Does Your Genealogy Have A Second Life?

Second Life Cemetery Project. Used with permission.

Second Life Cemetery Project. Used with permission.

Genealogists are, in general, more familiar with the term “afterlife” than they are “SecondLife,” but the latter is definitely something that can enhance our  research and education now!

SecondLife  is an online virtual world created entirely by its users. You can find everything from fairy gardens to a simulation of the international Space Station, music, shopping, fashion, poetry… you name it.  Many of the most prestigious libraries, museums, and universities in the world have built a presence in SecondLife. And best of all, there is an active genealogy community in SecondLife!

The Genealogists in SecondLife hold regularly scheduled meetings throughout the month, from casual chats and on-topic discussions, to presentations by well-known genealogists, and even monthly meetings of the SecondLife Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists (which all may attend, but only members may vote on ballot items).

You may check out the upcoming events either on their blog, Upcoming events are also featured and discussed (as well as all things SecondLife & genealogy) on their Facebook page.

Coffin Family Histories

What better time than October to research your Coffin ancestors? Need some help getting started? GenMall has Coffin family histories for only $4.99. Check them out:

Annals of the Sinnott, Rogers, Coffin, Corlies, Reeves, Bodine and Allied Families

Charles F. Coffin: A Quaker Pioneer

Early Wills Illustrating the Ancestry of Harriot Coffin, With Genealogical and Biographical Note

Genealogy of the Coffinberry Family: Descendants of George Lewis Coffinberry Revolutionary War Soldier 1760-1851

The Coffin Family: The Life Of Tristram Coffyn, Of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Founder Of The Family Line In America



3 Genealogy Tasks You Can Complete in 30 Minutes … or Less


Clock by winnond/ Courtesy of

Clock by winnond/ Courtesy of

One of the biggest obstacles facing many researchers is time. Genealogical research is one of those pursuits that you can start “for just a few minutes”, and quickly lose track of time. One minute it’s early afternoon and you’re searching for your grandparents in the 1940 Census, and the next thing you know its 1 am, and you’re looking at your fifth cousin, twice removed’s World War I draft registration card.

It’s a slippery slope. With a little planning, you can get some genealogy tasks done in scheduled, short periods of time. The following 3 ideas can be accomplished in usually about thirty minutes or less, but yield large rewards.

1. Order Vital Records
What vital records do you need for your research? Some of the basic documents most researchers learn to use are vital records – birth, marriage, and death certificates. Vital records can be found in various places, including online, via microfilmed copies from FamilySearch, while others must be requested from a county or state.,br>

It’s not always necessary to order a vital record. Some states have their certificates digitized online. You can learn more about what is available by checking out the websites Online Searchable Death Indexes & Records  and Online Birth & Marriage Records Indexes for the USA

2. Post to a Social Network Site
Genealogists have always networked, but social media websites have reduced the wait time between request and reply. Yesterday’s letter writing and queries in genealogical magazines have given way to websites that allow you to share and connect effortlessly. Today’s options allow researchers to share images, research, and ask questions of a larger audience.

Are you a member of a social network website? There are many different ones to choose from such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and even the genealogy specific sites like GenealogyWise.  Think of social network websites as a way to reach out to people who may share information with you. By posting about your family, uploading gravestone photos, or even asking short questions, you can leave a virtual crumb trail for others to find you.

3. Scan Photos
Scanning a large photo collection can feel impossible. But all tasks are  manageable if you are persistent about completing small goals.
Take a manageable amount of photos and start scanning. Once these photos are scanned, save them in multiple places so that a catastrophic event like the crash of a hard drive, a stolen computer or lost flash drive won’t mean the end of your precious memories. Even if you don’t have a scanner, you can quickly and easily scan stacks of photographs using your smart phone with free apps like JoyFlips.

Postcards For Your Family History

Photo by Gena Philibert-Ortega. Used with permission.

Photo by Gena Philibert-Ortega. Used with permission.

