Dream about genealogy leads to discovery - again!

Two nights ago I had a dream which was so good that I woke up energized and with renewed hope. Since I'm writing this on a genealogy blog, can you guess what my dream was about?

If you said it was about my Swedish ancestor's estate inventory record - you're right! And you're a terrific guesser!

Years ago when I was looking for my Asa Brown family, I had a recurring dream. In the dream I had located the family's bible, and I had the feeling that the bible had the genealogical answers I had been looking for about the family. While holding the bible in my hands and bringing it closer to my eyes to read the content, the information on the family page became blurry. The more I looked, the blurrier it became. I woke up frustrated because I felt the key to unlocking the family's puzzle was right before me. Well, kind of. Yet, the dream gave me the hope to continue looking for the elusive bible. Long story long, I located the 19th century billfold of Asa's son, David. Inside, and folded into quarters were the four "Family Record" pages from the actual Bible. It had all the exact birth, marriage, and death dates and places for three generations of the family!


Fast forward to this week. After my recording session with Kathy Meade for her webinar, Introduction to the Swedish Estate Inventory Records (published in the webinar library just today) I knew that the estate records were just what I needed to make progress on my 18th century Eric Matsson family.

While the Swedish records are more complete than any others I've ever used, there was a small gap in the parish records where this family lived, and the usually reliable church records weren't available. I learned from Kathy that an estate inventory was required for all persons who died, and in the record's preamble, it would usually list the names and whereabouts of all of the survivors. In the webinar she also showed that the estate records were usually indexed. The ones I needed weren't. And so began the page-by-page process of looking for Eric Matsson's estate records.

779 pages later I still hadn't found Eric's estate records and I started getting a little depressed about it. Everything was in Swedish, and the records were more than 200 years old, so I could have easily overlooked Eric's papers. I started to think that maybe I should just move on to someone else for now.

And then I had the dream.

In the dream I was browsing these same estate records. All, of course, were in Swedish. And then I turned the page and something odd started happening. All of the letters began to morph into words I recognized. The entire record was now in English. And guess what? It was Eric's family! I tried so hard to memorize what it said so that when I woke up I would remember everything. Well, you can guess how that went.

Determined and now with renewed hope to find Eric, yet inexperienced with this part of Swedish research, I asked Kathy if she had any ideas. She pointed me to an online database of the Swedish National Archives which had an index of some of the estate records. I quickly located two entries for the place where Eric was from - one for Eric and one for his wife, Greta, who died three years earlier. The entries showed that the records were part of a registration district that was different from the one I was searching. Examining the record in ArkivDigital, it is clear that I've located the right family. I'm looking forward to what I will learn if I can figure out how to translate it all.


I know nothing of the science of dreaming. I don't often remember them. So for whatever reason I've had dreams about the records of my ancestors, I'm thankful for them. While they've never directly solved my genealogy problems, they've given me hope to keep pressing on. It's interesting though how these have happened after I've had feelings of switching my efforts to another part of my pedigree. There might be something about those Kindred Voices after all.


This Age At Death ALMOST fooled me!

Without reading ahead, can you guess this age at death? Although this is from a Swedish parish register, the numbers are pretty clear. And you probably don't need this clue, but age at death in any record I've seen, is usually written in this format - years, months, days.


What's your guess?

I, too, thought it read 80 years, 4 months, and 6 days. I even transcribed it that way the first time. But it didn't add up.

According to this death record, Eric Mattsson (my 7th great-grandfather) died May 10, 1809. So I plugged this in to Legacy's date calculator (find it by going to View > Calendar) to verify his birth date:


and pressed the Calculate button:


If I've 1) interpreted and 2) calculated everything correctly, AND 3) if the person reporting the age was spot on, Eric would have been born on January 4, 1729. Of these three, the calculator probably has the best chance of being 100% accurate.

I'm so glad I took a closer look. Had I accepted this birth date, I would be looking from now until the end of my days for an Eric Mattsson with this birth date. It simply doesn't exist.

