New At FamilySearch

Recently I attended the monthly meeting of the Anne Arundel Genealogical Society about “What’s New on FamilySearch” given by Michael Butterworth who is a Director at the Annapolis Family History Center.

FamilySearch has new features and new mobile apps.

When you sign in to, you see a personalized home page. This page includes links to suggested tasks and the recently viewed people in the FamilySearch Family Tree. There is also a to-do list for you to track your tasks. (if you do a search, then sign in, you will be brought to the search results page. NOTE: To see results of a search, you know have to login with a free account.)

FamilySearch now has FamilySearch Places to help you research localities.   You can learn more about it here.

Map You Ancestors is a part of the FamilySearch mobile app. Learn more about it here.

Some of the interesting things we learned:

  • The FamilySearch website software is updated 3 times a day
  • There is chat/email/phone support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • 1.7 million images (images from 1000 rolls of microfilm) are added to the website daily
  • FamilySearch has already digitized every filmstrip that was rented in the past 5 years (that they had digitizing rights to do)
  • FamilySearch uses wildcards: *    ?    ~    (The tilde (~) searches for similar terms)
  • The Annapolis Family History Center has the capability to scan photos, slides and negatives
  • It is estimated that the Maryland State Archives project will go on for another six years. The records are being digitally photographed, and the photographs contain searchable metadata making them indexed as soon as they come online
  • Only you can see the live people you enter into the FamilySearch Family Tree. If another user enters the same live person that you have entered, then there will be duplicate entries for that person.

Always look at the symbols next to search results. A camera icon means that there is an image available for the record. A document icon lets you view the record details. A mini-pedigree chart means that the record has been attached to someone in the FamilySearch Family Tree. Clicking on that icon will bring up a popup window with the individual’s profile summary from the tree.

What you access can change based on the currents laws, the number of users, and the place you access it from. Always try to access a record at home first. If home access is unavailable, then you will get a popup box telling you where the record can be accessed. Some choices are: at a partner site, at a Family History Center, or on a filmstrip. For some records, only a transcription may be available.

If the record is only on filmstrip, you will get information about where a filmstrip might be found. Family History Centers still have some filmstrips (Annapolis has 600+ microfilms, 650+ microfiche). If the record is only on a filmstrip, call FamilySearch at 866-406-1830 to request that the filmstrip’s digitization move up in priority. FamilySearch does track the demand for the filmstrips, and your call may bump up the scanning priority.

The Anne Arundel Genealogical Society meets the first Thursday of every month. You can find out more about their meetings here.

Hiring A Professional Researcher: Interview with Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG®

Hiring a professional researcher can be a great idea but may be intimidating to some genealogists. You may have questions about how to pick one, or how to work with one. Rebecca Whitman Koford, Certified Genealogist®, graciously agreed to an interview to share why you might want to hire a professional researcher and how to get the most out of the experience.


When should a person hire a professional researcher?

There are many reasons to hire a professional researcher. It all depends on your goal.

You can hire a professional researcher when you do not have the time to do the research yourself. A researcher can provide you with stories, that in turn, can get you started on your own path to finding out more about your ancestors.

A professional researcher can also be a consultant to boost your own research. By evaluating the research you have done, a professional can give you guidance on developing your own research plan.


How should a person select a professional researcher?

For the best outcome, do your homework. The researcher’s specialty matters. Specifically, find one who specializes in your ancestor’s locality, culture and language. Google them, looking for articles they might have written or webinars they might have done.

  1. Based on your research goal, focus on a researcher’s locality. Can s/he access the original records located at the state and county levels?
  2. Ask for a sample of a written work product. All research should include a written report. It is important to know what documentation you will receive and this should be specified in the contact.
  3. Have a contract. A professional researcher will offer a contract, which is the beginning of smart and effective communication. The contract will outline the goals and responsibilities of the research. The contract is the beginning of good communication in any professional relationship.
  4. Consider the researcher’s certifications and/or experience. A certification or accreditation awarded to a researcher means that the person’s work has been reviewed by peers in a third-party testing process. Educational certificates from genealogical programs are not the same as certifications. An educational certificate shows that the participant has received training. There are many excellent and well-regarded researchers who do not hold certifications, so you will have to judge if they have the specific experience needed to reach your research goal. You can also ask for a resume.

