Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Tune in for the best information, innovation & inspiration to help you grow your family tree!

Mar 10, 2015

This episode features our interview with Christina Baker Kline, the author of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured book Orphan Train. The book spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list as well as time at the top of The Bestsellers List in Canada, and by now after reading the book you know why. Christina will share how the book came in to being. And why she first hesitated to write it. And how, although this is a novel, in fact the details of Vivian’s story are true thanks to her extensive research. And Christina sheds light on the effect that being an orphan had on the children of yesterday and the children of today.

Download the show notes

And I want to kick off this episode with something new here at Genealogy Gems. You know, a lot of announcements and press releases about new record groups constantly cross our desks – some large and some for niche. Well we are now going to round these up for you in a blog post at every Friday. Watch for the genealogy records that your ancestors might appear in–but also watch for the kinds of records that may be out there for your kin, which might help you break down your family history “brick walls.”

PRISON RECORDS. Kingston, Canada, Penitentiary Inmate Ledgers, 1913-1916, are now available on Flickr. According to, “The ledger includes frontal and profile mug shots, the inmate’s name, alias, age, place of birth, height, weight, complexion, eye colour, hair colour, distinctive physical marks, occupation, sentence, date of sentence, place of sentence, crime committed, and remarks of authorities.”

And speaking of Flickr
If you’re interested in historical photos, there has never been a better time to try the Flickr Creative Commons. Flickr is a popular photo-sharing site that’s keeping up well with the times: its new app was on the “Best of 2014″ App Store list for iPad apps. It’s a great platform for sharing your favorite photos with family and friends.

But wait, there’s more! An important part of the Flickr world is Flickr Creative Commons, which describes itself as part of a “worldwide movement for sharing historical and out-of-copyright images.”

Groups and individuals alike upload old images, tag and source them, and make them available to others. Like what kinds of groups? Well, there’s the British Library photostream, with over a million images in its photostream! And how about the (U.S.) Library of Congress, with over 23,000 photos?

Look for your favorite libraries and historical societies–and check back often. New additions post frequently. For example, as of December 2014, The Netherlands Institute of Military History now has a photostream. According to a blog announcement, “The Institute exists to serve all those with an interest in the military past of the Netherlands. Its sphere of activities covers the Dutch armed forces on land, at sea and in the air, from the sixteenth century until now. The staff of the NIMH administer a unique military history collection containing approximately 2 million images, of which they will be uploading many to the site.” At this posting, only a couple dozen images show up so far, like the one shown here. Check back–or check with the Institute to see what they’ll be posting soon–for more images.

Here’s a tip: Those who post images to Flickr Creative Commons offer different rights to those who want to download and use their images. Described here (and searchable here by the kinds of rights you want), those rights may include the ability to use a photo as long as it’s for noncommercial purposes and proper credit is given. Perfect for a responsible, source-citing genealogist!

CEMETERY HEADSTONES. The Canadian Headstone Photo Project is now also searchable at The original site with over a million headstone photos isn’t new. But some people don’t know about the site, and its search interface isn’t as pretty or flexible. So we think it’s nice that FamilySearch is hosting that data, too. According to FamilySearch, the collection is still growing. “This collection will include records from 1790-2013. The records include a name index of headstone inscriptions, courtesy of, which is a family history database of records and images from Canada’s cemeteries.”

HISTORICAL PROPERTIES MAP INTERFACE. The state of Delaware in the United States has launched an updated version of its CHRIS (Cultural and Historical Resource Information System) GIS tool. Use this interface to explore houses, districts and National Historic Landmarks in your ancestor’s Delaware neighborhoods. Maybe a place they lived, worked, shopped, worshiped or attended is still standing!

Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Use the “numrange” search operator in Google to locate records from a particular time period. Do this by typing the range of years to search (first and last year) into your Google search box, with two periods in between (no spaces). For example, the search “Kingston Penitentiary” 1900..1920 brings up the ledgers mentioned above.

This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.


From Cassandra: "I stumbled on your podcast a few months back and enjoy listening to it when occasion permits. Today, I listened to episode 22, where you spoke about turning your video iPod into a Family History Tool. Although technology has come a long way since 2007, the topic of this podcast reminded me of how fortunate I am in having an iPad mini. I appreciate that you emphasized the value of mobile devices in aiding the genealogist in various tasks. Your podcast brought to mind an experience I had last summer where my tablet became my genealogy tool. I went to visit my great aunt living just 30 minutes north of me and talked for an hour about her parents, siblings, and grandparents. (All of which were recorded.)

