March 25, 2017

About Amie

Amie Bowser Tennant is a passionate genealogist, speaker, and writer known worldwide. Along with being a dedicated wife and mother to three, she stays rooted in her local genealogical community by serving in many capacities. Amie shares our goal to inspire others with savvy know-how and great finds!

German Genealogy in the States in New and Updated Genealogical Records

Are you researching German genealogy in the States? If so, you will love what we’ve dug up. German death lists are just the start. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical record collections, Irish Quaker records, UK pensioners records, and a new product support announcement for Family Tree Maker software.

German genealogy in the US

By Photos by Donna Hyatt (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

German Genealogy in the States – Kentucky

You may not realize there was a large German population in Louisville, Kentucky, here in the United States. Our Book Club Guru, Sunny Morton, brought a new found website to our attention called German Genealogy Group. Among many other things, the German Genealogy Group has recently added newspaper death listings from the Louisville Anzeiger, a German newspaper from the Louisville, Kentucky area, to their website. The years covered are 1849-1865. Though only an index, the information provided will help you locate the newspaper itself.

Ireland – Quaker Birth Records

With over 302,000 new birth records from all over Ireland, you may finally find your Irish Quaker ancestors birth information. Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) births collection may help you uncover generations of your family tree. The amount of information listed on a birth record in this collection will vary, but most will include the child’s name, birth date, birth place, parish, and address. Most will also contain the parents’ names, addresses, and occupations.

Ireland – Quaker Marriage Records

Also at Findmypast, a collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) marriages has been updated. In fact, there have been over 20,000 new additions. These records will likely include data such as an occupation, parents’ names, and who attended the ceremony. As well as the names, address and marriage details of the newlyweds, parents’ names, an attendee list including names and dates of birth, and even details of the meeting may be found.

Ireland – Quaker Death & Congregational Records

By Holmes after Honthorst in 1654 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. George Fox, Quaker founder.

The Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) deaths record collection at Findmypast has over 24,000 new additions. This database contains death records that date back to the 1600s. Because of the large time span, information will vary. In most cases, you will find the deceased’s name, when they died, when they were buried, where they were buried, and the names of those they left behind. Some records will also reveal parents’ and/or spouse’s names. Additional notations may be also included in images of the original documents, such as “a young child” or “widow” or “an aged woman.”

Findmypast collection, Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) congregational records offers a wealth of knowledge about the role your ancestor might have played within the Quaker community. An additional 250,000 Irish congregational records have been added. Details of meetings and activities are just a sampling of what you will find. These records include a transcript as well as an image of the original handwritten record.

Ireland – Quaker School Records

Over 9,000 new records have been added to the Findmypast collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) school records. This collection covers six different schools and dates back as far as the 1700s. The records are compiled from various Quaker school registers and lists. Each entry includes both a transcript and an image of the original document. Details contained in each record will vary, but most will list the pupils name, age at last birthday, school and department, admission year, leaving year, parents’ names, and their occupations.

British Newspaper Archive Announcement

The British Newspaper Archive has recently announced a major new milestone in their project to digitize up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s vast collection of historic British & Irish newspapers. Following the addition of a newspaper for the country’s smallest county, Rutland, the Archive now covers at least one title from each of the country’s 48 counties and is now available to search and explore.

As part of this push to improve the British Newspaper Archive experience, a new “In Pictures” feature has also been added.

The British Newspaper Archive now contains over 18.7 million pages from 747 titles from England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland and spans nearly 300 (1709-2003) years.

United Kingdom – Chelsea – Pensioner Service Records

Fold3.com has a collection titled UK, Royal Hospital Chelsea Pensioner Soldier Service Records. This collection includes those who would have been eligible to receive a pension from the British Army between 1760-1920.

Fold3 Image - Example of attestation

The collection contains records for British soldiers (not officers) who received a pension from the British Army. They typically do not include records for soldiers who died in service or who were discharged early and did not receive a pension.

Some records contain more information than others, and pension documents after 1883 typically have more details regarding the soldier such as, information about next of kin, details of marriage, and children. Common details may include age, birthplace, service details (including any decorations,) physical description, previous occupation on enlistment, and the reason for discharge to pension. Documents that are most common include:

On Fold3, the records in this collection are organized as such:

  • For the period 1760-1872, the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854.
  • From 1873-1882, the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps.
  • From 1883-1913, two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers are arranged by range of surname and date 1883-1900 and 1900-1913.

United Kingdom – Leeds – Cemetery Burial Registers

Not everything is on the Genealogy Giants (meaning Ancestry, Findmypast, FamilySearch, or MyHeritage.) The Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index is free and available to search online. This database of transcriptions covers all entries in the burial registers of the Leeds General Cemetery and covers the years of 1835-1992. There are 97,146 entries in the index. Digital images of the registers are available to view alongside the transcribed data.

Search by surname of deceased or surname of the parents. Information found on the record will vary, but you are likely to find the name of the deceased, date of death, age at death, parents names, occupation, and cause of death. This is a great resource if you have been having trouble finding a civil death record.

United Kingdom – Sheffield

If you had ancestors who lived in the Sheffield area, you will find this next website a great help to your research. The Sheffield Indexers website provides full, online, searchable indexes to numerous collections, for free. These collections include, but are not limited to:

  • 1841 Sheffield Census
  • Cemetery records
  • Burial records
  • School records
  • Directories

Be sure to check out their extensive indexes!

Family Tree Maker Announcement

Last year, Ancestry.com announced the purchase of Family Tree Maker desktop software by Software MacKiev. Their goal has always been to maintain the capability to share your family tree data between files on your computer and your personal Ancestry online trees. They’ve been working on a new Ancestry gateway with Software MacKiev to use in their Family Tree Maker 2017, which will be available soon. 

