March 31, 2015

Need Gravestone Images? Ask BillionGraves or Find A Grave Volunteers

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. Click on image to visit that page.

You’ve probably searched for gravestone images at sites like BillionGraves and Find A Grave. What if you come up dry? Ask their volunteers to snap a photo for you. Here’s how to do it:

Make a BillionGraves Photo Request

“The Photo RequesBillionGraves Photo Request screenshott tool is a great new feature on BillionGraves,” says a recent BillionGraves blog post. “It has been optimized and revamped to help the hundreds of thousands of users and requests we have at BillionGraves! The user is looking for a particular headstone [at a specific cemetery] and is requesting that another BillionGraves volunteer that lives nearby, go find the headstone and take a photo of it for them.”

You have to log in to the site to use the Photo Request tool (creating your free login is easy). Under the Tools tab, click on My Requests. The screen will look like what’s shown here. Then click on “Add Request” and follow the prompts. BillionGraves users near you will be notified and invited to help you out.

Make a Find A Grave Photo Request

According to the Find A Grave FAQ area, it looks like you can only request headstone photos for their existing memorial pages, many of which don’t currently have photos. (Idea: create a memorial page yourself if you don’t see one.) “If you would like to request a headstone photo of a memorial, just go to the memorial on Find A Grave. Click on the ‘Request A Photo’ button. This will bring up a new screen allowing you to add any notes that may help the photo volunteer locate the grave location within the cemetery….Then click the ‘Submit Photo Request’ button. Your request will be emailed to the 10 photo volunteers who live closest to the cemetery.” Read more details about this process here.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Did you know you can use Google Earth to locate cemeteries? Click here to learn how. Use this feature to search for burial grounds near where your ancestors died–and maybe you’ll find them buried there!

 

We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsWe learn about great new genealogy records online every week! On Fridays we round up a few for you. Watch for databases and documents that your ancestors might appear in–and get inspired by the types of records that may be out there for your family, waiting for you to discover. This week: Michigan death certificates; Zimbabwe death notices, wills and trusts and an oral history archive of New Zealand nursing.

MICHIGAN DEATHS. Images of Michigan death certificates from 1921-1939 are now available for free at Seeking Michigan. “The index for records from 1940-1952 will be made available in the next few weeks, with additional certificate images to be released each year as privacy restrictions are lifted (1940 images will be released in January 2016),” says a press release.

“Together with the records from 1897-1920 that have been available at the site for years, this collection makes Seeking Michigan the one-stop destination for more than 2.6 million free, publicly-available 20th century death records for Michigan ancestors.”

ZIMBABWE DEATH NOTICES. Over 130,000 indexed and browsable records from the Zimbabwe, Death notices, 1904–1976 are now available on FamilySearch. According to the description, “The records included in this collection consist of death notices and registers obtained from the National Archives at Harare and Salisbury, Zimbabwe. The collection includes indexes of closed and open files. The records are written in English. It appears those records that are labeled ADM are probably administrations which are separate from the death registers and they contain wills and living Trust records. Birth and death registrations did not include African tribal members until 1963.”

NEW ZEALAND ORAL HISTORIES. A new web archive of oral histories of New Zealand nurses is now available. “The aim of this website is to capture this rich history and create a resource that nurses, students, academics and family members can access in order to gain a better understanding of nursing history in New Zealand,” says the site’s home page. The site contains a “large collection of oral histories including abstracts, recordings, photos and other information. These histories have been collected from nurses who trained during the 1950s and 1960s and capture both the everyday elements of nursing practice along with some of the more unusual. Here you are able to listen to stories, read brief abstracts, and view photos of the nurses.” Got a story to tell? They are accepting new interviews. There’s also a section on hospitals and one on nursing uniforms.

 

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! If your keyword searches for record types aren’t bringing up good results, try switching the order of the search terms. In English-language searches, word order counts.

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.

Assisted Immigration to Australia: Queensland Passenger Lists

Drawing_of_migrants_disembarking_from_a_ship,_ca._1885

Drawing of migrants disembarking from a ship, ca 1885. From Cassell’s Picturesque Australia vol. 3, edited by E. E. Morris : Melbourne : Cassell & Co. Ltd., 1888, opp. p. 222. Wikimedia Commons image.

