November 21, 2014

Historical Photos You Don’t See Every Day: Civil War Soldiers and Settlers of the American West

Recently listener Stacy sent us links to two fabulous collections of historical photos. The stories they tell–and the back story of one of the photographers–are just stunning.

Civil War Soldiers

Pvt. Samuel Decker, SP 205, National Museum of Health and Medicine. Pvt. Samuel H. Decker, Company I, 4th US artillery. Double amputation of the forearms for injury caused by the premature explosion of a gun on 8 October 1862, at the Battle of Perryville, KY. Shown with self-designed prosthetics. "He receives a pension of $300.00 per year, and is a doorkeeper at the House of Representatives... With the aid of his ingenious apparatus he is enabled to write legibly, to pick up any small objects, a pin for example, to carry packages of ordinary weight, to feed and clothe himself, and in one or two instances of disorder in the Congressional gallery has proved himself a formidable police officer." Photo ID: SP 205. Source Collection: OHA 82 -- Surgical Photographs. Repository: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Otis Historical Archives.

Pvt. Samuel Decker, SP 205, National Museum of Health and Medicine. Pvt. Samuel H. Decker, Company I, 4th US artillery. Double amputation of the forearms for injury caused by the premature explosion of a gun on 8 October 1862, at the Battle of Perryville, KY. Shown with self-designed prosthetics. Photo ID: SP 205. Source Collection: OHA 82 — Surgical Photographs. Repository: National Museum of Health and Medicine, Otis Historical Archives.

The first collection is a sobering visual record of wounded Civil War soldiers. The National Museum of Health and Medicine has posted this collection online.

“From missing fingers and hands to completely amputated legs, the portraits show solemn soldiers posing with what remains of their bodies,” writes Gannon Burgett, the author of this article about the collection. “Some of the portraits were captured by hospitals, as a way of showing how their surgical procedures had turned out; others were commissioned by the soldiers themselves as a memorabilia of sorts.”

It struck me how young some of these soldiers were, and how for many of them, their injuries would have made them unable to earn a living.

Settlers of the American West

In the late 1800s-early 1900s, Solomon Butcher photographed settlers of the Great Plains of the American West. Aware that he was capturing history in the making, he posed settlers in front of their sod homes, with their tools or livestock (and one family with their pump organ). The wide expanse of sky and sun behind these sun-hardened settlers places them squarely in their harsh natural environment.

About 3000 Butcher photographs are now online at the Library of Congress’ American Memory site, one of the only visual records of the settling of the Great Plains, mostly thanks to the generous land ownership terms of the Homestead Act. Most of the photographs are labeled–was your ancestor among them?

The story of the man behind the camera mirrors the outright failures and delayed success of the settling of the West itself. Read his story here and see if you agree with me that the time he knocked himself out trying to save his burning home sort of epitomizes his entire life.

These really are photographs you don’t see every day! Some are grim–but they illustrate the realities of our ancestors’ lives in ways that sometimes the most vivid written descriptions can’t capture. Thanks for sending these links, Stacy!

 

MORE German Genealogy Records at Ancestry.com

German genealogy recordsNearly 12 million German genealogy records are newly searchable on Ancestry.com! You’ll find these in more than 30 databases of civil registrations of birth, marriages, residences and deaths between 1874-1950.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • around a million each of births and  deaths for Berlin, and about 2 million marriages;
  • over a million parish register transcripts for Pomerania and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (some are updates to existing records);
  • over 300,000 records of the Rhineland-Palatinate area (family registers, marriages and emigration registers);
  • over a million vital records for Saxony.

Click here for a full description of these records, with direct links to each dataset. Happy hunting for your German roots!

Google Earth for Genealogy: Get My Personalized Help

I often wish I had the opportunity to work with each one of you on your individual Google Earth projects, because I firmly believe it’s one of the most exciting ways to tell your family history stories, and to analyze your research data.

So when Family Tree University invited me be your guide to mastering the genealogical benefits of this free software for a special one week workshop, I couldn’t resist. I’ve cleared my calendar for the week of November 17, and I’m all yours!

In this workshop we’re going to cover how to tap into Google Earth’s robust features to bring depth and a new perspective to your family history research, as well as create projects that enhance your genealogy with a “wow!” factor.

ge workshop

Seats are limited and will go fast. 

Nov. 17-24, 2014 Online Workshop

Register Here

You’ll have the opportunity to participate in message board discussions with me and your fellow students over the course of the week, plus create your own Google Earth project to showcase your genealogical research.
 
Here what you’ll get:

Consultations with me in the Message Forum. This is your chance to ask questions and receive my feedback personalized to your Google Earth projectsVideo classes: Genealogy Projects With Google Earth and Best Websites for Finding Historical MapsFive step-by-step lessons from the course Google Earth for Genealogists in PDF format

Lesson from the Finding Your Ancestral Village course on locating your ancestral town

Unlimited viewing: Your all-access pass gets you into the workshop all week-you can even download the videos to watch again later.