What you should know (hat tip: Ancestry.com):

  • TreeSync will be replaced by Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™.  In the new FamilySync, Ancestry’s search, merge, and Ancestry hints will all work as they do now for users who sync with their Ancestry trees.
  • FamilySync will be available only in Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker 2017 edition, which will be released on March 31, 2017.
  • The upgrade is free for all users who purchased a copy of a MacKiev Family Tree Maker edition since March 1, 2016. Those with previous Ancestry editions, or who got a free copy of Family Tree Maker 2014.1 or Mac 3.1, are eligible for discounted upgrades. The pre-order upgrade is $29.95 for those who sign up for Software MacKiev’s mailing list before March 29 and the upgrade will continue to be a discounted price ($39.95) for a limited time after March 29.
  • Between Wednesday, March 29 and Friday, March 31, there will be a short period where syncing functionality may be interrupted as Software MacKiev rolls out their new syncing technology.  
  • As of March 29, 2017, Ancestry will no longer be supporting TreeSync, given the introduction of Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™. Software MacKiev will continue to handle all related customer questions for Family Tree Maker. Visit Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker Support Center at support.familytreemaker.com if you have questions.

More on German Genealogy in the States

German Newspapers in America is a virtual conference OnDemand video class by Jim Beidler. Stateside ethnic newspapers are a revealing resource for those searching their German ancestors. In this video you’ll learn:

  • How newspapers are helpful for your genealogy
  • The special role of German-language newspapers
  • Special concerns such as fonts
  • How to access German language newspapers

Use the code GEMS17 for 10% off the list price!

Featured Success Story From our Reader Celebrating our 200th Episode

The Genealogy Gems Podcast recently celebrated our 200th episode and 10th anniversary! Can you believe it? We couldn’t have made it without you, our Gems listeners and readers…thank you! We asked you to share with us how Genealogy Gems has helped you along your personal family history journey and to share your triumphs. Today we are proud to feature the inspiring success stories of a true Genealogy Gem, Robin!

Celebrating The Genealogy Gems Podcast 200th Episode

My name is Robin and I am from Nevada and I just love Lisa’s amazing podcast and website.

Lisa and her team are an amazing source of information for a hobby genealogist. A daily inspiration for me as I listen to the podcast. They have given me the courage to step outside my comfort zone and to keep contacting distance relatives in my search for photos or family history.

I have utilized so many of the Gems here on the website. Here are a few of my favorite Gems that have helped me with my searches.

  • Diahan Southard (a Gem all on her own)
  • Genealogy for Beginners (I devoured this page)
  • Google Earth
  • Google Toolbox (My favorite tool to use! Love, love, love!)
  • How to get started in Evernote
  • Organize your Genealogy Files
  • How to interview your relatives
  • All of the podcasts
  • Learning about Animoto and using it to make a video of all my cousins

I enjoy listening to Lisa read the letters from other people on the podcast so much and have wanted to send in an email, but I kind of felt a little awkward talking about myself and about what I had accomplished these past couple years. So, when Lisa invited everyone to write in for the Genealogy Gems 200th podcast episode, I thought to myself, what the heck, go for it.

My First Success Story: Keep It Safe

I wanted to share with your readers a couple of my stories. I am not a trained genealogist, but I really enjoy the search on Ancestry, Newspapers, and USGenweb, and many others. I came across the Gems website when I was researching Scrivener and how to incorporate it into my research. I read one of the reviews and they mentioned Genealogy Gems. Well, let me say, I have been hooked ever since then!

My mother, sadly, passed away last April of Alzheimer’s. She got me interested in genealogy as a teenager and I became hooked. I’m in my 40s now and recently got back into researching about four years ago. When my Mom was first diagnosed, she came to me and handed me a box of her papers and asked, “Can you keep them safe for me?” I shoved them to the back of a closet–my only thought was to keep them safe.

A couple years ago, I remembered the box I had in safe keeping and pulled it out. The box contained newspaper clippings my grandmother kept of family members of her mother which later helped me to confirm my great-grandfather’s parents names. Also contained in the box were several funeral books with family names, and birth and death certificates. It’s almost as if she knew I would come back to doing genealogy. It’s been an amazing adventure and I am so very thankful to my mom for giving me this wonderful gift of adventure.

My Second Success Story: Making a Lost Family Connection

In the last couple years, I have solved an old family mystery of my missing (paternal) great-grandfather after WWI. He had been presumed dead in the war, but I found he actually got out and married another woman.

I was able to track his daughter down and had a great conversation with her before she passed away eight months later within a week of my own father’s passing. His daughter was able to verify that he was indeed our lost great-grandfather. My dad and Uncle were shocked when I told them! I knew my dad enjoyed my calls to update him on my newest finds and solving the mystery when he showed up at my door out-of-the-blue with a box containing his baby book and other items as a kid. I have to say, that was one of the best days I ever spent with my dad. We sat and poured over the items and drank coffee spiked with a little Carolan’s liquor. He was going through chemo and radiation at the time and wasn’t allowed to drink. He claimed his doctor gave him special permission for a little in his coffee!

My Last Success Story: Participating in a Denmark Museum Exhibit

Mors Museum. Picture provided by Robin.

My most exciting moment was in November of 2015. I had emailed a library in Nykobing, Mors, Denmark for info in reference to the Morso Stove Factory. My husband’s ancestor worked there in the early 1900s.  My email was forwarded to the local Museum Mors director to answer my inquiries. I had included a photograph of my husband’s great-great-grandfather who worked at the stove factory. The director replied with my answer and asked if I would like to contribute to the new exhibit coming up in March of 2016, “The Emigrants ” with any photos, documents, family stories. Of course, I said yes, totally delighted and grinning from ear to ear!

As I considered what items to send to the Mors Museum director, I remembered that earlier in the year, I had contact with a fellow ancestry member named Dan (distant cousin of my husband) regarding a family book he referenced as a source. He sent me a copy via Google drive. The author, a lady name Connie, put this family book together and spent several years gathering information and typing it up on a typewriter, yikes. It’s over 250 pages of pure information on my husband’s ancestors. I tracked down Connie and spoke to her for the first time. I think she was shocked and honored that her book on her (former) husband’s family was going to be a part of a museum exhibit.

I then contacted Dan and he had some materials to contribute as well since he was the grandson of the youngest ancestor that immigrated to America.

Mors Museum Exhibit. Picture provided by Robin.

I had so much fun being a part of this and putting all the materials together to send by Google Drive to the curator. I have included several pictures from the museum exhibit. I believe the exhibit ends in October of this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but they were so kind to share the photos with me.

I have to say, even though this was a hard year, due to my parents passing, I think they both left me a gift to help me get thru this difficult time.  It’s been an amazing adventure and I have grown and learned so much from my family history.

I really want to say thank you so much to Lisa and the Genealogy Gems team, because I couldn’t have done half of the research I’ve done this past year without their guidance. Thanks for letting me share my story, too!