Do you collect postcards? Deltiology, or postcard collecting, can help family history researchers transform the story of their family’s life into a must-read. Vintage postcards of your ancestor’s hometown provide a unique look at the history of your family and the places they frequented.

In the mid 1800s in the United States, an act was passed allowing people to mail privately printed single cards up to one ounce. These were often photograph cards of either the sender or his family, or scenes from their life. Later, more restrictions were applied to postal cards, and the cards changed. Mass produced postcards spanning the late 19th and 20th centuries  depict places and events including the aftermath of World War I battles, local government buildings, and a city’s scenic features. These historical  postcards will help your family get a sense for their ancestral city in an earlier time. To better understand the history of American postcards, see the Smithsonian website on Postcard History.

Where can you find vintage  postcards? Start your search on the genealogy website Geneanet where you can search by keyword or place. A keyword search is free but you will need to be a member to view larger postcard images.

The US Library of Congress also has thousands of postcards in their online photography collection. You may search by location, landmark, or even just the term ‘postcard.’

Other places to find vintage postcards include antique stores, stamp and postcard shows, and flea markets. Online auction websites like eBay have an assortment of postcards searchable by a city or state. Archival repositories including academic libraries and historical societies often have collections of postcards, sometimes digitized and available online.

One place to view postcards that tell the story of a place is to seek out the vintage postcards books published by Arcadia Publishing. Their Postcard History series utilizes vintage postcards to convey the history of an area. Previews of their books can be found on Google Books.


What’s In A Name? Genealogy!

What names are your researching? Have you given much thought to their origins or meanings? Knowing more about a surname can help your family history  research. Need some help? Check out these books about surnames.











Dictionary Of Americanized French-Canadian Names: Onomastics And Genealogy 

The Surnames Of North West Ireland

The Surnames Of Wales  


American Surnames

A Dictionary Of English And Welsh Surnames With Special American Instances

Family Names and their Story

Irish Names and Surnames

Our Italian Surnames

Surnames of the  United Kingdom

The Origin and Signification of Scottish Surnames

What’s in a  Name?




Find them all in GenMall.

3 Tips For Researching Hispanic Ancestors

Office Desk Blurred Background Stock Photo/Courtesy of

Office Desk Blurred Background Stock Photo/Courtesy of


Embarking on a new research project focusing on your Hispanic ancestors? Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to start. Not sure where to begin? Try the following 3 tips:

1. Start with yourself. Always start your research with information that is easily obtained. Begin with yourself and then move onto your parents and grandparents. Write down what you know. Create a timeline and include dates, places and events that you remember. Seek out home sources such as correspondence, family bibles, and immigration papers that can provide additional information. Ask your family questions and see what they know or remember about the ancestors you are researching. Write down everything – even vague memories and partial names may be helpful clues.

2. Survey what’s available online. Check out the FamilySearch Wiki to learn what resources are available and how to research effectively in the areas your family is from. One Wiki page you might be interested is the Hispanic Research Workshop.

Don’t forget to search on a locality wiki page like Puerto Rican Resources or Mexico Resources. Then continue searching for the place your ancestors was from in the FamilySearch Catalog  and also in the Records collection. RootsPoint’s newest collection, Fondo Colonial is a great place for learning more about early ancestors.

3. Be sure to exhaust United States resources. If your ancestor was an immigrant, start by finding them in documents in the United States like the 1940 United States Federal Census. Then find records for the specific area they lived in. You can learn more about what resources exist for a state and county by using a portal resource like California Genealogy or New York Genealogy.

The Fondo Collection: An Interview With Carlos Yturralde

RootsPoint is proud to announce our latest database just in time for Hispanic Heritage Month. RootsPoint in collaboration with the Hispanic Heritage Project is making this digitized collection available for free. The Fondo Colonial collection, spanning a period between 1611 and 1821, contains the civil colonial records of the Province of Nueva Viscaya, which today consists of the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora, Sinaloa and part of Coahuila,  Mexico. You can read more about the collection here.

