March 31, 2015

Can Google Help Me Search Digitized Newspaper Pages?

my ancestor in the newspaper newsCan Google help you search digitized newspapers you find online? Recently I heard from Garth in Ontario, Canada with a question like that. Here’s what he asked and here’s what I told him:

“A friend found a digitized newspaper article by clicking on this link and going through various years–very time consuming! I’m thinking there has to be a better way with Google, but no luck. I think I have used most of your techniques from Genealogy Gems. Would appreciate any hints.”

genealogy gems podcast mailboxFirst of all, thanks to Garth for alerting us to an online local archive of Canadian newspapers, The Clarington Local Newspapers collection. I like making people aware of collections like this. Here’s what I told him:

If the website had text transcriptions of articles then Google would have easily been able to grab the phrase “Arthur Levi Brunt” off any page. The search would be “Arthur Levi Brunt”  or, even better, would be a site search, which would be formatted like this: site:http://vitacollections.ca/claringtonnews “Arthur Levi Brunt.” In Google site searches, you start with the word “site” with a colon, followed by the home page in which to search, followed by the exact phrase you want to search in quotes.

However, the Clarington Digital News website relies on its own built-in Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to spot and retrieve search terms on the digitized newspaper images. Google doesn’t have access to their OCR, and can’t apply OCR itself to images on the web (the pages on this site are images, not pdfs). So in this case, Google would not be able to locate the same article.

I did notice in looking at the Clarington News site that there is a search box, so your friend didn’t need to browse through the years looking for article on Arthur. Simply entering his name in site’s search box instantly brought up the relevant list in seconds. Here’s a link to that search, so you can see for yourself. Perhaps a few of the other newspaper articles found in that search will be of interest to your friend as well!

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverLearn more about Google search strategies (Google site search is just one!) in my newly-revised, hot off the press 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition. So many genealogy gems like these news articles are buried online: you just need to know how to harness the power of Google’s FREE tools to find them!

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

Slave traders in Senegal. "Marchands d'esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526" by Rama - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Slave traders in Senegal. “Marchands d’esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526″ by Rama – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Did you hear what has been discovered about the remains of three Caribbean slaves found on the island of St. Martin? Scientific techniques identified them as two males and one female, all between 25 and 40 years of age, who were buried around the mid-to-late-1600s.

But where were they from? It took DNA to help answer that question, with a process very similar to that used to identify our ethnic origins in DNA testing today.

First, scientists had to retrieve DNA from the sun-bleached, humidity-soaked remains. Their first stop: the teeth. Traditional DNA extraction and analysis methods failed, but results were found with a new method called whole genome capture. You can think of this method like unleashing an army of vigilantes on your DNA, each one tasked with bringing back a particular portion for analysis. While this method was far more successful, it still was only able to find 7% of the DNA of the best sample.

Second, they needed a reference population: a group of Africans to compare these results to in order to find a match. There is such a group assembled, which contains 11 of the likely 50 population groups that contributed to the slave trade.  Keep in mind that in Africa, especially at that time, populations were not defined by geography as much as language. So when you hear African populations defined, it is often according to their relationship to one very large language group in Africa, called Bantu. There are really two groups: those that are Bantu speakers, and those who are not.

Even with the incomplete DNA and the limited reference population, the group was able to determine that two of the slaves belonged to non-Bantu speaking tribes, likely in present day Ghana or Nigera, while the third was Bantu speaking, possibly from northern Cameroon.

Finding ancient samples such as these, and having technology enough to analyze them, if even just a small part, has huge implications for the future of genetic genealogy, and family history. These kinds of genetic techniques can help place you in a genealogical relationship with another person, where your traditional genealogical methods could not.  Family history, the substance and story of your relationship, inevitably follows.

I think Fatimah Jackson, a biologist and anthropologist at Howard University, said it best. “It seems to me that, as a scientist, the best way to ‘honor’ these unfortunate individuals is to allow their story to be told,” she says. “The story of a few can illuminate the condition of the masses.” We may never know the names and specific life histories of this woman and two men any more than we already do. But DNA has gotten us closer to telling at least some of their story. Click here to read the scientific study.

DNA and genealogyAre you ready to let your genetics help tell your story? Learn more about DNA testing with my Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Quick Guide, available now in the Genealogy Gems store. In fact, I have a whole series of Guides there on using DNA for genealogy. Check them all out! 

If you’re ready for some one-on-one consulting to see what DNA can tell you about your family history, visit my website to learn more.

Attend Free sessions in the NERGC 2015 exhibit hall

NERGC-frontI am coming to New England in a few weeks to keynote at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC 2015). Will you be there, too? Come say hello!

