October 20, 2014

Noisy New York City, Jamaican Slave Revolt and Other Digital Archive Projects

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.

Digital archives are getting so much better! They’re not just about reproducing historical documents anymore. Multimedia add-ons–from searchable statistics to animated timelines–fill in the gaps not explained by the map keys.

Recently, Slate.com writer Rebecca posted on some of her favorite digital archives. Four of the five are of interest to genealogists! Read the article to learn more about them:

Historic_Maps_VideoWant to learn more about using maps in your research? Watch my FREE class on Google Earth for Genealogy. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch my NEW video class online, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. (Not a Premium member? Learn more here.)

Free App, E-Book Celebrate Constitution Day

holding_us_flag_stick_figure_pc_400_wht_2690Today the United States celebrates Constitution Day! On this date in 1787–225 years ago–delegates finalized and signed the historic document that became the U.S. Constitution.

In celebration, the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives has launched a free mobile app, e-book and even companion tools for teachers: lesson plans and teaching activities.

“Congress Creates the Bill of Rights” is described at the National Archives website, where you can download the e-book and teaching resources. The e-book is also available in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The app is available for download on iPad at the App Store.

A press release describes the app as “an interactive learning tool for tablets that lets the user experience the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights in the First Congress. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a one-stop source that includes the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and the Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, a ‘time-lapse’ display of the creation of the First Amendment, and more.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook presents a historic narrative focusing on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights and effectively completing the Constitution. Starting with the crises facing the nation in the 1780s, the narrative traces the call for constitutional amendments from the state ratification conventions, and takes the reader inside Congress as the House and the Senate worked to formulate a set of amendments to send to the states.”

Did you have ancestors who were at the Constitutional Convention? Contribute what you know at the Signers of the U.S. Constitution Project at Geni.com. The goal of this project is to build “single, documented profiles” of those who signed.

Family History Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

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 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 43: The Julian Calendar and Genealogy “Double-Dating”

If you’re not familiar with how the calendar has changed through history, you might be recording incorrect dates in your family tree!  In this episode, Margery Bell, Assistant Director of the Regional Family History Center in Oakland, California helps us understand the “double-dating” we see in old documents and translate those dates from the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian system.

The Julian Calendar

In 1582, the Roman Catholic Pope Gregory learned that gradually the vernal equinox wasn’t coming on the “right day.” At the time, the first day of the new year was March 25. This explains why the name of September (“sept”=seven) translates as “the seventh month: and October (“oct”=eight) as the eighth month, etc.

So in 1582, the calendar changed in the four countries under papal authority: Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Polish-Lithuanian state. Gradually over time, everyone else adapted to what became called the “Gregorian calendar,” and is what we use now. But you might be surprised how long the Julian calendar was still used in some places: Greece held out until 1923.

Great Britain changed over to the Gregorian calendar is 1752—and so did its colonies. But here in the North American colonies we were affected by the change long before because we had people here from so many nations in which either calendar might be used.

The solution in U.S. colonial record-keeping was “double-dating.” Maybe you’ve seen a date that reads “3 February 1685/6.” That means it was 1685 by the old Julian calendar and 1686 according to the Gregorian calendar. You’ll see this double-dating used between January 1 -March 25, when the time frame overlapped. You might also see a single date with the abbreviation “o.s.” or “n.s” for “old style” or “new style,” or you might see those words written out. If it’s written in the new calendar style, of course, you don’t have to translate the date.

Why does it matter to a genealogist which style is used? If you don’t translate the date correctly, you’ll get confused about timing. The change from one calendar to the next involved dropping several days from the calendar in 1752, then renumbering the months. March was the first month of 1725, for example, and January 1725 actually came after it—that was the eleventh month! It will look like people have their will probated before they died, or they had a baby before they got married.

Top tips from Margery Bell:

  • If you don’t see double-dating in a colonial document before 1752, assume you’re on the old calendar. See a sample at George Washington family bible with birthdate. (Listen to the podcast to see how his birthday as celebrated today was translated out of that calendar.)
  • Some vital or church records may be written as “the second day of the third month.” If they were following the old calendar, we will “translate” that date incorrectly if we don’t know better. Go back and double-check the sources for your older dates. That includes making sure that any dates you copied from an index (if you couldn’t get to the original record) were indexed accurately.
  • FamilySearch has a lot of data from the IGI, the International Genealogy Index. These older records include a LOT of Julian calendar items but the IGI doesn’t indicate whether that’s true. If you see two different marriage records for the same couple married on two separate dates, translate them and see if one is perhaps the adjusted date and the other didn’t get “translated.”

Genealogy Gems Mailbox

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistDon in Oklahoma writes in to ask about how to record the last names of women, and how those names affect Ancestry’s Family Trees to seek out corresponding genealogical records.

