October 25, 2014

Genealogical Double-Dating?!? The Julian Calendar Explained

Julian calendarDo you know about the Julian calendar and how it can REALLY throw your genealogy research off?

I knew about this but I’ve never heard it explained as simply as Margery Bell does in the Family History podcast episode 43, just republished and re-released on the Genealogy Gems website. Click on the link to see show notes from the episode with a great summary of what the Julian calendar is and how it can affect your research.

In this podcast episode you’ll learn things like:

  • the definition of “double-dating” in the historical calendar and how to interpret those dates;
  • the fact that different countries switched over from the Julian calendar at greatly different times;
  • why Washington’s birthdate, as recorded in his family Bible, is not the birthdate celebrated today in the U.S.;
  • why several days are missing from the 1752 calendar;
  • how to translate dates from the Julian calendar to today’s Gregorian calendar.

I hope you enjoy this FREE podcast episode! And why not share it with a genealogy buddy? It’s a great topic for beginning and more experienced family history researchers.

 

Find a Grave Canada: Now Search by Province!

badge_button_canadian_flag_400_wht_1996Genealogy Gems Premium member Ken Lange recently wrote us about a GEM of his own he’d like to share with everyone. If you’ve got Canadian ancestors, check this out!

Mailbox question from Beginning Genealogist“Dear Lisa,

I just renewed my Premium membership (thanks so much for all you do there, BTW), which reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to pass on to you with respect to Find-A-Grave.

Now, for the most part, we all love Find A Grave, and I’m sure everyone has benefited from information gleaned from the site at some point in time.  However, as a Canadian, I have long been frustrated by the fact that when searching for memorials in Canada, you can’t narrow the search down even to a province… Canada is a big country, and while not at populous as the US, this still leads to unnecessary sifting through records, especially for common surnames.

I don’t know if there are existing tools out there to address this problem, and I’m hoping that Ancestry will fix this sometime soon. But out of frustration a while back I took matters into my own hands and modified the Find a Grave search page for Canadian searches so that you can at least specify a province. Here is a public link to the file:

Find a Grave Search Page for Canadian Searches

I don’t know if it will work with all browsers in all environments, but I’ve had it working in IE, Firefox, and Chrome.”

WOW! This is cool. I recently discovered a Canadian great-aunt on my dad’s side of the family. All I’ve learned so far is that her last name was Maier or O’Maier (depending on how you read the record), that she was born in Canada, and that her parents were born in Germany. She married my great-uncle in Idaho, so I’m guessing she came down through British Columbia or Alberta. A quick search using this interface tells me there are no O’Maiers in Findagrave in either province, but sorts several possible Maiers neatly into both those provinces. I’m still a long way from answers, but I can see how helpful this will be to those with Canadian roots!

Atten-TION! Calling all War of 1812 Graves

tombstone_message_11293 (2)Do you have a U.S. ancestor who participated in the War of 1812? Do you have a picture of the grave?

The Federation of Genealogical Societies and cemetery website BillionGraves recently announced a joint project to image all of gravestone markers for participants of the War of 1812.

“The images from these markers, coupled with the Federation’s current project to raise the funds to digitize the 7.2 million images of the pensions for those who participated in the War of 1812 are a natural fit,” said D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS.

Hudson Gunn, President of BillionGraves said, “Our focus is to see that the nation’s military headstones are documented and preserved for future generations. Headstones from early American history are quickly deteriorating, making it only a matter of time before they are lost forever. We are very pleased to have the Federation lend its help to spread this message for the War of 1812 veterans.”

As many as 350,000 men may have served in the war. Although it is impossible to know how many may have cemetery markers, there could be as many as 50,000-80,000 markers for these veterans.

BillionGraves and The Federation of Genealogical Societies are asking anyone with knowledge of  War of 1812 graves to upload the image of the marker to the BillionGraves website  using their free mobile application during the month of July to honor and remember the service of those who served in the “Second Revolution.”

Join the Crowd: International Indexing Challenge THIS Sunday

join_the_puzzle_crowd_400_wht_10889FamilySearch is hosting a worldwide crowd-sourcing challenge aimed at establishing a new record for the most volunteer indexing participants online in a single day.

