115  Larger Question MarkAfter doing the Heartbleed post yesterday, I started thinking about all the passwords we use for access to our websites.  Many people still use one password for all their sites.  This is a very bad idea, especially if you have a large number of sites that need this type of access.  I have so many that I have them listed on a large, old fashioned Rolodexes I managed to dig out a few years ago.  Even that method could be improved upon.  I started hunting around and discovered that Life Hacker has done an excellent posting on how password vulnerability has changed and what we need to do to keep up.  As is usual with Life Hacker, the article is so good and so thorough that I cannot improve on it.  I am just going to provide the title with an imbedded link here.  All you have to do is click on it.  I would highly suggest that you do.  It may save you a lot of grief in the future.

Your Clever Password Tricks Aren’t Protecting You from Today’s Hackers


vea/16 April 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

I first heard about the Heartbleed bug from Thomas MacEntee’s Geneabloggers’ FaceBook posting on April 11th.  This is a serious encryption flaw that was in security software that became available in December 2011 (according to wikipedia.)  What did/does it do?  Names, passwords, and content that went out over the Internet to http sites were easily accessible and not protected. My understanding at this point is that https sites and specially secured sites such as credit card and banking sites were not affected.  It was discovered in March of 2014, over two years later.  (I wondered why FamilySearch had a web address beginning with https.  Now I’m learning why.)

I read that as early as 2010 Facebook was supposed to give their users an option to use https.  I tried to follow the directions on my Facebook account and found nothing.  Then I read a 2011 blub that they were dragging their heels on the upgrade.  Looks like they still are, unless I’m missing something.  I was almost convinced that I was being over cautious by never using my name on a social networking site.  Now I’m glad I don’t.   I’ve compiled a list of links that you might want to check out, starting with the two that I got from Thomas MacEntee.

 What the Heartbleed Security Bug Means for You from LifeHacker

Genealogy History Report Card on the Heartbleed Security Flaw from Tammy Hepps Treeline Blog

Heartbleed Disclosure Timeline: Who Knew What and When  by Ben Grubb of the Sydney Morning Herald

Heartbleed from Wikipedia

‘Heartbleed’ bug undoes Web encryption, reveals Yahoo passwords   from cnet.com

Heartbleed bug: Check which sites have been patched from cnet                                                                                      We compiled a list of the top 100 sites across the Web, and checked to see if the Heartbleed bug was patched.

Heartbleed bug: What you need to know (FAQ)from cnet                                                                                                        The security vulnerability has implications for users across the Web. Here’s what the bug means for you.

Akamai Heartbleed patch not a fix after all   from cnet                                                                                                              The Web infrastructure company’s patch was supposed to have handled the problem. Turns out it protects only three of six critical encryption values.

vea/15 April 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Surnames (Last Names) and Given Names (First and Middles Names)

Genealogy Books -- surnames --  closeup horizontalNames can present difficulties for two reasons:

1. The spelling of names was not standardized until relatively recently. Example: There are six surviving signatures written by William Shakespeare. Each one is spelled differently.

2. Transcribers. When you are using the search box of an online database like Ancestry or FamilySearch, there is always at least one person between you and the information you are seeking, the transcriber. This is the person who creates a printed name from an original handwritten record. It is easy to mistake individual letters. Try it sometime. Example: In colonial handwriting, the s can be written differently depending on where it appears. Another example is census records. Census takers were seldom, if ever, hired for their legible handwriting.

What do you do when you are having a problem finding an ancestor?

1. Find different spellings of the name. Check out surname societies online. Google your name of interest with the word “surname”. Surname societies may already have a list of various spellings (and misspellings) of the name.

2. Besides using a surname society, you can also ask friends how they would spell a name. You would be surprised at how many spellings you collect.

