Monday, April 29, 2019

MyHeritage: 21 Best Tips From Family History Enthusiasts

 By Esther · 

Over the years, we’ve featured many incredible stories from MyHeritage users who have made family history discoveries. Some have found hidden photos or mementos of their loved ones, others reconnected with long-lost family members or were reunited with completely unknown relatives!

We’ve collected some of their tried-and-tested advice, to help you with your family history research, no matter what stage you are at right now.

Getting started. Enter the names of people you know and the information you have. Work back towards the unknown.

Talk with living older relatives. Speak with your family: parents, grandparents, cousins, and siblings, and especially with all your older relatives to find out about their lives and what they remember. Do not wait until your parents or grandparents are too old to remember or are no longer living.

Be bold. Ask whatever questions come to mind, even awkward ones. Don’t let a simple no-or-yes answer end the discussion. Probe further.

Be organized. Get copies of all documents and photos you can find. Record everything. It’s important to make consistent logical notes and records of all contacts (conversations, telephone calls, email, etc.) and discoveries, with dates.

Be interested in your last name. Your last name may reveal your origin. Look up the places where family members were born. You will discover new information about your family and the places and times in which they lived.

Go further with photos. Look at the backs of all photos to see if anything is written. Remove photos from frames to inspect them. You may be surprised to find another photo in the frame. Bring photos with you when interviewing relatives to learn more about the people imaged. Photos often stir up all sorts of forgotten memories.

Take a chance. Don’t hesitate to contact MyHeritage users through Smart Matches. It often results in a vast amount of precious information, photos or interesting old family stories. Such contacts can also create wonderful friendships with distant relatives.

Don’t judge your ancestors too harshly. Times were different, and they must have had reasons for living the lives they did.

Keep an open mind. Be prepared to find things that contradict what you thought you knew or had been told in the past.

Be sensitive. Be cautious and hide stories that may hurt living family members.

Ask for help. Ask other family historians to share their research, to give you a starting point. Ask them for pointers.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Make sure to check everything you can with other family members.

Trust others but verify. Don’t automatically believe everything you read. People connect individuals to their tree with the best of intentions, but it’s not always correct. Listen to research of others but make sure it seems reasonable and find the documentation to support it. Checking old census and immigration records can expose wrong details and reveal relatives not mentioned or unknown.

Check your dates. Watch out for the date order (day/month versus month/day), depending on where your ancestors lived. Make sure the dates are reasonable. For example, think twice about connecting a woman with a child if the woman would have been in her 60s or older when the baby was born. That doesn’t add up.

Learn more about the historical context. Events like natural disasters, wars, famine and political turmoil have often been a reason for moving or settling elsewhere. For example, imagine what happened to family members when Napoleon invaded most of Europe, or if people in your family died of cholera or other horrible diseases of that time. Why did your ancestors survive?

Review. From time to time, check the information you’ve previously collected. Sometimes new details might appear for something you’ve already learned, but did not realize at the time.

Be persistent. Persevere and never give up.

Be patient. Genealogy is a never-ending process. Don’t become frustrated if you don’t find what you’re looking for in a particular set of records or if you haven’t made a breakthrough for awhile. You never know where the next lead will come from. Even the smallest detail may lead to exciting new directions.

Share your family story. Sharing with other family members will help you continuously add new names and photos to your family tree. Sometimes all you need is a fresh pair of eyes to look things over.

Pass it forward. Help others with their research. They will be forever grateful for the help.

Above all, enjoy! Enjoy the journey with all its twists and turns. Embrace your family heritage whatever it turns out to be.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Use the My Quick Links Bookmarks at

Bookmarking frequently used websites can be a boon to our research. I posted about how I organize and use bookmarks in my Google Chrome browser at However, there is another bookmark facility that I use all the time ... at

As an subscriber, you should have a My Quick Links area on the right side of the page. This is an excellent place to add bookmarks to the things you frequently use when you're working in Ancestry. It's easy to add to the list and you can link to web addresses of databases within Ancestry and anywhere on the Internet.