The challenge will take place during the 24-hour period beginning at 6:00 p.m. (MDT in Utah, USA) on Sunday, July 20. (Local start times and status updates can be found on the FamilySearch Facebook event page.) Already one of the largest and most successful volunteer transcription programs in history, FamilySearch indexing is looking to top its one-day record of 49,025 individual contributors.

“Our stated goal is 50,000 volunteers participating in a single day, though we think the potential exists to surpass that mark by a considerable amount,” said Mike Judson, indexing workforce manager for FamilySearch. “All it takes to be counted in the record is to submit one batch. With hundreds of thousands of past indexing volunteers and thousands more joining weekly, breaking the record won’t take much if people will commit to spend the 30 minutes or so required to finish and submit a batch.”

Indexing  is the process of transcribing information from historical documents to make them freely searchable online at FamilySearch.org. FamilySearch indexers perform the initial transcribing of names from home or wherever they can connect to the Internet. FamilySearch arbitrators (advanced indexers) check to ensure consistency and accuracy. Since FamilySearch indexing started in 2006, this crowdsourcing effort has produced more than one billion freely searchable records that have helped millions of people to find their ancestors.

The prior record of 49,025 indexers and arbitrators in a single day was set on July 2, 2012. To be counted in the new record, each indexer or arbitrator must submit at least one indexing or arbitration batch during the 24-hour period. Volunteers and potential volunteers can visit https://familysearch.org/indexing/ to learn more.

Indexing projects are available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Polish, Swedish, Dutch, Russian, and Japanese. Volunteers are invited to work on any project but are strongly encouraged to work in their native language.

FREE WWI Genealogy Records on MyHeritage.com (Just in July!)

MH_logo_VerticalTo commemorate 100 years since WWI, MyHeritage has granted free access to various record collections from now through the end of July. Were your ancestors among those who fought? Learn more about their service by searching hundreds of thousands of WWI military records.

Enjoy FREE access to these collections until the end of July:

Silver War Badge Recipients, 1914 – 1918

British Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919

The National Roll of the Great War, 1914 – 1918

Tennessee WWI Veterans

Ireland’s Memorial Records, 1914 – 1918

Royal Navy and Royal Marine Casualties, 1914 – 1919

De Ruvigny’s Roll Of Honour 1914-1924

Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations 1914 – 1920

British Officers Taken as Prisoners of War, 1914 – 1918

British Military Officers

Victoria Cross Recipients, 1854 – 2006

You can also search all their military collections in one go.

Discover the wartime roles your relatives played in our online record database of WWI military records. This free offer ends July 31, so start your search today!

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?

Findmypast + Origins.net = More British and Irish Records!

three_intersecting_arrow_circles_standout_11882Findmypast.co.uk announced recently that it has bought Origins.net, an early pioneer of online records.

“Origins.net specializes in unusual and often hard to find British and Irish records,” says a Findmypast press release. “Its many early records include rare marriage indexes, apprentices and poor law records….Its National Wills Index, combined with collections currently on Findmypast and those in development, will provide the largest online resource for UK wills and probate material.”

What does this mean for users of both sites? “The extensive record sets from Origins will be brought into Findmypast over the next few months and the Origins website will continue to run as usual,” explains the press release.

Elaine Collins, Partnership Director of Findmypast said: “By joining together, we are able to offer customers the most comprehensive collection of British and Irish online records. This rich collection will help descendants of early North American settlers to bridge the gap to the old country, as well as anyone with UK ancestry looking to delve beyond 19th and 20th century records.”

Ian Galbraith, founder of Origins, said: “The partnership with Findmypast makes perfect sense for both companies and their customers. We have had a long association and together we can offer a broader family history experience and help people to fill in the blanks on the family tree and enrich their family story.”

A New Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights: You Can Sign It

genealogists declaration of rightsA new Genealogists’ Declaration of Rights was announced before a crowd of more than 2,500 genealogists at the NGS 2014 Family History Conference in Richmond, Virginia recently. Jordan Jones, President of the National Genealogical Society (NGS), a sponsoring member of the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC).