Congrats on the 200th podcast episode and I hope you all have a wonderful celebration.

Happy searching and many blessings,

Robin

Enjoy the Benefits of Premium Membership

Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteRobin utilized our Genealogy Gems Premium Membership to help her navigate genealogy records, learn about DNA, organize with Evernote, and much, much more. Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member today and get exclusive access to incredible content to help you further your research – all for one low annual price! Click here to learn more.

Italian Civil Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

Italian civil records at FamilySearch have been updated for five specific localities. Births, marriages, and deaths are just a few of things you will find in these collections. Also this week, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, and Alaska.

Italy – Italian Civil Records

FamilySearch has added to their Italian genealogy records this week. Five specific locales in Italy have Civil Registration records online. Civil registrations include such things as births, marriages, and deaths. They can also include marriage banns and ten-year indexes. Of course, availability of records will depend on the time period and the location.

The first collection titled Italy, Viterbo, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1870-1943 cover the years of 1870-1943.

This collection may include the following records:

  • Marriage banns (pubblicazioni o notificazioni)
  • Residency records (cittadinanze)
  • Ten-year indexes (indici decennali)
  • Supplemental documents (allegati)

The second collection titled Italy, Mantova, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1496-1906 covers several centuries. Images for this collection had been mistakenly made available to the general public who registered at FamilySearch. However, because of the agreement signed 30 June 2011, the publication rights of images belongs to the Italian National Archives (DGA) who publishes them freely to all on their Portale degli antenati: http://www.antenati.san.beniculturali.it/. Though you can see a transcript of the civil record at FamilySearch, you will have to visit the Il Portale Antenati to see the digital images. Some fees may apply.

Again, these civil records for Mantova will include such things as birth, marriage, and death records and in some cases, marriage banns and 10-year indexes.

Italian civil records for births

Italian birth record online at FamilySearch.

The third collection is titled Italy, Grosseto, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1851-1907. These records will again cover birth, marriages, and deaths in the Grosseto locale. These records, like the others, are written in Italian. In this case, you are able to view many of the digital images online at FamilySearch without having to use the Portale Antenati.

The fourth collection titled Italy, Rieti, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1840-1945 covers the years between 1840 and 1945 of this specific locale. The records held in this collection will largely be the same as the others, but there is something special that these Rieti records hold. They include Catholic parish registers of Poggio Fidoni (Frazione of Rieti) for the years 1768-1860.

Lastly, a fifth collection titled Italy, Enna, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1866-1944 has also been added with lots of birth, marriage, and death records for the vicinity of Enna.

For more details about the contents of all these record sets, their history, and help using them, see the wiki article: Italy, Civil Registration (FamilySearch Historical Records).

Netherlands – Miscellaneous Records

Also at FamilySearch, records have been added to the Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records. These miscellaneous records include indexes that cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records. These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment, and more.

Sweden – Norrbotten Church Records

Sweden, Norrbotten Church Records, 1612-1923; index 1658-1860 is a recently updated collection at FamilySearch as well. Church records from the county of Norrbotten contains indexes to births, marriages, deaths and images to clerical surveys, registers of birth, marriage, death, move-in and move-out lists, confirmations, and church accounts. Notice that this collection has some index-only items and there are some other items that offer a digital image of the record. Covering such a lengthy period of time, records will vary given the time frame.

The records are handwritten in narrative style and may be difficult to research for beginners.

Australia – Marriages

This week at Findmypast, we bring your attention to Australian Capital Territory Marriages. Each record result contains a transcript of the original record. The information available will vary, but information typically  includes:

  • First and last name
  • Marriage date
  • Spouse’s first and last name
  • Registration number
  • State

Further details can be found on the marriage certificate itself, which can be obtained online from the Office of Regulatory Services. Due to the sensitivity of the information found on marriage certificates, the marriage must have occurred more than 75 years ago to obtain a certificate.

Australia – Victoria – Wills & Probate

Wills and other probate records are a fantastic resource for genealogists. They often contain names of heirs and prove relationships. Findmypast has updated the collection titled Victoria Wills & Probate. In this collection of mostly indexed records, some search results will also include an image of the original probate documents. Records cover the years 1841 to 1989 and may include the following information:

  • First and last name
  • Sex
  • Occupation
  • Residence
  • Death date
  • Grant date
  • File number

Australia – Victoria – Divorce Records

The Victoria Divorce Cause Books 1861-1938 collection at Findmypast may offer you answers to the reason your ancestors parted ways. In Victoria, the Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) holds divorce case records up to 1940. If you are interested in more recent divorce cases, you will need to contact the Supreme Court of Victoria. It’s important to also know that up until 1975, divorce cases in Victoria were heard by the Supreme Court.

Victoria divorce recordsThese records will likely provide you with the first and last names of couples, petition date, who filed for divorce, and a case file number.

United States – Alaska – Vital Records

Did you know that this year is the 150th anniversary of the Alaskan Purchase? We have some great tips for Alaskan genealogy research coming up here on the blog in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, get started on researching your Alaska ancestors with the FamilySearch collection titled Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959.

In these records, images of birth, marriage, death, and divorce records are available for searching. Though the collection is a bit on the small side, new records will be added as they become available. Digital images of births cover the years of 1816 to 1912, marriages for the years of 1816 to 1959, and deaths between 1816 and 1959.

More on Italian Civil Records and Research

Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow (on PBS in the US) talks about doing the show and her tips for doing Italian genealogy research on our Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. Watch the clip below and be sure to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss any of our helpful tips and tricks. Thanks for watching, friends.

GEDCOM File (What is It & How to Use This Genealogy File)

A GEDCOM file is a universal type of file that genealogists use to move data from one genealogy software program to another. Using these helpful tips below, you can open genealogy files your family members send to youor share your data with others.

When and Why You Would Need to Open a GEDCOM File

A Genealogy Gems reader recently wrote:

I recently signed up for [the Genealogy Gems] newsletter. I received a CD from a relative with family history information that was set up through Family Tree Maker. I am currently not subscribed to any of the genealogy sites. My question is, how can I retrieve this information [from the CD.] Can you help?

The answer to the question is: Use another program to open the GEDCOM file from the CD. Let me show you how easy it is to open and create GEDCOM files.