In prior research, I discovered that Eric was born 15 Sep 1729 - an 8 month and 11 day difference. My initial thoughts were 1) maybe there were two Eric Mattssons who died in 1809 and I should look for the other (mine was reported in the household records that he died this year) or 2) the age at death could easily be wrong. So I looked for another Eric Mattsson's death and didn't find one. I almost concluded that the person reporting his age just didn't know for sure.

I'm so glad I took a closer look.

You see, between the years (80 år) and the months (4 mån) was a Swedish word or words that I couldn't interpret. With my English-speaking eyes it looked like the month of January, but my cheat sheet at the FamilySearch Wiki had a different spelling for January. So I took it to the Swedish Genealogy Facebook group which I learned about from Kathy Meade's webinar, "Have Swedish Roots and Don't Know How to Get Started?" Last night I posted this question:


This morning I woke up to a response from one of the members of the group:


At first I could not figure out how she came up with 79 years, 7 months, and 24 days old. Then I copied and pasted her response into Google Translate.


"80 years as close as 4 months 6 days."


And then it hit me. This is saying that Eric was 4 months and 6 days away from his 80th birthday. While I've never seen an age at death reported this way before, it made sense. If I add 4 months and six days to the end of his death day, we get September 14 which is pretty close to the 15th.

Thanks to Facebook group member, Ingrid Björkudd, for teaching me something new today! Isn't genealogy great - a never-ending educational process. Also, thanks to the technology at ArkivDigital, Google Translate, FamilySearch Wiki, FamilyTreeWebinars, and even Legacy's date calculator for helping me put this together. 

My genealogy addiction - it's back

I am no longer sleeping very much. And if you've ever been hooked on genealogy, you know exactly what I am referring to.

Ever since Kathy Meade's webinar on beginning Swedish genealogy, I've gone to bed late and have woken up early. I've gone from not even knowing I had Swedish ancestors a month ago to learning a new language, discovering new records, and subscribing to ArkivDigital which has the best collection of genealogy records I have ever seen. I can't wait for today's work day to be done so I can get going on it again!

In my early efforts to learn how to do Swedish research I have stumbled. Trying to learn the language and analyze the different markings and abbreviations is challenging. When I've hit these roadblocks, I've turned to something I learned in Thomas MacEntee's new Facebook webinar. Thomas taught about new ways of searching Facebook, as well as the power of Facebook Groups. Using his techniques, I searched Facebook to see if there were any good groups on Swedish Genealogy.

I quickly found the Swedish Genealogy public group and submitted my request to join. Within minutes my request was approved. I noticed there were nearly 1,900 members in the group already, and the questions being asked and the answers that were given seemed to be very helpful. Being a "greenie" to Swedish genealogy and to the group, I was a little shy to ask my first question, but I'm glad I did. The question I posted was about a phrase that I wasn't yet familiar with. I posted it at 1:49pm and by 3:02 I had the first answer.

Today was even more amazing. I posted a question at 8:45am, and by 9:30 there were eight comments. My immediate problem was solved - in less than an hour!

Technology, and the wonderful community of genealogists is really shining!

Skeletons in the Closet

I received the following from one of our customers today and enjoyed it so much that I'm republishing it here (with permission).

Decades ago when I first started investigating my 6th great-grandfather’s family of descendants I was particularly fascinated by the oblique notes I found in the older genealogies.  

“Killed in a hunting accident” “Met an accident in the woods” “Went West and untraced” “Died in the great Galveston Hurricane.”  

Since then I’ve discovered that none of the above was entirely true if at all. 

I’ve also discovered descendants omitted, “died” or down-played in family accounts for more onerous reasons – multiple divorce, murder, kidnapping, suicide, medical tragedy and more. 

If like me, your twig of the family tree hasn’t exactly been pristine, consider the gifts these people have given you. 

Strength – if you have experienced one of these things as a near relative, realize that no matter how much you suffered at the time that you have survived it and congratulate yourself. You are strong. 

