April 16, 2014

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:

 

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!

 

 

Voices of the Past: Canadian Oral History Project

reading_to_children_anim_300_clr_10048The Victoria Genealogical Society has started a new memory project called “Voices of the Past.” They are recording the stories of senior members of their community and posting them to their website. You can listen to any given story or click on one of the themes they’ve organized the material into, then listen to stories relating to that theme.

I heard about it from Merv Scott, a Project Director at the Victoria Genealogical Society. Merv sees this project as a win-win experience for those telling stories and those receiving them. “I’m sure you have seen how uplifting it is for seniors to tell stories about their family history,” he writes. “Research has shown it boosts their self-esteem reduces stress and anxieties….I think it’s an amazing legacy to leave your children and grandchildren with stories about their family as told by the person who was there. ” You can contact Merv (Projects@victoriags.org) for more information.

I’ve heard about lots of oral history projects, from the national in scope to the most local. Browse some of these (and find tools and resources for doing your own) at Cyndi’s List.

(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!

Over a Million Newly Indexed Canadian Passenger Lists Now Available

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Mixed group of immigrants, Quebec, ca 1911. Photo by William James Topley, Library and Archives Canada, PA-010270. Some rights reserved.

Over a million indexed records and images for Canadian passenger lists (1881-1922) are among newly-announced records now searchable at FamilySearch.org.

The database includes records for Canadian ports–Quebec City, Halifax, St. John, North Sydney, Vancouver and Victoria–as well as U.S. ports for passengers who reported Canada as their final destination.

Before this time period, travel between the U.S. and Canada was common. But it was not always officially recorded because there were no border crossing stations on land. During the time period covered by these records, nations on both sides of the border became concerned about the impact of this invisible migration. Official border crossing record-keeping began in 1895. (See a database at Ancestry.com).

Here’s a tip: If you have immigrant ancestors who landed in the United States during this era but you haven’t found their passenger records, consider the possibility that they arrived via Canada. They would have avoided the increasingly strict monitors at the port gates of entry to the U.S. “golden door.”

Here’s a full list of recent updates to FamilySearch.org:

Collection

Indexed Records

Digital Images

Comments

Argentina, Buenos Aires, Catholic Church Records, 1635-1981 539,210 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Argentina, Capital Federal, Catholic Church Records, 1737-1977 682,002 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
BillionGraves Index 407,422 407,422 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922 1,673,051 61,099 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
Denmark, Church Records, 1484-1941 0 2,399,826 New browsable image collection.
Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg, Landkreis Ostprignitz-Ruppin, Miscellaneous Records, 1559-1945 0 9,569 New browsable image collection.
Italy, Campobasso, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1918 0 2,171,641 New browsable image collection.
Italy, Napoli, Fontana, Parrocchia di Santa Maria della Mercede – La Sacra, Catholic Church Records, 1659-1929 0 54 Added images to an existing collection.
U.S., Illinois, Northern District (Eastern Division), Naturalization Index, 1926-1979 0 214,094 Added images to an existing collection.
U.S., Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994 980,427 951 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.

 

 

Low Tech and High Tech Can Play Happily in the Genealogy Sandbox

Listen to the Genealogy Gems PodcastListen in as we solve a family history mystery with high-tech and low-tech tools in the newest episode of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast, episode 159.

Also in this episode, Genealogy Gems Contributor Sunny Morton discusses where to begin with African-American research with Dr. Deborah Abbott, and we explore newly available Canadian records.

And we wrap the episode with my thoughts on the value of work that we want to pass on to our kids and Grandkids as a family history legacy.

71,000 pages of Canadian Genealogy and History Now Online

canada_flag_perspective_anim_150_clr_2301If you have Canadian roots, you’ll want to know about a rich new resource now at Findmypast.com. It’s the Canadian Books collection, with 71,000 pages of keyword-searchable histories, vital records, directories, published genealogies and more.

“Dating back to the 1600s, the Canadian Books boast 71,000 pages of items such as military, religious, occupational and immigration records, business directories, published genealogies and BMDs [births, marriages and deaths],” states a Findmypast.com press release. “The books feature a sizeable amount of military records with various nominal rolls and rolls of honour relating mostly to the First World War, such as The Royal Montreal Regiment, 14th Battalion, University of Toronto Roll of Service 1914-1918 and 31st Canadian Infantry CEF 1914-1919.”

