April 1, 2015

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsWe learn about so many fantastic new genealogy records online every week. So each Friday we round up several of them for you to glance through. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–but also watch for the kinds of records that may be out there already, that you haven’t yet looked for. This week: British women in World War I, Polish-American marriages, Irish vital records, Canadian travel photography, Scottish artifacts and documents and a Louisiana (US) press archive.

WWI WOMEN. FindMyPast has posted over 9,500 UK records that illustrate the various roles played by woman during the Frist World War. These include:

POLISH-AMERICAN MARRIAGES. A new database of Polish-American marriages has been posted by the Polish Genealogical Society of Connecticut and the Northeast.

According to a press release, “This database contains the names of couples of Polish origin who were married in select locations in the Northeast United States. The information was taken from marriage records, newspaper marriage announcements, town reports, parish histories or information submitted by Society members. The time period generally covered by these lists is 1892-1940. It includes the States of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Vermont. Connecticut and Jersey City, NJ will be added at a later date.”

IRISH BMD. Over a million records appear in a new database of Irish records of the city and county of Derry~Londonderry and Inishowen, County Donegal. Entries span 1642-1922 and include:

  • Pre-1922 civil birth and marriage registers,
  • Early baptismal and marriage registers of 97 churches,
  • Headstone inscriptions from 118 graveyards, and
  • Census returns and census substitutes from 1663 to 1901.

Click here to access these records (and other County Derry resources) at RootsIreland,ie (subscription required).

CANADIAN TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY. A small but visually rich collection of pictures promoting Canadian tourism is now at Flickr Creative Commons. Use these to explore places your ancestors may have visited (and the images that may have lured them there) if they vacationed by rail in the 1800s or early 1900s. (Click here to learn more about finding great historical photos at Flickr Creative Commons.)

SCOTTISH ARTIFACTS AND DOCUMENTS. A new digital archive at Historic Scotland has launched an online database of 400 artefacts now includes over 400 artifacts important to Scottish history. Everyday household objects, ship models, coins, weaponry, bits ‘n bobs of old homes and buildings, industrial machinery and miscellaneous photos, books and ephemera are all browsable on this site. It’s a great place to look for images that help illustrate your Scottish ancestors’ history.

LOUISIANA PRESS COVERAGE. The Louisiana Digital Media Archive has launched as “the first project in the nation to combine the media collections of a public broadcaster and a state archives,” according to its site description. “This ever-expanding site contains a combined catalog of thousands of hours of media recorded over the past half-century.  You can see interviews with Louisiana civil rights pioneers, notable political figures, war heroes, artists and literary icons. You’ll have a front row seat to Louisiana history through video of historic events. You can also visit remote and endangered Louisiana places and cultures.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Set up a Google Alert. Say you want to know whenever new material on Polish-Americans in Detroit is found by Google’s ever-searching search engines. Click here to learn how to set up this search (or any other) Google Alert for genealogy.

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.

Try FindMyPast for FREE This Weekend!

free_pc_400_wht_2095Beginning today, try FindMyPast for FREE –all weekend long!

Over 2 billion historical records will be available to search beginning Friday, March 6 and ending Monday, March 9 (start and finish at midday London time (GMT)). Local subscribers will have World access during this time and World subscribers get an extra three days tacked onto their subscriptions.

What kinds of records are we talking about? According to FindMyPast:

  • “Over 900 million census records from across the UK, USA and Ireland;
  • Passenger lists for ships sailing to and from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA;
  • Birth, marriage and death records dating back to the 18th century, and the largest online collection of UK parish records;
  • The most comprehensive collection of UK military records anywhere online;
  • The largest collection of Irish family history records available online;
  • Historical newspapers from across the world, including more than 10 million British newspaper pages from as long ago as 1710;
  • An easy to use online family tree builder which allows you to import and export your tree if you’ve built it elsewhere;
  • Our automatic Hints feature, which automatically searches our records for you and suggests potential matches to the people you add to your family tree.”

You may also find these resources helpful:

Webinar on Finding Female Ancestors. To celebrate International Women’s Day, at 7am EST on Sunday 8th March, Findmypast will host a webinar on searching for women in historical records. Women are usually tougher to find than men in old records because a) they were mentioned much less frequently and b) their names changed with their marital status.

