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  • 26 Jan 2021 8:23 PM | Anonymous

    I learned in school that our ancestors came to the New World in the 1600s in search of religious freedom. While I still believe that to be true, I now believe the full story is a bit more complex than the reasons given in grammar school textbooks.

    Religious freedom certainly was a motivation for Puritans, Pilgrims, Quakers, and others from England, but thousands of other immigrants were members of the established church in England and had no interest in other theologies. Immigrants from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and other countries had similar reasons. What motivated them?

    Perhaps the simplest answer is that living in England or in the European continent was very difficult at the time. The upper classes lived comfortably, but the majority of citizens had difficulty eking out even a mere subsistence. Starvation was not unknown, and even those who did eat regularly had diets that most of us today would reject. Without refrigeration or modern canning techniques, even those with some financial security had monotonous diets in the winter and early spring. The thought of eating turnip soup three times a day for weeks on end seems appalling today but was common in the 1600s. The Irish more likely ate potato soup every day.

    Fish and meat were available but often at prices that were beyond the reach of most city dwellers. Their country cousins perhaps had a slightly better diet of meats and vegetables that they produced themselves, but country dwellers typically lacked other comforts of life. In the winter, there was no available fresh produce, regardless of where you lived. The only vegetables that were available were the root crops that could be stored for months: potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc. Cabbage, while not a root crop, also stores well and was frequently available.

    Perhaps today we do not appreciate the appalling conditions under which our ancestors lived. Imagine, if you will, a city on a warm summer day in which there were no sewers and no source of fresh water. The primary mode of transportation was by horse-drawn carriages and wagons, so horse manure was everywhere in the streets. Even so, the odor from human wastes must have been far stronger as chamberpots were typically dumped into the streets and alleyways. (Sewer pipes were largely unknown at the time.) Most residents did not bathe regularly, did not wash their hair, and never brushed their teeth.

    Of course, modern medical care was unknown, and medical ignorance was universal. These people did not know why they breathed air, how the digestive system worked, why brushing one's teeth was important.

    Most of England's water was heavily polluted. Most citizens did not drink water, instead preferring weakly-brewed beers and ales, even for children. At least the beers and ales were usually safe to drink, unlike the water.

    There was relatively little in the way of forests for food or for lumber, as most forests had been cut years earlier for timber and for firewood.

    Without proper food preservation techniques, we can assume that most of the food our ancestors consumed had a high germ count. Without clean living quarters or clean water, we can also assume that most of our malnourished ancestors were ill a high percentage of the time. It's a wonder that any of them survived and had descendants!

    Speculators and adventurers of the time wildly advertised living conditions in the New World as a Utopian experience. While the claims were partially true, those with a financial interest in attracting new immigrants were quick to embellish the facts. After all, there were no "truth in advertising" laws at the time.

    We now know that many of the early settlers starved to death or died of diseases linked to malnutrition. Within a year or so of their arrival un the New World. Yet the reports sent back to England spoke glowingly of fertile fields and forests that were full of game for the hunter. The seas were described as full of fish available to anyone.

    William Wood in his 1634 book, New England Prospect, wrote:

    Unlike England's undrinkable water, New England's is "so good many preferred it to 'beer, whey, and buttermilk and those that drink it be as healthful, fresh and lusty as they that drink beer.'"

    Winters, he claimed, were milder than in England, summers hotter but "tolerable because of the cooling effect of fresh winds." Oh, and food was plentiful: "deer, available for the taking; raccoon, as good as lamb; grey squirrels, almost as big as an English rabbit; turkeys, up to 40 pounds."

    Hmmm, have you ever eaten raccoon? Or squirrel? To the semi-starved residents of England, those meats must have sounded like a feast.

    You can read William Wood's book, New England Prospect, on Google Books at:

    I have focused on the people and the lifestyles of England simply for convenience; those records and books are easy to read for modern-day English speakers. However, the lifestyles and the motivations were similar in Ireland, Scotland, and all throughout Europe.

    In fact, some of our ancestors did make the difficult trip over the Atlantic for religious freedom. However, probably a much larger number made the trip for adventure and for greater financial opportunities. More than a few made the trip with the hope of being able to eat regularly. After all, life was none too pleasant in "the Old Country." Many believed that life would be much better in the New World.

    I certainly am glad that they made the trip!

  • 26 Jan 2021 1:04 PM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

    Find your roots at FamilySearch in 2M new, free, Pennsylvania Historical Society (Births and Baptisms 1520–1999, and Congregational Records 1620–1991), plus 1.6M New Zealand Obituaries 1844–1963, new collections for Australia, NSW Immigrants 1828–1890England, Devon Parish Chest Records1556–1950Germany, Saxony Catholic Church Records 1621–1976 and expanded collections for Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, S. Africa and the US (CA, GA, IL, MA, MS, VA and WA).

    Search these new records and images by clicking on the collection links below, or go to FamilySearch to search over 8 billion free names and record images.

