October 9, 2015

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? With whom should you share this good news? New this week: 

We dig these gems

ARIZONA BIRTHS. A new database of Arizona birth records at Ancestry covers 1835-1915. “When available, each record contains the full name of the individual, the full names of their parents, birth date, death date, county of birth, as well as an image of the original birth certificate.”

BRAZIL IMMIGRATION CARDS. Nearly a million indexed records and images have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of 20th century immigration cards for São Paulo, Brazil.

COLORADO DIVORCES. A new index to divorce records in Colorado (1851-1985) is available to Ancestry subscribers. “When available, each record contains the full names of both individuals, their date and location of divorce, as well as the certificate number.”

ILLINOIS MARRIAGES. A new index to Illinois marriages (1860-1920) is now searchable at Ancestry. It is still incomplete; records will continue to be added. Look for names of bride and groom, marriage date and place in these records indexed by the state genealogical society in partnership with the state archive.

KENTUCKY PENSIONS. More than 25,000 records have been indexed in a free FamilySearch collection of Confederate pension applications for Kentucky. The records were “filed by surviving former Confederate soldiers or their widows who lived in Kentucky” after the state legislature authorized the pensions, so they are dated relatively late: from 1912-1950.

NEW ZEALAND PROBATE. Nearly three-quarters of a million images have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of probate records from New Zealand. According to the description, “The records were created by various courts throughout New Zealand. Although the index will contain entries up through 1998 when all images have been captured, the images for probates issued during the past 50 years are unavailable for viewing.”

SCOTLAND VALUATION ROLLS. The 1855 valuation rolls for Scotland are now searchable at ScotlandPeople (you’ll have to register/login to search). According to the site, “The rolls contain the category and location or address of the property, the names of the owner, tenant and occupier, and details of the assessed rental value of all properties over the value of £4. Occupants of very humble dwellings may therefore not be included in the rolls.” THESE RECORDS ARE FREE TO SEARCH THROUGH OCTOBER 13 (click here).

U.S. WWII DRAFT REGISTRATIONS. Over a million indexed WWII draft registration cards from 1942 have been added to a free FamilySearch collection. Commonly known as the “old man’s draft,” these records pertain to men ages 45-62 who weren’t already in the military. A comparable collection is already searchable at Ancestry.

share celebrate balloonsThank you for sharing the news about these new genealogy records online with your friends and genealogy buddies. Just copy and paste the URL into an email or share it on your favorite social media platform. You’re a gem!


Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015

Register Now for the TSGS 2015
Family History Conference

Take advantage of the early-bird discount!

Registration is now open for the TSGS 2015 Family History Conference scheduled for Oct 31-Nov 1 in Austin, Texas. This jam-packed event will take place at the Crowne Plaza Austin located in Austin, Texas, and is for genealogists and family historians of all skill levels!

keynotes Texas State Genealogical Society Conference 2015
Take advantage of the special early-bird price of $130 for a full 3-day pass including lunches on both Saturday and Sunday. This price is only available through October 10, 2015. Attend only Friday for $50 or only Saturday or Sunday for $80. Become a TSGS member and enjoy a further savings of $20 off the early-bird pricing. (New members will receive their personal discount code via email within 24 hours of paying membership online.) Don’t have your membership discount code? Email memberinfo@txsgs.org.

Register now at: http://www.txsgs.org/conference/conference-registration/.

TSGS 2015 by the Numbers

See what’s in store for you at this 3-day genealogy extravaganza!

  • TSGS is pleased to welcome not 1, but 2 keynote speakers — national-level speakers Lisa Louise Cooke and J. Mark Lowe — who will be giving a total of 6 keynote presentations!
  • Attendees will enjoy learning from the 14 different tracks including Genealogy for Beginners, DNA, African-American Research, Courthouse Records & Records Loss, Adoption, Hispanic Research, Methodology, Libraries & Repositories, Historical Context, Societies & Communities, and Digital Genealogy.
  • This year’s 27 breakout session speakers from 7 states bring a breadth of genealogy research experience to share with you in a total of 43 breakout sessions!
  • Exchange ideas and ask questions in the the 2 scheduled panelsBoth Sides of the Reference Desk and Society Projects A-plenty.
  • The TSGS 2015 program features a total of 7 add-on workshops on topics including DNA, technology, Southern research, and court records facilitated by speakers Debbie Parker-Wayne, Lisa Louise Cooke, and J. Mark Lowe.