Getting Started Video. Findmypast has created a new Getting Started video which will be available to view beginning this weekend.

Find out more at Findmypast’s dedicated Free Weekend page.

Waiting for WDYTYA 2015? Get Your Fix Here Until March

WDYTYA 2015According to TLC the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) will launch on Sunday, March 10, 2015 instead of in February as originally announced.

Need a genealogy tv fix until WDYTYA 2015? Watch several U.K. episodes on YouTube for free:

  • a preview special episode
  • Tamzin Outhwaite
  • Sheridan Smith
  • Reggie Yates
  • Mary Berry
  • Billy Connolly
  • Twiggy
  • Julie Walters
  • Brian Blessed
  • Martin Shaw
  • Brendan O’Carroll

Check out this YouTube channel with 13 full U.S. episodes (purchase per episode ($1.99/$2.99 HD) or buy the season for $14.99 (in HD)):

  • Kelsey Grammar
  • Valerie Bertinelli
  • Rachel McAdams and her sister Kayleen
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguston
  • Christina Applegate
  • Chris O’Donnell
  • Kelly Clarkson and
  • Cindy Crawford.

Browse YouTube for additional past episodes.

Wondering about the WDYTYA 2015 season lineup? The announcement of the delay didn’t indicate whether the celebrity guest list had changed: the four previously announced are Bill Paxton, Julie Chen, Angie Harmon and Sean Hayes.

Why Your Genealogy Research Could be Going to the Dogs

"More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate." Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page. No known copyright restrictions.

“More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate.” Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/). No known copyright restrictions.

Did your Irish ancestors have a dog? Over 3.5 million Irish Dog Licence registers have been added to a collection already online at FindMyPast. “Now containing over 6 million records, the Irish Dog Licences list not only the name, breed, colour and sex of your ancestor’s four legged friend, but also the owner’s address and the date the licence was issued, making them a valuable census substitute,” says a recent FMP press release.

Also new on the site are other notable collections, as described by FMP:

  • Trade Union Membership registers (3.4 million+ records) with digitized images of original records books from 9 different unions. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, names of spouses, and a number of unions published profiles of their members or those who held offices. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). These records allow you to follow your ancestor’s progress within the union and perhaps uncover previously unknown details of their working lives and careers. The documents can also include details about the trade unions themselves, such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business. Many trade unions also included international branches from Ireland to Australia to Spain and Belgium.
  • Indexes to over 28,000 articles in 2000+ PERSI-indexed periodicals. These include magazines, newsletters and journals, according to location, topic, surname, ethnicity and methodology. (Learn more about PERSI on FindMyPast in our blog post on the topic.)
  • Peninsular War, British Army Officers 1808-1814 dataset, compiled by Captain Lionel S. Challis of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles shortly after WW1. Using Army lists, Gazettes, despatches, official records and regimental histories, Challis gathered information on more than 9,600 officers who fought for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars and recorded them on index cards. Each record contains an image of the original handwritten index cards and a transcript.
  • South Australia Births 1842-1928. Over 727,000 records and date back to when the compulsory registration of births first began in 1842. Sourced from an index transcribed by volunteers from the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., each records consists of a transcript that usually includes the child’s full name, gender, date of birth, place of birth and registration number. The names of both parents will also be included and in some cases the mother’s maiden name will also be present. South Australia’s colonial origins are unique in Australia as a freely settled, planned British province.
  • South Australia Marriages 1842-1937 contain over 457,000 records. Each record includes a transcript that can contain a variety of information such as the first and last names of the bride and groom, their ages, birth years, marital status, the date and place of their marriage as well as their fathers’ first and last names.
  • South Australia Deaths 1842-1972 contain over 605,000 records and span 130 years of the state’s history. Each record consists of a transcript that usually lists the deceased’s full name, gender, status, birth year, date of death, place of death, residence, the name of the informant who notified authorities of their death and their relationship to the informant.

Ancestry_searchAre you making the most of your online searches at FindMyPast and other genealogy websites? What about on Google? Learn more about search strategies that work in this blog post!