3. Keep a list. When you find a misspelling in a record, take note of it. Add it to your list.

4. You can use the Soundex system for a number of United States federal censuses.  Soundex was created in 1935 for use with the 1880 census in conjunction with the new Social Security system. It looks like federal employees had as much trouble reading the handwriting on census records as genealogists do.  Soundex takes vowels out of names and substitutes numbers for consonants. It pulls together names that sound alike and was created to help find people that the handwriting can make names difficult to pinpoint. It is far from foolproof, as are any of the subsequent systems developed to do the same thing. You can use it. But don’t rely on it. Find as many variants of a name as you can think of and then use them in your search box.

5. Use whole family reconstruction. This is especially true if you get too many hits with a common name. Add the names of parents, siblings, a spouse or children’s names if you have them, rather than just the name of the ancestor you are looking for. You can approach adding names in two ways.  You can add everyone at once and delete members until you get a hit. Or you can add family members one at a time until you find what you are looking for.  Remember, sometimes less is more.

6. Sometimes you can find a family using one member with an uncommon name.  Once you find it, you can see if the rest of the family matches up.  Example: One of my ancestors was named George Smith. Luckily he married a woman named Philomene who had a daughter also named Philomene. With other corroborating evidence, I had enough information to realize I had my grandmother’s family.

7. Remember, just because you have a very uncommon name, do not assume that only one person had that name in the time and location you are researching. It is possible that it is a family name passed down through different branches of a family.  That is why checking for other family members or corroborating evidence is so important.

8. You may have the right person, but the wrong location.  They may have moved and you will have to broaden your search.


Surname Research

Kennett,  Debbie. The Surnames Handbook:  A Guide to Family Name Research in the 21st Century. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: The History Press, 2012.  929.42 K39S

Various Aspects of Surname Research

 Clark, Gregory.  The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.  In Processing 17 March 2014.

Lieberson, Stanley.  A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture ChangeNew Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. 929.4 LIEBERSON

Redmonds, George.  Surnames and Genealogy: A New ApproachBoston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1997.  929.4 R24S

Redmonds, George, Turi King, and David Hey.  Surnames, DNA, and Family History. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.  929.1 R24S

Kaplin, Justin and Anne Bernays.  The Language of NamesNY: Simon and Schuster, 1997. 929.401 K14L

Jasper, Margaret C. How to Change your NameDobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana  Publications, 2005. 346.73 J31H    This is just a reminder that on very rare occasions, ancestors do change their names.  Usually when you can’t find someone, it is because they simply are not where you expect them to be or there has been a mistake in the transcription of a name.

Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt.  The Name is the Game: Onomatology and the Genealogist. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2013.  On Order March 2014.

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges.  Special Consultant for Jewish Names, David L. Gold. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. R 929.42 H19D 

Hanks, Patrick and Flavia Hodges.  A Dictionary of First NamesOxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.  R 929.4 H19D

Surname Research for Various Locations


Dictionary of American Family Names. Edited by Patrick Hanks. 3 vols. Oxford; New York: Oxford Univeristy Press,  2003. 929.4 DICTIONARY

Encyclopedia of American Family Names. Compiled by H. Amanda Robb and Andrew Chesler.  NY: Harper Collins, 1995.  R 929.42 R53E

America: For a Specific Time and Place

 Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan NomenclatureLondon, England: Chatto and Windus, 1880.  929.4 B23C

Directory of the Ancestral Heads of New England Families: 1620 – 1700.  Compiled by Frank R. Holmes.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964.  R 929.1 H68D

A Surname Guide to Massachusetts Town Histories.  Compiled by Phyllis O. Longver. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1993.  MASS 929.374 L86S


Barber, Henry.  British Family Names: Their Origin and Meaning, with Lists of Scandinavian, Frisian, Anglo-Saxon, and Norman Names.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Reprinted from Second Enlarged Edition. London: E. Stock, 1903.  R 929.4 B23B

Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan NomenclatureLondon, England: Chatto and Windus, 1880.  929.4 B23C                                                                                           

Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell.  A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, with Special American InstancesNY: H. Frowde, 1901.  R929.4 BA

Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell.  English Surnames: Their Sources and SignificationsRutland, VT: C.E. Tuttle, 1968.  929.4 B23E 



 Asante, Molefi Kete. The Book of African Names. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1991. 929.44 ASANTE

Stewart, Julia.  1,001 African Names: First and Last Names from the African Continent.  NY: Carol Publishing, 1996.  929.408 S840


Chao, Sheau-yueh J.  In Search of Your Asian Roots: Genealogical Research on Chinese Surnames.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2000. 929.107 C36I


 Jones, George Fenwick.  German-American Names.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2006.  929.4 J71G


 Platt, Lyman De. Hispanic Surnames and Family History.Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1996.  929.42 P69H


 MacLysaght, Edward.  Irish Families: Their Names, Arms, and Origins.  4th rev. ed. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press, 1985.  R 929.1 M22I

 Matheson, Robert Edwin, Sir. Special Report on Surnames in Ireland: [Together with] Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 2003.  929.4 M432S


 Fucilla, Joseph Guerin.  Our Italian SurnamesBaltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1949, rpt. 1987.  R 929.4 F95O  Also circ.


Shea, Jonathan D., A.G.  Going Home: A Guide to Polish American Family History ResearchNew Britain, CT: Language and Lineage Press, 2008. Chapter 8. “Our Names in Europe and America.” pp. 311-343.


Beider, Alexander.  A Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian EmpireTeaneck, NJ: Avotaynu, 1993.  R929.4 B39D

 Ganzhina, I.M. Slovarʹ Sovremennykh Russkikh Familiĭ.Moskva:  AST: Astrelʹ, 2001. RUS 929.9 S754S

 Gil, Pinkhas. Kratkii slovar’ evreiskikh Imen: Okolo 350 Imen. [A Dictionary of Contemporary Russian Surnames. In both Russian and Hebrew.] Jerusalim: 1985.  RUS 929.4 G37K

 Zima, Dmitrii. Taina imeni.  [Mystery of the Name]. Moskva: Ripol Klassik, 2002. RUS 929.4 Z35T


 Black, George Fraser.  The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and HistoryNY: New York Public Library, 1946.  R 929.4 BL


 Platt, Lyman De. Hispanic Surnames and Family History. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, 1996.  929.42 P69H


 Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell.  A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, with Special American InstancesNY: H. Frowde, 1901.  R929.4 BA


 Guild of One Name Studies (Great Britain/now includes surnames worldwide)  http://www.one-name.org

 Federation of Family History Societies (Great Britain)  http://www.ffhs.org.uk

 Cyndi’s List [of Genealogy Sites on the Internet]  Surnames, Family Associations, and Family Newsletters    http://www.cyndislist.com/surnames

vea/26 March 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

DSC03523 Files, Notes, Folders, and Books

Collecting Family History: Files, Folders, Notes, and Books

After you have decided where you are going to put your information, you start collecting the material you are going to put into your files.   The basics of genealogy are who, where, and when for births, marriages, and as you go back in time, deaths. But that’s only the skeleton of your family. You can include other information as well, such as family stories. You begin by writing down what you know about yourself and then your siblings.  Next you go back to your parents and their siblings, then to your grandparents,  as far back as you can remember.  If you remember it, write it down.  There are three forms that might help you figure out what you know and what you don’t.  These are provided with links so you can print out what your need.  There are forms for individuals. for family groups, and for direct line ancestors.  Take a look.  You should find them useful.

Have you discovered that you have a number of gaps?  Dates and places you don’t know?  Names that you can’t remember?  Your next step is to collect information from your relatives.  Ask questions of your parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and their siblings if they are still alive.  If you are older, you can talk to cousins, nieces, and nephews.  Some may be younger, but they may still have family stories you never heard or photographs you have never seen.  Be prepared for all sorts of responses. You may encounter relatives who think you are wasting your time.  Others will be curious, though maybe a little skeptical.  And you may discover that there are others in your family with a genuine curiosity about their family history.  Some may have collected family stories and/or family photographs.  You may even find someone who is working on putting together a family tree or has in the past.