Here are the classes I’ll be teaching:

  • Tech Day (Track 2) – Wednesday – 15 April 2015 – 10:45am – How to Turn your iPad or Tablet into a Genealogy Powerhouse
  • Tech Day (Track 1) – Wednesday – 15 April 2015 – 3:15pm – How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy
  • T-118 – Thursday – 16 April 2015 – 3:15pm – How to Use Evernote for Genealogy
  • S-329 – Saturday – 18 April 2015 – 3:15pm – Master Using Google for Common Surname Searches
  • S-344 – Saturday – 18 April 2015 – BANQUET – 7:00pm – The Google Earth Genealogy Game Show

I’ll also be giving a series of Outside the Box presentations in the Exhibitor Hall alongside New Englander Maureen Taylor (The Photo Detective) and Janet Hovorka (Family Tree Chartmasters). Here’s a schedule:

NERGC-schedule

New England genealogy conference NERGC 2015More about NERGC:

The conference theme, “Navigating the Past: Sailing into the Future”, references the distinctive history of Rhode Island, while focusing on methodology with “navigating the past” and looking towards the changes of the future (technology, passing on information, and getting kids involved in genealogy). There’s nearly 100 lectures over two and-a-half days,  with levels ranging from beginner to expert. There’s an Exhibit Hall (where I’ll be!), Society Fair, Special Interest Groups, and an Ancestors Road Show, in which I will also be participating. Click here to learn more.

Need Gravestone Images? Ask BillionGraves or Find A Grave Volunteers

Tyne Cot Cemetery. Photo by Sgt Jez Doak, RAF/MOD, via Wikimedia Commons at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/War_Graves_at_Tyne_Cot_Cemetary%2C_Belgium_MOD_45156481.jpg

Tyne Cot Cemetery. Photo by Sgt Jez Doak, RAF/MOD, via Wikimedia Commons. Click on image to visit that page.

You’ve probably searched for gravestone images at sites like BillionGraves and Find A Grave. What if you come up dry? Ask their volunteers to snap a photo for you. Here’s how to do it:

Make a BillionGraves Photo Request

“The Photo RequesBillionGraves Photo Request screenshott tool is a great new feature on BillionGraves,” says a recent BillionGraves blog post. “It has been optimized and revamped to help the hundreds of thousands of users and requests we have at BillionGraves! The user is looking for a particular headstone [at a specific cemetery] and is requesting that another BillionGraves volunteer that lives nearby, go find the headstone and take a photo of it for them.”

You have to log in to the site to use the Photo Request tool (creating your free login is easy). Under the Tools tab, click on My Requests. The screen will look like what’s shown here. Then click on “Add Request” and follow the prompts. BillionGraves users near you will be notified and invited to help you out.

Make a Find A Grave Photo Request

According to the Find A Grave FAQ area, it looks like you can only request headstone photos for their existing memorial pages, many of which don’t currently have photos. (Idea: create a memorial page yourself if you don’t see one.) “If you would like to request a headstone photo of a memorial, just go to the memorial on Find A Grave. Click on the ‘Request A Photo’ button. This will bring up a new screen allowing you to add any notes that may help the photo volunteer locate the grave location within the cemetery….Then click the ‘Submit Photo Request’ button. Your request will be emailed to the 10 photo volunteers who live closest to the cemetery.” Read more details about this process here.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Did you know you can use Google Earth to locate cemeteries? Click here to learn how. Use this feature to search for burial grounds near where your ancestors died–and maybe you’ll find them buried there!

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsWe learn about great new genealogy records online every week! On Fridays we round up a few for you. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–and get inspired by the types of records that may be out there for your family, waiting for you to discover. This week: a photo archives for Canadian Mennonites, a Georgia state newspaper collection, a genealogy index for a northeast Ohio archive and WWII Cadet Nursing Corps membership cards (US).

CANADIAN MENNONITE PHOTO ARCHIVE: A new database is now online with over 80,000 images of Mennonite life from across Canada and dating back to 1860s. A press release says that the archive “is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada  and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.” An online ordering system allows visitors to order image copies for noncommercial use.

GEORGIA NEWSPAPERS: The Digital Library of Georgia has launched an archive of north Georgia historical newspapers. “The North Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive provides online access to six newspaper titles published in three north Georgia cities (Dalton, Gainesville, and Rome) from 1850 to 1922. Consisting of over 33,000 newspaper pages, the archive provides historical images that are both full-text searchable and can be browsed by date. The site is compatible with all current browsers and the newspaper page images can be viewed without the use of plug-ins or additional software downloads. The archive includes the following north Georgia newspaper titles: Gainesville News (1902-1922), Georgia Cracker (Gainesville) (1894-1902), North Georgia Citizen (Dalton) (1868-1921), Rome Courier (1850-1855), Rome Tri-Weekly Courier (1860-1880), Rome Weekly Courier (1860-1878). The Digital Library of Georgia will add additional titles from the region over time.

