February 27, 2015

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.

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.”

 

Which are the Best Genealogy Websites for YOU??

money_tree_PA_500_wht_3903Bill Johnson in Manassas, Virginia, USA, wrote to me with this question–and I know he’s not the only one asking it!

“It’s difficult to know what genealogical resources to spend your money on. I have been a subscriber to Ancestry.com (world package) for years. But, there is FindMyPast, MyHeritage, etc. Your books identify dozens of other resources that all sound good — and cost money. Then there are some of the free resources like the National Archives and the LDS resources [FamilySearch].  Where should you spend your time and money?  While money is always a factor, I find that my time is a more precious resource.  If I have Ancestry.com, would I gain anything by subscribing to FindMyPast? MyHeritage? FamilySearch? The National Archives or the BLM sites?  I am concerned about wasting money on redundancy.  Why visit a site that only offers a select subset of the data that I access through Ancestry?

Which paid sites do you regularly use?  Which free sites do you use?  Your books have a plethora of suggestions but the pool of resources is increasing by the day.  It is really getting rather confusing.”

What a great question!!! Here’s my answer:

“I agree, it’s gotten more complicated selecting the best genealogy websites for your own needs. I will take a look at covering this more in depth in a future podcast episode. I do have a few ideas for you right now.

It’s really about accessing the right website (or tool) for the task.

  • For general depth of records I turn first to Ancestry.com (you only need the world edition if you need records outside of the U.S.), and then FamilySearch.org. With Ancestry.com, I make sure I use the card catalog and search by location tool (scroll down to the map) so I’m not missing all the record sets that don’t automatically jump to the top of the general search results. FamilySearch is free, so I check its online resources EVERY TIME I have a question. I check both browsable and indexed content (from the main screen, click Search, then Records, then scroll down and click Browse all Published Collections (or click to that screen here). You’ll be able to choose a location and see all content they have and whether it’s been indexed or you just have to browse through it (like reading microfilm, only online).
  • For me personally, I was slow to warm up to MyHeritage because I just wasn’t sure how it would best help me. Once I embraced it and posted my tree, its strength in my research became clear: for the first time ever I connected with a distant cousin in the “old country” (Germany)! The international user base of MyHeritage stands above other sites. And the fact that you can create your own family site on MyHeritage makes it a great ongoing resource for staying connected. (Disclosure: MyHeritage is a sponsor of the Genealogy Gems podcast. However, that is because of the value I came to experience in my own research as I just mentioned.)
  • When I am focused on my husband’s British roots I head to FindMyPast and pay as I go as needed.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistOur mission here at Genealogy Gems is to reveal innovative ways of using the myriad of tech tools so you’ll know you can turn to them only when you need them. Think of it as a toolbelt. The right tool for the right job! But I also only bring tech tools and websites to the podcast and my website that I believe are worthwhile. Believe it or not, I weed a lot of them out!

I hope that helps, and I wish you great genealogical success!”  Lisa

Why Your Genealogy Research Could be Going to the Dogs

"More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate." Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page. No known copyright restrictions.

“More Besties from the Clonbrock Estate.” Taken September 22, 1883. National Library of Ireland photograph, posted at Flickr Creative Commons National Library of Ireland on the Commons page (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nlireland/). No known copyright restrictions.

Did your Irish ancestors have a dog? Over 3.5 million Irish Dog Licence registers have been added to a collection already online at FindMyPast. “Now containing over 6 million records, the Irish Dog Licences list not only the name, breed, colour and sex of your ancestor’s four legged friend, but also the owner’s address and the date the licence was issued, making them a valuable census substitute,” says a recent FMP press release.