Carlos Yturralde of the Southern California based Hispanic Heritage Project sat down with us to talk about this important archival collection.


Carlos Yturralde. Used with permission.

Carlos Yturralde. Used with permission.

RootsPoint: The Fondo Colonial collection is one of the most important archival collections for Hispanic research. Can you tell us a little bit about why it’s so important?

Carlos: Fondo Colonial represents the written culture of Hispanic America through the last few centuries. Within it, one gets a sense, not only of the daily goings-on within the Spanish colonies, the marriages, the commerce and the births and deaths, but one also catches glimpses of the evolution of Hispanic ways of life transforming into what they are today. Fondo Colonial exists to allow the average person to see the past and the present become one in their personal lives through the documents, gaining a stronger and deeper sense of what they were and who they are.

RootsPoint: What can family historians hope to find in these digitized images?

Carlos: Family historians will find surprising interconnections between personal, oral histories and the digitized documents. What we are told by our parents and grandparents about our history often remains something of folklore, unverified “stories”; the archive shows that these tales have a lot of truth to them and can be very accurate, if not entertaining, to say the least.

RootsPoint: RootsPoint is proud to host the Fondo Colonial collection in partnership with the Hispanic Heritage Project. Can you tell us about the Project?

Carlos: The Hispanic Heritage Project  seeks to become a  website for colonial documents across Latin America by bringing together archival materials from many countries under a single, searchable index. It will be the first database of its kind to provide its services free of charge. We have begun working in Mexico already and wish to increase our scope there as well as expand to other regions in the future, such as the Caribbean. Right now, our organization has recently launched the CUENTA CONMIGO fundraising campaign to secure equipment for this purpose. If anyone wishes to donate to our cause, they should visit our website and contribute whatever they can. We are very optimistic about this new development and hope others will join us in bring it to life.

RootsPoint: Thanks Carlos!

Start searching the Fondo Colonial collection now!

California Ancestors


Did your ancestor come to the Golden State seeking their fortune? Maybe they wanted to experience a warmer climate? For whatever reason your ancestor made their way to California, we have county history books that can help you learn more about their life.

For only $4.99 from GenMall, these eBooks are available as PDFs.

History of Mendocino County California 

History of Contra Costa County California

History of Marin County California

History of Napa and Lake Counties California

History of San Mateo County California


Need more resources? Check out the following for your research:


Announcing The Fondo Colonial Collection on RootsPoint


RootsPoint,  in collaboration with the Hispanic Heritage Project,  is proud to announce our newest addition, the Fondo Colonial collection. You can browse the collection for free on RootsPoint.

Fondo Colonial collection on RootsPoint

Fondo Colonial collection on RootsPoint

About the collection

The Fondo Colonial collection of  the Archivo Históricos Municipal de Hidalgo del Parral (Parral Archive), spans a period between 1611 and 1821 and contains the civil colonial records of the Province of Nueva Viscaya, which today consists of the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Sonora, Sinaloa and part of Coahuila, Mexico. Hidalgo del Parral was the unofficial capital for Nueva Viscaya for over 100 years, from the 1632s to the 1738s, and has the largest collection of Spanish colonial documents in northern Mexico.

The Fondo Colonial is one of the most important archival collections in North America.  It contains records pertaining to the history of the people of Spain, Mexico and the southwestern United States, and the many indigenous nations of the region.  The documents provide significant insight into the political, economic, social and cultural environments of a vast region, from Durango to Nuevo Mexico, and from Coahuila to Sonora.