OHIO GENEALOGY INDEX. The Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, OH has created an online Genealogy Index to some of its most valuable and unique genealogical records, including original funeral home and Bible records. Also in the index are Jewish marriages and death notices, an index of names in a significant African-American manuscript collection, a 1907 Cleveland voter registration index, a photo database of Cleveland military personnel from WWII and the Korean War and a biographical sketch name index. Currently, there are about 320,000 records in the index; more are being added on an ongoing basis. The Society primarily archives records relating to Cleveland and northeast Ohio. Soon to be added are indexes to the 1870 mortality census for Ashtabula, Ohio and indexes to several church records collections.

WWII CADET NURSING CORPS (US): The WWII Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files, new on Fold3, contain membership cards of women who joined. According to Fold3, the cards “are organized by state, nursing school, and cadet name. Some cards include the date of admission to the school, date of admission to the corps, and date of graduation (or date of other reason for termination from the school). Others contain details like the woman’s marital status, father’s/husband’s name and profession, years of college completed, place of residence, and how they heard about the corps. Still others also record the woman’s age in addition to the previously mentioned information.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064To search for images you can use without violating copyright, do a keyword search in Google Images (or just do a keyword search from Google’s home page and then click “Images” above your search results). Click Search Tools. Another toolbar will pop up. Click “Usage rights.” You can sort search results by those that are labeled for reuse in different ways. You won’t capture every copyright-free image, but hopefully you’ll get a decent selection of options! This tip comes to you courtesy of the book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition by Lisa Louise Cooke–the fully-revised 2015 edition that’s packed with strategies that will dramatically improve your ability to find your family history online.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: NEW Video Class

San Born Map compressedIf your family lived in the U.S. between the late 1800s to mid-1900s, you should look for their home on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.

The Sanborn Map Company published maps from 1867 to 1970 to evaluate fire insurance liability in urban areas. The maps are detailed street plans on large sheets of paper—one sheet shows about four to six city blocks.

You can learn a lot about your ancestor’s house and neighborhood from these maps, or research the history of your own old house. These maps show building outlines, locations of windows and doors, building use (including the names of most public buildings), property boundaries, house and block number, street names and more.

Here’s an example of how I’m using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for my family history. Below is the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for San Francisco in 1905. My great grandparents house has long since been torn down, but I know that the original address back before the great earthquake of 1906 was 1144 Kentucky Street. The Sanborn Fire Map for this neighborhood sheds light on why they picked this location when they first married. Not only is it on Kentucky Street where my Great Grandfather Charles worked the Kentucky Streetcar line as a conductor, but it’s right next door to an Emergency Hospital complete with two ambulances and 2 horses. Why is this significant? Because Great Grandmother Ellen was a nurse when they met!

sanborn fire insurance maps for genealogy

Learn how to use these under-valued genealogy resources and where to find them in my NEW Premium video on using Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. In the video I demonstrate using the maps in Google Earth, which is something you may not find anywhere else! The companion handout for the class is a guide to finding Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps online.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipNot a Premium member yet on our site? For one low price, you get a full year’s access to my full video archive with more than two dozen classes (click here for a current list) and about 100 Premium podcast episodes, with exclusive interviews and in-depth how-tos (click here for a current list). Click here to learn about additional membership benefits and how to join!

How to Find Cemeteries in Google Earth

Google Earth cemeteries iconDo you ever wish there was a master map of all the cemeteries in the world? Well, there is something like that. Let’s talk about how to find cemeteries in Google Earth!

If you use Google Earth, you know it’s more than just one single awesome dimensional map of the world. There are lots of Layers. Literally. And one of those shows cemeteries in Google Earth.

Google Earth Layers are collections of points of geographic interest that have been curated by Google Earth or its content partners. When you click on a Layer, it brings up all those points of interest on your current view of Google Earth.

You’ll find the Layers panel on the bottom left side of your screen. To display all points of interest within a Layer, click the box next to the Layer title. To open a Layer category, click the plus sign next to the label to open the Layer folder, and the minus sign to close it.

There are lots of genealogically-interesting Layers, including Cemeteries. You will find Cemeteries in the More > Place Categories > Places of Worship layer. Make sure the box next to Cemeteries is checked. You’ll see the little icon showing a tree with a little headstone next to it.

how to find cemeteries in Google Earth

Next, search for a location in the Search box to “fly” to a neighborhood in Google Earth where you’d like to find nearby cemeteries. Look for those Cemetery icons. You may need to zoom in or out for them to appear. While not every cemetery is shown, it’s an excellent start!