The next visit I made was two weeks later with my parents accompanying me. We arranged for my aunt and her younger sister to be there. Bringing stories and photos, we had a marvelous evening! Besides recording animated conversation and anecdotes, I was able to use my tablet to "scan" pictures. With their permission, I have since edited and shared photos online along with their stories.

As circumstances would have it, one of my aunts suffered a stroke only a month later. This has been a great sorrow for my family, but in thinking back I am so grateful I had the time to visit with her; what an opportunity to have preserved those precious conversations and photographs!

Thanks for your podcast and for the valuable tips and stories. 

P.S. I posted about this experience in my blog along with the value of using tablets in family history work in July last year. There is a picture of me and my Aunt Connie with my impressions of the first visit"



From Terri:  "I am so glad I found you and all the fun things you have to offer to all of us working on our Family History.  I was listening to a webinar with Gena Philibert-Ortega and she mentioned your Genealogy Gems Podcast and how useful it was.  So I went on immediately and downloaded it on my iPhone.  It has been so much fun and I have already gleaned so many helpful hints from it.  Recently, on my drive from San Antonio to Houston and back, I listened to many the ones in your archives.  Well, the Podcast led me to your website where I decided to become a premium member and have already taken advantage of many of the videos and podcasts.  I then signed up for the newsletter.  

I have installed Google Earth on my computer and have already begun plotting my Family History.  It is so much fun!  With your great video on using old pictures to help find places you lived, I have been able to find the home we lived in right after I was born, 57 years ago.  It still stands, and except for a few minor renovations and a paint change, looks very much the same.  I have attached the old pics and the one from Google Earth.  It was a very exciting moment!  (I am the little one crawling around on the right of the picture)

My father is 79 and he has been the one, for many years, encouraging me to delve into the family tree.  We have some interesting story lines out there that have been fun to look into.  One of the things I found was an American Revolutionary Ancestor, in my father’s line, which led me to apply for the Daughters of the American Revolution and my app was accepted in December.  I was inducted this last weekend and my dad was there to see it.  That was a very special moment.  

After watching your videos on YouTube, I have started a blog, "Unearthing My Family Roots”.  It is in it’s infancy but I am enjoying it and hope to start incorporating family history and genealogy into it after the “Cruise Log” is complete.  You can find the blog here.  

As you can see, I am taking full advantage of my membership, so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out that you are coming to my local genealogical society meeting (Genealogical Society of Kendall County) in March and I can’t be there.  We are expecting our second granddaughter around that time in Missouri and I am going up to help. :)  I know you will be wonderful and everyone will go home with lots of takeaways.  Thank you for all you do and I look forward to all your future GEMS!"

From Lisa: Thanks for writing and I'm thrilled to hear you have become a Genealogy Gems Premium Members and that you are enjoying it! And I'm particularly happy to hear that you are putting Google Earth to good use.

Congratulations on your new blog. You are a talented writer, and I thoroughly enjoyed your series on the day you found the family bible and shared it on Google+. It is so similar to my own introduction to the family history obsession!

I'm sorry to hear I won't get an opportunity to meet you at the upcoming seminar. I'm really looking forward to Kendall County because all of my dealings with the folks there so far have been delightful.

Recently I heard from Sue, whose story offers a compelling reason to use Google Scholar for genealogy research! Read it below–then I’ll tell you a little more about Google Scholar:

“I’ve been using computers for genealogy research (among other things) for about 30 years and am pretty good at finding most anything on the internet whether it pertains to genealogy or something else. It’s a continuous learning experience because computer, the internet and genealogy on the internet are always changing and updating.

After hearing your seminars at RootsTech 2015], I tried out a couple of Google searches for my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather Silas Fletcher. Silas lived on Indian Key in the Florida Keys in the early 1820s.

My husband and I and our son visited Indian Key several years ago and the young lady who took us out in the boat had actually written her college thesis on Silas! Of course, we didn’t think to get her name or any other information. So I Googled “scholar paper Silas Fletcher’ and the first item on the search turned out to be her thesis!

