September 3, 2015

Ancestry Publishes HUGE Collection of U.S. Wills and Probate Records

US Wills and Probate Ancestry More than 100 million people are mentioned in Ancestry’s newest database of U.S. wills and probate records, an exclusive collection spanning over 300 years. To celebrate, Ancestry is offering free access through September 7.

This morning, Ancestry launched an enormous–and enormously significant–new online records collection. According to its press release, “More than 170 million pages from the largest collection of wills and probate records in the United States is now available online exclusively on Ancestry. With searchable records included from all 50 states spread over 337 years (1668-2005), this unprecedented collection launches a new category of records for family history research never before available online at this scale the United States.”

Wills and estate records are one of those record types that have been less-accessible online. First, the records themselves are not easy to digitize or even index. They are often thick files, packed with various kinds of documents that may be fragile and of varying sizes. Several people may be mentioned throughout the file, but finding and picking out their names to put in an index is time-consuming.

Furthermore, the U.S. has no central will or probate registry. This happens on a county level, generally. Compiling a centralized database from all those county offices or archives is a huge undertaking.

According to the Ancestry release, “Ancestry spent more than two years bringing this collection online, working with hundreds of different archives from individual state and local courts across the country and making a $10M investment to license and digitize the records.”

Better yet, “the documents cover well over 100 million people, including the deceased as well as their family, friends and others involved in the probate process. Ancestry expects to continue to grow the collection, with additional records available over the next several years.”

Todd Godfrey, VP of Global Content at Ancestry, loves the fact that wills and probate records can reveal not just names, dates and family relationships, but stories. “Wills can offer an incredible view into the lives of your ancestors…providing insight into their personality, character, achievements, relationships, and more,” said Godfrey. “Reading these records you will find a deeper level of understanding about who your ancestors were, who they cared about, what they treasured, and how they lived.”

Learn more about this collection in Finding Your Family in Wills and Probate Records (Ancestry’s new in-depth guide) or click here to search the collection. Great news for those without Ancestry subscriptions: The U.S. Wills and Probates collection is free to access on Ancestry, along with all U.S. birth, marriage and death records, through September 7 (10pm MT).

share celebrate balloonsPlease share the great news! Click on your preferred social media channel on this page or copy the link into an email and send it out to your family and friends!

Resources: More Great U.S. Records Online!

U.S. State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

NEW! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

4 Fabulous Ways to Use the Library of Congress for Genealogy 

US State Census Records: Capture Your Family History Between Federal Censuses

state censusesThe 1915 New Jersey State Census was recently released on FamilySearch. What a great opportunity to remind everyone about valuable U.S. state-level censuses taken between federal censuses.

Along with everyone who has U.S. roots, we love the federal census! We just wish there were more of them. Well, we can’t go back in time and make the federal government take more censuses. But we CAN turn to the many state census records.

In State Census Records, author Ann S. Lainhart tells us 3 reasons for seeking out state censuses (and colonial and territorial censuses that preceded them):

  • They fill in gaps between federal censuses, and particularly the long gap left by the missing 1890 census.
  • They may not be closed to the public for as long.
  • Different questions may have been asked than on the federal census.

For example, FamilySearch just announced that it’s added more than 2.7 million records from the 1915 New Jersey Census  to its free online collections. “New Jersey records…was a popular settling point for millions of immigrants during the heyday of US immigration from 1892 to 1924,” states a press release. These records include “the names of each member of the household, location, gender, birth date (month and year) and birthplace.” New Jersey took censuses every 10 years from 1855 to 1915: FamilySearch has 1885 and 19051895 is at Ancestry.

Actually, MOST U.S. states took some kind of census in the past. Ancestry’s wiki has a full list of U.S. colonial, state and territorial censuses. A lot of these are online at Ancestry and/or FamilySearch; a Google search of the state, year and “census” will lead you to these.

Resources

Census Records series in Episodes 9-11 of the free Family History Made Easy podcast

A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

1950 Census Substitutes: What to Use Until its Release Date

Share HeartsThank you for sharing this post with others who may want to know more about state census records!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

AMERICAN LOYALIST CLAIMS (U.S., U.K., CANADA). A database of claims and cases heard by the American Loyalist Claims Commission (regarding British subjects in North America who remained loyal to the crown during the Revolutionary War) has been updated at Ancestry. “These documents include books of evidence and memorials given by witnesses, accounts of losses (which can provide detail about places and possessions), evidence of claims, correspondence, indentures, and other documents collected over the course of these examinations.”