Here is a shot of the My Quick Links I use. My first link is the Ancestry Card Catalog because I use it all the time to search for databases there. I've also included my most frequently used databases so that I can quickly navigate there without having to use the Card Catalog or drilling down through database/collection menus. For example, I'm always using the U.S. Census Records collection, the SSDI and the Social Security Apps & Claims, 1936-2007, and the U.S. Wills & Probate database (and yes, I have two links to different collections).

I am originally from North Carolina and have many family members who lived - and died - there. An indexed image database I use often is the North Carolina Death Certificates, 1909-1976. It provides a wealth of information about the individuals, including their death date and location and the date and place of burial.

You can add many links so that you can quickly access those collections you use a great deal.

It's easy to add a link. Simply navigate to the database you want to link to and copy the URL from your browser. Then go back to the main Ancestry page and click on the Add a Link button. You'll be presented with the  window shown below. Paste the URL you copied into the Web Address box. (Notice the e.g. sample for format.) Then add a meaningful name so you'll recognize it in the list. I typically use the Ancestry database name for convenience. A Save button will appear. Click on that button and the link will be added to the bottom of your list. You can then click and drag the name anywhere in the list to organize the links as you like.

The My Quick Links is not limited to just links. You can add any URL to your list for anywhere on the Internet. I decided to add a link to our podcast site and a link to Cyndi's List. I copied and pasted the URL into the Web Address box and typed in the name and then clicked the Save button.

The new links were added to My Quick Links as shown below. The icon to the left of the link name indicates were the link is located. The Ancestry logo indicates that it is a link into their site; a bookmark ribbon loo indicates the link is another on the Internet.

I'm now ready to expedite my navigation from with to specific databases or elsewhere on the Internet. If you ever want to delete one of the links, click on the trash can icon at the right of the name.

Try the My Quick Links facility for yourself. I know you'll find it is a great time saver.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Make the Most of National Photo Month

Did you know that May is National Photo Month?

Our sponsor, Vivid-Pix, just published an article in the Vivid-Pix News at that tells you more. It's a great time to consider working to digitize and clean up your photographs and clean up your other document and newspaper images.

Enjoy the article, and look for a press release from Vivid-Pix on May 1, 2019!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Will We See You in Ohio?

The Genealogy Guys are very excited to be headed to the Ohio Genealogical Society 2019 Conference at Great Wolf Convention Center and Resort in Mason, Ohio. Dates are May1-4, 2019. This conference is a highlight of the year!

Come for a day or for the whole conference. Online registration is closed now but walk-in registrations are always welcome. There's something for everyone at this conference! Check out the conference schedule at

Will we see you there?

New Podcast Episode with Cyndi Ingle, Blaine T. Bettinger, and More!

We published a new episode of The Genealogy Guys Podcast this morning at that we know you're going to enjoy!

Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi's List joins us with a regular new feature, Cyndi Says, and this time she tells you how to create your own search engine! She joins Blaine T. Bettinger of DNA Central who this week discusses the Shared cM Project with Drew.

We have news, listener email, and information about our speaking schedule to round out this new episode! We hope you'll be as thrilled with our new teammates as we are!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Exciting Announcement Coming on May 1, 2019!

Don't forget! The Genealogy Guys will be making an exciting announcement on May 1st. We'll publish the press release on our blog and announce it on our Facebook page and on Twitter. We'll also be announcing the news at the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference in Mason, Ohio, that day. We are very excited!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Using Vivid-Pix to Improve Document Legibility

We should all be grateful to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for its efforts to microfilm all of the available US federal census documents from1790 to 1940. Over the years, the microfilm images have been digitized, indexed, and placed online, particularly by,,,, and others. These records are the basic essential tools for locating and documenting our American ancestors.