GEDCOM Basics

GEDCOM is an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication. It is a universal genealogy file that allows you to exchange genealogical data between different genealogy software programs.

Because it is “universal” in nature, a GEDCOM file can be read by many different types of genealogy software. That means, if you are using RootsMagic, you can still share all the data you have collected with your cousin who uses Family Tree Maker, and she will not have to type in all the names, dates, and places manually.

Occasionally, not all the information included in a GEDCOM file will transfer perfectly. There are differences in how that information is interpreted and some things, like notes and sources, may be affected. However, for the most part, much of it will transfer correctly.

How to Open a GEDCOM File

Our reader needs to open a GEDCOM file contained on the CD he was sent. To do this, he must have a program on his computer that will read a GEDCOM file. There is an option I would like to share with you.

RootsMagic is a downloadable software for both Mac and PC users. (And, it is the one we here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast use! That’s why we accepted them as a sponsor of the podcast.)

Once you have downloaded  RootsMagic to your computer, open it. At the top left corner, click on File and from the pull-down menu, choose Import.

import GEDCOM file

Now, a new pop-up window will open and ask from what source you would like to import from. You will notice several options, but for our reader’s question, he will choose the GEDCOM option.

GEDCOM transfer

Then, choose I know where the file is, and the file explorer window will appear. In this case, our reader would click on the CD that he has loaded into his computer’s disk drive, and follow the prompts to open the GEDCOM file. All that information his relative sent him will be slurped into RootsMagic and he can easily look through the pedigree of his family.

Family tree using GEDCOM

Creating a GEDCOM to Share with Others

RootsMagic also allows you to create a GEDCOM file. This is what you would send to your relatives when they would like to have a copy of the family tree.

To do this, open RootsMagic. Click on File, as we did before, and this time choose Export from the pull-down options.

The export box will pop-up. You can choose what you wish to have included in this export. I typically choose Everyone, but you can do yours by family names by clicking on the down arrow next to Everyone and choosing Select from list.

GEDCOM export

Once you have clicked OK, the GEDCOM file is ready to be saved to your computer. Save the file on your desktop or somewhere you will be able to locate it again. Remember to name the file and pay attention to where you are saving it!

Creating a GEDCOM from Ancestry.com

If you have stored your genealogy data at Ancestry.com, you may be interested to know that you can create a GEDCOM file for your family tree there as well. It’s just a matter of signing into your Ancestry account, locating the Tree Settings, and then clicking Export. I found a nice article outlining the steps on how to do that here.

Protecting Your GEDCOM Files

Creating a GEDCOM is also a great way to save or back-up your hours and hours of family history research. One of the saddest tales of genealogists everywhere is losing their computer or printed family files with all that work!

GEDCOM files can be saved to a hard drive, saved to an external unit, emailed, put on a thumb drive, or uploaded to the Cloud. You can also invest in a company like Backblaze, the official backup of The Genealogy Gems Podcast,  that will automatically back-up all your files. (Read more about Backblaze, here.) All of these methods protect you and your genealogy.

More on Protecting Your Genealogical Data

Learn more about Backblaze, The Genealogy Gems Podcast’s first choice when it comes to backing up precious genealogy research and personal files. Read the article’s below and determine if Backblaze is the answer you’ve been looking for. We’ve set up a special offer for you, too. Click the image below to save $10.00 on your first subscription of Backblaze.

Why PC World Likes Backblaze for Cloud Backup

How to Download Backblaze in 4 Easy Steps

Backing Up Your Genealogy with Backblaze – Q & A

Irish Historical Photographs in New and Updated Genealogical Records

We are bringing you Irish historical photographs from Dublin this month in celebration of Irish heritage. Search these amazing photos of your ancestral homeland. Also this week, directories from Scotland, church records of the United Kingdom, and censuses for Canada and New York State.

Irish historical photographs 1900

Ireland – Dublin – Irish Historical Photographs

The Dublin [Ireland] City Council has launched an online archive of over 43,000 Irish historical photographs and documents to their website. These amazing photographs can be searched by archive, date, or location for free. They show images of events like the Eucharistic Congress and the North Strand Bombing. There are also images of football games, bus strikes, and old Dublin streets.

These Irish historical photographs includes pictures of old documents and objects, too, with the oldest document dated to 1757!

Take a look at the entire archive, here.

More on Beginning Irish Genealogy

irish genealogy cheat sheetYou’ll love these two quick-guides by Donna Moughty on Irish genealogy. Guide #1 titled Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research will help you determine a birth place, differentiate between persons with the same name, and walk you through identifying helpful US records.

Guide #2 titled Irish Civil Registration and Church Records, will guide you through locating Protestant church records, civil registrations, and more. It will also walk you step-by-step through using the new online Civil Registration records.

And now, purchase these two quick-guides as a bundle and save 10%!

Scotland – Post Office Directories

Scotland Post Office Directories contains over 382,000 records and allows you to explore thousands of pages of directories to learn more about the life and work of your Scottish ancestors. This Findmypast collection focuses on a particular town or district although a number of national postal directories are also included. The majority comprise a description of the place along with lists of people by occupation. For example, you will find lists of magistrates, councilors, sheriffs, police officers, and merchants.

The records are do not contain transcripts, but do include a digital image. The detail you will find on each page will depend on the type and date of the directory.

In conjunction with these post office directories, there are some that are browse-image only. They have not been indexed at this time. These 598 volumes of the Scotland Post Office Directories Image Browse are an excellent source for family history and those who need to trace their ancestors on a yearly basis.

Canada – 1842 Census

Lower Canada census

The Lower Canada Census 1842  at Findmypast contains over 46,000 records. The Province of Lower Canada was a British colony on the lower Saint Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence between 1791 and 1841. It covered the southern portion of the modern-day Province of Quebec and the Labrador region of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Each search result will include an image of the original document and a transcript. The original returns were printed in French and English and transcripts may include occupation, language, residence, and the number of inhabitants at their dwelling. Images can provide detailed information about the local area such as number of inhabited and uninhabited buildings, the number of barley mills, tanneries, distilleries, the price of wheat since last harvest, and the price of agricultural labor per day.

United Kingdom – London – Russian Orthodox Church Records

Findmypast has added records to their collection titled Britain, Russian Orthodox Church in London. Over 13,000 records taken from volumes of birth, marriage, and death records from the Russian Orthodox Church in London in exist is this collection. The records further include correspondences, congregational records, and church documents. The majority of the volumes are written in Russian although a limited number of English-language records are available.

