April 16, 2014

Heroic Rescue! 5000 WWI Photos Saved by a Rubbish Collector

WWI photos, World War I photographs

British volunteers for “Kitchener’s Army” waiting for their pay in the churchyard of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. August 1914. Wikimedia Commons Image

One man has spent years rescuing thousands of WWI photos, letters and other artifacts from the trash. The full story, reported recently by the U.K’s MailOnline, tells the story of this heroic effort.

According to the article, dustman (garbage collector) Bob Smethurst began started this rescue mission about thirty years ago. As he dumped waste cans, he would sometimes spot old pictures, letters and other memorabilia spilling into the masher. He’d rescue them when he could. Now he’s got an enormous collection.

Mr. Smethurst noticed a lot of this World War I material being thrown out during the 1970s and 1980s as veterans died of old age. He guesses that a similar amount of World War II material has been heading to landfills or burn piles in recent years.

Have you ever rescued someone’s family artifacts from oblivion? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook pageA hat tip to Premium Member Kimberly for alerting me to this article!

10 Brothers Served in WWI: An Amazing Story

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 at http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/War_Graves_at_Tyne_Cot_Cemetary%2C_Belgium_MOD_45156481.jpg

The Press (York, UK) recently reported a story about 10 brothers who all enlisted to fight in World War I and the hubbub that followed.

“The family became minor celebrities because of the brothers’ service, and their story was used as a recruitment tool as the war went on,” reports the Press. Fortunately, most of these Irish immigrant boys came home alive. The story reports the recent discovery of one of their graves.

Have you ever found something like this in your family–stories of extraordinary sacrifice made during wartime? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

Join Me on a Genealogy Cruise of the British Isles

marcopoloIt’s always a joy for me to get to get out and about and meet readers and listeners in person. In July 2014 there’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get together in person, talk genealogy and experience the joy of travel: the Unlock the Past Cruises for their 2014 British Isles Cruise!

I’ll be joining eight other incredible genealogists to bring cruisers an exciting assortment of family history classes aboard the beautiful Marco Polo ship (right).  Check out  the Presenters page

You’ll have around 40 topics to choose from, held mostly in the evening so there will be loads of time to explore the breathtaking landscape.

Itinerary: 

  • day 1 – depart Tilbury, London – 6pm (boarding from 12.30pm)
  • day 2 – at sea
  • day 3 – Invergordon, Scotland – 7.30am-10pm
  • day 4 – Kirkwall, Orkney Islands – 7am-6pm
  • day 5 – Stornoway, Outer Hebrides – 7.30am-10pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 6 – Tobermory, Isle of Mull – 7.30am-4pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 7 – Dublin, Ireland – 8am-5.45pm
  • day 8 – St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly - 9am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 9 – St Peter Port, Guernsey - 7.30am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
  • day 10 – Honfleur, France –  9am-5pm
  • day 11 – arrive Tilbury, London – 9am

My understanding is that this cruise is filling up very quickly so if you’re interested be sure and click here for more details.

Digitizing Colonial America: Help Is On The Way for Your Colonial Genealogy

The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Beaver Map, 1715. By Special Collections Toronto Public Library. Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’ve got British colonial roots in North America, you know how tough it can be to learn more about your family during that time. That’s why I was excited to read a recent article in the  Harvard Gazette.

According to the article, plans are afoot to digitize and make available millions of British colonial documents. Yep, you read that right. Millions. There are still that many colonial-era documents sitting largely untouched in public and private archives, far from the reach of the everyday genealogist.

The Gazette reports not one but two major digitizing projects underway relating to British colonial documents in the U.S. Harvard University is leading the first project, which is already funded and underway. It will capture around 30 million pages of 17th- and 18th-century material from more than 1600 manuscript collections at 12 different Harvard repositories.

As if that’s not good enough news, a much larger project is in the works, too. A larger-scale Colonial Archives of North America has plans to digitally assemble pre-Revolutionary War material from Harvard and several historical societies, archives and Libraries in New England, New York and beyond (including Montreal). I was pleased to see that records relating to businesses, poverty, public health and indigent care will form part of the anticipated collection. These kinds of documents talk about everyday folks and their living conditions. Just what we want for our colonial genealogy. This second project is not funded yet but researchers are confident it will be.

