Thursday, August 9, 2012

Here is a list of new online courses that have been added to  All of these classes are accessible on under the Learn tab and Research Courses.

New courses in July

New courses in June:
Descendancy Research
French Beginning Research Series: Lesson 1
England Beginning Research Series: Lesson 4
Ireland Census and Census Substitutes
My Ancestors are From Germany, and I Don’t Speak German!
German Church book Analysis—Reconstructing a German Immigration Area
Using Online Czech Records: State Regional Archives in Prague
Using Online Czech Records: State Regional Archives in Plzen
Using Online Czech Records: Brno Moravian Land Archives
Civil War Research: Learning About Your Union Veteran Ancestor
Surname Search in the Treasures of the Society of Genealogists
Finding Maximilian Parker
Name Rich Sources for the "Long 18th Century" 1688-1837
How Do I Research Before 1837
Using Excel to Create Timelines
Understanding and Deciphering Catholic Records From North America and Europe
What is a Census Tracking?
What is a Census?
Tips and Tricks for Indexing the 1940 Census
How to Search the 1940 Census
How to Find Your Ancestors 1940 Street Address
How to Convert a 1940 Street Address to an Enumeration District Number
Converting a 1930 to a 1940 Census Enumeration District Number
Búsqueda de antepasados en Geneanet - Parte 1
Búsqueda de antepasados en Geneanet - Parte 2
Búsqueda de antepasados en Geneanet - Parte 3La Investigación Genealógica en Guatemala: Elementos Básicos
How to Index the 1940 Census
How to Arbitrate the 1940 Census
Intro to Indexing
Access to Records on FamilySearch
Record Search Tips on FamilySearch
FamilySearch IGI, Searching Historical Records, Source Boxes

Monday, April 30, 2012

Former Oxford couple create database of Massachusetts history

By Ellie Oleson TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF Sunday, March 25, 2012
For 30 years, an Oxford couple spent most days in the seldom-seen corners of town hall vaults, searching for information as far back as nearly four centuries ago.
Nine million of the resulting 17 million records they found, cataloged and preserved on microfiche are now digitized and available online through, with more to come.
Jay M. Holbrook and his wife, Delene C. Holbrook, both 75, formerly of Oxford, live in Provo, Utah, where the mountain air allows Mrs. Holbrook to breathe. While living in Massachusetts, she developed such strong allergies that she had to wear a mask whenever she went outside.

“Perhaps I spent too much time in the dust and mold in town hall basements,” she said.

Today, the couple is difficult to reach, since they are involved in dancing, hiking and Silver Sneakers exercise classes in Utah's dry climate and high-altitude, clear air.

“It is beautiful, but we get homesick. We love Massachusetts,” Mr. Holbrook said.

The Holbrooks' deep fascination with history led them to create a huge database that is now easily searchable by the public through

R. Todd Godfrey, senior director of U.S. content acquisition for, said, “We are so excited. The Holbrooks' 300-year collection is a unique and detailed find for us.” has collected approximately 8 billion records over the past 15 years.

Massachusetts history is particularly important, since many of this country's earliest settlers immigrated through this historically important region, Mr. Godfrey said.

Thanks to the Holbrooks and, records are available for the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth and the start of the Revolutionary War in Concord and Lexington.

There are digitized original records of Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and many more famous Massachusetts historical figures, as well as personal family members and ancestors.

Brenton Simons, president and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, said, “What the Holbrooks have done is wonderful for family historians. As is said, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.' We work closely with and may be making announcements soon regarding a partnership with them.”

Founded in 1845, his organization is the largest and first genealogical society in the country.

Available since Tuesday at are digitized photographs of original vital records, including dates of birth, parents' names, marriages, deaths and courthouse records from 315 of the state's 351 cities and towns from 1620 through 1988.

The Holbrooks' intention was to document all 351 cities and towns, but Mrs. Holbrook's health problems precluded that.

Mr. and Mrs. Holbrook met at a dance held at their church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Washington, D.C. where they both lived.

“She was the smartest, prettiest girl there. Every day is still a romance for us,” Mr. Holbrok said.

They have spent a lifetime involved in history. Their first date was to the Library of Congress; their next two dates were at the National Archives.

In studying their ancestors, Mr. and Mrs. Holbrook learned they were 9th cousins, with shared ancestors in the 1700s, and 13th cousins, with shared ancestry in the 1600s.

The couple married, and moved to Massachusetts in 1971, when Mr. Holbrook accepted a job teaching sociology at Nichols College. He holds master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Georgetown University.

He said he was studying “how an agrarian society became an industrial society,” and had written books on population studies, when, in 1982, he started his own business, the Holbrook Research Institute, which later became, publishing demographic studies with genealogical information.

“Our daughters helped us with the old key punch machines, earning five cents an hour. They loved the confetti they made,” Mr. Holbrook said.

The Holbrooks noticed that many vital records of many Eastern Massachusetts communities were documented to 1850 in books, with little done since or outside that area.

They decided to document and microfiche vital records from all the state's communities.

“We would get permission from town clerks and city clerks to do an inventory of their records, and offered them a free copy of all records on microfiche. We could not have done this without them,” Mr. Holbrook said.

“It was a challenge. Clerks are overworked, and most didn't know what historical records they had.”

They found many decaying records on the floor of some vaults, and often noticed missing pages.

Their research was limited to1920, due to privacy laws that restricted use of later documents.

“We found chattel mortgages, which listed all property, from the number of chairs to the number of sheep or cattle owned. So much can be learned from something like that,” Mr. Holbrook said.

Former Auburn Town Clerk Elizabeth L. Prouty said she remembers the Holbrooks first coming into Town Hall when Doris M. Hill was still town clerk more than 20 years ago.

“They were very respectful of the documents, which we made available from our climate-controlled vault.”

When they returned after Mrs. Prouty was elected town clerk, “I called the state, and they encouraged town clerks to make records available. No fee was paid by them, but a microfiche copy of our records was given to us.”

Jean M. O'Reilly, chairman of the Oxford Historical Commission, said the Holbrooks went further in their town, creating a detailed record of South Cemetery, the town's oldest burying ground.

“The Holbrooks gave us a wonderful historical record of the early settlers, almost a living history book of Oxford. They turned over four volumes with significant information on 1,208 people with a connection to that cemetery,” Ms. O'Reilly said.

They also turned over 17 million records to

The sale of their 30 years of work to for an undisclosed amount has not been without controversy, Mrs. Holbrook said.

“We have taken some criticism, but we simply could not afford to give our life's work away,” she said.

Mr. Godfrey said, “Thanks to the Holbrooks, there will be millions of discoveries made this week alone.”