IN THIS EDITION -- January 31. 2002


GenTech Highlights


If you weren't among the 1,000-plus genealogists who attended the GenTech Conference last weekend in Boston, you missed out. The fascinating lectures, new products and unseasonably nice weather made for a fun and educational experience. Fortunately, Family Tree Magazine sent a couple roving reporters there so that we could give our loyal Update readers all the highlights.

Genetics was the hot topic at this annual meeting of genealogy and technology. It was the newest track of lectures added to the lineup, and attracted illustrious geneticists such as Bryan Sykes of Oxford University and Scott Woodward of Brigham Young University, who discussed their DNA research and its relevance to genealogists. BYU researchers were taking blood samples to add to its database of pedigree-linked DNA, which currently has about 25,000 donors (see for more info). announced a new venture with Relative Genetics (the lab that's also handling the BYU study samples). The two companies are offering what they call "the most complete and extensive DNA test available." For $219, GenetiKit at will test your DNA for either a paternal or maternal line, then report back to you on others who share your genes and how you can contact them. Sykes' company, Oxford Ancestors at, was also on hand to offer its own selection of DNA tests.

Mac users will be happy to know Ancestry has heard your call for Mac-friendly products. The latest release of the 1920 US census index is available on CD-ROM for both Mac and Windows operating systems. Ancestry software developers are working on future CD releases to include Macs, too.

FamilySearch's latest CD release, the 1881 Canadian census, was not quite ready for the conference. Look for it later this spring (we'll let you know when it's released). Meanwhile, Canadian researchers can sink their teeth into the upcoming April issue of Family Tree Magazine, which has a feature on tracing Canadian roots.

Next year's GenTech Conference will be held Jan. 17-18 in sunny Phoenix.


Never Too Late for Class Reunions


This week's tip comes from Elizabeth Talmage of San Clemente, Calif.:

"In the year since my mother died, I have found myself wishing I knew more about her youth. When I found an invitation to her 50th high school class reunion, I decided to see if anyone who went to school with her would be willing to share their memories with me. I e-mailed the reunion coordinators, introducing myself and explaining what I hope to find out. I offered to send a flyer to be displayed at the reunion, along with stamped, self-addressed envelopes for anyone who might wish to write me a note. The folks coordinating the reunion said that they would pass the word, and that all they needed was my address. Their warmth and willingness was very encouraging to me.

"Since then, I have received letters describing the activities that my mom and her friends took part in, suggestions for books on the history of my mom's hometown and county, as well as a descendency report beginning with my great-great-grandmother. In addition to the stories and information, now I also know who lived 'down the road' or 'on the next farm over.' Another benefit has been the pleasure in going to the mailbox and finding letters from people who were my mother's friends, neighbors and classmates; these letters bring with them a sweet feeling of connection to my mom and her days as an Iowa farm girl."


Scots Origins Relaunches with 1901 Census


Just weeks after England posted its 1901 census online, Scots Origins has followed suit with a relaunch of its ancestral records site that includes Scotland's 1901 census. The English census site drew such incredible numbers of users that it had to be shut down until the Public Record Office could keep up with demand (it's still offline indefinitely). But the Scottish site is online and going strong, offering 36 million records, new search capabilities, an improved design and more comprehensive help pages. To access up to 30 pages on the site during a 24-hour period, you'll pay 6 pounds or about $8. Scots Origins also offers searchable indexes of births and christenings (1553-1900), old parish registers, marriages (1553-1900), death records (1855-1925), plus the 1881 and 1891 censuses.

Editor's Note: Look for the upcoming Betterway book, A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors, in May.


Using Indexes or Passenger Arrival Lists


To identify an immigrant in an index or passenger list, you must have enough information (e.g., birth date, town of origin) from other sources and know the full original name of the immigrant. A foreign name that seems unique in America may be as common as John Smith in the homeland. Knowing approximately how old the immigrant was upon arrival will help you eliminate others by the same name in the index. Knowing the town of origin or names of relatives or neighbors in America with whom your ancestor may have traveled will help you eliminate other passengers of the same name. Keep in mind that names were often recorded as they were heard. Many emigrants were illiterate and did not know how to spell their names, even if asked. Ship company clerks often recorded the name as they heard it, so check for spelling variations.

-Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, author of A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Immigrant & Ethnic Ancestors