Unfortunately, the quality of the microfilm images are not always great. Lighting problems made portions of a document unreadable, while light handwriting or faded ink make all or part of a document illegible. The entities who digitized the microfilm also uses high-speed scanners and software which could not correct or improve the microfilm images. In some cases, the resulting digital image was worse than the microfilmed image.

I've been using the Vivid-Pix RESTORE software for several months with a great deal of success. Not only have I made old photos better, I've also used the software on digital images of documents and newspaper content to make them more readable.

Here is an example of an 1880 US federal census agricultural census schedule containing information about my great-grandfather's farm. The image below was downloaded from one of the providers.

Digitized image of microfilmed1880 US federal census agricultural schedule.
(Click to enlarge.)

The image below was made better by using Vivid-Pix RESTORE and adjusting the lightness and contrast until more of the image could be read.

Improved digital image of microfilmed 1880 US federal census agricultural schedule
after using Vivid-Pix RESTORE.
(Click to enlarge.)

You can enjoy a free trial as a perk of our sponsor, Vivid-Pix. Visit and click on the Free Trial button for the Windows or Mac version of the software. Download your free trial copy. Try it on your most faded photographs, the most difficult documents, on newspaper clippings, and on downloaded images. Enjoy the free trial on us!

Adding Metadata to Your Digital Photos

One of the greatest challenges with working with digital images is how to keep track of people and information within the image itself. There are no naming convention standards for digital images. For example, if you want to name a photograph of an individual, you might consider using the name plus any other descriptive data. Here's an example:

HOLDER-Brisco Washington - 1906 - RomeGA.jpg

When naming a group photo, however, it isn't practical to list all the names of the people pictured, is it? The file name could be huge and not necessarily easy to find later. 

When naming a digital image downloaded and saved from an online database, you might try this:

WILSON Family-1900 US Census-Mecklenburg County NC.jpg

However, if you have a multiple page document, you will download it and save it one page at a time. For example:

WILSON-Lenora Lydia Patterson-Will-1914-Page1.jpg
WILSON-Lenora Lydia Patterson-Will-1914-Page2.jpg
WILSON-Lenora Lydia Patterson-Will-1914-Page3.jpg

And what about a newspaper clipping? How much information do you include in the filename?

MURPHY-Jeter Earnest-Obituary-07091898-Statesville[NC]Landmark-Page6.jpg

Filenames are not necessarily the most efficient way to organize and document your digital images. Fortunately, however, there are other ways to organize information about and in the images. One way is by using Metadata

A two-part article in the RootsTech Blog describes what Metadata is and how to add it to your digital images. 

Take some time to read and understand Metadata. You'll open up a new way to add data to your images.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Ohio Genealogical Society 2019 Conference

One of The Genealogy Guys' favorite events each year is the Ohio Genealogical Society's annual conference. It is always filled with excitement, from the excellent speakers, the great lectures and workshops, the wonderful exhibitors, the luncheons and dinners, and a number of special events. We look forward each year to being asked to speak and to be involved.

We support this conference in a number of ways, including sponsoring speaker workshops. This year we are sponsoring Ari Wilkins' lecture, Finding the Last Slave Owner, and Blaine T. Bettinger's lecture, Evaluating a Genealogical Conclusion Including DNA.

This year's conference will be held May 1-4, 2019, at Great Wolf Convention Center in Mason, Ohio. There's something for everyone at Great Wolf as it is also a well-known resort so consider bringing the whole family. Wednesday is focused on workshops, for which there are additional fees. Thursday through Saturday are filled with all the other events. And if you thought the conference is only for people with Ohio connections, you would be dead wrong. Take a look at the conference web page at to access and download the conference schedule (PDF), to learn about the fifty excellent speakers, and learn about the sponsors. The conference syllabus is now available at that site with your registrant's login.