Did you know that the British government has not only encouraged many people to leave Britain, it has helped them do it? This is known as “assisted immigration.” It has affected millions of our relatives’ lives, both of original migrants and their descendants.

Australia received a LOT of new residents through assisted immigration from the 1830s clear through the late 1900s. Fortunately, passenger lists kept on these folks can help you find your relatives who participated. Some of these lists have come online, including for arrivals in Queensland.

Now you can search Queensland passenger lists for assisted immigrants (1848-1912, with over a quarter million records) in two ways:

Learn more about immigration to Australia at FamilySearch. You’ll find a fun published family history about an early Australian immigrant family on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page: The Worst Country in the World: The True Story of an Australian Pioneer Family.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a Google tip for finding datasets. Often you’ll hear about NEW datasets available on major genealogy websites, as I did from FindMyPast for the above collection. But sometimes that same data (perhaps in a slightly different format) is already available for free on another site. The big genealogy websites procure data from lots of other sources that may already host it online. Yes, it’s convenient to search all these databases in one central site like FindMyPast. But don’t subscribe to a site for the sake of ONE collection without Googling the name of the dataset first. That’s what I did in this case, and I found it online at the Queensland State Archive.

 

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.

A Free Search Tool for U.S. Public Records

custom_search_box_13721Do you ever get frustrated trying to track down vital and court records for your U.S. ancestors? Sure, most of these records (not all) were originally kept by county offices. But where are they today? Have they come online? What privacy policies block access? Where do you order originals of U.S. public records and how much does it cost?

You can dig through county government websites for answers (if they are there, and current) or printed guides to U.S. county offices (if they are current). But these paths don’t always quickly yield the answers you’re looking for.

I just learned about a FREE website that simplifies the search process: SearchSystems.net. (A hat-tip to Kim Komando for pointing this out to me!) Here, you can search by place or record type across the U.S. for birth records, court records, marriage and divorce records, and more.

I tried a sample search for divorce records in Ohio. Divorce records aren’t maintained with vital records: they are court records. They aren’t always easily accessible to genealogy researchers. Below is a screenshot of what SearchSystems.net says about Ohio divorce records (it’s cut off–there’s more!). How useful is THIS?!? Love it! Think about it: what kind of government record would YOU like to find for your U.S. ancestor? Click on the SearchSystems.net link above and give it a try!

SearchSystemsnet

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.

We Dig These New Genealogy Records Gems every Friday!

We dig these gemsEvery week, we see so many new genealogy records posted online! We highlight major resources in individual blog posts. But sometimes smaller or regional collections catch our eye, too. We’ll round these up for you in a post like this on Fridays.

Watch for the genealogy records that your ancestors might appear in–but also watch for the kinds of records that may be out there for your kin, which might help you break down your family history “brick walls.”

PRISON RECORDS. Kingston, Canada, Penitentiary Inmate Ledgers, 1913-1916, are now available on Flickr. According to GenealogyCanada.blogspot.com, “The ledger includes frontal and profile mug shots, the inmate’s name, alias, age, place of birth, height, weight, complexion, eye colour, hair colour, distinctive physical marks, occupation, sentence, date of sentence, place of sentence, crime committed, and remarks of authorities.”

CEMETERY HEADSTONES. The Canadian Headstone Photo Project is now also searchable at FamilySearch.org. The original site with over a million headstone photos isn’t new. But some people don’t know about the site, and its search interface isn’t as pretty or flexible. So we think it’s nice that FamilySearch is hosting that data, too. According to FamilySearch, the collection is still growing. “This collection will include records from 1790-2013. The records include a name index of headstone inscriptions, courtesy of CanadianHeadstones.com, which is a family history database of records and images from Canada’s cemeteries.”

HISTORICAL PROPERTIES MAP INTERFACE. The state of Delaware in the United States has launched an updated version of its CHRIS (Cultural and Historical Resource Information System) GIS tool. Use this interface to explore houses, districts and National Historic Landmarks in your ancestor’s Delaware neighborhoods. Maybe a place they lived, worked, shopped, worshiped or attended is still standing!