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 5.8 million new newspaper articles are online at Findmypast. According to the site, “This includes 22 brand new titles and additions to a further 94 publications. The new titles come from all over England, Scotland and Wales and include newspapers from Edinburgh, Liverpool, Sheffield and Wolverhampton. The largest of the new publications is Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser which contains over 939,000 articles covering 1805-71….Over 1 million articles were added to London Evening Standard. There were also substantial updates made to Falkirk Herald, Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle and Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer.

CALIFORNIA NATURALIZATIONS. Original naturalization records from the state of California, 1887-1991, have been updated at Ancestry. “Most pre-1906 naturalization papers contain little information of biographical or genealogical value….There are, however, wonderful exceptions, so it is worth seeking pre-1906 naturalizations. Records created after 1906 usually contain significant genealogical information.”

DUTCH EMIGRANTS TO CANADA AND U.S. A new Ancestry database captures information on Dutch emigrants who relocated to the U.S. or  Canada between 1946 and 1963. “Details from those lists are included in this database. You may find name, birth date, place of origin, arrival year, destination, sponsor year, religion, relation to head of household and family size.”

ENGLAND AND WALES PROBATE CALENDARS. Findmypast subscribers now have access to an index to the Principal Probate Registry system for England. In these indexes, you can find the deceased’s name, death date, address, occupation, marital status, spouse’s name, names of executors/administrators and beneficiaries and their occupations and the size of the estate. Use this data to request a copy of a will from the National Probate Registry.

U.S. QUAKER RECORDS. A substantial Ancestry database of Quaker meeting records (1681-1935) has been freshly updated. According to the site, “Quakers recorded a variety of details in their monthly meeting minutes which can be searched by name, location, and event date; or browsed by state, county, meeting, and record type….This collection marks the first time a major collection of Quaker meeting records has been made available online with a comprehensive index.”

sign up newsletterSign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

A new tool at AncestryDNA is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open!

AncestryDNA common matches tool

I have been up since 5:30 with plenty of goals and ambitions for today. But I got distracted. Distracted by a new tool at AncestryDNA that is blowing my genealogy mysteries wide open.

The new tool AncestryDNA Common Matches tool is hiding between the “Pedigrees and Surnames” filter and the “Map and Locations” filter on your matches’ main match page. The Common Matches tool pulls out the shared 4th cousin or higher matches between two people.

Let’s take a look at how this might work for you.

2015 8 ICWDeniseLet’s say you have a second cousin, Denise, that you have already identified in the Ancestry database and you know your common ancestral couple is Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  You want to gather others who share DNA with both you and Denise. Those individuals then have a high likelihood of being related to Joseph and Louise in some way.

So we click on the “Shared Matches” button on Denise’s page and find that Mike, Spencer, and Wendy all have DNA in common with you and Denise.  After reviewing pedigree charts, you are able to determine that Mike is related through Louise’s sister and Wendy is related through Joseph’s brother.  Note that Wendy’s actual relationship to you is not 4th cousin, as it is shown, but she is actually your 3rd cousin once removed. Remember that the relationship given is not always the exact relationship of two people who have been tested.

2015 8 ICWSpencerBut what about Spencer? Spencer, unfortunately has not yet linked his family tree to his Ancestry account or answered any of your queries about his family tree. I am sure he has just been busy. Or he doesn’t know his family tree. Or his computer was captured by aliens or smashed by his two-year-old grandson just as he was about to click “send” and reveal how the two of you were connected. Whatever the case may be, up until this point you haven’t heard a peep from Spencer and therefore had absolutely no way to figure out how Spencer was related to you.

But now you know that he is somehow associated with the Joseph and Louise Mitchell family because he came up as In Common With (ICW) you and Denise.

We can take this one step further and ask Ancestry to show us who has DNA ICW you and Spencer.  You can see here that while Mike still remains, Wendy has dropped off the list.  Now there are two possible explanations for this: The first is that Spencer is related through Louise’s parents, John and Sarah, and that is why he is not sharing DNA with Wendy.

The other, less likely, possibility is that Spencer is related through Joseph’s parents Louis and Mary, but doesn’t share enough DNA with Wendy to be detected on this test.

While this information is helpful, it still hasn’t completely solved the case. The first thing you should do with your new-found knowledge is start sending more pointed questions to your matches. Here is an example message you might send to Spencer:

“Dear Spencer,

I was just playing around with the new AncestryDNA Common Matches tool and I see that you are related to a few of my other matches that connect through Joseph and Louise Mitchell.  Louise’s parents, John and Sarah Marsh, were both born in Mississippi in the 1840’s and Joseph’s parents Joseph and Mary Mitchell, were born in Tennessee in 1856 and 1863 respectively.

