June 29, 2015

Missing Birth Record? Here’s What You Can Do To Track It Down

missing birth recordHave you ever had a case of a missing birth record, in a time and place where you know there should be one? It’s so frustrating! Recently Michelle shared her missing birth record dilemma on our Genealogy Gems Facebook page:

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“I am having a problem with my grandfather’s birth certificate. Everyone in the family says he was born in Tupelo, MS yet when I requested his BC they did not locate it. I am unsure where to even start looking. I have not been able to locate them on the 1930 Census either. He was born in 1921. Any suggestions on how I can narrow my search for his birth certificate would be helpful.”

Without knowing the specifics of her family, and without knowing the Tupelo area or Mississippi records well, it’s hard to give the perfect answer. But here are some ideas worth considering:

  • In that time and place, many births were still home births with midwives in attendance. By this date, midwives were required to record the birth record but it’s possible this one was missed or filed later (so it might not show up in order, if the record is chronological by date of filing).
  • If your grandfather had any known African-American ancestry at all, his birth might be recorded in a separate place (“colored register”).
  • It’s a long shot for someone born this late in time, but ask whether his birth appears in the delayed birth records collection. (I’m not sure, for this locale, whether that was kept at the county level or not.) Click here to hear a free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast episode on birth records and delayed birth records.
  • I would also look to neighboring counties and towns. It’s possible he was born outside of Tupelo and the family just remembers that as being the nearest city.
  • If you can’t find the family in the 1930 census, that’s a red flag that perhaps they didn’t live there at the time. (Browse the census pages to be sure, instead of just relying on the index to search the name.)
  • Finally, I would definitely call the local genealogical society and ask their volunteers this question! They may know of additional records that exist, or a reason he might not be there.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastLearn more about family history sleuthing strategies like these in the free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, which takes listeners step-by-step into the world of genealogy research. It’s great for a “true” beginner and for anyone who could use a refresher on any or all of the topics we cover.

The 1910 Census in Puerto Rico: A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

Puerto Rico census screenshot

Sample census detail image from Ancestry.com.

Imagine taking a standard U.S. census form, translating it into Spanish, administering it to a newly-American population whose racial identity is highly politicized, translating the results back into English and trying to make sense of them 100 years later.

That’s what happens when you’re looking at 1910 census in Puerto Rico.

I stumbled on this story when my dad, a FamilySearch indexer, called my attention to a current project to index previously-missed parts of the 1910 census. A lot of the missing data was for Puerto Rico. The forms are in Spanish. My dad asked my help translating some of what he was reading, since I speak some Spanish. He was concerned that the computer was interpreting some of the abbreviations in English when they were likely Spanish abbreviations. I looked into it and what I found reminded me of these lessons:

Puerto Rico 1910 1920 census instructions

From “The US Census and the Contested Rules of Racial Classification in Early Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico,” by Mara Loveman, in Caribbean Studies, 35:2 (July-Dec 2007), 3-36. Click image to go to the paper.

Always read the record itself and seek to understand it. Don’t just rely on the index! The published images of this census on Ancestry interpret “B” in the race column as “Black,” but a little research (thank you, Google Scholar!) reveals that the census takers entered the race in Spanish–so “B” was for “blanco” (read about it in this academic paper).

When you see someone’s race change over the course of a lifetime, consider the historical context. Puerto Rican census data from the early 1900s “show a population becoming significantly whiter from one census to the next” because of “changes in how race was classified on census returns,” says the same paper. Not only were there changes in the official instructions, but the enumerators increasingly didn’t follow them. In fact, on several thousand census entries in 1910 and even more in 1920, “individuals’ racial classifications were manually crossed out, and a different ‘race’ was written in. These post-enumeration edits, it turns out, were done by a select group of Puerto Ricans hired to supervise and ‘correct’ the work of fellow Puerto Rican enumerators.”

google toolbox bookThis little historical trivia is not so trivial if you’re wondering why your ancestor may be identified by a different race than you expected. Learn more about finding academic papers like the one quoted here in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. Her book shows you how to search Google Scholar for gems like this that make your family history more clear!

 

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. Might these collections include your ancestors? Today: British apprenticeships, Cleveland Jewish newspapers, Costa Rica civil registrations, Croatia church books, North Dakota state censuses, and Pennsylvania Civil War rosters.

BRITISH APPRENTICE RECORDS. FindMyPast subscribers can now Britain, Country Apprentices, 1710-1808. These nationwide registers for apprenticeships “recorded the tax paid for each indenture for an apprentice. The average apprenticeship was seven years.” Records may include an ancestor’s parent(s), his/her master and the profession chosen.