I also found a second thesis on Indian Key and a research paper a third person had written–and they both contained information on Silas. In the footnotes I found references to deed books (book number and page number) that contained statements written by Silas, his wife Avis, their daughter Abigail and Mike’s 2nd great grandfather William H. Fletcher about their lives and movements in the Florida Keys.

With that information I went to and found the deed books I needed for Monroe County. I was able to go find their statements very easily instead of having to ‘browse’ through the books on the off-chance I would find something (which I do if I don’t know the exact book where the record would be).

I can hardly wait to try out the rest of what I learned at your seminars to see what else I can find!”

Sue’s experience is a great example of using Google to dig for your family history. One little-known feature on Google is Google Scholar, which would help Sue and anyone else more easily find material like what she describes: doctoral dissertations, theses, academic papers and more. Your keyword searches in Google Scholar will target results from academic publishers, universities, professional societies and more.

Though scholarly literature gets a bad rap sometimes for being boring or highbrow, they do something genealogists love: THEY CITE SOURCES. Sue cleverly read the footnotes of the materials she found and they led her right to a key source she needed.

Here’s another resource she could find using the details found on Google Scholar in a Google Image search: a map of his community!

My newly-updated, revised book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox has an all-new chapter on using Google Scholar. Among other things, I show you advanced search strategies and how to use Google Alerts with Google Scholar for continuous updates on your favorite search results. Click here




GEM: Interview with Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train
Our Featured Book – 1st Quarter 2015

Orphan Train  by Christina Baker Kline spent five weeks at the #1 spot  on the New York Times Bestselling list and is now on top of The Bestsellers List in Canada. When you read it you’ll see why. Here’s the storyline:

Vivian is an Irish immigrant child who loses her family in New York City and is forced to ride the ‘orphan train.’ Orphan trains were a common solution in the late 1800s and early 1900s for care of abandoned or orphaned children in New York City and other places. The children were loaded onto trains and paraded in front of locals at various stops across the countryside, where they might be claimed by just about anyone.

After following Vivian’s life through her childhood and young adulthood, we fast-forward. Vivian is 91, and a teenage girl named Molly comes to help her clean out her attic. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who is in the modern foster care system. Gradually they realize they have a lot in common, and you’ll love the ways they each respond to that.

To me, the book is about the importance of family identity. Each of us has a family storyline that existed before we were born and brought us into being. Vivian’s and Molly’s experiences remind me how important it is to know and value our family backgrounds. Of course I loved learning more about orphan train riders, too. That chapter of history is now a vivid reality to me.

Click here to order your copy of Orphan Train. Tune in to upcoming episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast as we talk about Orphan Train and interview Christina Baker Kline!


Northwest Genealogy Conference
August is a beautiful time in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ll be heading to Washington state for the upcoming  Northwest Genealogy Conference in Arlington WA, just one hour north of Seattle  August 13, 14, and 15, 2015.   

The Northwest Genealogy Conference will feature 3 full days of classes from speakers like Cece Moore and Judy Russell, and I will be there as well teaching 3 classes on Evernote and mobile technology. And there will be an exciting exhibit hall where you can see genealogy products and services up close.

If you’re new to genealogy, they’ve got something just for you too! The Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society is sponsoring free Beginning Genealogy Classes in conjunction with the Northwest Genealogy Conference that will be held on Wednesday 12 August from 1:00pm to 5:00pm at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center. Seating is limited, and pre-registration is required.

Registration opens on April 1, 2015 Head to


Profile America: Deadly Influenza
Wednesday, March 11th. One of the most devastating public health crises in history hit the U.S. on this date 97 years ago — and experts are still studying it, hoping to head off a similar global pandemic. The first cases of what was called “Spanish flu” were reported among soldiers at Fort Riley, Kansas. By October, the worst month, 195,000 Americans perished. By 1920, nearly one-in-four Americans had suffered from this strain of the flu, killing about 600,000. Worldwide, estimates put the death toll up at 50 million or more. Even less dramatic strains of flu can be deadly, necessitating medical research. There are some 112,000 medical scientists and 6,700 medical laboratories in the U.S. today. The output helps America’s 737,000 physicians and surgeons in maintaining our health. Profile America is in its 18th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.




Laboratories NAICS 621511  Physicians and medical scientists