Perspective – if you know or discover that an earlier relative is a closet skeleton - thank them if you haven’t experienced the same thing yourself. If you have, also thank them – it means you aren’t the only family member who’s faced the same thing whether now or generations ago. 

Faith – Learn about the lives of your ancestors and their message to you. I have found at least three times that their survival is the miracle that I even exist. 

Embrace the past with love and sensibility. Learn as much as possible about your ancestors recent and distant and respect any medical problems those in your twig might have had – you may have inherited them as I have.

More than 370,000 high-quality digital images of Ireland Parish Records now online for free


National Library of Ireland Launches Parish Records Website!

The National Library of Ireland (NLI) has said that the digitisation of its holding of parish records should transform and greatly enhance genealogy services in Ireland.  The NLI today (08.07.15) officially launched a new web-repository of parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s. 

Speaking at the launch of the new site, the Acting Director of the National Library, Catherine Fahy said:  “The Library’s holding of parish records are considered to be the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.  Up to now, they have only been accessible on micro-film and, as such, those interested in accessing the records had to visit the National Library.  This new web resource provides unlimited access to all members of the public to records covering 1,086 parishes from throughout the island of Ireland. 

“This access to the parish records will be transformative for genealogy services, in particular as they will allow those based overseas to consult the records without any barriers.  Effectively, the digitisation of the records is an investment in community, heritage and in our diaspora-engagement,” said Ms Fahy. 

The parish registers website will contain more than 370,000 high-quality, digital images of microfilm reels. 

The National Library microfilmed the parish records in the 1950s and 1960s.  Some additional filming of registers from a small number of Dublin parishes took place during the late 1990s. 

As a result of this work, the NLI holds microfilm copies of more than 3,550 registers from the vast majority of Catholic parishes in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The start date of the registers varies from the 1740/50s in some city parishes in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick, to the 1780/90s in counties such as Kildare, Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny. Registers for parishes along the western seaboard generally do not begin until the 1850/1860s.  

Catherine Fahy said: “Apart from this being the Library’s most significant genealogy project, this project is our most ambitious digitisation programme to date. The website builds on and extends the NLI's existing digital library infrastructure, leveraging many open-source technologies.  It has been designed to be fully responsive, working across mobile, tablet and desktop devices.” 

“In using the website for family or community searches, we would recommend that members of the public consult with their local family history resource to help them refine their search.  The website does not contain any transcripts or indexes, so for a search to be successful, some known facts about a person’s life will be necessary.  Effectively, those who access the new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with local genealogical services or family history resources.” 

Speaking at today’s launch An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD, said: “I would like to congratulate the National Library on their project to make the Catholic Parish registers available online.  Given the devastating fire in the Four Courts in 1922, in which so many records were lost, these registers are considered the single most important record of Irish life prior to the 1901 census.   

“They will be of great value to experts in the areas of history and genealogy, but also of tremendous interest to people here in Ireland and the Irish diaspora around the world.  No doubt the registers will contribute to the number of genealogical tourists to Ireland, as people of Irish descent access these records online and decide to visit their ancestral home place.” 

Minister Heather Humphreys said: “This new digital resource will help people at home and abroad who are interested in tracing their ancestry. The website provides access to church records dating back up to 270 years and includes details like the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved. The records feature the baptisms of some very well-known historical figures, such as the 1916 Leaders Padraig Pearse and Thomas McDonagh. 

“Making this kind of material available online should help to boost genealogy tourism, and will complement the work of local historical centres in communities around the country. As we approach the centenary of the 1916 Rising next year, I am keen to make as much historical material as possible available online, so we can encourage people around the world to reconnect with their Irish roots.” 

Online access to the new website is free of charge. 

For more information, visit http://registers.nli.ie/.

Ireland Webinars

Want to learn more about how to find your Irish ancestors? Our webinar library has nine classes to either get you started with Irish research or to help you with the more advanced research techniques. Click here for the classes.

Eagle Scout Cemetery Project featured on Mondays with Myrt

Little did my son know that when he had the idea to post this article on our blog Friday morning that it would turn into an international event. The culminating experience for my 15-year-old-almost-Eagle-scout-son's Eagle project was the invitation to be interviewed on the Mondays with Myrt show.