5 Most Popular Searches in Historical Newspapers–and Tips for Improving Yours!

Genealogy Research in NewspapersThe British Newspaper Archive celebrated its 3rd birthday recently by looking back at how people are searching its 9 million+ newspaper pages. To date, the five most common searches are:

1. Football

2. Murder

3. Death

4. Jack the Ripper

5. Railway

Not what you expected? Your digitized newspaper searches as a family historian may be a little more specific and less sports-and-murder oriented. But are they too general to yield successful results?

Here’s a tip from Lisa: “With 9 million searchable pages, the key to finding what you want is to use the Advanced Search.

british search“You’ll find it under the search box. My initial search for my husband’s great grandfather resulted in tens of thousands of hits until I included mandatory keywords, his name as a phrase, a defined time frame, and zeroed in on advertisements. The 299 results were far more manageable and resulted in several fantastic finds!”

Armed with these tips, those with Irish or English roots should explore The British Newspaper Archive, even if you’ve searched there before. “We’ve come a long way since the website launched on 29 November 2011 with 4 million historic newspaper pages,” says a press release. “The collection is now more than twice the size, with over 9 million fully searchable pages available from 300 British and Irish titles. The newspapers cover 1710 – 1954, a much broader time period than at launch. If you weren’t able to find a particular person, event or place when The British Newspaper Archive launched, it’s well worth looking again now.” Visit www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk to try a search for free.”

Learn more about searching historical newspapers in Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. Chapter 4 is all about the newspaper search process, and includes a copy-able Newspaper Research Worksheet.

Last of all, check out this fun infographic below from the British Newspaper Archive in honor of its birthday:

 

British Newspaper Archive

What You Can Learn from Richard III DNA “Scandal”

Earliest surviving portrait of Richard III. Wikimedia Commons image.

Earliest surviving portrait of Richard III. Wikimedia Commons image.

An article recently published in Nature Communications confirmed the identity of the remains of King Richard III by DNA testing. This result wasn’t a huge surprise, but there were some eyebrow-raising findings along the way. More to the point, now a celebrity case study teaches us more about how to use DNA in family history research.

Prior to the genetic investigation of the skeletal remains presumed to be that of Plantagenet King Richard III, there was already mounting evidence that this was indeed his body. Genetic genealogists can take cues from this research to learn how to more fully integrate your genetic testing into your genealogy.

While these researchers were able to use radiocarbon dating and skeletal analysis methods that most of us won’t have access to, they did pore over a substantial amount of historical evidence to substantiate the last known whereabouts of Richard III. The archaeological, skeletal, and historical evidence were overwhelmingly in favor of this positive identification. But it was the genetic evidence that provided the last, ahem, nail in the coffin.

In this case the nail was made of mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. King Richard shares his mtDNA with anyone who is also related in a direct maternal line to his mother. There were two such candidates found, both sharing mtDNA with the skeleton presumed to be King Richard, thus further verifying its identity. In fact, lead researcher Turi King said of the findings, “If you put all the data together, the evidence is overwhelming that these are the remains of Richard III.”

Of interesting note to us as genetic genealogists is that one of the two mtDNA samples used for reference did have one difference from the mtDNA signature shared by the other individual and the skeleton. This did not jeopardize the integrity of the results, but rather provided a good case study in how DNA does change over time.

You would think that the DNA match confirming the identity of the skeleton would be the biggest news out of this round of DNA testing. But along with the direct maternal line testing, there was also direct paternal line testing to try to verify the paternal line of the skeleton.

Genealogists worked tirelessly to identify direct paternal descendants of Richard III’s great-great grandfather Edward III and five were found and tested. Their results revealed not one but THREE different paternal lines.

While the results were not quite as expected, they weren’t exactly unexpected either, as there are plenty of royal rumors of non-paternity (click here for a summary). Watch a brief video discussion of the yDNA results here:

Again, the YDNA portion of the study provides a great case study for us in how to use YDNA, namely that it takes a lot of traditional genealogical work to find direct paternal line descendants to be tested, and that the results are conclusive, but can sometimes provide more questions than answers.