Women should be entered in family trees with their maiden names. Then they are linked to men they marry in family trees, and that’s how you can determine their married surname. I double-checked with the Ancestry Insider blogger about Ancestry searches. He says that Ancestry “shaky leaf” hints search on both a woman’s maiden name and all her husband’s surnames. Thanks for that extra tip, Ancestry Insider!

 

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook and Old Documents

my-prairie-cookbook-memories-and-frontier-food-from-my-little-house-to-yours-paperback-book_357Did you ever watch or read the “Little House on the Prairie” series? It certainly fired my childhood imagination and my lifelong love for history. The stories are based on a series of written-for-kids-but-loved-by-everyone books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family helped settle the western American frontier in the late 1800s.

Now “Little House” is coming back to life in the form of a cookbook by Melissa Gilbert, who played young Laura Ingalls in the NBC television series (1974-1983). Melissa has published My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours.

In My Prairie Cookbook, Melissa dishes up comforting family recipes and childhood favorites. There are prairie breakfasts, picnic lunches and treats inspired by Nellie’s restaurant (from the Little House series). Eighty delicious dishes—crispy fried chicken, pot roasts, corn bread, apple pie, and more—let you eat like the Ingalls family! The book is garnished with Melissa’s “Little House” memories and memorabilia, including behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes, and scrapbook images.

Laura’s Early Years in Google Earth

Often when I’m teaching about how to use Google Earth for genealogy, and in particular, how to create what I call “Family History Tour,” I use Laura’s early life as an my example. Almost everyone is familiar with the story: she was born in Wisconsin, and moved to states like Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota during her lifetime. Seeing it come together in a virtual tour brings a new tech element to a beloved historical story.

LIW how toYou can download a quick Google Earth Family History Tour of her early years by right-clicking this link and downloading the KMZ file to your computer. Click the file, and it will launch Google Earth and save the tour to your “Temporary Places” at the bottom of the Places panel on the left side of the screen. Click the arrow to open the folder (image right)

Inside the folder double click the “movie camera” icon at the top of the list to play the tour.

The tour will navigate from the Little House in the Big Woods of Pepin, Wisconsin, (with a stop to read the History of Pepin ebook right from the map if you so desire), to Rutland, Montgomery, Kansas as the family was documented in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, and Laura was just 3 years old.

This short tour, filled with street views, videos, genealogical documents and even digital history books provides a taste of what you can accomplish with your own family. To learn more click here to watch my free introductory Google Earth for Genealogy video class.

Explore Little House in the Big Archives

Next week, The National Archives will host a program about the new cookbook with Melissa Gilbert. Why have a cookbook featured at the National Archives? Because its inspiration–the Ingalls family–was a real part of U.S. history and the National Archives houses many documents about their lives

 

Remember the Sears Catalog? It’s on Ancestry.com

Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Back in “the day,” American consumers window-shopped by mail with the Sears catalog. From 1888-1993, the Sears catalog stocked millions of American households and fed the Christmas lists of men, women and children.

Wouldn’t pages from the Sears catalog make a lively addition to your family history posts, pins, pages and  conversations? Ancestry.com thinks so, too! They’ve digitized the catalogs and they’re keyword-searchable here. (Just a word of advice: browse a certain issue or search for a specific product. A keyword search for “bicycle” brings up over 5000 results through the OCR technology used to find matches.)

According to this brief history, the Sears catalog first launched as a mailer for watches and jewelry in 1888. “The time was right for mail order merchandise,” says the article. “Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.”

Here’s one more blast from the American consumer past: Sears kit houses. Have you heard of these? You used to be able to order pre-fabricated homes from Sears. You could customize one of many standard sets of plans, and all the materials would be pre-cut and delivered to your home, “some assembly required,” so to speak. Learn more about Sears kit houses and see images of several designs (1908-1940) here. Did your family ever live in a kit house? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 169: Blast from the Past–Episode 14

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryGenealogy Gems Podcast Episode 169 has been published–and it’s a blast from the past! I’ve re-published original Genealogy Gems episode 14, inspired by a passage from my grandmother’s journal: a list of the silent films she saw that year and the actors who starred in them.

grandmas diary silent film

Just like today, the stars who light up the silver screen were mimicked and followed for fashion trends, hair styles, decorating ideas, and moral behavior. Understanding who the role models were at the time gives us a better understanding of the cultural influences of the era.  Films are NOT primary resources, but they certainly paint a picture of life at any given time in history.

In this episode, I find out more about the silent movies my grandmother catalogued in her diary, and how they molded a generation. You’ll catch a glimpse of the silent movie era and how it was an integral part of your ancestors’ lives.  You’ll also learn how to find silent movies to watch for yourself!

 

 

German Newspapers in America: Read All About Them!

custom_classifieds_12091Do you have German roots in the U.S.? Have you ever looked for them in newspapers?