I can’t wait to see what you will create!

Google Earth for Genealogy Workshop

Europeana for Genealogy: WWI Digital Archive and More

Europeana digital archive WWIEuropeana is a digital doorway to European cultural heritage that everyone with European roots should browse. Funded by the European Commission and Ministries of Culture in 21 member states, it’s home to nearly: 19 million images; 13 million texts (including books, archival papers and newspapers); half a million each sound and video files and 16,000 3-D models of objects.

A major part of Europeana is its World War I digital archive. As the site describes, Europeana “has been running World War I family history roadshows around Europe, helping to digitize people’s stories, documents and memorabilia from 1914-1918. People can upload their own digitized items onto the Europeana1914-1918.eu site. In 2014, the centenary of WWI, 100,000 images and scans have already come into Europeana, creating a virtual memory bank that reflects all perspectives on the conflict.”

A sister site, Europeana 1989, collects “stories, pictures, films relating to the events of 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe.” You can upload your own materials or, as the site says, “let us take you on a journey through the Fall of the Iron Curtain, see it from all sides and draw your own conclusions.”

The top countries to supply images to Europeana are Germany, France and the Netherlands, each with more than 3.5 million items, and then Spain, Sweden, Italy and the U.K. The site attracted 4 million unique visitors last year. Click here to read a guide to using Europeana for genealogy and local history research.

Other Europeana links to try:

  • The Europeana portal is the search engine for the digitised collections of museums, libraries, archives and galleries across Europe.
  • Our Virtual Exhibitions feature highlights from the collection.
  • Follow the Europeana blog to keep updated on the projects and progress of this rapidly-growing resource for European family history.

HOW are We Related?? Use a Cousin Calculator

Genealogy relationship cousin calculatorRecently, I heard from Shirley in Austin, Texas (U.S.) with a question about how her relatives are related to each other:

“My GGM (Caroline ‘s) great grandfather (Franz Joseph)  is the same as my GGF (Eduard ‘s) grandfather (Franz Joseph). How would they be related to each other?  Half 2nd cousin twice removed?

The relative in common (Franz Joseph) and his same wife, had two sons: Franz Carl who is Eduard’s Father, and Johan Anton, who would be Caroline’s Grandfather.”

My answer: 

genealogy gems podcast mailboxI like this Cousin Calculator tool (also called a relationship calculator) at Searchforancestors.com. If Caroline is the Great Grand daughter of Franz Joseph and and Eduard is the Grandchild of Franz Joseph, then according to the Cousin Calculator they are first cousins one time removed. Hope that helps!

What kind of complicated or double family relationships have YOU discovered on your family tree? Enter them into the cousin calculator. Then tell us how they’re related on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

Indiana Genealogy Records to be Digitized by Ancestry.com

ebook ereader for Mac Digital Genealogy books at Google BooksA recent news article at Indianapublicmedia,org reports that more than 13 million Indiana genealogy records will be digitized and put online–and Ancestry.com is picking up the tab.

Among the records doing online are early 20th-century birth and death certificates and marriage records since 1958. According to the report, it would take the state a decade and over 3 million dollars to digitize these records. So Ancestry.com’s offer to take on the work is a godsend for both the state and those who want to use these records.

The deal gives Hoosier residents the first free access to the digitized records (onsite at the state archives). Three years after the the project is completed (which should happen in 2016), the state archives will offer records for free through its own website. Some records may still have confidentiality restrictions. But this still represents a great step forward for those whose ancestors helped to settle Indiana!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastLearn more about using vital records in your family history research with these episodes from our FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, a step-by-step series for beginners and those refreshing their skills:

  • Episode 24 on using U.S. marriage records;
  • Episode 25 on using U.S. civil birth records;
  • Episode 4 on using death records and a variety of additional vital records resources in the U.S.

1865 New York State Census Now on FamilySearch

New York State Census 1865Good news for those who had relatives in New York in the 1860s: the 1865 New York State Census is now searchable online at FamilySearch.org.

Just five years earlier, the 1860 U.S. federal census counted nearly four million people in this its largest state. New York claimed two of the three biggest U.S. cities: New York City and Brooklyn, with a combined population of over a million.

According to FamilySearch, “This collection contains most of the 1865 New York state census records still in existence. Ten schedules were filed for each locality, including population, marriages, and deaths schedules. The population schedule included the name, age, birthplace, and occupation of each household member. Most counties are covered, but some records were destroyed. The record is a printed form that was filled in by hand by the enumerator. The records are usually arranged by county and town.”