  • Be entertained during dinner by J. Mark Lowe and celebrate with the TSGS Award winners Saturday evening at the Annual TSGS Awards Banquet.
  • Enjoy meeting other family historians who share your passion for ancestors at various social events including a Welcome Reception on Friday evening and lunch on both Saturday and Sunday (included with your registration). See the full schedule of events for this 3-day genealogy extravaganza: http://www.txsgs.org/conference/schedule/!

Visit the TSGS Conference page at  http://www.txsgs.org/conference/ for details including a link to the conference hotel. Be sure to register now at http://www.txsgs.org/conference/conference-registration/ to take advantage of the special early-bird discount which is only available through October 10, 2015.

Citizens Creek: NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club Featured Title

Citizens Creek, the newest novel by New York Times best-selling author Lalita Tademy, is the featured Genealogy Gems Book Club title for the last quarter of 2015. In December, we will bring you an exclusive interview with the author. Why not start reading now?


Citizens creek cover book club logo2We are pleased to announce the newest Genealogy Gems Book Club selection: Citizens Creek, a new novel by New York Times best-selling author Lalita Tademy.

Some of you have probably read her previous novels, Cane River and the sequel Red River. Cane River  was an Oprah Book Club selection. I read these a few years ago and really enjoyed them. So I was really excited when I heard she had a new novel out. And even more excited when she said she’d be happy to join us on an upcoming Genealogy Gems podcast to talk about the book!

Citizens Creek is a novel, but it’s based on the lives of real people. The publisher describes it as “the evocative story of a once-enslaved man who buys his freedom after serving as a translator during the American Indian Wars, and his granddaughter, who sustains his legacy of courage.” Here’s more to whet your appetite:

“Cow Tom, born into slavery in Alabama in 1810 and sold to a Creek Indian chief before his tenth birthday, possessed an extraordinary gift: the ability to master languages. As the new country developed westward, and Indians, settlers, and blacks came into constant contact, Cow Tom became a key translator for his Creek master and was hired out to US military generals. His talent earned him money—but would it also grant him freedom? And what would become of him and his family in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Indian Removal westward?

“Cow Tom’s legacy lives on—especially in the courageous spirit of his granddaughter Rose. She rises to leadership of the family as they struggle against political and societal hostility intent on keeping blacks and Indians oppressed. But through it all, her grandfather’s indelible mark of courage inspires her—in mind, in spirit, and in a family legacy that never dies.

“Written in two parts portraying the parallel lives of Cow Tom and Rose, Citizens Creek is a beautifully rendered novel that takes the reader deep into a little known chapter of American history. It is a breathtaking tale of identity, community, family—and above all, the power of an individual’s will to make a difference.”

We first considered this book for the Genealogy Gems Book Club because of the compelling history. As I started reading, I realized that this book was all about family, relationships and legacy. The experiences of one generation shape them and deeply affect future generations. Specifically we as readers see how Cow Tom’s grand-daughter, living after the time of slavery, looks back on her grandfather’s life for inspiration, support and guidance, even while trying to keep his deepest secret.

Click here to purchase Citizens Creek in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and even as an Audible or MP3 file for those of you who like to listen to books. We thank you for using our links when you purchase anything we recommend. You support free Genealogy Gems programming and content, like the Genealogy Gems podcast, website and videos on our YouTube channel.

The Genealogy Gems Book Club is our free, no-commitment online book club. Every 3 months, we share a favorite history and family-themed book: fiction and non-fiction, best-sellers and lesser-known titles. During the third month, the author joins us to chat about his or her book from the point of view of someone who {hearts} family history. Click here to see other titles we’ve recommended.



Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 184 Is Ready for YOU

GGP 184The FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 184 has been published and is ready for your listening pleasure! 

