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Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Why" Genealogy in Second Life?

I have been encouraging folks to join Second Life for genealogy lately, but maybe I haven’t been clear enough on exactly why you might want to do that, and what Second Life has to offer genealogist. As always, I’m just going to go at this based on my own experiences, and not on any particular expertise on the subject.


One of the main reasons to spend time in Second Life as a genealogist, is to learn more about genealogy. In Second Life, there are specific areas (Live Roots Genealogy Zone, Just Genealogy and the Genealogy Research Center) where you can read informative displays on many different aspects of genealogy, from DNA research, to Danish research. These are things you can do all by yourself at your own pace.

I absolutely love sitting around and 'talking genealogy' with other people who share my interests. (Anyone else's eyes just glaze over, don't they?) In Second Life you can participate in regularly scheduled group discussions or just stop by and talk with whoever is around. There is a regular calendar that includes scheduled chats and other events for the month happening in any of the genealogy areas. You can find a link to the calendar at any of the genealogy spots in second life, or here. The chats cover all sorts of different topics, and are generally very informal. A couple of these are hosted by Clarise Beaumont (also known as DearMYRTLE). She hosts discussions around the patio of the Second Life Family History Center, and others over at the Just Genealogy fire pit, where a white board shows slides during the presentation. For any of them, you don’t need to make a reservation of any kind, you just show up and take a seat.

Some people hold “Office Hours” - regularly scheduled times and places where you can go and discuss your research problems with professional genealogists, and anyone else who wants to join in the discussion. It’s always helpful to get another perspective on your problems, and the other genealogists in second life are always happy to help out.

There are also regularly scheduled “chill out” sessions over at the gazebo at Live Roots, where folks are invited to get together in specific areas, just to talk about whatever is on their mind - genealogy research strategies, brickwalls, or even just ‘aha’ moments. Its great to be able to share your successes with other genealogists who are just as interested and excited about it all as you are. Constantine Kyomoon is the Live Roots area’s non-stop genealogist, and is often around to greet visitors.

And anytime you care to stop by you might find a few other avid genealogists hanging around - not just when events are scheduled. They’re a friendly bunch, just like in Real Life. Most anyone you run into will be happy to help you with anything at all, from simple or complex genealogy questions to how to navigate around in Second Life.

Besides the fun events in the genealogy areas (dances, contests, displays) There are lots of things to do on Second Life (although I can’t imagine why you’d want to do anything other than discuss genealogical research). You can search for different interests you might have, and enjoy virtual museums of all kinds. Today my daughter took me to the International Space Station display, where we stood on a deck and looked at the earth below us from space. That was amazing. Or you can go on rides at a carnival, go line dancing at a western saloon, watch a Shakespearean play, or listen to live music! If you can imagine it, it’s probably already on Second Life.

If you’ve already signed up for Second Life, add me to your friend list - I’m Genie Weezles. And if you’re just finally ready to take the leap, be sure to follow the instructions at either or

I've probably left out several other good reasons for getting a Second Life, but these are some of my favorites at the moment.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

All the websites from my handouts in one handy toolbar!

I just got through giving three different one-hour lectures having to do with genealogical research on the internet, with dozens of website address in the handouts. I forgot to mention, however, that I also have created a toolbar that contains EVERY website I mention in any of my presentations, plus more, and its all free - free for me to make, free for anyone to download and use. Just a good deal all around.

You can download it by clicking on the "My Toolbar" artwork at the top of this blog, or at .
If you don't like it you can either turn it off (right click on your toolbar at the top, and uncheck the option for it), or even uninstall it completely. (But I hope you like it!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where to Find Obituaries Online

Obituaries can be a great place to find all sorts of information about folks - both the living and the dearly departed. Most obits usually include a person’s birth and (obviously) death date, as well as perhaps the location for each of those events. Some obits include the names of current and former spouses, and even perhaps a maiden name. Usually the names of children are enumerated, and their respective spouses. Sometimes the female children will be named as Mrs. John Smith, but that can still come in helpful at time. Of course the real ‘score’ in an obituary is a life history, including parents, places lived, jobs held, military service, and the entire list of descendants - but those obituaries are few and far between, and never seem to be written about “my guy”.

However, no matter how much great information an obituary contains, it’s important to remember that very often they are full of mistakes. Obviously the person who knows the facts about his own life the best is the fellow who just passed away, and when its time to write his obituary, it’s a little too late to clarify any misinformation. But like any undocumented information, obituaries are at the very least, full of clues about your ancestors.

Still, its worth the effort to locate an obituary when you can, and, as always, my favorite place to start looking is online. has quite an assortment of obituary indexes, as well as newspaper archives available, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have a subscription. So I’ve tried to dig up as many free sources as I can.

