Tip Of The Month: Stay In The Loop with Melinde’s 2015 Genealogy Trend Predictions

mindmax-5d4fffe0-dccd-4b28-bfe8-e3314557237a-v2Rising popularity of leading genealogy bloggers such as Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, will continue in 2015, connecting readers to important developments in techniques, technology, and sources. Judy team-taught one of BU’s summer seminars last year and we hope to see more of her in 2015.

Genetic genealogy will be a rising star this year. At Salt Lake City this month, Blaine Bettinger released a draft of ethical and usage standards for those employing DNA testing for recent and deep ancestry. See these standards here. If you know the basics about mitochondrial DNA and Y-DNA applications, you’ll be stunned at the new knowledge we are gaining through autosomal DNA studies and phasing.

The revolution around online access to digital images of source material is accelerating at a breathtaking pace. Free sites like make thorough research a pleasure. Pay sites like may hold the answer to your most stubborn brickwall problem – in an ancestor’s estate notice or a news item from the distant past.

The skills to command these vast resources can be learned through further education in the company of like-minded classmates across the globe. Come be a part of discovery with us.


December Tip Of The Month: Use The Holidays To Gather Information About The Past

mindmax-c2ddafac-09c6-4975-8b57-0dd5d0b93390-v2December is typically the time to celebrate the holidays together with one’s family. Often, it is rare to have so many relatives in one room together. While this is a great time to present your findings thus far to your family, it is also an excellent opportunity to gather first hand information about your family’s past. These conversations can help you place names and dates that may have been lost over generations. Once you attain this information, head to the library and fact-check.

In addition to utilizing this time to fill in missing information, it is also a great time to hear from family members of past generations about what life was like back then. Close your eyes and listen to their stories, you could feel like you are actually there. It also paints a more vivid picture, and can enlighten you to stories that are not available through any type of database or library research.

In this article, a genealogist named Margie. Through Margie’s genealogical research, she was able to discover that her grandfather owned a dairy, but in connecting with her family, she learned that he continued to deliver milk, even when people could not afford to pay.

See the full article and more of Margie’s story here.


November Tip Of The Month: Deciphering Old Documents

One issue unique to the Genealogical Research Field is the common struggle to decipher old documents. While there is no solution for reading messy handwriting, we have compiled some tips to help you with some common patterns found in many older documents.

  1. The letter Y.
    Many are familiar with the word “Ye” but do not know that the word actually means and is pronounced “The.” The letter Y was originally called a thorn, and pronounced as “th.”
  2. Double “s”.
    Two “s” in a row used to be replaced with a letter that looked like a lowercase f or p. This can especially be confusing, because when reading words like “Tennessee” it could look like “Tennepee” or “Tennefee.”
  3. Upper and Lower Case Letters.
    It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between letters at the start of a word. For example, the capital letters “S” and “L” typically look very similar. One great way to address this is to find the same letter in another word for comparison.
  4. Standardization and Spelling.
    Many words were spelled phonetically as the writer heard them, so if something doesn’t seem to make sense in context it is helpful to see it again through that lens. In one letter written by a Confederate soldier to his family, he stated that a friend had died of “new money” fever. He was referring to pneumonia or “pneumonie fever” as it was pronounced at that time.
  5. Transcribing Errors.
    It is very important to transcribe documents exactly as they are written, spelling errors and all. If necessary, one can add footnotes to the parts of the document that are difficult to understand.

To see the full article and see more details regarding the above, click here


October Tip Of The Month: Creative Solutions for When you Hit a Brick Wall

It is very common for Genealogists to hit what may seem like dead ends when tracing family lineage. For that reason, GenealogyInTime Magazine has compiled a list of 50 creative solutions to some of these common issues. Here are a few of their top solutions:

  1. Finding Maiden Names. This can be very difficult as you work your way up the family tree. Most countries have a national identification number (Social Security number in the US, Social Insurance Number in Canada, etc.) These applications always list the mother’s maiden name.
  2. Middle Names. It is not uncommon for people to start going by their middle name on official documents at some point in their lives. This can happen even when a person reaches middle age. For that reason, be sure to search for records by first and middle name.
  3. Aliases. In historical records, people commonly used aliases. Some popular patterns of constructing aliases were using the middle name as a last name, using the mother’s maiden name as a last name, and anglicizing a non-English family name.
  4. Utilizing Electoral Rolls. Electoral rolls are arguably the most powerful yet overlooked resource available to genealogists they are often kept at the municipal or city level to allow local authorities to know who is registered to vote. Electoral rolls are often updated on a set schedule, usually at a much higher frequency than census records, and are a good way to narrow down the date range to find out when somebody died or moved out of a region.
  5. Underage Soldiers.Underage soldiers are a common problem during periods of large scale conflicts. When tracing a male ancestor, try to determine how old they were when major military conflicts broke out in the region. If they were 14 or older, then they may have signed on as soldiers even if they were not of legal age. Most armies were happy to take them regardless, and would often turn a blind eye to such activity. Just be aware that underage soldiers (who lacked proof of age) would often sign on under an alias or fake their age.

To see all 50 Brick Wall Solutions, read the full article on GenealogyInTime Magazine.


August Tip Of The Month: The Use of Patterns to Draw Conclusive Evidence

mindmax-320b80c2-e1fb-443e-89e8-d5174157b2c0-v2With a wealth of data at our fingertips, it is often easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and lose sight of what may be right in front of us.

In a recent study, an international team of researchers crunched three major databases, gathering the birth and death places of notable artists, politicians, and scientists to see if they could map cultural evolution in North America. This map shows the birth places of those people in blue, and their death places in red.

The thought process behind this method was that “Death is certainly not random, in the sense that people tend to die where they migrate to perform their art,” said Albert-László Barabási (Boston Globe).

So how is this applicable to us? It is a reminder that throughout our genealogical research, a small detail can show a large trend. By thinking outside the box, we will allow ourselves to gain vast insight and knowledge from something that may have been previously overlooked.

To see the full article and findings from the Boston Globe, click here.


National Genealogical Society Quarterly hosted at BU

Reflecting its ongoing involvement in advanced genealogical education, BU’s Center for Professional Education proudly houses the renowned National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ). The journal is co-edited by the director of CPE’s Genealogical Research program, Melinde Lutz Byrne, FASG, and program instructor Thomas W. Jones, PhD, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS. For more information about the journal, please visit the NGSQ website.


Melinde Byrne, discussing the complexity of modern family trees

Melinde Lutz Byrne, Director of Boston University’s Genealogical Research Certificate program, was on National Public Radio today discussing the changing American family and it impact on tracing family trees. She was also quoted in a New York Times article discussing the complexity of modern family trees.

Listen to the conversation or read the full article on the New York Times.


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