The Russian Orthodox Church records are available as a browse set only at this time. You will need to search the records by the document description such as Births, marriages, deaths, converts, and passports, 1888-1919 or Donations to St Petersburg Guardianship for Poor Clergymen, 1863. Then, search within the digitized volume to find your ancestor.

You will find numerous correspondences with other church leaders in London, America, Russia, and Japan, as well as documents related to religious doctrine. The facts found in each volume will depend on the type of record you are viewing. Birth, marriage, and death records will typically include the individual’s name, event date, and place, while birth and marriage records may also include the names of the individual’s parents.

United Kingdom – War Records

New records have been added to the Findmypast collection of Anglo-Boer War Records 1899-1902. This unique database of more than 470 sources may reveal the unit your ancestor served with and any medals, honors, or awards they won. The register also contains a completely revised casualty list of 59,000 casualty records.

Each record contains a transcript and may include the following information:

  • Name
  • Service number and rank,
  • Unit & regiment
  • Medals, honors or awards received
  • Memorials relating to death if applicable

United Kingdom – England – Births and Christenings

birth and christenings in Irish historical photographs

By Anton Laupheimer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Though this collection from FamilySearch has been available for awhile, they have recently added more records. The England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 now totals over 68 million records. There are some important tips and known problems with this database. Before searching, be sure to read the details at the FamilySearch Wiki, here. As an example: In birth or christening records, if a surname is not listed for the child, the indexer often assigns the father’s surname to the child. This surname may not be correct. So if you are looking for a birth or christening, search by the given name of the child, adding parents’ names and as much locality information as is permitted.

United States – New York – State Census

FamilySearch has added to the New York State Census of 1865 this week. State censuses are particularly helpful to researchers because they fill in the gap between federal censuses. Unfortunately, the following counties are missing:

  • Allegany
  • Clinton
  • Franklin
  • Genesee
  • Hamilton
  • New York
  • Putnam
  • Queens
  • Seneca
  • St Lawrence
  • Sullivan
  • Westchester
  • Wyoming

New York state censusThe population schedule includes the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member as most censuses do.

However, this census also includes two military schedules with information of officers and enlisted men currently in the military and men who had served in the military. This census contains information on when and where the individual first entered the military, rank, how long they were in the service, their present health, as well as several other items.

Additionally, the census contains tables on marriages and deaths occurring during the year ending June 1, 1865. These tables contain typical marriage and death information, but can be a helpful resource for those who have been unable to find these records in traditional locations.

Lastly, a second table entitled deaths of officers and enlisted men contains deaths of individuals which had occurred while in the military or naval service of the United States, or from wounds or disease acquired in said service since April, 1861, reported by the families to which the deceased belonged when at home. It includes the name of the deceased, age at death, if married or single, if a citizen, several items relating to military information, date of death, place of death, manner of death, survivors of the deceased, place of burial and any remarks.

West Virginia Genealogy Research and Working with Changing County Boundaries

As many American’s know, the state of West Virginia was formed in 1863 from the state of Virginia during the Civil War. Those researching their West Virginia roots prior to that year, may wonder which counties to search and what records are available. We have some tips to make your West Virginia research a little easier!

West Virginia genealogy research

The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Boston Public Library collection, Wikipedia Commons.

County level research is important when trying to find the vital records of our ancestors. Birth, marriage, and death records typically are found on the county level. This means you will need to obtain a copy of these types of certificates from the local courthouse or other county repository, such as a county archives.

But what happens when the state or county wasn’t around when your ancestor lived there? Such is the case with this Genealogy Gems reader. Here is her question regarding West Virginia research:

I have a 3rd great-grandfather I am trying to find with his parents who may have been born in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. He was born in 1814. My question is that Greenbrier County was in Virginia at the time of his birth. Now it is in West Virginia which was made a state in the 1860s, so where do I look for his records? Finding his parents has been a brick wall! What would you suggest?

Birth Records in the 1800s

The first thing we want to address is the hope that this reader will find a birth record for 1814. Early birth records of this time-frame were typically kept by the churches in the form of christening or baptismal records. Civil registrations of births, which were created by the local or federal government, were not kept regularly for American states until much later. The earliest cities and states to require civil registration can be seen here, but a few examples include: New York in 1880, Virginia in 1853,and Florida in 1865. [1]

Because birth records can not always be located in church or civil registration for this early time period, we suggest using alternate records as your supporting evidence. Substitute birth records might be, but are not limited to: school records, censuses, pension records, marriage records, and biographical sketches. (Click these links to learn more about each type of record.)

West Virginia Genealogy Research: County Level

Next, let’s discuss the uniqueness of researching in West Virginia. West Virginia was created in 1863 out of the state of Virginia. Many of the counties that were once in Virginia, kept the same name and retained their records when they became part of West Virginia.

There is a wonderful resource in the book titled “Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources” which was edited by Alice Eichholz. This book has a chart for each U.S. state listing the year each county was formed and from what parent county. To find the chart, flip through to the West Virginia section. Each county is listed in alphabetical order. In this case, we would locate “Greenbrier” and take note that according to the chart, Greenbrier County, West Virginia was formed in 1778 by portions of both Montgomery and Botetourt County, Virginia. A chart like this is helpful for any genealogist in determining which counties should be researched.

Greenbrier County, West Virginia: A Timeline of Changing County Boundaries

I took the liberty of looking further into Greenbrier County, West Virginia by examining more closely the changing county boundaries of this county over time. I did this by using the chart I mentioned above found in the Red Book. First, I found Greenbrier county and it’s parent county, then, I searched the list for further instances when parts of Greenbrier county were used to form newer counties. You see, we want to see the changes of this county’s boundaries so that we know what possible places to look for records. Let me show you what I found. We are going to need a time line for this!

  • 1778: Greenbrier county was originally formed in 1778 from two parent Virginia counties: Montgomery and Botetourt.
  • 1788: part of Greenbrier County, Virginia became Kanawha County
  • 1799: Greenbrier shrunk further when a portion of its boundaries became Monroe County, Virginia
  • 1818: Nicholas County, Virginia formed from Greenbrier
  • 1831: part of Greenbrier created the new county of Fayette, Virginia
  • 1863: Greenbrier county, Virginia became part of the State of West Virginia
  • 1871: Summers County, West Virginia was created by a small portion of Greenbrier

As you can see, our Genealogy Gems reader may need to visit and research several county repositories both within the state of Virginia and West Virginia.