Do any of these names or places sound familiar to you?

I am looking forward to working with you on this connection.

Your DNA Cousin, Diahan”

Assuming this garners a response, you can then work together to find your connection. If his budget is not allowing for a new computer at this time and you never hear from Spencer, the key to figuring out how he is related to you may be in the new match, Beth, who is ICW you and Spencer. If you can figure out how Beth is related to you, you will know Spencer is related in a similar way.

AncestryDNA and FamilyTreeDNA quick guide setSo, what are you waiting for? Head over to AncestryDNA and start growing your genetic family tree! For a little more guidance, I suggest you purchase my set of two laminated quick guides, “Understanding AncestryDNA and “Understanding Family Tree DNA.” This set is very affordable and will specifically help you at two navigate your results at two of the leading genetic genealogy testing companies.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 126 Features Family History Travel and More

premium podcast 126Genealogy Gems Premium members can now tune in to Premium podcast episode 126 on family history travel and more.

Have you ever tried to squeeze some family history into your family vacations? It’s not always easy to convince a spouse or the kids to make a teensy-weensy research stop or a pilgrimage to an old family cemetery, is it? In this episode, Lisa and Sunny reminisce and share hard-won advice and laughs about their adventures in bringing family history on the road with relatives. Lisa even made a video about the time she took her entire family to the Family History Library! Check it out.

In this episode Lisa also follows up on a hot new Ancestry database for those with U.S. roots: the Social Security Applications and Claims database. With more info than the SSDI on those original SS-5 applications, this database is a WINNER, and she shares success stories. Learn how to see your favorite friends and fan pages first in your Facebook feed and MORE in this great summer episode.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipPremium members on our site have access to this exclusive episode AND ALL previous Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episodes. (That’s 125 and counting!). They can also watch exclusive full-length video tutorials on Lisa’s most popular topics (like Evernote, Google and Google Earth, and organizing your computer files). To learn more about the benefits of Premium membership, click here.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125: Research at the Public Library

Premium podcast 125 with library cardThese three quick tips and a new podcast episode can help you research your family history at the public library, which is both free and convenient!

In Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125, now available to Premium members in the members-only section of our website,  Lisa Louise Cooke welcomesCheryl 5 (2) Cheryl McClellan, the genealogist for the Geauga County Public Library system in Ohio. They chat about how to use your library card to check out your ancestors, not just books!

Cheryl shares seven great tips for researching at public libraries. Here are three of those tips:

  • Generally, using the Library Edition of a genealogy subscription database like Ancestry Library Edition or MyHeritage Library Edition is a little different than logging in at home as a subscriber. However, Findmypast Library Edition lets users login as a free user and build a tree on the site, so you CAN attach records while researching in the Library Edition.
  • HeritageQuest Online is a database available only at libraries, with quick access to U.S. census records being an absolute plus. Cheryl shares what she loves about it.
  • Library websites for your ancestor’s hometown may have a page of genealogy links to digital memory websites, obituary projects, etc. Sometimes they have indexes to local records, too!

We’ll also catch you up with mail from our readers and listeners, share new tips on using Gmail and Evernote and more.

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipIf you’re ready to become a Genealogy Gems Premium member so you can access this and ALL previous Premium podcast episodes, as well exclusive full-length video tutorials on Lisa’s most popular topics (think Evernote, Google and Google Earth, and organizing your files), click here.

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested! This week:

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 800,000 new articles have been added to the British newspaper collections at Findmypast. You’ll find coverage from 19 new newspapers, along with over 138,000 new articles in The Berwick Advertiser, over 108,000 in The Sheffield Evening Telegraph and over 60,000 in The Falkirk Herald. Click here to read more about the additions.

CANADA YEARBOOKS. Ancestry just released over 1 million Canadian yearbook entries between 1908 and 2010. These span middle school to college years and can help fill in an ancestor’s younger years while pinpointing a family residence for that year. Note: these records were indexed by OCR and may contain errors. Be sure to browse them as well as search!

ENGLAND SYNAGOGUES. TheGenealogist has released online 99,500 records of London synagogue seat-holders spanning the years from 1920 to 1939. Eighteen synagogues and affiliated guilds, societies and charities are represented. These include “names of gentlemen eligible for office, life member of the council, women who are seatholders in their own right and seatholders who are not eligible to vote….These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name, keyword, synagogue and address and with one click see an image taken from the pages of Seatholders for Synagogues in London.”