Though the core content is Canada, the reach of this 200-volume collection extends outside Canada’s boundaries. “With titles such as Sketches of Irish soldiers, The Scotch-Irish of California, and German-Canadian Folklore, the collection is valuable for people with Canadian ancestry and those who can trace their origins back to the UK or Europe.”

This collection comes from the Archive CD Books Canada Project, which has gathered, renovated and reproduced Canadian historical books, documents and maps for over a decade. The 200 volumes are searchable through all Findmypast international sites with a World Subscription and in the U.S. and Canada resources at Findmypast.com.

Genealogy Alert: 1921 Canadian Census Images Now Online

PrintThe much-anticipated (but little-publicized) 1921 Canadian census is now online and available for browsing at Ancestry.ca. They anticipate releasing an index later this year.

On June 29, I blogged in detail about the 1921 census. Check out that post for an image from the census, the questions it included and the significance of the 1921 census as it captured a new generation of immigrants to Canada.

When you click on the first link above, you’ll see that Ancestry.ca’s collection of Canadian census data goes back to 1851. Check out my post above to learn about online data back to 1825. It’s getting easier all the time to find your Canadian ancestors online!

Find Canadian Ancestors in Censuses from 1825 to 1921

canada_peg_figure_12111If you have Canadian kin, you’ll be pleased to hear that the 1825 census of Lower Canada is now searchable online, and the 1921 census will soon be available online, too!

The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted nearly half a million people. Heads of household were actually named, with other members of the household counted by category. You can search by household name or geographic location.

The 1921 census counted 8.8 million people in thousands of communities across Canada. According to the Library and Archives Canada Blog, the population questionnaire had 35 questions. The census also collected data on “agriculture; animals, animal products, fruits not on farms; manufacturing and trading establishments; and [a] supplemental questionnaire for persons who were blind and deaf. This represents a total of 565 questions.” The census was released this past June 1 from the national Statistics office to the Library and Archives. That office is processing and scanning the nearly 200,000 images for public use. It hopes to have them posted soon.

Here’s a sample page from the 1921 census population schedule:

Canada Census 1921 image

We think of Canada as a real melting pot today—or salad bowl, as they prefer. That wasn’t always the case. The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted mostly Europeans of French extraction. In 1901,  70% of Canadians claimed either British or French heritage. But in the first two decades of the 1900s, a huge immigration boom occurred that reached well beyond England and France. So the folks who show up on the 1921 census represented a newly multicultural Canada!

Start looking for your Canadian ancestors in the Library and Archives Canada’s popular Census Indexes, which include that 1825 census and a new version of the 1891 census, too. Watch the website for the 1921 census.

If your family arrived in Canada after the 1921 census, check out the website for The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where a million immigrants landed between 1928-1971.

Tech Tool for Discovering What Your Speech Reveals About Your Heritage

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How you speak can reveal much about your heritage.

If you’ve ever lived in or visited the U.S. or Canada, you already know we don’t all speak English the same way. But did you know that we actually speak eight different major dialects in North America?

The website North American English Dialects has put those dialects on the map. In fact, it even traces their origins and spread: 2 dialects from the west and 6 from the east, reflecting the way the English language originally spread across the continent.

Creator Rick Aschmann notes how we say our “r’s”, the 19 vowel sounds we use, and all those other great tiny variations that go into our Southern drawl or “broad-A” Boston-speak. Aschmann is just doing this project for fun, but he takes his map pretty seriously. He even asks anyone with a “native accent” to upload a sound file of themselves speaking.

Dialect MapIt’s fun to look at this map and think about how our American or Canadian ancestors may have pronounced things differently than we do (or the same, depending on how far we’ve wandered). If your families have migrated within the past 50 to 100 years, click on some of the sound samples from your old stomping grounds and see if you catch some familiar cadences or phrases.

A Huffington Post writer says he could look at this map for hours and not get bored, and I agree! It’s complicated–there are lots of color codes and lines and such–but our speech is complicated, too. Some cities or small regions need their own enlarged maps to show neighborhood-level differences.

You can learn more about how our speech reveals our heritage and family history by listening to my interview with Dr. Robert Leonard Ph.D., Forensic Linguist in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 89. Dr. Leonard has been featured on the TV series Forensic Files and has a fascinating personal history as well.