Click on a cemetery icon. This will open a dialog box containing relevant information about the cemetery, often including the address and telephone number. If the cemetery title is hyperlinked, click it for even more useful information.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to find cemeteries in Google Earth. You can learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition, fully-revised and brand new for 2015. It’s got five chapters devoted to how to use Google Earth for genealogy that are filled with more tips like this one.

And one more thing: did you know that Google Earth Pro is now available for free? Click here to read my post with all the details.

Happy Googling!

 

Meet the Library of Congress in 3 Short Video Clips

Library of Congress

“LOC Main Reading Room Highsmith” by Carol M. Highsmith – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID highsm.11604.

The Library of Congress (LOC) is a dream destination for many U.S. genealogy researchers. It’s home to millions of books, maps, city directories, photographs and other materials that can help us better understand our ancestors’ lives.

A guided walking tour of the LOC will take an hour (and a trip to Washington, D.C.), but the videos below introduce you to the library and its online resources in seven minutes.

Bonus: there’s a third two-minute video below with the fastest introduction to  analyzing primary sources you’ve ever seen. Click below to watch!

VIDEO: The Library of Congress Is Your Library. This four-minute video introduces the Library of Congress and gives a brief history. 

VIDEO: Exploring LOC.gov. This three-minute video highlights the Library’s online collections and provides searching techniques. If you haven’t searched the Library of Congress website for items relating to your U.S. family history, take a few minutes and try it now!

VIDEO: Analyzing a Primary Source. This two-minute video offers a a short primary source analysis activity. It’s meant for teachers but it’s a great reminder for family historians on how we look at old documents.

 

Did your family follow the usual path? Mapping U.S. Migration Patterns

NYT Mapping Migrations Map Screen Capture

Mapping Migration in the United States. From the New York Times. Click to go straight to the source!

The U.S. has long been typified as a nation of restless wanderers. Are we still? Well, it depends on where in the U.S. you are from.

A new interactive infographic on the New York Times website looks at U.S. migration patterns: where residents of each U.S. state in 1900, 1950 and 2012 were born. According to the accompanying article, “You can trace the rise of migrant and immigrant populations all along the Southwest, particularly in Texas and Arizona, the influx of New Yorkers and other Northeasterners into Florida starting in the 1970s; and the growth in the Southern share of the Illinois population during the Great Migration.”

“In 1900, 95 percent of the people living in the Carolinas were born there, with similarly high numbers all through the Southeast. More than a hundred years later, those percentages are nearly cut in half. Taken individually, each state tells its own story, and each makes for fascinating reading.”

If you live in the U.S. now, click on your state to zoom in. You’ll see the statistics more fully represented. How many natives of that state still live there? Where else are its residents from? Where do you fall in? I am one of less than 1% of Ohioans who was born in a western state (excluding California). My husband and children are among the 75% of Ohio natives who still live here.

It might surprise you how little–or how much –your fellow state residents have been on the move. Now turn back the clock by clicking on the 1900 or 1950 maps. How did your family fit the norms for the time?

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064If you love learning history through maps, go to our Home page and click on the Maps category in the lower left under Select Content by Topic. You’ll find lots more great online map resources and plenty of great map research strategies.

How Common Was My Ancestor’s Name? Most Popular Baby Names By Decade

Edna Selby, about age 4. Taken about 1873.

Edna Selby, about age 4. Taken about 1873.

Baby names are trendy things. Sure, there are a few standbys in every culture–like William and John in English–but popular baby names come and go. In fact, sometimes you can guess about how old someone is today based on their name (think Josh, Mildred or Shirley).

Popular Baby Names by Decade can help you decide whether your great-grandma Beulah or great-uncle Earl’s names were unusual for their time or a whim of the generation (Earl ranked 21st in 1890 and Beulah ranked 78th).

The site has lists of the most common names in the U.S. census back to the 1880s. You’ll also find a master list of THE most popular baby names during the last 100 years. No surprise: in the U.S., James, John, Robert, Michael and William top the boys’ charts. But I was a little surprised at the most popular women’s names. Click here to see what they are.

Was your ancestor an ethnic minority whose name may have only been popular in their neighborhood or where lots of other Irish, African-Americans or others lived? You can also search for the most popular names within a particular state.

Take a look and think about how your own family falls in. My parents weren’t following the crowd when they named me Sunny, that’s for sure. But my grandmother was a trendy gal: all 7 of her living children’s names hit the top 15 in the 1940s! And in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 78 Lisa has talked about not only the popularity of her first name, but the soap opera star that made Lisa #1 in the early 1960s!