In this episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear about lots of fabulous and FREE online resources–including a way to harness the power of Ancestry.com for free.

You’ll also hear advice from two listeners, one on saving your genealogy from theft and another with a tip on digital preservation for photos. I share a genealogist’s poem that made me laugh. Resident DNA expert Diahan Southard joins us to respond to a common lament: when DNA doesn’t seem to be panning out for you.

In this episode we also announce our next Genealogy Gems Book Club, the last featured title of 2015. It’s a meaty new novel by a New York Times best-selling author who has also penned an Oprah Book Club Pick. Come check it out (or click here to read more about it)! Listen in iTunes, through our app (for iPhone/iPad or Android users), on our website and TuneIn (now available for Amazon Echo users).

GGP thanks for sharingThe Genealogy Gems podcast is proud to continue its tradition as a FREE, listener-friendly show for all levels of family history researchers (beginners and beyond!). Thanks for sharing this post with your friends and genie buddies. You’re a GEM!

Here’s Why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors

If you have ancestors who lived in the earlier days of Quebec, Catholic church records may prove some of your most consistently helpful resources. 

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville (Lower Town). Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville (Lower Town). Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

Those tracing their ancestors in Quebec can encounter serious frustrations! The same 50 given names appear for 70% of the people before 1800 (and many share the same surnames, too). Almost all passenger lists are missing before 1865. Several early censuses are not easily searchable online.

Thankfully, in Quebec church records are often available back to the 1600s. There are LOTS of them online, and they often contain the distinguishing details–those exact dates, names, relationships and locations–that can help identify an ancestor with greater certainty.

The Catholic church was the dominant religion in Quebec. “Between 1679 and 1993, priests were required to make two copies of all baptisms, marriages, and burials,” explains FamilySearch. “The second copy was sent to civil authorities, and these are found in civil archives. In 1796, churches were required to index their registers.” Records duplication means more chances to find an ancestor. And “while the form and content of the entries vary somewhat, the general quality of the records is excellent.”

Catholic baptisms were performed for newborn babies, often within a day or a few days of birth. It’s often possible to glean the birth date from the baptismal date. This one, for example, states the child was born the day before:

Unnamed image (2)

Baptism of William James Beard, 9 Feb 1856, St. Patrick’s Church parish register, Quebec. Image from “Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1979.” Online at FamilySearch; click to view.

As you can see, in this baptismal record, the parents are identified as lawfully married. The father’s military regiment is named. Two witnesses are named, one who signed the register himself and the other who declared herself illiterate. Catholic marriage and death records can also be rich in genealogical data. Though most Quebec church records are in French, this one happened to be in English.

I learned recently about an interactive map of Quebec’s Catholic parishes (and other churches) up to 1912. Click below to check it out:

Quebec catholic parishes

Once you’ve identified the nearest parish, you will more confidently identify your ancestors in databases of church records, or pursue their listings in offline resources. Start looking in databases like these:

I also recommend exploring this excellent website for Quebec genealogy:
Quebec Records: The Genealogical Website of French America

More Canadian Genealogy Gems Right Here on Genealogy Gems

Canadiana: Digital Archive and Portal to the Past

Amazing Family History Find in a Basement: Canadian Navy WWI Memories

Google Earth for Canada and Genealogy



Do You Need these WWII Documents at The National Archives [UK]?

Recently I heard about a slew of WWII documents at The National Archives [U.K.], some newly available online. Look closely at the descriptions: they have holdings of records of non-British forces, too!

Battle of Britain WWII documents at National Archives UK

Battle of Britain air observer. Wikipedia Commons image. Click to view.

Recently The National Archives [UK] promoted some of the WWII documents in its vaults, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Below are resources and collections they’ve highlighted.

The National Archives’ guide to researching WWII. This is an overview to researching British government and military records of WWII.

Guide to Royal Air Force Service Records. Use this overview to see what records are available at The National Archives, and learn about related records that have been digitized and indexed at Findmypast.