You can find a listing of certified genealogists at the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) website ) or accredited genealogists through the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGEN) website.  Many professional genealogists advertise through the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) website .


What should the person show the researcher at the beginning of the process?

It is your responsibility to communicate all that you know about the ancestor. Imagine how frustrating it would be to get a report that included facts you already knew!

Be sure that you gather all the information that you have about the ancestor. It is important to show the facts that you know, and how you know them. These facts provide the researcher a smart path to your goal.

Include copies of records you have, and other information you know, such as the ancestor’s location(s), religion and occupation. Stories you have collected are also helpful, as they may lead to records. An example would be disputes that you have heard about; those disputes may have generated court records.

The specific source of all the facts is also important. Be sure that each fact has a corresponding source, showing the record location, book and author(s), and web address (url). For example, if your source is a tree found on, be sure to give the url of that specific tree.

Include the sources you searched that did not have results for your ancestor (negative results), so you don’t pay the researcher to duplicate what you have already done.


Can it be a lot of work for the client to gather the material and write a report for the researcher?

It is an investment in your time. If you spend time reviewing what you know, you become better educated about your ancestor. When the researcher returns the results, you will be better able to understand them and to make connections between report and other members of your family.


Rebecca is the Program Administrator of the ProGen Study Program, which is an online self-study program to encourage genealogy education, using assignments based on chapters from Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers and Librarians, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  If you are interested, the waiting list to begin in a group is between six months and a year. Learn more about the ProGen Study Groups.

To find out about Rebecca’s upcoming classes:

At IGHR: Course 1 Instructor

At GRIP: Military Records course


Rebecca Whitman Koford holds a Certified Genealogist® credential. Her focus is in American research with special emphasis in Maryland and military records of the War of 1812. Rebecca has been taking clients and lecturing since 2004. She has spoken for the National Genealogical Society Conference (NGS), Association of Professional Genealogists Conference (APG), RootsTech (2018), webinars for Legacy and APG, the Maryland State Archives, and for groups in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., and Delaware. Rebecca is the Course I coordinator for The Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR). She is a board member of the Maryland Genealogical Society and volunteers at the Family History Center in Frederick, Maryland. She has published articles in the NGS Magazine, APG Magazine, and the Maryland Genealogical Society Journal. She is a graduate and former group coordinator and mentor of the ProGen Study Group, an online peer-led study program based on the book Professional Genealogy by Elizabeth Shown Mills; she was appointed ProGen Administrator in January 2015. Rebecca lives in Mt. Airy, Maryland, with an active teenager and a very patient husband. was appointed ProGen Administrator in January 2015. Her research specialties are: Civil War ; Federal Records ; Land Records ; Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) ; Lineage Societies ; Court Records.

Unfortunately, Rebecca is not accepting new clients at this time.

5 TV Shows That Teach Us About Genealogy

We’ve all watched and enjoyed specific television shows dedicated to genealogical audiences, such as “Who Do You Think You Are?” and “Genealogy Roadshow”. But are you learning about genealogy from other TV shows?



The investigation phase of each episode is filled with techniques to search the internet and social media for a person’s real identity and location. You may have had an ancestor who used aliases or whose images might be clues.


“The Curse of Oak Island”

Family stories can turn into treasure hunts.

There is always a grain of truth in the stories that are handed down. It may take a lot of digging to find the truth. As a metaphor for the search for ancestors, the number of pits promise riches but yield conflicting clues.


“The Big Bang Theory”

No ancestor was an island. Each person is surrounded by family, neighbors, and a community.