It is a good idea to take notes either during or as soon after talking to a relative as possible.  Always include your name, the name of the person you talked to, how you are related, the date and the place you talked.  Someday someone may pick up your research and they will need this information.  And twenty or thirty years down the line, your memory may need a gentle nudge as well.

Sometimes you may want to actually sit down and interview a relative.  You can take notes, but see if they are willing to be taped.  In future years it will be a gift to hear their voice.  Be prepared for “but I don’t have anything interesting to say.  I don’t remember all that much.  I haven’t done anything very interesting.”  Trust me.  In 99% of the cases they do, they will, and they have.  But what do you ask them?  How do you draw them out?  This does not come naturally to most people.  You might want to take a look at some of the books or websites I’ve listed below.  You can usually find them at your local library or through your library’s  Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service.  Even if you want to buy it, it’s a good idea to take a look at a book first.  Some books will work for you and others won’t. You may not save money.  But you’ll have a better working library.


Hart, Cynthia.  The Oral History Workshop: Collect and Celebrate the Life Stories of Your Family and FriendsNew York: Workman, 2009.  907.2 H25O   This work covers all the bases.  It helps you prepare for an oral interview, and makes suggestions about the things you do once the interview is over, including transcribing and editing it. The center, Chapter 3, is comprised of all sorts of questions you could ask.  (It helps to have those prepared in advance, in case you need all of them. A good interview is knowing when to just let your interviewee tell stories and when you need to guide the interview with questions.

Greene, Bob.  To Our Children’s Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to ComeNew York: Doubleday, 1993.  929.1 G83T   Need more questions? That is what this book is –  a list of questions sorted by category.

Ralph, LeAnn R. Preserve Your Family History: A Step-by-Step Guide for Interviewing Family Members and Writing Oral Histories.  Colfax, WI: LeAnn Ralph, 2007.  929.1 R13P

Catching Stories: A Practical Guide to Oral Historyby Donna M. DeBlasio et al.  Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 2009.  907.2 C28D


Creating Oral Histories from FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Creating_Oral_Histories

Family History Sample Outline and Questions from UCLA’s Center for Oral History Research  http://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu/familyHistory.html

Oral History Association  http://www.oralhistory.org Make sure you check out the section list at the top under the logo, especially the drop down menu under Resources.

Oral Interviews from The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress  http://www.loc.gov/folklife/familyfolklife/oralhistory.html

Oral History Primer from the University Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz  http://library.ucsc.edu/reg-hist/oral-history-primer


vea/4 April 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

???????????????????????????????According to the Julian Calendar, George Washington was born on February 11, 1731.  In 1752 Britain and its colonies adopted the Gregorian Calendar. This moved Washington’s birthday to February 22, 1732.  A quick way to become a year younger!

The lesson to be learned by those who have tracked their American or British ancestors before 1752 — don’t forget to take into account the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.



vea/16 February 2014
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Will you pick one method of organization or many?

Will you pick one method of organization or many?

Usually the first piece of advice many people give to a person beginning their search is to start writing down what you know about your family.  I believe there is something you need to do even before that.    You need to decide how you are you going to store your information. If you can’t easily find what you need, you will waste a lot of time both looking for material you know you have “somewhere” or re-researching material you forgot you had.

You need to decide what you are comfortable using. Do you like file cabinets and folders (the paper version) and/or notebooks (the paper version)? Do you prefer storing material on your computer’s hard drive?  Or in “the cloud” on the server of one of the companies that provides this type of service.  If you prefer working on a computer, do you want to invest in software specifically designed to save family trees and store your research?  Each method has it’s advantages and disadvantages.  I would suggest you figure out your primary filing system and storage and then start in.

Reinforcing what I mentioned above,  you are going to find that you will not always be able to work on this project every day or every week or every month and, sometimes, you may find a year has gone by before you get to it again.  When you go back to your research, you will want to waste as little time as possible trying to figure out where you were and how to find things.