Drew and George will both be there, each with three presentations. George will present:
  • How to Use RootsMagic WebHints and TreeShare (2-hour workshop)
  • How to Use MyHeritage and Its Vast International Resources
  • Using Multiple Databases in Tandem to Solve Problems
Drew will present:
  • Link Your Tools: Files, Notes, Tasks, and Trees
  • Use an Ancestor's FAN Club to Get Past Brick Walls
  • Advanced Evernote for Genealogists
You can register online at for this great conference. Attend for a day or the whole conference. This link will also let you register for workshops and meal events.

We look forward to seeing you in Ohio in just a couple of weeks!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Announcement of the Restore the Ancestors 2019 Project

The Unsung Heroes Awards celebrate the people who digitize, index, and transcribe original records for access by the world.

The Center for Family History at the International African American Museum,  FamilySearch and BlackProGen Live have announced the launch of Restore the Ancestors 2019, a volunteer community effort to index FamilySearch records of interest for African American genealogy, with a special focus on records for the former slaveholding states.

Learn more and how to get involved as a volunteer at

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Genealogical Detective Work Solves Looted Art Mystery

The following is taken from the MyHeritage Blog, dated 1 February 2019. There have been other stories about MyHeritage helping to restore art stolen by Nazis during WWII. We never tire of these great stories!

This is a story of genealogy at its best; a tale of reconnecting families with heirlooms that they didn’t know belonged to them or even that those items existed.

Laurie Greene, 73, from the United States, could not believe what she heard when she recently received a phone call from MyHeritage. During that memorable call, she was surprised with the news that as a living descendant and rightful heir of the famous Dutch-Jewish painter Mommie Schwarz, she is eligible to claim 133 illustrations that were stolen from her great-uncle.

The back story

MyHeritage, as a company, has a history of returning looted assets confiscated during WWII to their rightful owners. One of our driving forces as a company is to do good, and we place particular emphasis on conducting pro bono projects worldwide.

In 2014, CEO and founder of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet, was approached by New York Times journalist Doreen Carvajal with an interesting request. She had set out on a journey to return looted artwork stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners. More than 2,000 unclaimed works of art, worth billions of euros today, are currently on display in 57 museums throughout France. The museums had not been able to locate heirs and rightful owners of the works. Doreen set out to change this and enlisted Gilad to assist. He began to research the heirs of four paintings from the looted art. They began with famous paintings that had records of provenance, showing who the owners were before WWII. Using MyHeritage and other online databases, he was able to trace the descendants and to uncover the hidden stories.

What began as an exciting challenge evolved into an unexpected adventure for Gilad, who discovered tales of intrigue, plotting, and – unfortunately – tragedy, all laced through family history over several generations. He was able to discover heirs for all four paintings he researched, and the rightful owners have since filed claims with the French authorities. He has helped to return precious and extremely valuable heirlooms to those families and has uncovered and returned a lost and important part of their family history. The story by Doreen Carvajal was featured on the front cover of the New York Times art section.

The Dutch Museum Association

In October 2018, The Dutch Museum Association published its findings on an internal audit by Dutch museums to determine which artworks in their collections were presumably stolen from their Jewish original owners by Nazis during WWII. A total of 170 pieces of art were discovered in the audit, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, and other objects.
The works of art in question included pieces by well-known Flemish artist Eugène Joseph Verboeckhoven and the Dutch-Jewish painter Mommie Schwarz. The pieces are held by 42 Dutch museums including the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, and Museum Kranenburg in Bergen.

Search for descendants

Intrigued by a new lead, MyHeritage set out on a pro bono initiative to search for living descendants who are rightful heirs of the original owners of the stolen artwork. Due to our previous achievements in reuniting families with lost artworks, we were positive we would have similar success with the Dutch artworks.

After seeing the list of 170 works that were determined to have been stolen, Gilad stayed up the whole night researching each one. He could not rest until he had mapped the artworks that had the potential for locating the living heirs who had a claim to them. He then traced the descendants of Samuel (Mommie) Schwarz and handed the project over to the MyHeritage research team to take it from there.