Neighbors like Penny remind us that sometimes our ancestors did not travel far to find spouses. Coworkers can become part of a family of choice. Those non-blood relatives may have pictures you have never seen and stories about your ancestors you have never heard.


“Myth Busters”

Make a hypothesis! Assemble all possible information you can. Then test it, to see if it is: busted, confirmed, or plausible. Modify your hypothesis as necessary.


“The Lone Ranger” and reruns of other favorite shows

Are any of the shows that you enjoyed as a child rerun on television? Watching them may be a pleasant enough experience on its own. When you watch them, they may trigger memories of times and places. Those memories are great to capture. But a deep memory may also be the key you that unlocks a clue to solve one a pesky family mystery.

Digital Maryland

If you are researching Maryland ancestors, Digital Maryland may be a destination on the web for you.

The mission of Digital Maryland is “to facilitate the digitization and digital exhibition of the historical and cultural documents, images, audio and video held by Maryland institutions.”

It’s like having a catalog to what is digitally available in Maryland. There are great treasures like maps, city directories, and photos. Clicking on the links will take you to the digitized collections, hosted on the institutions’ websites, or to information about the collection. Since this is database covers so many other databases, it can be a bit challenging.

You can search for topics you are researching or check out the list of digital collections,

I searched using the term:


returned a variety of maps from Maryland, and the surrounding area, draw in many years. There were also maps from around the world.

Fields on the left of the search results will let you fine tune your search.

Hover over the thumbnail image or the title to see a popup window with information about the item. Click on the thumbnail image or the title to navigate to the item itself.

After you search, make sure that you are starting a new search, selected from the dropdown menu for “within results”. Otherwise your search will be limited to results within the previous search results.

When you are on a page containing search results, the default mode for searching appears to be “within results”

From the Advanced Search page, you can specify that you are searching “All Collections”, or limit the search by selecting specific collections.

Take some time to try searching for places, names, and other genealogical important data in Digital Maryland.


Researching Missouri WWI Ancestors

As you may know from my lectures and book, it is important to find your WWI ancestor’s military organization. An online way to find out about your Missouri WWI Ancestors is to search the Missouri Digital Heritage website.


When you are ready to search, Click on “Search the Soldier’s Records Database”, Scroll down to the search boxes or click here.

There are records from many conflicts, from the War of 1812 to WWI. You can leave the selection at All.

Be sure to enter the name as: Last Name, First Name

PVT Acie Sparkman was from Missouri, he was with Ambulance Company 40 at Camp Wadsworth, SC, then served with the 51st Pioneer Infantry Co. L. He died overseas. I entered:

Sparkman, Acie

And selected “All Service Records”

There was only one record returned.

Click on “View Details”.

Researching Indiana WWI Ancestors

As you may know from my lectures and book, it is important to find your WWI ancestor’s military organization. An online way to find out about your Indiana WWI Ancestors is to check the Indiana United States Veterans of the Great War I.

It is worth reading the home page about Indiana in the Great War. (Beware of the links on the right side of the page; they take you to other websites.) The links on the left are to WWI topics, which include information gathered from oral interviews conducted with Indiana WWI veterans.

In addition to searching for the veteran’s service summary as described below, remember to search the website for your ancestor. There is a search box on the left menu, but I had better luck using Google. I searched for the ancestor name and used the site specifier, for example:

“Ernest Franklin Hess”

When you are ready to search for your Indiana WWI veteran, click on the search button on the home page, or go here.

You will need to use both a Last Name and a First Name for a search. I was not able to use a wildcard for the first name.

Searching for John Smith returned surnames that are Smith and begin with Smith

Clicking on the first result gave me a service summary.

I searched for a different name in the database:  McMahon, James. All three of the detailed results showed: “Listed in the Indiana War Memorials records having served in WWI”, which does not provide much help to a researcher.

The sources used to compile the database can be found here.



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