CLEVELAND OH JEWISH NEWSPAPERS. The Cleveland Jewish News Archives has added digitized newspapers that preceded the Cleveland Jewish News (already online) back to 1893. Among the papers included are these weeklies: The Hebrew Observer (1889-1899), The Jewish Independent (1906-1964 weekly), The Jewish Review (1893-1899) and The Jewish Review and Observer (1899-1964). Subscription required.

COSTA RICA CIVIL REGISTRATION. More than a million indexed records have been added to the free browsable digital images of Costa Rice Civil Registration, 1860-1975 at FamilySearch. This includes “Births, marriages, deaths, legitimizations and indexes created by civil registration offices in Costa Rica.”

CROATIA CHURCH BOOKS. Nearly 3 million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection of Croatia Church Books, 1516-1994. Browsable images are already online. According to the collection description, “Records of births and baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials peformed by priests in Croatia. Includes vital records of Jews. These records were acquired from the Croatian State Archive. Baptisms through 1900 can be searched.”

NORTH DAKOTA CENSUSES. Over 350,000 indexed records each for North Dakota censuses of 1915 and 1925 are now searchable for free at FamilySearch. Included in these records are names, titles, relations to heads of household, hold, race, residence and family number.

PENNSYLVANIA CIVIL WAR MUSTERS. Ancestry subscribers can now search Pennsylvania Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1869. Says Ancestry, “This collection includes muster out rolls, arranged by regiment and thereunder by company. They list the soldier’s name, age, rank, unit, regiment and company; the date, place, and person who mustered him in; the period of enlistment; and the name of the commanding officer. Other details can include where the soldier enlisted, whether he was drafted or was paid as a substitute, pay earned, money owed to the U.S. for clothing or missing equipment, promotions, capture by the enemy, illnesses, and bounty paid and owed. At the end of the musters, transfers, deaths, and deserters were often listed, typically with details about the circumstances (e.g., where and when transferred; cause, date, and location of deaths; dates and places of desertion, etc.).”

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Here’s a tip: Always read the descriptions for online collections you are searching. The descriptions generally tell you the source of the records; which records are included/missing; what genealogical data you may find in them and tips for searching the dataset. Some websites also suggest related databases. This tip comes to you courtesy of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke, freshly updated and completely revised for 2015!

1950 Census Substitute: What To Use Until its Release Date

An enumerator interviews  President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

An enumerator interviews President Truman and the First Family for the 1950 Census. Image from www.census.gov.

The 1950 federal U.S. census will not be released to the public until April 2022. Here are two common questions we hear about the 1950 census:

Can I request individual census entry look-ups?

Yes, you may apply to receive copies of individual census entries from 1950-2010 for yourself or immediate relatives. It’s not cheap—it’s $65 per person, per census year. But if you’re having research trouble you think would be answered by a census entry, it might be worth it. Click here to learn more about the “Age Search Service” offered through the Census Bureau.

Is there a 1950 census substitute database?

Yes, Ancestry has one. You might find it a little gimmicky, because it’s just taken from their city directory collection from the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s. But it’s a good starting point to target your U.S. ancestors living during that time period. The annual listings in city directories can help you track families from year to year.

Your 1950s family history may appear in other records as well, and I’ve got some tips to help you in your search. Click here to learn more!

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsEvery Friday, we highlight new genealogy records online. Scan these posts for content that may include your ancestors. Use these records to inspire your search for similar records elsewhere. Always check our Google tips at the end of each list: they are custom-crafted each week to give YOU one more tool in your genealogy toolbox.

This week: European and U.S. Jewish records; Mexico civil registrations; New York City vital records and New York state censuses and naturalizations.

JEWISH RECORDS. In the first quarter of 2015, nearly 70,000 records have been added to databases at JewishGen.org. These are free  to search and include records from Poland (for the towns of Danzig, Lwow, Lublin, Sidelce, Volhynia and Krakow); Lithuania (vital records, passports,  revision lists and tax records); the United Kingdom (the Jews’ Free School Admission Register, Spitalfields, 1856-1907) and the United States (obituaries for Boston and Cleveland).

MEXICO CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. More than 400,000 indexed records have been added to civil registrations for the state of Luis Potosi, Mexico. Records include “births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices” and are searchable for free at FamilySearch.

NEW YORK CITY VITAL RECORDS. Indexes to New York City births (1878-1909), marriages (1866-1937) and deaths (1862-1948) are new and free for everyone to search on Ancestry. Click here to reach a New York research page on Ancestry that links to these indexes.