Greenbrier county is rather unique, as it had boundary changes quite regularly. It may be difficult to visit each of these county courthouses, spanning many miles apart, in hopes of finding targeted records for their ancestor. For this reason, our reader may wish to begin at the West Virginia State Archives. At most state archive repositories, records for all the counties can be easily looked at via microfilm. This may save valuable travel time. (Note: Before visiting any state archives facility, call ahead to verify what information and records they have, so that you do not have a wasted trip.)

There is also a free guide at Family Tree Magazine for West Virginia genealogy research that we highly recommend.

More on Advanced Research Strategies

Creating a FAN club tipsChanging county boundaries is just one area that must be mastered to ensure accurate genealogy research. Here are 3 more articles that will help you beef up your genealogy research skills:

The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

Resolving Three Common Conflicting Evidence Problems in Genealogy

ARTICLE REFERENCES

[1] Johni Cerny, “Births and Deaths in Public Records,” originally written in “The Source: A Genealogist’s Guidebook to American Genealogy,” online article, Ancestry Wiki, accessed 20 Feb 2017.

Royal Family Lines in TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? with Courtney Cox

Courtney Cox discovers royal family lines in the return of Who Do You Think You Are?. Watch TLC this Sunday, March 5 at 10/9c to follow some amazing journeys as celebrities explore their lineage and discover new revelations.

Royal Family Lines in 7th Season of WDYTYA

This Sunday’s season premiere kicks off with actress Courteney Cox as she traces her maternal line back seven centuries to the Medieval times, finding royal lines among the branches of her family tree. Going even further back, she learns that she descends from one of the most prominent figures in European history.

Season 7 of the hit TLC show Who Do You Think You Are? will be a nail-biter for sure. Communists, secret agents, and abolitionists are revealed in family history discovered by this seasons celebrities. The line-up of celebrities include:

Jessica Biel making a surprising discovery that changes what she thought knew about her heritage.

Julie Bowen, of Modern Family, uncovers the story of two relatives whose moral codes are from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Courteney Cox will trace her maternal line back seven centuries to the Medieval times to discover royalty in her lineage and an unbelievable tale of family drama.

Jennifer Grey uncovers new information about the grandfather she thought she knew, learning how he survived adversity to become a beacon of his community.

Smokey Robinson searches for answers behind the mystery of why his grandfather disappeared from his children’s lives, and finds a man tangled in a swirl of controversy.

John Stamos digs into the mystery of how his grandfather became an orphan, and learns of tensions between families that led to a horrible crime.

Liv Tyler learns that her family is tied into the complicated racial narrative of America.

Noah Wyle unravels the mystery of his maternal line, uncovering an ancestor who survived one of America’s bloodiest battles.

Courtney Cox: Sneak Peak of Her Story

Sharing Your Own WDYTYA Experience

Have you recently found an amazing discovery that has altered how you feel about your family’s history? We would love to hear about your experiences on our blog, here in the comments section, or on our Facebook page. After all, everyone has a story to tell.

And speaking of telling your story, Sunny Morton’s new book can help you do just that. It includes:

  • fill-in pages with thought-provoking prompts to capture key moments that define your life
  • Advice and exercises to reconstruct memories from long ago
  • Interactive pages for family and friends to share their own stories
  • Special forms for spotlighting important people, places and times.

Get Story of My Life by Sunny Jane Morton.

African-American County Slave Records Featured in New and Updated Genealogical Records

African-American county slave records are just one of two new collections to broaden your genealogy research. Also this week, records pertaining to the elite group of Masons in North Carolina, naturalization records from Michigan, and church records from New York. Lastly, take a look at the new records available for Northamptonshire, England!

In the past month, we have brought you two blog posts (Social History for Genealogy and the Colored Farmers’ Alliance and Genealogy Research Techniques for Finding Your Free People of Color) to offer you tips to researching your African-American roots. In this Friday’s post, we bring your attention to African-American county slave records and historical ads for genealogy research.

United States – Pennsylvania – African-American County Slave Records

This new database from Ancestry titled Pennsylvania, County Slave Records, 1780-1834 is a great find. This collection contains records pertaining to slaves and free persons from Adams, Bedford, Bucks, Centre, Cumberland, Fayette, Lancaster, and Washington counties, as well as Lancaster City. The types of records include: petitions to keep slaves past the age of twenty-eight, records of “negro” and “mulatto” children, as well as birth and residence registers. Various other records, such as apprenticeship records, bills of sale, and manumissions also occasionally appear.

African American genealogy and slave records

Entries include:
– the slave’s name (typically only a given name)
– description (e.g., Negro woman, negro man, etc.)
– owner
– birth date
– occasionally, the name of a mother

United States – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – Finding Family After Slavery

This unique project by Villanova University and Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia will make classified ads of the past easily accessible. The goal of “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery” is to make accessible an online database of snapshots from history, which hold names of former slaves, owners, traders, plantation locations, and relatives gone missing.

So far, project researchers have uploaded and transcribed 1,000 ads published in six newspapers from 1863 to 1902. These newspapers include: the South Carolina Leader in Charleston, the Colored Citizen in Cincinnati, the Free Man’s Press in Galveston, the Black Republican in New Orleans, the Colored Tennessean in Nashville, and the Christian Recorder, the official publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church denomination published at Mother Bethel.

Thousands more ads will be added in the future.

United States – North Carolina – WWI Masons

New records from The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina are now online. These records include several Minute Books and an Account book from St. John’s Lodge no. 1, Minute books and an account book from Zion Lodge no. 81, speeches from well known North Carolina Free Masons such as William Lander and J.M. Lovejoy, letters of correspondence, and more. But the best records for those doing their genealogy may be the list of North Carolina Masons Who Died in WWI.

African american genealogy and Masons

Screenshot from The Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina website.

The list is organized by name of lodge and includes the member’s rank, date and place of death, and where he was buried. This may particularly helpful to those researchers who have not been able to locate a death or burial record, or were not able to locate an obituary.