Also new on the site are other notable collections, as described by FMP:

  • Trade Union Membership registers (3.4 million+ records) with digitized images of original records books from 9 different unions. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, names of spouses, and a number of unions published profiles of their members or those who held offices. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). These records allow you to follow your ancestor’s progress within the union and perhaps uncover previously unknown details of their working lives and careers. The documents can also include details about the trade unions themselves, such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business. Many trade unions also included international branches from Ireland to Australia to Spain and Belgium.
  • Indexes to over 28,000 articles in 2000+ PERSI-indexed periodicals. These include magazines, newsletters and journals, according to location, topic, surname, ethnicity and methodology. (Learn more about PERSI on FindMyPast in our blog post on the topic.)
  • Peninsular War, British Army Officers 1808-1814 dataset, compiled by Captain Lionel S. Challis of the Queen’s Westminster Rifles shortly after WW1. Using Army lists, Gazettes, despatches, official records and regimental histories, Challis gathered information on more than 9,600 officers who fought for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars and recorded them on index cards. Each record contains an image of the original handwritten index cards and a transcript.
  • South Australia Births 1842-1928. Over 727,000 records and date back to when the compulsory registration of births first began in 1842. Sourced from an index transcribed by volunteers from the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldry Society Inc., each records consists of a transcript that usually includes the child’s full name, gender, date of birth, place of birth and registration number. The names of both parents will also be included and in some cases the mother’s maiden name will also be present. South Australia’s colonial origins are unique in Australia as a freely settled, planned British province.
  • South Australia Marriages 1842-1937 contain over 457,000 records. Each record includes a transcript that can contain a variety of information such as the first and last names of the bride and groom, their ages, birth years, marital status, the date and place of their marriage as well as their fathers’ first and last names.
  • South Australia Deaths 1842-1972 contain over 605,000 records and span 130 years of the state’s history. Each record consists of a transcript that usually lists the deceased’s full name, gender, status, birth year, date of death, place of death, residence, the name of the informant who notified authorities of their death and their relationship to the informant.

Ancestry_searchAre you making the most of your online searches at FindMyPast and other genealogy websites? What about on Google? Learn more about search strategies that work in this blog post!

NEW! Map for African-American Genealogy Resources after the Civil War

Mapping the Freedmens Bureau African-American genealogy ReconstructionThe time period after the U.S. Civil War is a messy era for searching for African-American ancestors from the South. Millions of people were emerging from slavery, without documented histories of who they were or who they were related to–many without even consistent first and last names.

A NEW website helps researchers locate important African-American genealogy resources from the post-war Reconstruction era. Mapping the Freedmen’s Bureau is a map-based tool for helping you find the Freedmen’s Bureau offices and hospitals, Freedman’s Bank offices, “Contraband Camps,” U.S. Colored Troops battle sites and other locations nearest your ancestors that may have created records about them. Many of these record sets are just coming online or are newly indexed and are free to search, so the timing couldn’t be better.

What a fantastic tool! I’m so pleased to see this site. Now those who know what location they’re starting with can easily glance at a map and click to see which of these resources exist in a specific locale and where to find them online or offline.

Listen to my interview with African-American genealogy research expert Deborah Abbott, PhD, in the FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 159.

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.

NEW! Nova Scotia and South African Genealogy Records on FamilySearch

world_flags_moving_300_wht_7675Among the 3.7 million+ records new on FamilySearch this week are two updates that caught my eye for international regions that need more record sets online:

Nearly 1.4 million images are now browsable in a newly-posted collection of Nova Scotia, Canada, probate records dating from 1760-1993.  According to FamilySearch, “This collection includes records of probate proceedings from Nova Scotia. The records include estate files, inventories, wills, administrations and other records related to probate. Most of the records are dated from 1800-1940, but coverage varies by area.”

Nearly 400,000 digitized parish registers for the Church of the Province of South Africa (1801-2004) have now been indexed. FamilySearch describes the collection as “digital images and partial index of parish registers of the ‘Church of the Province of South Africa.’ Since 2006, the church has been officially known as the ‘Anglican Church of Southern Africa.’ Original records are contained within the collection of the William Cullen Library, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The Church presently includes dioceses in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Saint Helena, South Africa and Swaziland. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.”

I hope these datasets can help your South African genealogy or help you find your Nova Scotia kin.

Inspiring Ideas in Genealogy Gems Podcast 173

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family History“We all need a little inspiration now and then!”