Several counties are missing from this dataset. But it’s got a hefty 2.5 million records, over 60% of the population as counted in 1860. So check it out if you have Empire State ancestors!

Didn’t know New York conducted state censuses? Check out these additional resources:

  • Ancestry.com has a database of New York State censuses for 1880, 1892 and 1905. The 1892 census is especially critical because of the 1890 U.S. federal census is almost entirely lost.
  • Learn more about U.S. state censuses and other special censuses in Episode 10 of our Family History Made Easy podcast. (This episode is the second of a three-part series on using census records: click here for the full list of episodes of this step-by-step free genealogy podcast.)

Read History As It Was Written via Chronicling America

Chronicling America

The Evening World (New York, NY), Sept 10, 1900, Evening Edition, Page 2. Digitized image from Chronicling America.

If you research ancestors in the U.S., you’ve probably already used the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website for searching digitized newspapers. Now they’ve added a new feature: you can subscribe to receive “old news” on many of your favorite historical topics!

Here’s how it works. You can sign up for weekly notifications that highlight interesting and newly-added content on topics that were widely covered in the U.S. press at the time. (Click here to see a list of topics.)

My favorite family history-related topics are natural disasters (like the Chicago fire or Galveston flood), war topics (from Appomattox to World War I) and civil and human rights events (from the Railroad Strike of 1886 to Ellis Island to coverage of Pullman porters). But there are a lot of topics that might relate to your family: industrialization (electric cars!), arts, sports (think Babe Ruth and the Boston Marathon), major crimes and trials, politics, holidays and public celebrations and public works and technology marvels (like the Panama Canal or Titanic).

To subscribe, just use the icons at the bottom of the Chronicling America home page.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersLearn more about finding your ancestors in the newspaper in Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. She walks you through the process of determining which newspapers might mention your ancestors and where to find those papers (both online and offline). You’ll learn in detail about Chronicling America and more about other free and subscription options for searching online newspapers. Best of all, Lisa shares mouthwatering examples from her own research that show you why newspapers can be such a valuable source of information on our family history.

 

 

Win a Chance to Attend RootsTech 2015 for FREE!

rootstech 2015 ambassador badgeRootsTech 2015 is shaping up to be a major production again! This three-day technology-oriented family history mega-conference offers over 200 classes for beginners-to-pros, hands-on computer labs and big-name evening entertainment options. The conference runs in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, so attendees can catch two powerhouse conferences with one visit to genealogy mecca Salt Lake City, Utah.

Our news of the day is that RootsTech has given us a FREE RootsTech All-Access Pass for one of YOU. This is a $159 value–itself an enormous value for all the fun and learning you’ll find at RootsTech.

If you can get yourself to Salt Lake City for RootsTech from February 12-14, 2015, you can enter to win this pass.

TO ENTER:

  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsEmail us and in the subject line include the title of the book we are currently featuring in our brand new  high & low tech Genealogy Gems Genealogy Book Club.
  • In the body of your email, tell us whether you think you’ll read the book. (Tell us why if you’d like–your opinion won’t affect whether you win!)
  • Include your name, email address and phone number.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Your entry must be received by Nov. 25, 2014. The randomly selected winner will be announced in the Dec. 4, 2014 newsletter.

We just launched our new Book Club last month and we’re already hearing enthusiastic response. Our Book Club is free and features mainstream fiction and nonfiction titles that make great reads for those who care about family history. Sign up for our free monthly newsletter to follow the Book Club selections.

Good luck!

What are the Politics of Your Family Tree?

stick_figure_ballot_box_400_wht_9471Here’s a fun online tool that points toward the political leanings of current U.S. residents with your surnames: What’s in a Name?

For example, when I enter my maternal grandfather’s surname, Felix, I find that this surname overwhelming votes Democrat (77%). My father’s surname, McClellan, is evenly split. There’s a cool (but slightly confusing) map that breaks down results by state. Of course I looked at the state breakdowns where my family lives now and in their ancestral home states!

Do  political leanings really run in a family? Here’s an interesting article about familial voting patterns (again for the U.S.). Based on your surname results and what you know about your family, would this be a FUN family history conversation to introduce at your next family reunion would it open a can of worms?

Just remember, this isn’t a historical picture of your surname but predicted figures for the next big election. Not everyone with your surname is a relative, and that you likely have lot of relatives from that same surname line who wouldn’t be included because their surnames have changed. There’s also no explanation on this page of where they get their raw numbers or how they calculate their answers. You’d want to check the supporting organizations for party or other bias. So this is JUST for fun! But think about it–what resources would you use to research the politics of your family tree? Obituaries? Newspapers? Interviews with older relatives? Even naming patterns? My husband’s grandfather is named Franklin Delano–I wonder who his parents voted for….