According to the NGS Press Release, “The Declaration of Rights is a statement advocating open access to federal, state, and local public records. The Declaration affirms America’s long history of open public records, which has been threatened the last few years over concerns about identity theft and privacy. The Records Preservation and Access Committee has worked with state and federal legislators as well as local public officials for more than twenty years in support of legislation and regulations that achieve a balance between access and privacy. The Declaration of Rights has been approved by the board of directors of the three sponsoring organizations: The National Genealogical Society (NGS), the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).”
Genealogists from all over the U.S. signed the Declaration at NGS, and will continue to do so in the coming months at the IAJGS Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Salt Lake City, Utah (27 July–1 August) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in San Antonio, Texas (27–30 August). You can click here to sign it electronically if you would like to (though you can’t do it in person.)

The press release further states, “Genealogists advocate the right of access to records held by government agencies including but not limited to vital records (births, marriages, deaths, divorces); land conveyances and mortgages; tax assessments; guardianships; probates of estates; criminal proceedings; suits of law and equity; immigration; military service and pensions; and acts of governmental entities. Genealogists further advocate that they need to be allowed access to original records when photocopies, microfilm, digital images, or other formats are insufficient to establish clear text, context, or completeness of the record. The rights of genealogists specified in the Declaration object to numerous barriers created to deny them access to records.

“Thousands of professional genealogists do research every day on behalf of clients, government agencies, and attorneys. Of particular note are the many forensic genealogists who assist the Department of Defense in locating heirs for the repatriation of remains from previous wars; assist county coroners in the identification of unclaimed persons; work with attorneys in locating missing and unknown heirs involving estates, trusts, real estate quiet title actions, oil and gas and mineral rights, and other similar legal transactions; trace and track heritable medical conditions where finding distant cousins can facilitate early treatment and possibly prevent a premature death; research stolen art and artifacts for repatriation; and identify American Indians, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians to determine eligibility for tribal benefits.”

Family History Episode 24 – Using Marriage Records in Family History

Family History PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy

with Lisa Louise Cooke

Republished March 25, 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 24: Using Marriage Records in Family History

So far in this podcast series you’ve made a lot of progress. You’ve set up your genealogy database, talked to your relatives, gotten familiar with the Family History Centers and you have your research worksheet to lead you in your investigation backwards in time, through death records and the census.

In today’s episode we’re going to continue working backwards down the records aisle looking for marriage records. Marriage records are a type of vital records, meaning they provide vital statistics for a person’s life. They can be a rich—even vital!—source of genealogical information.

Marriage records, like death and birth records (which we’ll be covering in an upcoming episode) are primary sources. This means that the record was completed at the event or very close to it by someone who was present at the event. That means it’s a pretty reliable source.

There are two types of marriage records: civil records which are recorded with the local government, usually at the county level, and church records, if the marriage took place in a church.

Update: Many government and church marriage records have found their way into major genealogical databases (www.Ancestry.com, www.FamilySearch.org, www.FindMyPast.org, www.MyHeritage.com, etc). Look for indexed records and—if you’re lucky—digitized versions of the actual record. (If you find only indexed records, use the process below to find copies of the actual record.)

Civil/Government Marriage Records

You need to determine where the marriage took place in order to figure out the proper civil authorities to contact. Usually that’s the clerk in the town, county, district or parish where the happy couple said “I do.” In the U.S., chances are it was at the county level, but if you’re not sure, do a Google search on the name of the county and the phrase “vital records” or “marriage records.” Chances are one of the first search results will be a link to the website for that county and hopefully the specific page that will tell you how to request vital records. There you should find specific instructions about how to make the request and any fees involved.

I have three tips for you:

  • Tip #1: Be sure and follow the instructions to the letter because otherwise you will likely have your request returned to you unfilled and asking for more information which just wastes time.
  • Tip #2: As with Death Records, it isn’t necessary to order a certified copy because you are not using it for legal reasons, just information reasons. Certified copies cost more and usually have more requirements to applying for them.
  • Tips #3 Request a complete photo copy (which is sometimes referred to as a LONG FORM) rather than a SHORT FORM which can be a brief transcription of the record. There may be clues in the original record that may be left out (or mistranscribed) in the SHORT FORM.