Evan did an awesome job in front of the camera telling about his experiences of helping to preserve one of our local cemeteries.


Yep, I'm a proud daddy.

Here's the recording of his interview with DearMYRTLE and panel. 


And be sure to read DearMYRTLE's take on her blog here. Thanks for the invite and support Myrt! While Evan is glad it's over, he enjoyed the opportunity and is so appreciative of everyone's support for his project.

Cemetery Preserved, and Just In Time

You're not going to believe what happened at this cemetery yesterday, just one day after this Eagle Scout project photographed it....Here's the background.

Genealogists from around the world came together today to transcribe the headstones of one of our local cemeteries here in Idaho. In case you missed it, here was our call for your help. My son, Evan, is so thankful for everyone's support. His Eagle Scout project was a big success, and was completed just in time (keep reading to learn what happened yesterday).

The purpose of his project was to help preserve the Greenleaf Cemetery in Greenleaf, Idaho. He read stories and saw pictures of cemeteries being destroyed by vandalism and natural disasters. Even our town cemetery here in Middleton was vandalized a couple of years back.

This morning we visited with the head of the Greenleaf Cemetery District to give her Evan's report of the project. Evan explained that all the headstones had been photographed two nights before, published to the BillionGraves website, and that within the next week the cemetery's database would be created and be searchable. She said she's wanted to have something like this for years since people are always asking her for help in finding their loved ones there.

What she showed us next caused the hairs on my arms to stand.

She said that just yesterday, one of the gravesites collapsed. Not one of the headstones, but the entire gravesite. I had to see this and find out what caused it. Sure enough, there was a big hole in the ground. She explained that prior to the 1970s, caskets were made of pine. Pine disintegrates over time and when it does, it causes the ground above it to cave in. Nothing under the ground at this site was exposed and they'll have it fixed quickly. We asked if it was anything that our group of photographers had done to cause this, and she thankfully replied that no, the lawnmower goes over it all the time, and it was just time for this to happen to the 80-year-old site. When this happens, the headstone often breaks off as well and needs replaced.

So...thank goodness for Evan's Eagle Scout project. Every site in the cemetery was photographed the night before, including this site. And thus, due to the efforts of 20 of us here taking pictures, and hundreds of you from around the world transcribing those pictures here, the cemetery is preserved and even searchable.


You're Invited! Transcribe 1 headstone today to help with Evan's Eagle project

EvanscoutHi my name is Evan Rasmussen. Some of you might know my dad, Geoff. I am working on my Eagle project which is to help preserve a cemetery by photographing the gravestones and uploading the images to a website called billiongraves.com.

On Wednesday I and a group of people (20 of us) went to one of my local cemeteries and completed the photographing stage of the project. We took 687 pictures. The next thing I need to get done is to transcribe the images we took. This makes it so anyone who is looking for a relative in this cemetery can find them. If you want to help me out by transcribing ONE gravestone click here. Just zoom in,  click on one of the green pins and transcribe away. (You'll have to first create a free account if you haven't already.) Thanks!

Here's what the cemetery looked like before we started:


Here's what it looks like now:


Here's what it looks like when you click on one of the yellow bubbles:


And here's what it looks like when you click on one of the green bubbles:



A few hours later...

...and the entire cemetery has been indexed! Thanks everybody for helping. It went really quickly. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed your help! There's just a few pictures that I need to go back out and retake (some were blurry or cut off). 

Here's a link to the follow-up article, "Cemetery Preserved, and Just In Time".

What you can do now...

1) Take pictures. Using the free BillionGraves app on your smart phone, you can click on the Cemeteries button to see which cemeteries are nearby where you are. Some will have lots of pictures taken, others won't have any yet. Just click on the Take Picture button and have fun!

2) At BillionGraves.com, click on the Transcribe tab at the top. Looks like there are more than 700,000 pictures from other cemeteries that still need to be indexed.

