult to spell or pronounce. Another problem is interpreting the handwriting on the document.

The name on my grandfather’s manifest was correct but the indexer recorded with the wrong first four letters in the indexed record. Another set of grandparents dropped a few letters in their name once they arrived and this variation made the search very frustrating. I also had difficulty because first names were Americanized and I had to learn the Polish name that appeared on the manifest.

The myth of name changes

Many families believe immigration officials changed family names when the immigrants entered America. However, this is a myth. Officials usually recorded the names on passenger manifests based on official documents presented by the immigrant to the shipping line at the time of boarding. Changing their names would be illegal. Also, immigration stations were staffed with large numbers of translators to help ensure officials recorded accurately the information that was given by the immigrants. If families changed the spelling of their surnames, they did it after arrival, and this was usually to make it easier for the people around them to pronounce and write their name.

Name variations and spelling

Some instances of differences in names found on documents may have been caused when the recording person wrote the name phonetically. Immigrants may not have caught the misspelling of their name because the immigrant may have been illiterate. Also, the immigrant may have recognized their name written in the Cyrillic alphabet or Hebrew but did not know what the person wrote because he used the Latin alphabet.

Other problems were the given names found on documents. The immigrant may have preferred to use their middle name in their daily life, but official documents required their full Christian name. Another challenge we have is to identify the European spelling of the given names.

Searching

Remembering that documents may list your ancestor’s name as a variant should help you find your ancestor faster. Use the correct spelling first and if you cannot find them, use name variations and wildcards. First names are important in your search, and the record may list one of the variations of a given name. Sometimes it is best to use part of the given name with wildcards to reduce the problem with the given name variants. Research the spellings of given names for the countries of your ancestors and find books that provide surname variations

We are descendants of immigrants, and our ancestors contributed to the tremendous growth in America. The industrial growth in the 1900s could not have happened without the immigrants. Find the documents that add to their story to honor them and save for your future generations.

Be patient and remember to have fun looking for your family history.

Start Your Family History Journey

Researching your family history can have some very exciting moments.  Find your first census record and feel the thrill of seeing a snapshot of your family.  I became addicted to genealogy research after finding my grandfather’s passenger manifest and had difficulty waiting to find my next piece of my family’s history. Start your search, and you can also feel this thrill once you find that first document. Filling in more generations of your family tree and finding more family facts will start to haunt your waking thoughts. Get started and be prepared to make researching your family history a lifelong journey. Just like a great novel, it will be hard to put down.

Try to have a goal in your research. I intended to learn more about my family’s heritage and to preserve what I find for my children and grandchildren. Your goals can be similar to mine or yours can be as simple as doing an in-depth study of one of your famous ancestors. Start your journey at home. Collect documents, pictures, and letters that you and your immediate family have stored away in old shoe boxes in the closet or stuffed in desk drawers. Remember also that it is critical to interview your older relatives to save their memories and oral history.

Be organized in your research because this will save you time but will also point the way for more research. I use summaries to organize my facts and as a reference tool while doing my research. My summaries can make my research more efficient and helps me find more documents and facts. The summaries also help me focus my search efforts. Summaries are also a great way to share what I find with my family. Sharing gives me more opportunities for other family members to contribute more oral history, pictures, and old papers. Be prepared to uncover more areas to research after sharing your work. Remember to identify and label the family pictures. Asking relatives to determine who is in the pictures will help extend your family tree and also turn on the memories of the relatives who are trying to help.

Records you find may be confusing, misleading and wrong.  You will need to continually analyze and interpret your information and note where you got your information. As a beginner to genealogy, start now to note where you get every piece of information. Record your information as you find your facts. You may hear arguments that keeping up with sources are time-consuming and too much trouble. It isn’t fun, but without your source information, you can’t evaluate, analyze, and draw conclusions. And you can’t pass along your information because at least one family member will ask, “But how do you know?”

Companies and organizations are listing more and more genealogy records in online databases, and these are great sources to begin your research. However, there are many more genealogy records stored in libraries and historical archives that also may include your ancestors. Be sure to use all the sources in your research, both online and in person. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Use books, genealogy programs, genealogy conferences, genealogy societies, online educational offerings, and social media to sharpen your genealogy skills. Again, once you start your journey, it will probably be a lifelong passion.

My last thought that may help you develop the same passion for genealogy as I have is

“Remember to have fun.”

New Book – Find Your Czech and Slovak Ancestors

I’ve been busy this fall writing. I just published a new genealogy book for Czech and Slovak Genealogy Research.

This book is designed to give the researcher the tools needed to research their Czech and Slovak ancestors and find possible answers to the origins of your heritage. The book outlines a simple process that will identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their records. The book lists many up-to-date sources of information that will add to your family history; identify where your ancestors were born and where to find their Czech and Slovak records. Traditional sources are covered but it also discusses many new and exciting sources for records. The book includes many sample documents and tips that should prove useful for both the beginner and the veteran genealogist. The information in this book covers the most up-to-date collection of sources for Czech and Slovak genealogy and should prove to be invaluable when doing your research. This book is for people with roots in Bohemia (Czech), Slovakia, Moravia, or Silesia who feel the need to develop, preserve and share the genealogical, historical and cultural knowledge of their ancestors.

NEW BOOK – My Polish Grandmother: from Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America

This book is about my grandmother. When researching her life, I found she endured many challenges that made her the strong person that I admired as I grew up around her. In writing my grandmother’s story, I wanted to go beyond the names, dates, and pictures in the photo albums. She was more than that. It is very important to ask why she did what she did.

This book asks questions about her fears when growing up, immigrating to America, and making her new life. How did she face these fears? How did she overcome them? Although I found no answers, I still found new insights about my grandmother.

Our ancestors were part of the wave of emigration that left Europe with the hope of finding work and a better life. It was not easy to immigrate to America. Our ancestors saw immigration to America as their last chance. They had to overcome obstacles getting from their village to the ships and hardships crossing the Atlantic. Then they had to prove they were worthy to be admitted to the United States. Once here, they faced challenges and discrimination to find work and make the better life they were seeking. My grandmother’s story is different because I tried to show how immigration was different for women.

Remember our ancestors made many sacrifices for us and helped build the United States. They could not appreciate what they were doing because they were working hard and surviving each day. However, what they did each day was important. I believe that our role should be to leave something that will help our children remember them. We need to capture the memories by writing our family history. This story is my attempt to preserve my grandmother’s memory.

Future Problems with Publishing my Family Histories

For the past few years I have used Createspace.com to published family histories that have been well-received by my family. These are self-published, print-on-demand, economical and private. Amazon is changing and my perfect solution for sharing my family histories just got harder to do.

Amazon owns Createspace.com for their print-on-demand books. They also own Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) which they used to publish eBooks. Today, they announced that Createspace.com production is being moved to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I also got a second email that informed me that all of my print books would have to be made available on Amazon. This second emailed makes it almost impossible to keep my family histories private and limited distribution to my family members. On Createspace.com I could deselect all channels of distribution which meant only I could order my family history books. This kept non-family members from order the books but now this option will disappear when all of my books are transferred to KDP.

I still recommend organizing our genealogy research into summaries and then into large Word documents. This allows me to be more efficient when doing research, makes it easier to share information with family members, and will probably be saved by family members. However, publishing in book form will increase the chances that it will be saved for future generations.

Amazon is just beginning to implement change and many details are not available. Hopefully, they will allow some way to allow for some books to be private.

Because publishing my family histories for family members is very important, I will continue to look for platforms to do this. Stay tuned for future developments.