For more recent obituaries, one free index is hosted on RootsWeb - the Obituary Daily Times. Volunteers nationwide enter up to 2,500 obituaries per day, which are indexed and searchable, and hosted by Rootsweb.

Another couple of websites that I’ve been perusing a lot recently are (NewsBank) and You can search by name or by newspaper, and a snippet of the obituary will pop right up, if available. You can purchase a monthly subscription to ObitsArchive, or just pay $2.95 for each obituary. On, sometimes the entire obituary is available to view by clicking on “more”, and sometimes it will just link to information on how to purchase the obituary, but don’t go spending your money yet.

First off, you want to see which newspaper and date the obituary is for. With that information, you can go directly to that newspaper’s website to see if they have the obit available for free there. If that doesn’t work, you still have options. One is to contact the newspaper and ask them their policy for obtaining obituaries. It helps that you already have the person’s name and the date of publication of the obituary, and more than once, I’ve had an obituary show up the next day in my e-mail box.

Another site to try is Its really a one-stop shopping type of website - everything you need to know about obituaries and where to find them. There is advice on how to word an obituary, how to write a eulogy, examples of death notices and even sample letters of condolence.

But of course what you’re looking for are the obits, and what they have in that regard is a state by state guide to newspapers’ online sites, that usually links directly to the obituaries section. These are often searchable, even without a subscription of any sort, and if you’re lucky, the obituary you’re looking for will pop right up.

Of course you can always search for newspapers with digital archives in the locale of your deceased. There are two website that I know of that list newspaper digitization projects: Icon and Ibiblio. Both are organized by country and then by state.

And of course, there are a few online subscription newspaper databases, such as Newspaper Archives, NewsBank, Small Town Papers, GenealogyBank, and probably another couple that I’ve forgotten (sorry ‘bout that). While all of these do require a subscription, most of them are available through World Vital Records, the Godfrey Memorial Library and/or All three of these subscription websites are available free to patrons at any local LDS Family History Center.

Many particular groups (religious or ethnic) have obituary collections available online. For Quaker obituaries, Earlham University hosts the American Friend Obituary Index 1894-1960. The Odessa Collection includes obituaries of Germans from Russia (mostly from North and South Dakota newspapers). If there’s any chance your Methodist ancestors’ obituary may have appeared in the Southern Christian Advocate as early as 1837, or later in the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, an obituary index is available. Mennonite publications are indexed as early as 1864 at the Menn-Obits site.

One additional option for obtaining an obituary is through the kindness of strangers. If you have a complete name, a death date and location, and (if at all possible) the date the obit was published, you can often find a friendly volunteer at Obituary Lookups , or on the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness website ( Volunteers are organized by state and county. Not all RAOGK volunteers do obituary lookups, but they will state in their description just what they are willing to do. Anytime you request services from a volunteer, please don’t forget to reply with a thank you.

(Just in case you were wondering, every one of these obituary links has been entered into my toolbar, under the Resources tab, Obituaries.)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Look out world - here comes the iceberg!

Its been pointed out lately that only 5-10% of all genealogical records are available online, at best. This is so true, and reinforces the idea that genealogists need to get off their computers, and head to the courthouses, the cemeteries and to Aunt Mable's house for a history lesson. Those are valuable and generally really fun things to do anyway, but can be time, energy, and finance consuming. So the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working to bring all those records to your own personal computer. Look out world - here comes the whole iceberg!

Just yesterday Paul Nauta was interviewed in an article in "Mormon Times", and said that the 2.5 million rolls of microfilm in the Granite Mountain Vaults are being digitized and could be completed as early as next year. Do you realize what that could mean? It could mean that it may not longer take three weeks for that microfilm of the parish register from that tiny town in Germany to show up at the FHC after you ordered it - In digital form, it could be delivered overnight... maybe even in less time than it takes to locate the place on a map! Or perhaps (dare I hope it) the digitized images could be delivered right to your own home computer. Wouldn't that be incredible? Imagine stumbling across a name at 2 am, and realizing you desperately need to check the original birth or death records, and you can!

Of course what this also means is that the indexing program will want to try to catch up as well. Currently about 100,000 volunteer indexers around the world are indexing nearly a million names a day, from the microfilm collections that are being digitized. So not only are those great images available, but they are searchable as well. Anyone can volunteer - anyone with a free five minutes here or there. It doesn't take any special talent or anything. Just go to, and click on the "Indexing" tab to volunteer.

Its staggering to think of the amount of genealogical information that the LDS church is making accessible to the world - and its FREE!