Royal Air Force combat reports. These are “official reports which pilots or air gunners filed after they had encountered enemy aircraft on operational flights,” says a description on the site. “The reports cover action seen by the squadrons, wings and groups serving with Fighter Command, Bomber Command, Coastal Command and the Fleet Air Arm. Now held at The National Archives in series AIR 50, they include Commonwealth, United States Army Air Force and Allied units based in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.”

Royal Air Force operations record books for squadrons. “Most of them date from the Second World War but there are some from the 1920s and 1930s and a few from the First World War,” says the site. “The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit. This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.” Part of the series is viewable online.

More Exciting WWII Resources from Genealogy Gems:

10 Maps for Family History at David Rumsey Map Collection

The Ghost Army of WWII Author Interview in the free Genealogy Gems podcast episode 182

The Bombing of London in WWII: Interactive Map of The Blitz

thank you for sharingI love it when people share! Thank you for passing this post along to others who will want to know about it.


FED UP with Family Secrets!? Adoption and Genealogy

Do family secrets make your genealogy research more difficult? More intriguing? Here’s how one listener feels about the secrets in her husband’s family history (and a nice resource on adoption in Ireland).

brick wall family secretsRecently we heard from Kate, a longtime Genealogy Gems Premium member. “Our first visit to my husband’s family was in 1998. I was eager to learn about who is who in the family. We were told that a woman was raising her sister’s child who was born out of marriage, but we can not talk to anyone about it. The daughter supposedly did not know she was adopted. SHH! We were told other things we must keep quiet about. We did our best to do as they wished.

Today on Facebook an old photo was posted with my husband’s paternal grandmother. Again, curious, I asked who is ???????. Was messaged in a private message. ‘(She) was adopted by my husband’s grandparents.'” Neither Kate nor her husband had ever heard of this person. Her father-in-law had never mentioned this person.

“My husband’s father left Ireland in the late 1920s,” she explains. “This may have happened after he left but he communicated with his family. He did not go back to visit until about 1956. Maybe that is part of this.”

But she thinks “there must be more to this” than just a secretive family culture. She “looked up Irish adoption and found legal adoption is relatively new to Ireland.” She shared this overview of Irish adoption policy and hopes it will be helpful to others.

“This secrecy is so difficult to deal with.  How do you deal with this issue? This was very common in my mother’s generation. How long do we maintain these secrets?”

Unfortunately, Kate’s frustration is all-too-common. Family secrets can feel like brick walls our own families build that keep us from understanding them. My experience is that it’s not usually about us as researchers. I think pain or protectiveness toward a loved one are often behind someone’s desire to keep a story out of the limelight.

Everyone’s perspective may differ slightly–there is not “one right answer” to this issue. And the need to reveal secrets for someone’s safety or well-being may at times trump all other considerations. But generally, here’s what I do when someone trusts me with a secret from the past. First, I thank them. Then I ask what I may do with that secret. Are they ready for me to help tell the story now (even to a small audience)? Are they ready to write it down (even in a sealed letter to be opened at a later date)? I try to understand and show respect for their reasons and feelings, even if they’re different than my own.

Over time, my respect and patience will pay off: in my relationship with that person, in my ability to understand the family better, and maybe–eventually–in that person’s willingness to let the story be more widely known. Many people reveal stories in stages. Telling it to me may be an important step toward full disclosure. I may continue to encourage (but not nag) them to share the story.

That may never happen. If that’s the case, I have to redirect my interest to family stories that can be told without risking relationships with loved ones. It’s hard sometimes. As descendants, we want to know the truth. As researchers, we are hungry for answers. I’m glad the “fruit” on my family tree ripens at different stages. There’s always a ripe family story or memory ready to be harvested. Meanwhile, I’ll keep an eye on that family secret–the unripe fruit–so if it does ripen, I’ll be there to harvest it.

Additional Resources

Family Secrets in Genealogy: Crystal’s Story in the free Family History Made Easy podcast (episode 44)

Annie Barrows Talks Family History and “The Truth According to Us

Family Tree Etiquette: Online Private v. Public Trees

thank you for sharingThank you for sharing this post with others who care about family stories, family secrets and what-to-say-when. It’s one of our trickiest challenges, that’s for sure!