United States – New York – Church Records

This new database at Ancestry.com is titled New York and Vicinity, United Methodist Church Records, 1775-1949. It contains baptism, marriage, birth, death, and membership records of Methodist Episcopal churches in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Materials include registers, membership certificates, minutes of meetings, church financial records, lists of seminary students and teachers. Though the records will vary due to the lengthy time span they cover, you may find:

  • names
  • birth dates
  • marriage dates
  • death dates
  • spouse’s names
  • parents’ names
  • places where an event (baptism, marriage, death, burial, etc.) took place

United States – Marriages

Over 54,000 records covering more than 1,800 counties have been added to Findmypast’s collection of United States Marriages including substantial updates from Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee. Released in partnership with FamilySearch international, these new additions mark the latest phase of efforts to create the single largest online collection of U.S. marriage records in history.

Each record includes a transcript and image of the original documents that list marriage date, names of the bride and groom, birthplace, birth date, age, residence as well as fathers’ and mothers’ names. The entire collection now contains over 168 million records and continues to grow.

United States – Michigan – Naturalization

FamilySearch has recently added a browse-only database titled Michigan, Eastern District, Naturalization Index, 1907-1995. Soon, this collection will be easily searched by name, but in the meantime, you can browse over 500,000 naturalization records for the state of Michigan.

Michigan naturalization records

Screenshot from FamilySearch.org

This collection contains images of soundex cards to naturalization petitions. A guide to using a soundex appears at the beginning of most of the image ranges within this collection and corresponds with NARA publication M1917: Index Cards to Naturalization Petitions for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, Detroit, 1907-1995. For additional information on soundex indexes see the wiki article, Soundex.

The records usually include the following information:

  • Full name of citizen (sometimes a name change is indicated)
  • Date naturalized
  • Name of court
  • Certificate number

United Kingdom – Northamptonshire – Baptisms

Findmypast offers more great finds in the collection titled Northamptonshire Baptisms. This collection contains over 14,000 transcripts of original baptism records and covers 34 parishes across the East Midlands county. These records cover the years 1559 through 1901.

The level of detail found each transcript will vary, but most will include names, baptism date, baptism place, the names of both parent’s, document reference, page, and entry number. Remember, these are transcripts only and do not contain an image of the original document.

United Kingdom – Northamptonshire – Hospital Admissions

The collection at Findmypast titled Northamptonshire, Northampton General Hospital Admissions 1774-1846 consists of over 126,000 transcripts of original admission registers held by the Northamptonshire record office. These transcripts will allow you to discover whether your ancestors were admitted to the hospital, when they were admitted, why they were admitted, and the year they were discharged. Most records will also reveal the nature of ailment and the outcome of their treatment.

More on African-American Genealogy

African American genealogy podcastComing up next month in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 201: An interview with Angela Walton-Raji on finding African-American ancestors. She shares tons of resources!

Even if you haven’t found any African-Americans on your family tree, the challenges and rewards of African-American genealogical research are both fascinating and moving to learn about. And, learn other tips and tricks for genealogy research by listening to our archived free podcasts.

Mexican Genealogy: Finding Abuela in New and Updated Genealogical Records for Mexico this week

Find your Abuela (the Spanish word for Grandma) in a wide variety of Catholic Church records for Mexican genealogy at FamilySearch. Also in new and updated genealogical records, collections from Norfolk, England; Victoria, Australia; and Quebec, Canada.
finding_abuela_Mexico genealogy records

Mexico – Church Records

Abuela Francisca Ramos. Photo used with permission from the family.

FamilySearch has updated and added thousands of new Catholic church records in their Mexican genealogy databases. These church records cover many areas of Mexico, but in particular, the Hidalgo, Puebla, Jalisco, and Guanajuato databases have all reached over 1 million records. The years covered will vary, but the earliest records are from the 1500s and as recent as the 1970s.

These Catholic church records include baptismal records, marriage records, deaths, and other miscellaneous records that may contain valuable genealogical data for your ancestors. Check out the following databases for Mexican genealogy below:

England – Norfolk – Church Records

Several collections for Norfolk, England have been updated at Findmypast this week. Among them are first, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Baptisms 1685-1941. Norfolk Bishop’s transcripts for baptisms contain over 647,000 records. Each entry includes an image of the original document and a transcript of the vital details. The amount of information found in the transcript will depend on the age and condition of the original document. Most will include a name, baptism year, baptism place, and the names of parent’s. Images may reveal additional information such as your ancestor’s birth date, father’s occupation, and the name of the officiating minister.

The second database is titled, Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Marriages 1685-1941 and contains over 157,000 records. Each record includes a transcript and may include the birth year, date of marriage, place of marriage, and the name of their spouse as well as an image of the original document.

Thirdly, the Norfolk Bishop’s Transcripts Burials 1685-1941 collection will allow you to search over 434,000 Bishop’s transcripts of Norfolk burials to discover your ancestor’s final resting place. Transcripts will also reveal when they died and their age at death. Images of original documents may reveal additional information such as the name of the minister who performed the ceremony, your ancestor’s date of death and, occasionally, their cause of death.

Finally, the Norfolk Electoral Registers 1832-1915 containing over 4.5 million records may be just want you are looking for. Electoral registers were first created in 1832. Every year, a new electoral register was created to list the name of every individual eligible to vote. Voting was closely linked to the possession of property; therefore, the registers described the type of property owned or rented by the individual.

Electoral registers are an invaluable resource to trace your ancestors between the census years. Each entry in the Norfolk Electoral Registers 1832-1915 will include an image of the original register and a transcript of the facts listed. Transcripts will list your ancestor’s name, the place they registered, the district and the year they were registered. Images will provide additional information such as you’re their address and the type of property they owned or rented.

Australia – Victoria – Birth Records

Also at Findmypast, over 104,000 records have been added to the Victoria Births collection. These civil registration records may reveal your ancestors birth place, birth year, parent’s names and registration number. The entire collection now contains over 1.9 million records spanning the years 1837 t0 1917.

England & Scotland – Newspapers

Over 1.6 million articles and 13 brand new titles have been added to Findmypast’s collection of historic British Newspapers. The new additions cover the North West and South East of England, a number of Scottish counties, Nottinghamshire, and Bournemouth. The new Scottish titles include the Haddingtonshire Courier, Linlithgowshire Gazette, Ross-shire Journal, Rothesay Chronicle, Kinross-shire Advertiser, Peeblesshire Advertiser, and the Scottish Referee.

