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

Jun 13, 2013

In this episode you will get a sneak peek at new changes coming in Ancestry search, and we will look for women in naturalization records. But first here is what you can do...

When Technological Changes Get You Down 

The Mayhem commercials from Allstate are a riot, but of course all that mayhem is not all that funny when it’s happening to you.

Sometimes it feels like technology companies are having a little mayhem fun with us when they get us all up and running with their software program, or app, or phone, or tablet, or whatever, and then bam they change it all up.  Mayhem!

It’s not really that we don’t want new technology and that it’s always mayhem. But rather: read more here



A Listener Takes Action and Gets a Win!

In most recent Genealogy Gems newsletter called “How Google Broke My Heart” I lamented the fact that Google is no longer digitizing historic newspapers, but put out a reminder that all of the newspapers that they have digitized to date are all still available for free online. And then I shared a cool webpage that my friend Dave Barney at Google shared with me that provides an easy to browse catalogue of all of the newspaper titles and they the years they cover.

In response to that article, a listener, Chris, shared what happened after reading the newsletter.  Chris says...

"Just read your article and went to check it out. I was able to find my grandfather's obituary, who died a month after i was born. Thanks for the tip!"

So there you have it, the benefits of not just reading the Genealogy Gems newsletter, but taking action on it! I love hearing how you all take the gems and run with them!


Criminal Past Follow up
Here is an email from a listener with Australian roots, and they are writing in about the last episode where I was talking about the new collection of criminal records at

“Your most recent podcast (excellent as always!) touched on transportation of convicts from UK.  The National Archives of the UK has an excellent podcast series, with many casts focused on genealogy issues.  Highly recommended for anyone with UK ancestors.  The podcasts are recorded talks given by their own professional Archives listeners.

In one recent series, they discussed transportation, clarifying a lot of misunderstandings in the process. To start, the prisoners were not convicts in the sense that we use the term these days.  Violent criminals in those days were hanged.  Those transported were primarily debtors and those that committed property crimes.  These folks were not forced to emigrate.  Instead, they received a 7 year sentence.  After completing their sentence, they were free to stay or to return to England. 

Perhaps the most interesting detail to me was the role the American Revolution played in the settlement of Australia.  Before the Revolution, transport was to North America.  After the war, that channel ceased to exist.  It took several years for the British to find an alternative, Australia.  So, if not for our revolution, Australia would not be what it is today.”

Mike has a question about how to put names to faces. He writes:
“I recently came across a class photo of a company of Navy recruits graduating on 13 June 1944 in Farragut Island, Idaho. My Father is one of them. But as I was looking at this mass of individuals (many of which would be dead within the year of the photo being taken); I thought “why not put the photo out to the general public and ask people to try and ID everyone in the photo.” I just do not know how to go about doing that the best way. That is when your name came to my mind to ask. Yes, I have digitized the photo, it is huge, so individuals would have to magnify the image.”

Lisa’s Four Strategies for Crowd Sourcing Photo Identification:
Well, Mike I’ve got 4 tips for you and anyone looking to try to put names to faces with the help of the genealogy community and the public at large.

1) - this is a free website where you can submit your photo, include as much info as you know about it, and then others can search the site and hopefully make identifications. This is a well-respected site that has been around a long time, and I have interviewed the founder (episode 74), who is great and passionate about old photos.

2) Consider creating individual photos of each man from the original digital scan. This might come in handy so that people can get a good look at their faces.

3) Consider creating your own free genealogy blog, even if it is just to post one article about the photo. Think of it as your own personal message board. You could include the photo (and some of the close-ups I mentioned creating) and then write up a description of what you know about the photo, the class, the location, etc. Make it as keyword rich as possible so that others will find it when they do Google searches on these keywords and topics. is free and easy to set up in just a few minutes.

4) Another type of "personal message board" would be a YouTube video. Just film the photo, zooming in and out on the faces. Many video editing programs will let you add the photo to the software timeline and zoom in and out just like a camera.  There is a free program called Jing that might work. Or Windows Movie Maker, etc. Again, add all that keyword rich text to your video description and title, and be sure to add appropriate TAGS to the video. All of that will help it get found.