“Help! Why Is My Ancestor Listed TWICE in the Census?”

It’s a common problem to not find your family history in the census AT ALL. But what happens when you find them listed TWICE?

Ancestors Listed Twice in the Census

Donna recently wrote in with this head-scratching question: “Lisa, I love your podcast, and have been to several of your presentations, and lots of your webinars. You make everything seem like it is all within my reach. So when I came across this issue, I thought you’d be the perfect one to ask advice from.

“Like most of us…citing my sources has not always been the best.  So I decided to go back and redo my files, making sure that I have all the sources cited.  In looking at my husband’s family, I have found something weird.  Usually, I find that family is not included in the census, but have you ever found it where they are listed twice?”

She transcribed both 1910 census listings for Fred Dierks’ family with me, both in Whitman County, Washington (one in Harper Precinct and one in Colfax City). Then she wrote, “Not all the kids are in both households, but the younger ones are in both.  And both censuses are enumerated by different people. What do you make of this? What was the protocol for counting the same families in different locations? My family is from the South and I usually find them missing from censuses, not having them show up twice! How would you cite this?  Would you choose one and forget the other?  Or cite them both?  Or…?”

Really? An ancestor listed TWICE in the census?

Yes, this is very possible, and I have a case in my own family. Just this weekend a gentleman came up to me at a seminar and told me about a case in his family, and that his grandmother had birth certificates in not one, or two, but THREE different locations!

In the case of the census, there are a variety of reasons why you might find an ancestor listed twice in the census: owning more than one piece of property, living in one location and working as a domestic in another, or moving during the census-taking period, for example.

Without seeing the documents I can’t speak to Donna’s case specifically, but here are some suggestions for anyone who finds an ancestor listed twice in the census:

census informant 1940 census1. Look at the date each enumeration was taken.

2. For later censuses, look at who provided the information. In the 1940 census the informant is indicated by a plus sign with a circle around it. If there are two entries, each with a different informant, that might explain why the family didn’t realize they were counted twice. Unfortunately, in earlier census records it typically isn’t indicated who provided the information. (Click here for the census enumeration instructions for 1910, the year in question here.)

Ancestors listed twice in the census Meadow St

The street name (Meadow) shows up on one of this family’s listings in the census. Image from the 1910 census at Ancestry.com.

3. Compare the neighbors’ names and the street name in each listing: are they the same (evidence that both were taken at the same physical location) or different (evidence of different physical locations–or different routes taken in the same neighborhood that only overlapped by that household). This census image shows that the family lived on Meadow Street; the other listing doesn’t say (page backward to find the street name). But the next-door neighbors in both listings are different.

4. Look for an address for the family from that time period from another source, like a WWII draft registration card or city directory. Which census listing address matches up with it?

5. Look at local maps from the time period and census enumeration district maps (FamilySearch has many in this browsable collection). Did your ancestor live on the boundary of a census district and inadvertently get counted twice by different enumerators?

Google may be able to help map this last problem. I searched “1910 map Colfax WA” and found the 1910 plat map shown below on the left. Meadow Street is marked, but Almota Street (the next cross-street listed further down the census page) isn’t marked. A modern Google Maps image shows the intersection clearly, and I can compare them using the bend in the creek and the intersection of Lake St and Thorn St. Comparing this neighborhood to census enumeration district maps may help determine whether in fact these were overlapping census enumeration districts.

Colfax Washington map

1910 plat map from Washington State University Digital Collections. Click to view.

For Donna and others of you out there finding multiple census entries for your ancestors: you’re not alone! Here’s an interesting conversation on Ancestry about other genealogists who have experienced duplicate census entries. And here’s a fun page about famous people enumerated twice in the census.

By the way, be sure to cite both sources. Thanks for the question, Donna! You’re a Gem!

More Resources for Mapping Your Family History at Genealogy Gems

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

1940 Enumeration District Maps

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (all-new 2nd edition newly revised in 2015!) teaches skills like the ones used above for searching for modern and historical maps in Google, Google Maps and Google Earth.