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Not sure how to find record sets like these for YOUR family history? Here’s a tip! Use the “numrange” search operator in Google to locate records from a particular time period. Do this by typing the range of years to search (first and last year) into your Google search box, with two periods in between (no spaces). For example, the search “Kingston Penitentiary” 1900..1920 brings up the ledgers mentioned above.

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.

 

Google Scholar for Genealogy? Here’s Why to Try It

stick_figure_reading_on_top_of_books_11968Recently I heard from Sue Neale, whose story offers a compelling reason to use Google Scholar for genealogy research! Read it below–then I’ll tell you a little more about Google Scholar.

“I’ve been using computers for genealogy research (among other things) for about 30 years and am pretty good at finding most anything on the internet whether it pertains to genealogy or something else. It’s a continuous learning experience because computer, the internet and genealogy on the internet are always changing and updating.

[After hearing your seminars at RootsTech 2015], I tried out a couple of Google searches for my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather Silas Fletcher. Silas lived on Indian Key in the Florida Keys in the early 1820s.

My husband and I and our son visited Indian Key several years ago and the young lady who took us out in the boat had actually written her college thesis on Silas! Of course, we didn’t think to get her name or any other information. So I Googled “scholar paper Silas Fletcher’ and the first item on the search turned out to be her thesis!

I also found a second thesis on Indian Key and a research paper a third person had written–and they both contained information on Silas. In the footnotes I found references to deed books (book number and page number) that contained statements written by Silas, his wife Avis, their daughter Abigail and Mike’s 2nd great grandfather William H. Fletcher about their lives and movements in the Florida Keys.

With that information I went to Familysearch.org and found the deed books I needed for Monroe County. I was able to go find their statements very easily instead of having to ‘browse’ through the books on the off-chance I would find something (which I do if I don’t know the exact book where the record would be).

I can hardly wait to try out the rest of what I learned at your seminars to see what else I can find!”

Sue’s experience is a great example of using Google to dig for your family history. One little-known feature on Google is Google Scholar, which would help Sue and anyone else more easily find material like what she describes: doctoral dissertations, theses, academic papers and more. Your keyword searches in Google Scholar will target results from academic publishers, universities, professional societies and more.

scholar

Though scholarly literature gets a bad rap sometimes for being boring or highbrow, they do something genealogists love: THEY CITE SOURCES. Sue cleverly read the footnotes of the materials she found and they led her right to a key source she needed.

Here’s another resource she could find using the details found on Google Scholar in a Google Image search: a map of his community!

IK-annotated-sketch

 

My newly-updated, revised book The Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverGenealogist’s Google Toolbox has an all-new chapter on using Google Scholar. Among other things, I show you advanced search strategies and how to use Google Alerts with Google Scholar for continuous updates on your favorite search results. Click here

 

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.

Fire Up Your Genealogy Research with Recent Obituaries

fire up your researchDo you have obituaries for all your relatives who have died in the past 40 years or so? You should.

Obituaries–even the most recent ones–can jump-start your research on a new family line or tackle a branch that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Why? Our “collateral kin” (cousins, aunts and uncles) often lived near, intermarried with and otherwise had contact with other relatives we really want to find.

That’s where recent obituaries come in. The lists of names they contain help us identify relatives (and their spouses) we may not even have known about. Places mentioned can lead us to more records, as can clues about jobs, church affiliation and where someone went to school.

FamilySearch and GenealogyBank are indexing millions of recent obituaries from GenealogyBank’s extensive newspaper collection. Search the free index, with ongoing updates (24.4 million names recently added) at United States, GenealogyBank Obituaries, 1980-2014. Search by name or browse by state and then by the name of the newspaper. Check back often!

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersClick here to read a post about how valuable an obituary was in helping me learn more about my long-lost great uncle Paul McClellan.

Learn more about newspaper research (including how to find obituaries) in Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. There’s an entire chapter on online digitized newspaper collections, and one on online resources for finding newspapers (either online or offline). Yet another chapter is devoted to African American newspapers. This book will teach you to find all those elusive obituaries–and plenty more mentions of your family in old newspapers.