The Richard III DNA drama has started many families talking about “doing” their own DNA. Learn how with my series of quick guides (purchase all 4 laminated guides or the digital download bundle for the best deal);

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

DNA Testing for Adoptees: Advice from Your DNA Guide

dna_magnifying_glass_300_wht_8959Knowing your genealogical question can make DNA testing for adoptees (and anyone else) more focused and relevant. Being patient and determined—not quitting after a single test’s results—can also pay off, as it did for Paul Dobbs, a Welsh-born man who followed his adoptive father to Canada only to learn he was fathered by a U.S. serviceman.

Paul Dobbs didn’t find out that Len Dodds wasn’t his biological father until after the man who’d raised him to adulthood passed away. The truth came out during a genetic investigation into Len’s rare medical condition. He learned that he was child of an American soldier stationed in Wales during World War II. But years of traditional genealogical research led to dead ends. Then Paul turned to DNA and found a match: a first cousin.

With the help of his new-found cousin and the traditional genealogical records available about servicemen serving in Cardiff at the end of World War II, Paul was able to form a convincing hypothesis about the identity of his biological father.

He reached out to a potential half sibling who agreed to conduct a DNA test to explore this option.

She was a match.  Paul had found his biological family! (Read his story in the Vancouver Sun.)

Not everyone will find their birth parents through DNA testing. But Paul took an approach that can serve anyone looking for biological kin through DNA. His experience reminds us that knowing your genealogical question can make DNA testing more focused and relevant. Being patient and determined—not quitting after a single test’s results—can also pay off, as it did for Paul.

For any male adoptee seeking his father, the yDNA test is a logical route to take. This is where Paul turned first. The yDNA provides an undiluted record of a direct paternal line.  This can often help adoptees identify a surname for their paternal line. However, Paul did not have the success he was hoping for with yDNA testing.

He then turned to autosomal DNA testing. Remember that this kind of test traces both your paternal and maternal lines and reports back to you matches in the database that have predicted relationships like, “2-4th cousins” or “3rd-5th cousins” and then you are left to decipher who your common ancestor might be.

DNA testing is a great option for adoptees to get a jumpstart on their genealogy. However, before testing, everyone, adoptees included, should carefully consider how the results of testing may impact you and your family, both biological and adopted.

Genealogy DNA Quick Reference Guides Cheat SheetsReady to learn more about your family with DNA testing? Learn how to with my series of quick guides. Purchase each guide individually or pick up the bundle of all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

Orphaned Heirloom WWI Medal Comes Home via Facebook

WWI World War I medal returned to familyThanks to an appeal on Facebook, an old World War I medal is back with its family!

According to the North Devon Journal in the U.K., the medal was found with the belongings of a man who died in 1980. His sister only recently realized there was a name on the medal, says a story in the North Devon Gazette. She asked a nearby museum to help her return it to a living descendant.

A Facebook appeal went out for a descendant of the soldier, Private Albert Earnest Stowell, who the Gazette says served in the Devonshire Regiment.

Within half an hour a great great grandson of Private Stowell was located. The medal was returned to him at a museum ceremony.

Inspired? Click here for tips for how YOU can help orphaned heirlooms return to their families. More interested in learning more about your own family’s participation in World War I? Click here to read about Europeana’s online archive for WWI.

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.

Genealogical Double-Dating?!? The Julian Calendar Explained

Julian calendarDo you know about the Julian calendar and how it can REALLY throw your genealogy research off?

I knew about this but I’ve never heard it explained as simply as Margery Bell does in the Family History podcast episode 43, just republished and re-released on the Genealogy Gems website. Click on the link to see show notes from the episode with a great summary of what the Julian calendar is and how it can affect your research.

In this podcast episode you’ll learn things like:

  • the definition of “double-dating” in the historical calendar and how to interpret those dates;
  • the fact that different countries switched over from the Julian calendar at greatly different times;
  • why Washington’s birthdate, as recorded in his family Bible, is not the birthdate celebrated today in the U.S.;
  • why several days are missing from the 1752 calendar;
  • how to translate dates from the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian calendar.

I hope you enjoy this FREE podcast episode! And why not share it with a genealogy buddy? It’s a great topic for beginning and more experienced family history researchers.