Meanwhile, check out online resources like these for colonial documents:

 

Where You Can Find Over a Million British Church Records that are Now Indexed!

Happisburgh church of St. Mary's, Norfolk. Image by Martin at Flickr Creative Commons.

Happisburgh church of St. Mary’s, Norfolk. Image by Martin at Flickr Creative Commons.

Over a million Church of England records from the county of Norfolk are among materials now indexed at FamilySearch.org.

The collection includes bishops’ registers of baptisms, marriages and burials from the mid-1600s to the mid-1900s.

  • Baptismal records may include the child’s name, date and place of baptism, parents’ names and residence, legitimacy status of the child, father’s occupation and minister’s name.
  • Marriage records may include the names, ages, marital status and residence of bride and groom; date and place of marriage; fathers of the bride and groom and information on whether banns were published.
  • Burial records may include the name, age, and residence of the deceased and the date and parish of burial.

The Church of England was a state-sponsored church. This helps genealogists because it means that most everyone who lived there (until the mid-1800s or so) is likely to show up in Church of England records. So if you had English ancestors who lived in Norfolk, take a look. These images have been online since 2010, but the new index makes them a lot easier to search!

Family History Episode 8 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2


Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
Originally published Fall 2008

Republished November 26, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.

In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.

Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:

  • FamilySearch.org is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
  • The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
  • EllisIsland.org still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
  • The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
  • Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
  • Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
    • DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
    • Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at www.books.google.com);
    • The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
    • WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
    • Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
    • Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!

 

 

A New Place to Look for Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Passenger List

By S.MacMillen (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Monument to Scottish Immigrants, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By S.MacMillen (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Been looking for an immigrant ancestor to the United States? See if they’re among the nearly 3 million passengers to Boston or the nearly 850,000 passengers to Philadelphia recently added to FamilySearch.org.

The time period covered by these indexes includes an enormous wave of immigrants, mostly from southern and Eastern Europe. Italians, Portuguese, Russians (including Jews), Poles, Slavs and more entered the U.S. by the millions. Record content varies, but may include ports of departure and entry, age, birthplace, gender, marital status, occupation, citizenship or last country of resident, contact information for loved ones in the Old World or in the U.S., intended destination, and even a physical description. Images of the actual record can be viewed.

Also new at FamilySearch are nearly 1.5 million indexed records from the Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005, collection and over half a million indexed records from the Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895, collection. See the table below for the full list of updates. Search these diverse collections and more than 3.5 billion other records for free at FamilySearch.org.

Collection

Indexed Records

Digital Images

Comments

England, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910 35,896 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg, Eberswalde, City Directories, 1890-1919 0 2,836 New browsable image collection.
Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895 572,243 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005 1,452,770 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Netherlands, Limburg Province, Church Records, 1542-1910 0 131,396 New browsable image collection.
Russia, Samara Church Books, 1869-1917 88,149 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Ukraine, Kyiv Orthodox Consistory Church Book Duplicates, 1840-1845 129,110 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993 1,012,025 720,622 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
U.S., Iowa, State Census, 1905 1,445,414 0 New indexed record collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 2,829,077 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920 755,766 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1883-1945 874,690 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.

Advice for First-time Attendee to Who Do You Think You Are? Live in London

Here I am in last year's experts panel

Here I am in last year’s experts panel

Recently I heard from podcast listener Julie, a New Zealander living in Kuwait. My podcast made her aware of Who Do You Think You Are? Live, the huge family history conference coming up in the U.K. in 2014. She’s bought her plane tickets but, she says:

‘I am overwhelmed! I have never been to any sort of family history event, fair, society meeting – this will be my very first one.  I’m not even sure which entry tickets I would be best to get – I am going for the three days but am wondering if a VIP ticket the first day might be a good way to get introduced and then get the two day ticket for the remaining days. With all the SOG workshops, DNA workshops, experts, the “Heirloom Detective,” exhibitors and so much more, I’m not sure how to get the most out of the three days.”