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. A Genealogy Gems Premium website membership required–but you can watch a clip from it for free below:

thanks youre a gemThank you for sharing this post with your friends and genealogical society members! Just copy and paste the URL into an email or share the post on your favorite social media site using the social media icons on this page.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: Delaware land records, French censuses, British directories, Irish newspapers, Spanish municipal records (to the 1300s!), and U.S. passport applications. With whom should you share the great news?

We dig these gems

DELAWARE LAND RECORDS. Ancestry has added a new database of Delaware land records, 1677-1947. According to the database description, “Delaware is a state-land state, meaning that following the Revolutionary War, it continued to grant property within its boundaries, as it had in its Colonial days. This collection includes the recorded transfers of property by grant or by deed. Most Delaware land had been granted by the time of statehood, so in the years following the Revolutionary War, you will find deeds recording the transfer of lands between private parties as they were transcribed into the registers of the county recorder of deeds.”

FRANCE CENSUSES. Find half a million indexed entries and associated images for the Dordogne Census of 1876 and about 30,000 names from the Haute-Garonne Toulouse Censuses (1830-31) in new free collections at FamilySearch.org. Records may include names, age, occupation, nationality, household position and, in the second, address.

GREAT BRITAIN DIRECTORIES. Findmypast has added 122 British almanacs and directories that include “trade directories, county guides, almanacs and general directories. Inside you will find the names of prominent people, tradesmen, people who held office, business owners and local civil servants.”

IRISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 724,000 new, fully searchable newspaper articles have been added to Findmypast. According to the site, new additions span 1836-172 and include a national publication, The Evening Freeman. “Five newspapers have also been added to with supplementary articles. They include substantial updates to Belfast Commerical Chronicle (135,813 new articles), Clare Journal, and Ennis Advertiser (61,194 new articles) and The Pilot (17,721 new articles).”

SPAIN MUNICIPAL RECORDS. Over 400,000 indexed records and digital images have been added to a free database of Barcelona civil registrations, censuses, military records, and other miscellaneous records (1387-1950) at FamilySearch. Additional browse-only records are also available.

US PASSPORTS. Over a million indexed names have been added to a free image collection of 200 years’ worth of U.S. passport applications (1795-1925) at FamilySearch.org. This dataset is still being indexed; browsable images are available at that link, too. This collection overlaps with content already available (by subscription) at Ancestry.com.

Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

Remembering the stories of our veterans–both the living and the dead–is an important way we can all honor their service and sacrifices. Here we offer four ways to do that.

heroic rescue artifactsIn our countdown to Veterans Day, we are honoring veterans and recognizing efforts of those who help document their lives and legacies. How might YOU put yourself in the right place at the right time to preserve a veteran’s story?

  1. Collect and preserve the stories of living veterans. Use a tool like the free StoryCorp app to record a veteran’s story. Invite a story-preservation organization like  Witness to War to a veterans’ reunion near you, or upload combat-related photos to their site.
  2. Collect “orphaned heirlooms” you may come across and return them to their families or to a museum or archive where others can appreciate them. For example, a garbage collector rescued more than 5000 WWI artifacts from the trash bins he collected. Another rescuer spent years tracking down the heir of heirlooms found in an attic. A third found a lost dog tag and returned to it the family.
  3. Take images of veterans’ grave markers and upload them to sites like Find a Grave or Billion Graves. Be sure to include in your photo(s) clear images of military markers. This makes it easier for descendants to find and honor their own. For example, last summer, FGS and BillionGraves invited the public to post War of 1812 grave markers on BillionGraves. Why not keep up that effort?
  4. Document and display the stories of veterans in your family or community. Lisa created a beautiful display

Here at Genealogy Gems, we {heart} veterans and honor their service. Veterans Day in the U.S. is coming up. How can you honor the veterans in your family or community? We’d love to hear about your heroic experiences doing that! Tell us about it on our Facebook page with the hashtag #CountdownToVeteransDay or contact us with your story. How many days until Veterans Day?