    The remainder of this announcement is lengthy, too long to list here. However, you can read the full announcement at:
  • 26 Jan 2021 12:04 PM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by the Family History Federation and Parish Chest:

    The Family History Federation and Parish Chest are hosting their second FHF REALLY USEFUL Family History Show on Saturday 10th April.

    Following the format of the extremely popular first show, there will be a raft of top presentations on genealogical topics along with access to family history societies and commercial vendors. New for April will be a number of workshops.

    Regular announcements providing further details will appear on the show website and associated media.

    WATCH THIS SPACE for announcements and updates!

    This is THE show for unique opportunity to visit many family history societies for access to local expertise and information, and other organisations providing supplies for the family historian.

    BOOK NOW and do all this from the comfort of your armchair at home!

    Early-bird booking costs just £7.50 per person!

    After 31st January, it will cost £10 per person

    BOOK NOW to visit the festival of Really Useful things for family historians!

  • 25 Jan 2021 11:03 AM | Anonymous

    Identical twins were thought to be genetically the same. However, a new study finds that’s not always the case.

    On average, identical twins differ by 5.2 genetic changes. Researchers have now shared their new findings in Nature Genetics at

    NOTE: An abstract of the report is available at that site free of charge. However, access to the full report costs $8.99 (U.S.)

  • 25 Jan 2021 10:33 AM | Anonymous

    I have briefly used this new feature from MyHeritage and am impressed. I plan to spend several hours this week adding this to the individuals in my personal genealogy database.

    As stated in the announcement of the new product:

    "The Photo Storyteller™ is available on the free MyHeritage mobile app and enables you to easily record yourself or interview your family members, describing the real story behind any of your family photos. You'll enjoy gaining deeper insight into your photos and sharing the recordings with your family members (turning any photo into a voice-enriched video) so you can reminisce about times gone by. By recording your loved ones, those photo stories will turn into memories that your family will hold precious in the future.

    "To record a story behind a photo, open the MyHeritage mobile app. Tap the Photos icon on the main screen, tap on any photo, and then tap the microphone icon to record the photo’s story.""

    You can read more about the Photo Storyteller™ in the MyHeritage Blog post at, which includes the interesting background behind its release.

    The MyHeritage Photo Storyteller™ app may be found at

    Have fun with the Photo Storyteller™!

  • 22 Jan 2021 11:39 AM | Anonymous

    Joe Beine runs a terrific website that will interest most genealogists. Called Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records, the web site contains a directory of links to websites with online death indexes throughout the USA, listed by state and county. In addition, there are separate indexes for Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York City, and St. Louis Death Records.

    Included are death records, death certificate indexes, death notices and registers, obituaries, wills and probate records, and cemetery burials. You can also find information on the site about searching the Social Security Death Index online.

    The web site doesn't always find everything I want but it consistently finds more information about deaths in the USA than any other single web site. I often start first at Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records.

    Also, if you use the web site, keep in mind that it does not contain death information on the site. Instead, it points to other web sites that probably contain the information you seek. It works sort of like Google, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines: you the death info you seek (usually the geographic area) and Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records will tell you the most likely web site that will contain the details.

    Joe Beine has just announced a major upgrade to the site:

    Online Death Indexes for the USA Website Updated

    More than 100 new links have recently been added to the Online Death Indexes for the USA website, which is a directory of links to websites with online death indexes, listed by state and county. Included are indexes for death records, death certificates, death notices and registers, obituaries, wills and probate records, and cemetery burials.

    You can find a list of the newest additions and updates here:

    The death indexes website is here:

    By the way, the new "list of the newest additions and updates" is a very long list!

  • 22 Jan 2021 10:56 AM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by Findmypast:

    This week at Findmypast, there are hundreds of thousands of new records from New York and Australia. Here are all the details on what's new and how to make the most of them.

    New York Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms

    Over 45,000 baptism records have been added to this important collection and you won’t find them anywhere else online. All of the new additions are from 1920 and cover over 200 churches. Check the parish list for full details of the places included. 

    Consisting of both images and transcripts of original sacramental registers, these records will reveal a combination of your ancestor’s birth date, baptism date, baptism location, parents’ names, parish and language.

    New York Roman Catholic Parish Marriages

    Unlock the details behind your Catholic ancestors’ New York nuptials with over 36,000 additional records. These transcripts and images include the couple’s names, ages, occupations, residences, birth years, the names of their parent’s as well as the date and location of their marriage.

    As well as New York Catholic records, Findmypast's Catholic Heritage Archive brings you exclusives from BaltimoreCincinnatiChicagoPhiladelphia and Toledo. Not to mention unique English and Scottish archdioceses’ collections.

    Victoria Births

    Was your relative born in Victoria, Australia between 1918 and 1920? Findmypast have added over 100,000 records to help you find out.

    Essential for the Victoria branches of your family tree, each record can reveal your ancestor's name, birth year and place and their parents' details.