To anyone else feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of attending WDYTYA Live, let me see if I can be of some help:

RE: VIP Day – Since I have been a presenter the last three years, I didn’t deal with tickets. However, I can tell you that the most popular speakers do fill up (particularly the celebs). Also you can spend valuable time standing in line without reserved seats. So if you are keen to see particular talks and want to save time, then a VIP day would probably be really nice. If you’re willing to get in line early and wait, then you can certainly get in to just about any talk you want with pre-purchased workshop tickets. At least that’s how it seemed to me.

RE: Workshop vs Hall. While it would be easy to just spend all day every day in the workshops, in my mind it is the exhibit hall that is really special. They do the exhibit hall much better in London than they do here in the U.S.  It is huge, and exhibitors incorporate a lot of hands-on opportunities. You could easily spend one full day just on exhibits. I would allow at least 1/2 day for the “vendors” and 1/2 day for the “society tables” and fill the rest of my 3 days with lectures and workshops.

The photo specialists are extremely popular. Bring photos with you if you want them looked evaluated, but prepare to queue up for a very long time. (Perhaps get in line first thing one morning.)

Here’s one last important tip: be sure to follow the event blog and keep an eye out on the website as they tend to announce new and last-minute events right up until the end.

I hope that helps you all! And to Julie-from-New-Zealand-in-Kuwait: thanks so much for listening to the podcast!

(Free Video Class) Google Earth Helps Genealogist Find Family Business

Gail Rogers in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently shared how my presentation on using Google Earth for genealogy helped her find her way to the site of an old family business–and the place where her ancestor died. She’s given me permission to share it with you. I hope you find it as inspiring as I do!

“Just last week, I received an 1879 death certificate for my great-great-great-grandmother.  She ran The Castle Inn in Stafford, Staffordshire, England after the death of her husband in 1863.  To my sorrow and horror, I learned that she hanged herself probably within the establishment where she also lived!

“When I shared this with a group of English and Australian cousins who are also researching this family, one of them sent me a link to a 1960s photo of The Castle Inn, shortly before its demolition:

Family business photo 1

“Then I remembered your presentation about pinpointing your ancestor’s home in San Francisco.  I’ve had several “family history” maps with icons that I’ve been working on for the past five years at Google Maps, so I went to the one for my Staffordshire ancestors, clicked on my icon for Eastgate Street in Stafford, and used the Street View to wander down the street, looking for the outline of the roofs, as you did with your old family photo. (You can view a video of my Google Earth for Genealogy class for free here on my website that demonstrates this technique.)

“I soon spotted the outline at the extreme left of the photo, “turned around” (virtually) and wham!  There were the double Elizabethan-style timber-framed gables, just as they appeared in the older photo!”Family business photo 2

Gail, I was so glad to read that this helped you. I’ve gotten so much great feedback on that particular example of how to use powerful Google Earth (and Google Maps) tools to find important family landmarks.

toolbox kit SMALLThe presentation she’s talking about can be found in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Kit, a value bundle that includes my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and Volumes I and II of Google Earth for Genealogy (on video CD). Even better, right now that kit is available for 20% off! The 2 discs are also available as a bundle on their own. And thanks, Gail, for sharing your success with us!

New Content for Genealogists Researching Australia, England, U.S. and more at Ancestry.com

Vital records registrations, Pomerania, Germany

Vital records registrations, Pomerania, Germany

Records from Australia, England, the United States and Germany are among new content at Ancestry.com. Check out these collection highlights, now available online (access may depend on user subscription status).

  • Military Registers, 1862-197, which include registers of U.S. military personnel stationed domestically (Navy, Marines, Reserve officers);
  • Cherokee Baker Roll and Records, 1924-1929;
  • Births, marriages and deaths (images only) for Grevesmühlen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany;
  • Tax lists for Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Ohio, USA, 1819-1869;
  • Baptisms, marriages and burials for Birmingham, England, 1538-1812;
  • Rate books for Perth, Western Australia
  • U.S. Virgin Islands, applications for travel identification cards, 1918.