US SOCIAL SECURITY. This is a critical update to our ability to access information in U.S. Social Security applications! This Ancestry index from applications and claims for 1936-2007. “This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI,” says the database description. “It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.” Some data will not appear for newer records; click the above link to read more about it.

 

NEW! Try this now! U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

Ancestry Publishes U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

The new U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index 1936 – 2007 is a critical update to our ability to access information in U.S. Social Security applications, and perfect companion to the SSDI.

“This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI,” says the database description. “It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.” Some data will not appear for newer records; click here to read more about it and access the index.

Let’s take a look at the difference between the SSDI and the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. (Click here to read a great article by the Legal Genealogist about the limitations of the SSDI.)

First a search on Charles A. Burkett in the SSDI:

Social Security Death Index SSDI

As you can see, the information is fairly limited. And there’s something else very important missing here. In the Suggested Records list on the right, the new U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index is not listed. This is an important reminder that we must not rely solely on the bread crumb trails on any genealogy website to lead us to all online available records.

Now I’ll search for him in the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index:

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index

And now I have his mother’s and father’s names!

Check back tomorrow (and every Friday) here at the Genealogy Gems blog for our full list of new and updated records from around the web.

 

HeritageQuest Online Gets Better With Ancestry’s Support

HeritageQuest Online improvesHeritageQuest Online is now even more worth the trip to your local library to access for free, now that its new interface is powered by Ancestry.

For the past few months, library patrons have been getting used to a new version of HeritageQuest Online. This online genealogy resource, available only at libraries or through their websites, “has a new interface powered by Ancestry, enriching the search experience and streamlining the research process,” as described by a company press release a few months ago.

“The intuitive interface provides a fresh user experience that will be familiar to Ancestry.com users,” states the release. “A new Image Viewer offers basic and advanced capabilities without any plug-in, making it easy to share images with family and friends. Image resolution…is significantly improved with the addition of greyscale and color. The Research Aids resources for learning opportunities for novice, intermediate, and advanced searchers.”

Other bloggers have commented on the improved user interface, but what caught my eye was a more detailed, mouthwatering description of all the census extras and other new HeritageQuest Online content (from its site):

  • “Now available for searching is the entire U.S. Federal Census collection from Ancestry.com including supplements (e.g., 1940 Enumeration District Maps) and several schedules (e.g., non-population schedules) previously not included for searching.
  • 20,000 city directories have been added to the existing city directories in the Book collection, increasing the size of the Books collection to more than 45,000 titles.
  • Expanded content in the Revolutionary War Collection. The entirety of the NARA Series M804 is now included here, providing access not only to the previously available “Selected Records” (Series M805) but now also to the “Non-Selected” records of each file.”

Finally, four of the six HeritageQuest Online data collections (Census, Books, Revolutionary War, and Freedman’s Bank) have “brand new search pages with limits, exact matching options, and additional fields for searching.”

Resources:

5 Genealogy Resources to Look for at YOUR Public Library

WorldCat for Genealogy: 40 Million Records and Digital Gateway

Premium podcast 125Genealogy Gems Premium members can learn more about using HeritageQuest Online and other fantastic resources in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 125. (Premium membership required: learn more about that here.)

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 181

1950s family historySock hops. Drive-ins. Juke boxes. Fuzzy dice. Letterman jackets. Poodle skirts, bobby socks and saddle shoes. Do the 1950s come to mind? They will when you listen to the newly-published Genealogy Gems podcast, episode 181!

The 1950s are a great era to research your family history, but it may not seem easy at first. Federal censuses (1950 in the U.S. and 1951 in Canada, the U.K. and Australia) are privacy-restricted, and so are many vital records.

In this episode, I’ll inspire you with several very FUN approaches to learning about your family history during this time period. I’ll also give you some tips and factoids about those blacked-out 1950s censuses–including which census had women up in arms because the government asked them to be more honest about their ages!

There’s plenty of news in this episode, too, from a new Google innovation to two new record collections online that fill in some holes in U.S. documentary history (military and African-American). I’ll read some mail from YOU about the new Ancestry site and family history blogging and share some helpful resources. And we announce the latest Genealogy Gems Book Club pick: listen or click here to learn more about that!

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastClick here to access Genealogy Gems podcast episode 181. Love this and looking for more? Click here to access the FULL archive of FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episodes. If you love the podcast format but are looking for a more step-by-step approach to family history, check out our free Family History Made Easy podcast series.

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