That’s Lisa’s theme for the recently-released FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 173 (click here for the podcast in iTunes, and here for how to our app). Here are the highlights:

  • Lisa talks about creating family history ambiance in her new home office. The podcast episode page includes a picture of her new heritage display. (I love the vintage cameras and family photos.)
  • Catch Diahan Southard chatting about exciting updates to autosomal DNA research at AncestryDNA.com.
  • We hear from a listener with an inspiring story about using MyHeritage.com. If you still mentally categorize MyHeritage as “best for non-US only” research, check out this story of discovering a Civil War casualty in her family through MyHeritage. (Did you catch our recent post about the new institutional MyHeritage access at FamilySearch Centers?)
  • genealogy book club genealogy gemsLisa and I chat about the fantastic response we’re hearing to the launch of the NEW Genealogy Gems Book Club and some additional reading suggestions from listeners. Click here to read about books recommended by two of YOU.
  • Finally, catch our link to a story about a couple who is celebrating 80 years of marriage. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is!

Finally, in this episode Lisa also catches us up on some exciting news: a digital WWI archive on Europeana; newly-available German records the 1865 New York (US) state census online; and plans to digitize important Indiana records. Catch up on all the great news and get inspired in Genealogy Gems podcast 173!

Savvy DNA Shopping Tip: Transfer Genealogy DNA Test Results to FTDNA for FREE

DNA shopperSavvy shopping can save you money and time. So what does savvy DNA shopping look like? Genetic genealogy tests–yDNA, autosomal and mDNA–do require a financial investment. They aren’t cheap. But they can save you hours of traditional research and give you results that no paper trail may provide.

Three main companies are currently selling autosomal DNA tests (that’s the test that is not limited to a direct maternal or a direct paternal line, and that can help you find genetic cousins with connections back as far as six or seven generations).  Those three companies, 23andMe.com, DNA Ancestry and Family Tree DNA  are all competing for you genetic genealogy dollar. All offer a good service, and it can be difficult to decide who to give your $99 to.

When your success or failure in finding matches depends entirely on who else has also been tested, it would be nice to have a crystal ball to tell you which testing company has the most participants who are useful to your research. FTDNA has no crystal ball, but they now are offering a reasonable substitute: FREE access to their database for anyone who has test results from 23andMe (if you received results before November of 2013) and AncestryDNA. Yes, I said FREE!

There are conditions. You can see your first 20 matches (but they can’t see you), and try out some of the tools that FTDNA has to help you identify how you are related to others. To have full access to the tools and results, you can pay $38, or just recruit four of your family members or friends to transfer, and then your transfer is FREE.

So, if you have been tested by Ancestry or 23andMe, run, don’t walk, to transfer your Y-DNA results to Family Tree DNA and take a look inside their version of the crystal ball. If you haven’t “done DNA” yet, currently the best option is to be tested with AncestryDNA and then transfer to FTDNA.” (watch for holiday sales, which would probably drop the price to $79). This gives you access to TWO databases of potential relatives for around $110–if you are a savvy shopper!

DNA Guide Cheat Sheet Diahan Southard

Final DNA shopping tip: be an educated consumer! Check out these quick guides I wrote to help genealogists find and use the DNA products that will help their research. Purchase each guide individually or pick up all 4 for the best deal!

Visit my website to learn about expert consultations with me. You’ll get customized guidance on which tests to order and how to maximize your results for your genealogy research.

MORE German Genealogy Records at Ancestry.com

German genealogy recordsNearly 12 million German genealogy records are newly searchable on Ancestry.com! You’ll find these in more than 30 databases of civil registrations of birth, marriages, residences and deaths between 1874-1950.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • around a million each of births and  deaths for Berlin, and about 2 million marriages;
  • over a million parish register transcripts for Pomerania and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (some are updates to existing records);
  • over 300,000 records of the Rhineland-Palatinate area (family registers, marriages and emigration registers);
  • over a million vital records for Saxony.

Click here for a full description of these records, with direct links to each dataset. Happy hunting for your German roots!