NEW YORK STATE CENSUSES AND NATURALIZATIONS. The New York state censuses for 1855 and 1875 (for most counties) are now available online to subscribers at Ancestry. According to the census collection description, “The state took a census every ten years from 1825 through 1875, another in 1892, and then every ten years again from 1905 to 1925. State censuses like these are useful because they fall in between federal census years and provide an interim look at a population.” New York naturalization records (1799-1847) and intents to naturalize (or “first papers,” 1825-1871) are also available online.

NEW ZEALAND PROBATE RECORDS. Nearly 800,000 images from Archives New Zealand (1843-1998) have been added to an existing FamilySearch collection (which is at least partly indexed). Privacy restrictions apply to probates issued during the past 50 years. These records contain names of testator, witnesses and heirs; death and record date; occupation; guardians and executor; relationships; residences and an estate inventory.

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Google tip of the week: Some genealogical records and indexes are created on a city or municipal level rather than–or  in addition to–a county, province or state level. When Google searching for vital and other records like burials and city directories, include the name of a city in your searches. Learn more about Googling your genealogy in Lisa Louise Cooke’s The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. The 2nd edition, newly published in 2015, is fully revised and updated with the best Google has to offer–which is a LOT.

Female Census Enumerators? Check Out These Backstories!

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscensusbureau/5020542240/in/photostream/.

There’s a story behind every census record. In fact, there are as many stories as there are names on each census page. This is true not just for people being enumerated, but also for the census-takers themselves.

I was reminded of this by Joanne, author of the Researching Relatives blog. She wrote in response to a blog post I wrote about a census taker a few months ago:

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“Thank you for inspiring me with one of your posts from October. I never paid attention to the census takers until I read your post, and then I went back and looked at some random pages and found two female census enumerators.”

Of course I went right to her blog. She says she looked through random census entries about her relatives without finding anything special. Then, “In the 1930 census, the enumerator was Anna M. Allen and, in 1940, it was Bessie Dorgan. I’m guessing that female census takers weren’t that unusual, but it still caught me by surprise. So like Lisa, I wanted to find out more.” She put her research skills to work and learned more about these women and their roles as providers for their family. Click here to read more about her discovery.

 

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastDo you blog about your family history? Have you ever blogged about a discovery made in response to a tip you got from Genealogy Gems? I’d love to hear about it! Learn more about blogging your family history in my FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, episodes 38-42. Learn how-tos and get inspired by the stories of others who are sharing their family history discoveries online!

How Common Was My Ancestor’s Name? Most Popular Baby Names By Decade

Edna Selby, about age 4. Taken about 1873.

Edna Selby, about age 4. Taken about 1873.

Baby names are trendy things. Sure, there are a few standbys in every culture–like William and John in English–but popular baby names come and go. In fact, sometimes you can guess about how old someone is today based on their name (think Josh, Mildred or Shirley).

Popular Baby Names by Decade can help you decide whether your great-grandma Beulah or great-uncle Earl’s names were unusual for their time or a whim of the generation (Earl ranked 21st in 1890 and Beulah ranked 78th).

The site has lists of the most common names in the U.S. census back to the 1880s. You’ll also find a master list of THE most popular baby names during the last 100 years. No surprise: in the U.S., James, John, Robert, Michael and William top the boys’ charts. But I was a little surprised at the most popular women’s names. Click here to see what they are.

Was your ancestor an ethnic minority whose name may have only been popular in their neighborhood or where lots of other Irish, African-Americans or others lived? You can also search for the most popular names within a particular state.

Take a look and think about how your own family falls in. My parents weren’t following the crowd when they named me Sunny, that’s for sure. But my grandmother was a trendy gal: all 7 of her living children’s names hit the top 15 in the 1940s! And in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 78 Lisa has talked about not only the popularity of her first name, but the soap opera star that made Lisa #1 in the early 1960s!

Millions of New Scandinavian Genealogy Records Now Online

ScandinaviaIf you have roots in Denmark or Sweden then you’ll be excited about the email I got recently about Scandinavian genealogy records. Here’s the news from Daniel Horowitz, the Chief Genealogist Officer at MyHeritage.com:

“I’m delighted to let you know that we’ve just brought online millions of Scandinavian records–the majority of which have never been digitized or indexed online before.

The entire 1930 Danish census (3.5 million records) is now available online. This is thanks to our partnership with the National Archives of Denmark to index and digitize over 120 million records, including all available Danish census records from 1787-1930 and parish records from 1646-1915, all of which will be released during 2015 and 2016.