The documents in the Gobierno y Administración section reflect the inner workings of the Spanish colonial system, and include a wide-range of documents on the governance of several communities of the north of Nueva España.  The Gobierno y Administración section includes documents on mines and the granting of mines, petitions and disputes, labor and slavery, censuses and inventories, and the issuance and implementation of royal orders. The Milicia y Guerra section contains an array of documents pertaining to the military defense of several Nueva Viscaya communities, the respective struggles of the indigenous and non-indigenous in war and peace, and the diverse groups of people who lived and worked in or near the many presidial communities of Nueva Viscaya.  The Hacienda and Tesorería section includes many types of transactional and accounting records that reflect various economic activities and the economic relations between and amongst people.

Searching the collection

The Fondo Colonial collection consists of browseable digital images from 17th to 19th century archive records. All items in this collection and descriptions are written in Spanish. Items can be browsed by Section and then by Series. Once you choose the Section and Series you are interested in, you will see a list of documents described by inventory number, location, start date, and title. Click on the Inventory Number to view that digitized document.

Please note: Presently, all of the sections of the collection have been imaged and are online, with the exception of the Justicia section. The Justicia section, which comprises two-thirds of the collection, will be imaged and gradually added to the online collection. Please check back.

RootsPoint is proud to be a sponsor of the Fondo Colonial collection. Your donation to the Hispanic Heritage Project ensures that more records are digitized and made available to the public for free. To learn more about becoming a donor, please see the Hispanic Heritage Project website.


This project is the result of the efforts of many people, including Dr. Cruz Lopez, historian and Parral journalist José G. Rocha and Guillermo Gallardo.  Rocha and Gallardo compiled the first index in the late 1930s.  In 1959, Dr. Charles Di Peso began microfilming the collection and a newer guide was created.  In 1984, after additional documents were found, Hector Arras, the Archivo General de la Nación, the Tinker Foundation of New York, the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Cheryl Martin of the University of Texas El Paso supported the creation of the “Nueva Guía” by Dr. Robert McCaa, Carolyn Roy, and Rosamaría Arroyo Duarte.  It was then that the Hispanic Heritage Project, which was then a part of the Friends of the Escondido Public Library, provided the final financial assistance to complete the Nueva Guía.

In 2007, under the guidance of Instituro Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Blanca Jennyra Figueroa completed the present catalog of the collection.  Now under the leadership of Roberto Baca, the current director of the Parral Archive, and with the support of the Hispanic Heritage Project and RootsPoint, the Fondo Colonial collection is now available online.

Have You Searched the FamilySearch Catalog Lately?

One of the first stops for any research project is the free website FamilySearch. Sometimes in our excitement to look over their digitized collections of original records, we forget about the vast number of resources available in the FamilySearch Catalog. Why is the FamilySearch Catalog that important? The Catalog offers genealogists a place to search for books and documents digitized and available online, available through the Family History Library in Salt Lake and at select Family History Centers.



Maybe you have searched the Catalog before. You may want to reconsider how you approach your search, especially if it has been awhile. A search on the FamilySearch Catalog  can be conducted using standard search terms such as an author, title, or film number, as well as the ability to conduct a keyword search.  A keyword search uses  a word or phrase that describes your ancestor or their life. Consider searching by the name of their religion, occupation, or organizations they may have been members of. For example, you could search on a phrase like “Grand Army of the Republic” or “Quaker women.” The catalog now allows you to combine search terms so that you can search more than one category at the same time, such as a Place and a Keyword. So after  your search for “Grand Army of the Republic,”  narrow the results by including a place search for a state, like Nebraska.


One way to enhance your search is by utilizing subject headings. Subject headings are keywords used by librarians to catalog resources. Sometimes these keywords may be quite different than the ones you may have chosen. Subject headings are listed for each item found in the FamilySearch Catalog. Once you click on an item in the Catalog, below the description of the item you will see a list of links under the subtitle “Subjects.” Click on one of these links and a new search will be conducted with that Subject.

One last tip: Notice the home page for the Catalog. On the right hand side are links for worldwide library catalog WorldCat  and archival catalog ArchiveGrid . Expand your research by using these catalogs to find histories of the places your ancestor lived and collections left behind by the individuals and groups that made up their community.