The MyHeritage research team began by examining those artworks with inscriptions, where the original owner’s name was known. Using MyHeritage SuperSearch, which contains millions of family trees and billions of historical records from around the world, they were able to find descendants of the original owners through the principle of reverse engineering. The team contacted the descendants, informed them about the traced art, and that they were the living descendants. Some descendants had no clue that they were related to that particular ancestor, or that they were the only living descendant. The descendants could then choose to file a claim to obtain the confiscated artwork for the family.

Justice at last

This process led the MyHeritage team to call a few descendants worldwide, including Laurie Greene. The Dutch-Jewish painter Samuel (Mommie) Schwarz was her great-uncle, the brother of her grandfather.

Laurie had submitted testimony at Yad Vashem for relatives who perished in the Holocaust, including her great-uncle, for whom she submitted testimony in 1995. There she listed Samuel as a famous artist in Holland.

Mommie Schwarz was born in Zutphen, the Netherlands on July 28, 1876, and married fellow artist Else Berg in 1920. The couple lived in Amsterdam and traveled often. Their work is recognized as the Bergen School. Mommie specifically created many port views, landscapes, portraits, and still lifes.

The Municipality of Bergen owns the drawing “Dubrovnik,” and an additional 132 other sketches and drawings by Mommie. These works were acquired by the Municipality in 1969, although it is not clear from whom they were purchased and how Schwarz lost possession of them.

Following the outbreak of the war, Mommie and his wife went into hiding in Baambrugge but decided to return to their house on the Sarphatipark in Amsterdam. There, they were rounded up on November 12, 1942, and transported via Westerbork directly to Auschwitz and were immediately executed upon arrival. Mommie did deposit some works during the war, but these 133 sketches were not among them. It is therefore not clear how these sketches left his possession.

As rightful heir, Laurie is now eligible to claim all 133 illustrations that were stolen from her great-uncle.

Laurie was very emotional as she received the news:
"I am going to do my utmost to claim this artwork back. I think it’s great that MyHeritage has proactively and voluntarily helped to make this possible. Bringing this art back into our family means justice after so many years."

There are many more stories to be uncovered, but the message is clear: The information is out there, and it’s up to us to uncover the past and unravel the stories of our ancestors!

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Cyndi Ingle Joins The Genealogy Guys Podcast

Aha! Seminars, Inc., producer of The Genealogy Guys Podcast at, is pleased to announce that Cyndi Ingle, creator of Cyndi’s List, will join the podcast with a regular feature segment beginning on April 22, 2019.

Cyndi Says will showcase a different set of resources on each episode from her award-winning and globally recognized, a free categorized list of more than 336,000 links for genealogical research. A link to her featured resources will be included in the podcast’s show notes, at The Genealogy Guys Blog at, and on the podcast’s Twitter feed.

“Cyndi’s List has been the go-to site for more than 23 years for genealogists looking for quality web-based research resources,” said George G. Morgan, co-host of The Genealogy Guys Podcast and president of Aha! Seminars, Inc. “Cyndi works tirelessly to add new links to her categorized and searchable site and to keep up with changing links and removing obsolete ones.” Co-host Drew Smith said, “We are thrilled to have Cyndi join us! Longtime users of her site will be excited to hear her showcase important resources and genealogy newbies will be introduced to the powerful tool that Cyndi’s List provides researchers at all levels.”

Cyndi Ingle is the creator and innovator behind the award-winning and globally recognized, a free categorized list of more than 336,000 links for genealogical research. Cyndi, a genealogist for more than 39 years, has expertise in using technology for genealogy. Additionally, her many active years in genealogy have also resulted in specialties for research in the United States and bringing together traditional research methodologies with organization, computers, software, and the Internet. Cyndi’s List was founded 23 years ago and is the go-to website for quality, reliable, and up-to-date resources. Cyndi is the recipient of several awards and honors, she has served in several capacities for genealogical organizations, she is an internationally-known guest lecturer, and she has authored numerous articles and three books.