Thanks again everyone for your help!

Here's what it looks like now:



Now I'd better go finish my project's paperwork.

Note from Geoff...

Not bad for Evan's first-ever blog post, eh? And not a bad choice for a worthwhile Eagle project. It's been really difficult for me, as a genealogist and as a father, to not step in and just do this whole project for him. :) Evan has done all the planning, obtained permission from the cemetery district (they're really excited about this), and organized the group's efforts the other night. The root beer floats afterwards were pretty good too! Another of our local cemeteries was vandalized a couple of years back. Had it been digitized previously they would have had a permanent record without the damage. This experience has helped Evan learn how to be a leader which is one of the purposes of the Eagle project.

I wrote about BillionGraves a few years back. You can read about it here. It is a worldwide project with the intent to digitize, geocode, and thus preserve cemeteries. It's come a long ways since I first wrote about it. Its index is also now searchable at FamilySearch.

Thanks for your help with Evan's project. And give BillionGraves a try too, maybe you'll find one of your ancestors today.

Got Irish Ancestors? Your genealogical gold mine is almost here


If you are researching an Irish ancestor, be sure to clear your appointments for July 8, 2015 (except for your 9pm eastern U.S. appointment with Thomas MacEntee's webinar). That is the anticipated date of the release of the digitization of the entire collection of Catholic parish registers held by the National Library of Ireland. More than 390,000 digital images of these records will be online and available for free. Read more about it in their recent press release below.

National Library of Ireland Announces Launch Date for New Online Genealogy Resource 

– Almost 400,000 images of Catholic parish register microfilms to be available online for free from 8th July 2015 – 

The entire collection of Catholic parish register microfilms held by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) will be made available online – for free – from 8th July 2015 onwards. On that date, a dedicated website will go live, with over 390,000 digital images of the microfilm reels on which the parish registers are recorded.  

The NLI has been working to digitise the microfilms for over three years under its most ambitious digitisation programme to date.  

The parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.  Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.  

Commenting today, the NLI’s Ciara Kerrigan, who is managing the digitisation of the parish registers, said: “We announced initial details of this project last December, and received a hugely enthusiastic response from people worldwide with an interest in Irish family history.  We are delighted to announce that the project has been progressing well, and we will be able to publish all the digitised records online from 8th July onwards.  

“This is the most significant ever genealogy project in the history of the NLI.  The microfilms have been available to visitors to the NLI since the 1970s.  However, their digitisation means that, for the first time, anyone who likes will be able to access these registers without having to travel to Dublin.” 

Typically, the parish registers include information such as the dates of baptisms and marriages, and the names of the key people involved, including godparents or witnesses.  The digital images of the registers will be searchable by parish location only, and will not be transcribed or indexed by the NLI. 

“The images will be in black and white, and will be of the microfilms of the original registers,” explained Ms. Kerrigan.  “There will not be transcripts or indexes for the images.  However, the nationwide network of local family history centres holds indexes and transcripts of parish registers for their local areas.  So those who access our new online resource will be able to cross-reference the information they uncover, and identify wider links and connections to their ancestral community by also liaising with the relevant local family history centre.” 

The NLI is planning an official launch event for the new online resource on 8th July. 

Judy Wight spoke about this in her recent webinar, "Irish Genealogical Records in the 17th-19th Centuries. Webinar subscribers can watch the recording here, or here's a 15-minute preview.

Did FamilySearch really "lose all their records"?

My 13-year-old son, sitting behind me in the office, and working on his own genealogy, just mentioned,

"Dad, I think FamilySearch lost all their records!"

Thinking that maybe his computer had lost its internet connection, I turned around to check it out. He then provided this further explanation:

"See, the 1970 U.S. census doesn't show up in their list of records."

Smiling, and thrilled that he's trying so hard, I had a great opportunity to teach him about the availability of our census records. And while we won't have access to the 1970 census for another 27 years, it's exciting to have someone else in the house with whom I can talk about genealogy! Even if it's when I'm trying to get my work done.