There are three books that might be of help.

Organizing Your Family History Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack.  Cincinnati, OH: Betterway Books, 1999.

Managing a Genealogical Project: A Complete Manual for the Management and Organization of Genealogical Materials by William Dollarhide.  Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1999.

Both of these books will be more help with general principles of organization and with paper files.  They are both too old to have much current information on the use of computers in storing genealogical data. This brings us to the third book.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia, and Family Records by Denise S. May-Levenick. Cincinnati, OH: Family Tree Books, 2012.   Archiving and preserving is all about organization and storage.  Take a look.

What if you want to use genealogy software?  How do you know which is the best to use for your research?  There are several places you can check. TopTenReviews.com offers side-by-side comparisons of ten genealogical software programs for PCs and seven comparisons for Apple computers as well.  Dick Eastman also did an excellent review for Apple software on his blog.  You will find all three below.

Genealogy Software Review and Product Comparisons for PCs

Genealogy Software Review and Product Comparisons for Macs

Genealogy Programs for the Macintosh by Dick Eastman posted 2 March 2013

If you scroll down the Dick Eastman site, on the right hand frame you will eventually come to a section that lists categories in alphabetical order.  Just look for “Software” and click on it if you want to check out what he has written recently on other types of software, including that for PCs.

In addition to the above, today’s “Weekly Genealogist” (published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society) points out a new addition to their Online Learning Center, Rhonda McClure’s Subject Guide to Getting Organized.  She has additional information and online sites that may be just what you need.  Take a look.

vea/4 December 2013
Newton Free Library      
Newton, Mass.
Library Website:   http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net                                                                                            Genealogy Blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

I will be teaching the genealogy classes at the library beginning next month. Since I have not been teaching them for awhile now, I have been doing additional research as a result.  I’ll be posting some of the things I have learned, as well as remarks on some of the books I have used.  I thought I would start at the beginning.  I have just learned from the FamilySearch Blog that there has been a lively debate going on over at Wikipedia about whether or not the terms genealogy and family history mean the same thing.  The people at Wikipedia have decided to use the two terms interchangeably.  Although people commonly do this,  I believe that there is a distinction.

Ever since I started tracing my family, the term genealogy to me has meant the direct ascent to or descent from an ancestor (depending on which way you are going).  Your line begins with yourself, then focuses on your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents.  The concept is embodied in the pedigree charts that are used to track ancestors as well as in the idea of the family tree.

Family history encompasses much more.  To begin with, it includes the brothers and sisters of your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents onward (or perhaps I should say backwards.)  It can include anyone living in the various households of your ancestors, including adopted children and extended family members.  The family group sheet illustrates this. It is the form that you use to visualize the relationships of the members of each household.  In it you include information on the birth, marriage(s), and death of each person. This is practical even if you are just interested in extending your family line.  When you hit a brick wall in your research, you may be able to get around it by looking for the needed information through a sibling and then tracking back to your ancestor.

Family history also extends into other areas to give you a fuller picture of a family at specific times and places. Genealogy makes up the outline of a family.    Learning of local and national events, discovering family stories, finding photos of family members, these all contribute depth and richness to your family history.  Sometimes finding a piece of history helps explain some change or move that took place.  The combination of personal and historical research on an ancestor can lead to forgotten or unknown events that radically changed the course of that family.  Your family becomes far more interesting than a listing of names, dates, and places.

The source of my original understanding of what genealogy is I do not remember.  My sense of the breadth of family history grew over time.  One source for these definitions that I am currently aware of is Val Greenwood.  In his work, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, his chapter 10 is entitled “Family History: Going Beyond Genealogy.”  In it he states While the goal of the genealogist has traditionally been to identify and link together past generations of ancestors into pedigrees, the goal of today’s family historian is to do that as well as to understand something of the lives and times of specific persons, couples or families over one or more generations.  

To me the distinction works.  What do you think?

vea/15 August 2013
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  http://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.