We’ve also added the Swedish Household Examination Rolls from 1880-1920, which includes 54 million records with 5 million color images, of which 22 million records are already available online. The remaining records are scheduled to go online before the end of June 2015.”

MyHeritageMyHeritage is a sponsor of the free Genealogy Gems podcast. One reason I’ve partnered with them is that our audiences are both so international. My podcast reaches the entire English-speaking world. MyHeritage is known for its international reach into genealogical records and trees throughout Europe, the Middle East and beyond. Click here to learn what else I love about MyHeritage.

Myheritage tutorial how toWould you like to get more out of your MyHeritage subscription? Get our digital download quick reference guide to MyHeritage.

Irish Genealogy: Find Your Poor Ancestors in Ireland

Irish censuses Irish genealogy Irish family historyHave you ever heard of the “Irish Reproductive Relief Fund?” That name made me wonder what it was all about (and I was totally wrong). It was actually a program ahead of its time, and its records can help you trace your hard-working, poverty-stricken Irish ancestors. The records are now online for the first time at Findmypast, along with a new, easier-to-search version of the 1911 Ireland census.

“The Irish Reproductive Loan Fund was a privately funded micro credit scheme set up in 1824 to provide small loans to the ‘industrious poor’ – those most affected by poverty and famine,” says a press release from Findmypast.

“This collection of almost 700,000 records, which span the period of the Irish Potato Famine, provides unique insight into the lives of those living in Ireland during one of the darkest periods in its history. The handwritten ledgers and account books reveal the changing fortunes of Irish ancestors and their subsequent movements in Ireland and across the world. Now anyone can go online and research individuals and families to find out more about where they lived, their financial situation, their social status and more besides.”

Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Data and Business Development for Findmypast, said, “These incredibly important records provide an exceptional insight into the lives of the poor across the west of Ireland from Sligo down to Cork. The people recorded are precisely those who were most likely to suffer the worst of the Famine or be forced to emigrate. These remarkable records allow us to chart what happened to 690,000 people like this from the 1820s to the 1850s, giving a glimpse of their often heart breaking accounts of survival and destitution, misery and starvation. We are very lucky to be able to tell their stories.”

These new records complement an expansive collection of Irish records at Findmypast, including Irish Petty Sessions, Irish Prison Registers, Irish newspapers, Irish Births 1864-1958 and  over 800,000 Irish marriages dating back to 1619.. Another new online Irish record collection is the Clare Electoral Registers, which include early female voters.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a tip for Irish genealogy researchers from Findmypast: “The Ireland Census 1911 is an excellent starting point for anyone researching their Irish ancestors. Findmypast’s powerful search will for the first time allow family historians to search for more than one family member at the same time, helping to narrow down results, and by birth year and by spelling variations of a name – all making it easier than ever to trace Irish ancestors.”

 

MyHeritage to Digitize Danish Genealogy Records

denmark_flag_perspective_anim_300_wht_4774MyHeritage has announced a new arrangement with the Danish National Archive to digitize, index and make available online millions of Danish genealogy records. According to MyHeritage, these include:

  • “Danish national censuses, including approximately 9 million images and 31 million records, covering the years of 1787 through to 1930.  One of the most enlightening sources of historical content, census records provide a glimpse into a family’s past listing information about each household including the names of occupants, information on residence, ages, places of birth and occupations.
  • Church records (3.9 million images) containing approximately 90 million names from 1646 to 1915. The Parish Register provides information regarding anyone who was born, baptized or confirmed (after 1737), married or died in a particular parish. The records include rich information about a person’s family: for example, for baptisms they list the date of birth, date of baptism, name of the child, parent’s names, occupations and residence, and often names of witnesses and godparents.”

According to MyHeritage, “The records, spanning almost 300 years, provide a window to the lives of Danish ancestors during fascinating periods in history including the Napoleonic wars, liberalism and nationalism of the 1800s, the Schleswig Wars and industrialization.

“The records will illuminate the lives and times of noted Danish historical figures such as Kierkegaard and Niels Bohr. Celebrity fans will be able to look into the family history of Danish Americans such as Scarlett Johansson and Viggo Mortensen for clues on their success. Many of the records will be made available on MyHeritage as early as April 2015 and the rest will be added during the year.

MyHeritage is a leader in family history for those with Nordic roots and is “the only major company providing services in Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish. With more than 430,000 users in Denmark and an additional 600,000 registered users in Sweden, 500,000 in Norway, and 280,000 in Finland, MyHeritage has amassed the largest Nordic user base and family tree database in the market.”

MyHeritageJust one more reason we at Genealogy Gems are pleased to have MyHeritage as a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. Click to learn more about why we’ve chosen to partner with them.