The folks who run Chronicling America, the most comprehensive free collection of digitized U.S. newspapers, have published a new article on historical German newspapers. Here’s an excerpt:

“For decades, Germans were the largest non-English-speaking immigrant group in America. Between 1820 and 1924, over 5.5 million German immigrants arrived in the United States, many of them middle class, urban, and working in the skilled trades, and others establishing farming communities in the West. Their numbers and dedication to maintaining their language and culture made Germans the most influential force in the American foreign-language press in the 1880s – the 800 German-language newspapers accounted for about 4/5 of non-English publications, and by 1890, more than 1,000 German newspapers were being published in the United States.” (Click here to read the whole article, which includes fascinating facts about how they retooled OCR technology to read Fraktur.)

Chronicling America currently includes 23 German-language titles from 9 states. You can search German newspapers in America (or other foreign languages) by going to the Advanced Search page. Under Language, select German (or another language):

Chronicling America Search by Language

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersAre you interested in learning more about newspaper research, online or offline? Read Lisa’s How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available as an e-book or in print. Or ask for it at your local library (if they don’t have it, they may be willing to purchase it–librarians are always looking for new titles their patrons want).

Living in the past? This woman is–1938, to be exact

living in the pastJust when you thought a claw-foot tub was the epitome of living in the past….

A historical consultant in Amsterdam is living in the past. To be more precise, she’s chosen to live like it’s 1938. Her apartment (except for the computer and the refrigerator) is entirely outfitted as if it’s 1938. She doesn’t have a television, she vacuums with a 1920s machine and she washes her clothes by hand.

She’s profiled here on Yahoo! Homes, where you can check out a slide show of her apartment.

What do you think about living in the past? If you could surround yourself with the trappings of an earlier decade, what would it be? What modern conveniences could you not live without?

WWI 100 Year Anniversary: 5 Ways to Discover Your Family History in World War I

WWI 100 YearsThis summer, the world is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War 1. It’s hard to imagine any family that wasn’t touched by it in some way.

If you want to learn more, here are 5 great resources:

1. The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century website. This site was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in the U.S., so it approaches the war from an American perspective. A press release describes it as “an authoritative overview [of the War], one that covers the most important facts and interpretations, is well organized, visually appealing, and guided by sound scholarship.” The site is based on the award-winning, 8-part television series of the same name.

2. The National Archives First World War website. This is the U.K. National Archives, holder of “official UK government records of the First World War, including a vast collection of letters, diaries, maps and photographs.” On the site you can chat with a reader advisor, read (or help tag) war diaries, and more. They plan 5 years’ worth of programming to commemorate the war, so check back at the site regularly.

3. Look on FindMyPast.com for close to a half million British Airmens’ service records, now online. According to a press release, these “contain information about an individual’s peacetime and military career, as well as physical description, religious denomination and family status. Next of kin are also often mentioned.”  It’s free to search but there’s a small fee for downloading records.

4. 100 Years, 100 Legacies website (as shown above). The Wall Street Journal has selected 100 legacies of the Great War that continue to shape our lives, from plastic surgery to contraception and more. Check this out. It’s pretty fascinating!

5. The July/August 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine (U.S.). It’s got a World War I timeline, a guide to researching WWI military service records (U.S.), and how to research women’s service in the Great War. This is a really nice issue.

Check out these resources during the WWI 100 year anniversary and think about what other resources you may have missed: what’s in your own family memory, home archive (or your grandma’s attic) or available through another website you know?

The Wife Swapping Scandal That Made for One Complicated Family Tree!

A spontaneous idea one evening in the summer of 1972 led to a very complicated family tree and a scandal that rocked major league baseball.

swapNew York Yankee baseball players Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich were finishing an evening at a party with their wives, when according to Peterson in an article with the Palm Beach Post, they decided to have the wives switch cars to drive to a diner. The friends had fun and decided to do it again the next night when they went out to dinner.  According to Peterson “It was just really fun being able to talk to somebody. All of us felt the same way. We went on from there and eventually he fell in love with my wife and I fell in love with his.’’

While dubbed “wife swapping” it was really more like husband-swapping with the kids and pets staying with the wives and the husbands changing families.

No matter what you call it, for the major baseball league it was primarily a public relations nightmare. On March 5, 1973 the two Yankee players (both pitchers) called their own press conference and announced the changes in their family trees to the world.

After first reading about this story at the “Do You Remember” websitebaseball wife-swap newspaper article (where you can contribute your own memories of the past with images, videos, and comments) , I searched online newspapers for stories from the day. The Billings Gazette reported ran the story on March 6, 1973 which featured former Montana resident Kekich (article right)

“It was not a wife swap,” said Peterson, “but a life swap.”

(Learn more about researching your family history in newspapers here)

From a genealogical perspective, this presents a bit of a challenge to the family tree. Below you’ll find our attempt to chart the situation:

 

Peterson Kekich family tree chart