    This week also sees Findmypast publish four brand new papers and updated nine existing titles with additional pages. Online for the first time are;

    While coverage has been expanded for the following titles;

      • Weekly Dispatch (London) from 1801-1804, 1806-1807, 1814, 1817-1819, 1851, 1869, 1871-1901, 1903-1922, 1925-1933, 1935-1939 and 1941-1961
      • Manchester Evening News from 1923
      • London Daily News from 1921 and 1939
      • Brighouse & Rastrick Gazette from 1883-1888 and 1890-1895
      • Irvine Express from 1884
      • Warrington Examiner from 1883, 1890, 1892-1893 and 1895
      • Herald of Wales from 1890
      • Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser from 1901-1902 

    Findmypast’s exclusive Catholic Heritage Archive has recently unlocked new details in President Joe Biden's family tree.

    If you have a similar success story to share, Findmypast would love to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing

  • 21 Jan 2021 3:29 PM | Anonymous

    The following announcement was written by Calico Pie:

    Calico Pie today announced the release of version 7 of Family Historian, the award-winning desktop genealogy program.  The new version includes word processing features, source templates, and tools to support a wholly new way of entering data, based around sources.  Although announced today, version 7 has been available for purchase since before Christmas.

    London, United Kingdom, January 21, 2021 -- "Version 7 supports a wholly new way of entering data that is designed to match the way genealogists actually work” explained Simon Orde, CEO of Calico Pie.  "Typically a genealogist will find a source of some kind – a document, a gravestone, a newspaper article … whatever – and the data comes from that.  Our new tools reflect this reality.  We call it 'source-driven data entry'.  In version 7, any source type can have one or more tools called 'data entry assistants' that facilitate the process of entering data straight from that source type.  The goal is to make the whole process significantly easier and quicker, while giving better, and more consistent results. We already supply a number of data entry assistants, but more are on the way.  Any technically-sophisticated user can write them and share them with everyone else."

    "At the same time we've added support for source templates. There is an Essentials collection, which we designed with the help of the Genealogy Programme of the University of Strathclyde, and an Advanced collection which is modelled on the work of Elizabeth Shown Mills."

    It is not just about sources though. "This is a big upgrade and there's a lot there.  For example, we've added support for word processing features in notes and other long text fields.  This is by some margin the thing we've had the most requests for.  The word processing features are extensive – everything you probably expect and more.  For example you can add web links, and even record links, to any note.  Our users asked that we support tables.  So we did that.  And our users were right.  Tables turn out to be a very useful feature for genealogy.  We use them extensively now – in the new source transcription tools, and also in the new research notes … in anything where the data is naturally tabular, which a lot of data is.  We had to completely rebuild the report engine to support all the new features, but that turned out to be a great opportunity.  We've improved the design of the Report Window, added new reports, and even added new tools for creating reports.  Users can now create custom reports that can show any information, and which are indistinguishable from built-in reports."

    The new version also supports language packs for multi-language output.  Current language packs in the free plugin store include French, German, Swedish, Dutch/Flemish, Norwegian, Portuguese and English.  Simon Orde expects that more will be added over time.  "Every copy of Family Historian includes all the tools you need to create language packs, and we encourage creators to upload their packs to the plugin store so that everyone else can benefit”, he explained.  "Once they're in the plugin store, anyone can download and install them.”

    For more information about the new features in version 7, please see

    About Family Historian

    Family Historian is a powerful, desktop genealogy program for Windows.  In 2020, TopTenReviews gave Family Historian their highest overall rating in their review of the best family tree software of 2020, and gave it 10 out of 10 for ease of use.  It has won a Top Rated Genealogy Software award from GenSoftReviews in every year from 2011 to 2020.

  • 21 Jan 2021 10:18 AM | Anonymous

    In his first day in office, U.S. President Joe Biden signed many Executive Orders. One will be of special interest to all genealogists:

    Count non-citizens in U.S. Census again

    This reverses President Trump's order in July 2020 to not count undocumented Americans, which would affect federal allocation of money and federal representation.

    Trump's earlier Executive Order was an "approach that violates the Constitution and the Census Act and is inconsistent with our nation's history and our commitment to representative democracy."

    The Biden team's outline of the executive order said Biden "will ensure that the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate population count for each state" and that "he will then present to Congress an apportionment that is fair and accurate so federal resources are efficiently and fairly distributed for the next decade."

  • 21 Jan 2021 9:47 AM | Anonymous

    The first International Greek Ancestry Conference, offered virtually on Youtube from January 29 to 31, promises to shed new light on the process of tracing your Greek roots through genealogical research.

    With topics ranging from the Greek War of Independence, The Greek diaspora, and new advances in genealogical DNA testing, the virtual conference covers the topic of Greek ancestry from all dimensions.

    Additionally, an impressive group of Greeks who re-created not just their own family trees, but, amazingly, the family trees of their entire ancestral village as well, featuring nearly 50,000 people, will guide amateur researchers on their own journey of discovering their family history.

    You can read more at:

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

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