Mike took my advice and set up his own free genealogy blog:


Gem posted on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page at Marge Mero says:

"Lisa, we found this quilt in the Main Street Museum at Polson, Lake County, Montana. It has my husband's grandmother's name stitched into this square. (Mrs. S. E. Salter). We also found a Red Cross quilt with relative names at a museum in Lanigan, Saskatchewan. Your posting was a good reminder to watch for quilts in museums."

Check out her post on Facebook because you’ve got to see this quilt! 

This episode is sponsored by:


GEM: Women in Naturalization Records

Women’s suffragists demonstrate in February 1913. Photographer unknown. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

We’re also nearing the completion of the enormous Community Indexing Project of U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Records. Already we can search newly-created indexes to millions of naturalization records at But often we don’t find the women we’re looking for.

Let’s look at why. But I’ll warn you, the reasons aren’t pretty. In the past, women had very few legal rights. None could vote. Married women had even fewer rights. Their legal identity disappeared when they married, swallowed up in their husband’s. Married women did not handle legal matters in their own name, own property or keep their own money. Sometimes they did not even have legal liability for their actions. This was known as the legal principle of coverture.

In 1855, a law was made that women who weren’t ineligible for other reasons (like race) were automatically made citizens when their husbands were naturalized. There was no extra paperwork or court costs. Their husbands’ papers (in combination with their marriage records) served as proof of the women’s citizenship, even though before 1906, you will not usually find the women’s names even listed on their husbands’ applications.

This represented a step forward for most married women, but not all. If a husband didn’t naturalize, the wife couldn’t naturalize without him. (On the flip side, if a U.S.-born woman married a foreigner, she often lost her U.S. citizenship, whether or not she left the country. This problem wasn’t fully resolved until many years later; learn more about the laws and resulting paperwork in this article by the National Archives.

Naturalization laws were not applied evenly, and some women got their citizenship anyway. Eventually, as women won voting rights in various states in the early 1900s, men who applied to naturalize were sometimes denied because their wives, who would be granted citizenship and therefore voting privileges, didn’t speak English or meet other requirements. Men complained that their wives’ nationalities were getting in the way, a problem women had lived with for years!

In 1922, women gained the right to naturalize independent of marital status. If their husbands were already citizens, they didn’t have to file declarations of intentions (the first step in the paperwork process), just a petition (the second step in the process). Otherwise, they had to fill out both sets of papers. Eventually even this link to their husbands’ citizenship disappeared, and they just filled out their own entirely separate paperwork.

What about unmarried women and widows? They could apply for naturalization, but in especially before the 1900s, they sometimes didn’t if they had no property. They could not vote and the law didn’t always treat them fairly. They saw little benefit in investing the funds and time in applying for citizenship.

It’s fascinating how much we can learn about the status of women by the way they were treated in the records we research. It reminds us to look past the paperwork to the reasons and intentions behind it, if we really want to understand how people lived. To our foremothers, both those who gained citizenship and those who were denied it, we salute you!


From Georgia: “First things First: Thank you so much for all you do for genealogists. I recently retired and it was my interest in your podcast long before the last day, that drew me to genealogy. While accurate data is of the most importance, I must confess, I am in it for the stories. Your website and podcast have captured my philosophy perfectly. I want the past to live for my family, not just sit politely on the dusty bookshelf.

Second thing: It was with your encouraging podcasts and an unrelenting techie grand-daughter, I have begun a website and blog for my families (Doudna, Brown, Allison, and Gillingham), "Billies Girl" at I am still in the beginning steps, but am having more fun than I ever expected. 

I would like to add links to your website on the pages. But, as I am, admittedly, ignorant in the ways of web-world, I am not sure if this is something I can just do or if I need to get permission from other sites to link them. I would of course be identifying and giving credit for anything I link too.

I think I can thank you for bringing me through that touchy first bit of retirement. Thanks again.”  Georgia

Congratulations on your new blog! And I am always happy to have listeners link to

Since my daughters are all now "leaving the nest" there have been many times over these last few years that I have been grateful to have the podcast and my listeners for helping me get through that "touchy" transition. I am very glad if I have been a help or encouragement to you in any way.