Canada – Quebec – Various Record Collections

The Drouin Institute has been in the genealogy business for over a hundred years. The Drouin Collection, which is available on Ancestry as well as on GenealogyQuebec.com, was microfilmed in the 1940s and digitized in the 2000s by the Institute. The Drouin Collection contains the civil copy of all parish registers (baptism, marriage, and burial records) from Quebec from 1621 to the 1940s. It is just one of many of the collections you will find from the Drouin Institute.Quebec genealogy
In total, GenealogyQuebec.com offers many databases to research and reaches near 43 million images and files.

To access the Drouin Institute record collections, you will need to visit GenealogyQuebec.com. It is subscription based website. Subscription information can be viewed here.

LAFRANCE
 
The LAFRANCE is the most popular and comprehensive tool available at GenealogyQuebec.com. It is a very detailed, high quality index of the Drouin Collection, and also provides the original document. Here is an example of what the LAFRANCE looks like from our users’ perspective:
Quebec genealogy site
Vital records for Quebec genealogy

Currently, the LAFRANCE covers the entirety of the 1621 – 1849 period for Catholic baptisms and burials, as well as, the 1621-1916 period for Catholic marriages. In addition, the LAFRANCE covers the 1760 – 1849 period for Protestant marriages.

The LAFRANCE’s index is particularly valuable and appreciated by English speakers, as it negates the need to read and understand French in order to obtain all the relevant information from a record.

WWI Holdings

The Library of Congress has launched a comprehensive portal to its extensive WWI holdings. This one-stop portal is designed to help you search WWI subject material with ease. Search things like propaganda posters, letters, diaries, newspapers, and more. It is a wonderful site for not only the genealogist, but the avid historian as well.

More on Mexican Genealogy

Mexican genealogyThe Mexican Genealogy Guide by David A. Fryxell from Family Tree Magazine will help you discover the bounty of records in Mexico. This digital download will help you understand naming practices, pinpoint ancestral whereabouts, and how to best navigate church records there. And, use the promo code GEMS17 for 10% off this great product!

What Was it Like to Land at Ellis Island?

Chalked full of a rich history, Ellis Island was the leading port of arrival for the United States for sixty years. Read more about this historic place and the inspirational stories of immigrants past.

Ellis Island immigrants

[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants coming to the United States from January 1, 1892 until 1954 when it closed. In our Genealogy Gems Podcast #199, Lisa shared a blurb from Profile America, regarding Ellis Island in which a few key facts were shared.

Ellis Island: What was it like?

Many of our ancestors first stepped ashore at Ellis Island when they came to America seeking a new life. I can only imagine their first thought might have been, “Get me off this boat!” But then, perhaps there was worry and trepidation. Would they be sent home because they were sick? Would they find work, a place to live, or food to eat?

Ellis Island immigration day

Immigration Day at Half Day School, Lincolnshire, Illinois. 2010. Courtesy of the author.

The very first immigrant was processed in 1892. Her name was Annie Moore and she was a 15-year-old Irish girl. [1] Can you imagine?

One elementary school in Lincolnshire, Illinois recreates this event with their yearly “Immigration Day.” Immigration Day is for all 3rd and 4th students to participate in what it’s like to come to this country for the first time. They dress up, pack up a few belongings, receive little tickets and passports, and experience in a small way the history of many of their ancestors.

Arriving on land again must have been quite the relief to passengers. Especially those in steerage. Steerage or third class passengers traveled in crowded and often unsanitary conditions near the bottom of the ship. Upon arrival in New York City, ships would dock at the Hudson or East River piers. First and second class passengers would disembark, and pass easily through Customs. They were free to enter the United States. The steerage and third class passengers, however, were transported from the pier by ferry or barge to Ellis Island where everyone would undergo a medical and legal inspection. [2]

If the immigrant’s papers were in order and they were in reasonably good health, the Ellis Island inspection process would last approximately three to five hours. The inspections took place in the Registry Room (or Great Hall). Here, doctors would quickly look over every immigrant for obvious physical ailments.

If the immigrant was found with a minor ailment, broken bone, or found to be pregnant, they would be sent to the “Island Hospital, built to restore the health of people suffering minor injuries [and] broken bones.” [3]

An Ellis Island Myth

The ship’s manifest log, that had been filled out back at the port of embarkation, contained the immigrant’s name and his/her answers to twenty-nine questions. This document was used by the legal inspectors at Ellis Island to cross-examine the immigrant during the legal (or primary) inspection. [4]

There are some genealogical myths regarding Ellis Island. Many believe that their ancestors surnames were changed when they arrived. Some even believe the name change was due to the lack of native speakers of different languages and an overall lack of communication. This is not the case.

Vincent J. Cannato’s book American Passage: The History of Ellis Island explains why this did not happen:

Nearly all […] name change stories are false. Names were not changed at Ellis Island. The proof is found when one considers that inspectors never wrote down the names of incoming immigrants. The only list of names came from the manifests of steamships, filled out by ship officials in Europe. In the era before visas, there was no official record of entering immigrants except those manifests. When immigrants reached the end of the line in the Great Hall, they stood before an immigration clerk with the huge manifest opened in front of him. The clerk then proceeded, usually through interpreters, to ask questions based on those found in the manifests. Their goal was to make sure that the answers matched. (p.402)

A First-hand Look at Ellis Island

The official, award-winning documentary shown today at Ellis Island (more about that here) is available to watch online below. It is a wonderful way to get a first-hand look at what it felt like to land at Ellis Island and the a land of liberty.

The Genealogy Gems Podcast (get our app) helps you make the most of your family history research time by providing quick and easy-to-use research techniques. Producer and host Lisa Louise Cooke brings you the best websites, best practices, and best resources available! Listen to all of Lisa’s podcast episodes on iTunes for free!
Sources:
[1] “The First Immigrant Landed on Ellis Island,” America’s Library, article online, accessed 30 Jan 2017.
[2] “Ellis Island: Journeying By Ship to the Land of Liberty,” Statue of Liberty – Ellis Island Foundation, online article, accessed 30 Jan 2017.
[3] Aaron Cooper, “Inside Ellis Island’s Abandoned Hospitals,” article online, 27 Jan 2016, CNN, accessed 30 Jan 2017.
[4] Ibid.