If all this sounds cumbersome there is an easier to request marriage records and that is through Vitalcheck.com (see below). While it costs more you can order the records quickly and easily online.

If you’re looking for civil records in England or Wales, those records have been officially recorded by local District Registrars who reported to the General Registrar Office since July 1, 1837. These records are probably easiest to access, particularly if you are not in the UK, through FindMyPast.com, which does charge a fee for each record.

Types of civil records:

  • Marriage application. I can’t guarantee they’re available in every county, but it’s definitely worth asking!
  • Marriage license. This record often holds the most genealogical value. It will include their names, ages, residences as well as perhaps their race, occupation, age, and perhaps their parents’ names.
  • Marriage register record. This confirms the marriage actually took place. This may be just a signature and date from the official who performed the marriage, and may be a small section at the end of the marriage license information. (The latter type of record may also be called a “marriage return” or minister’s return.”
  • Marriage certificate. While this record is part of the process it isn’t available through the vital records office. It would have been kept by the couple and will involve some looking around and asking relatives to see if it still exists.

Tip: A marriage license alone does not prove a marriage. A couple could easily apply for a license but never go through with the big day.

Church Marriage Records

Start looking for these records at the Family History Library (www.familysearch.org).

Other places to look:

  • The church if it still exists. Search for their website. Contact the church office and ask if they have records for the time period you’re looking for. If they no longer have the records ask where they are being archived.
  • Check in with the closest local library and ask to talk to the reference desk.
  • Search the WorldCat catalog (see Links).
  • Check the US Gen Web site for the state and county where the marriage occurred (see Links). These sites are run by volunteers and each county has a different variety of records and resources available. Contact the local genealogy or and historical societies and ask for their help.

Other records to look for:

  • Banns of marriage records. Look for a record of the banns in the church minutes or church bulletins.
  • Newspaper marriage announcements. Tip: Keep in mind when you’re searching a newspaper database and you find a listing for what appears to be the right family in the right area but the date is way off, be sure and check it out because it just may be a republishing of the news you were looking for! (Learn more about newspaper research in my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.)

Links/Updates

FamilySearch. To search for marriage records by place, click on Search, then Catalog, then search by location. You’ll find both government and church marriage records listed here. Look at the county level for U.S. government records; look at the municipal level or under the Church records category for church marriage records.

USGenWeb

WorldCat

VitalChek

Obituaries in Newspapers are Going Online

custom_classifieds_12091 (1)More obituaries gleaned from newspapers are going online. This is welcome news for those researching their  genealogy.

Recently I blogged about BillionGraves’ new Supporting Records feature that allows users to upload documentation relating to ancestors’ deaths. This paves the way for more obituaries to be paired with ancestral tombstones and other resources. At RootsTech we learned about 2 more online obit projects:

Newspaper Obituaries at FamilySearch

1. FamilySearch is spearheading the indexing of millions of obituaries from the U.S.,  followed by other nations. CEO Dennis Brimhall announced this initiative in his keynote speech at RootsTech. “Estimates claim over 500 million obituaries exist in the U.S. alone,” said Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO. “The average obituary can contain the names of about ten family members of the deceased—parents, spouse, children, and other relatives. Making them easily searchable online can be an enormous future source for creating our family histories. The number of people who will benefit is incalculable. It could very well be the single largest preservation and access project of its kind, and will no doubt be one of the most used online collections worldwide as it grows.”

The timing of completion depends on volunteer efforts, Brimhall says. He hopes to see 100 million names indexed in 2014, but that will require “tens of thousands of additional volunteers.”  (Want to help? Go to FamilySearch.org/indexing.)

Upload Newspaper Obituaries at ObitsAncestry

ObitsAncestry2. A new website, ObitsAncestry.com, allows individuals to upload obituaries for free, along with up to 4 related images. The obituary webpage is like the memorial pages hosted by many funeral homes, where loved ones can post comments and memories. But there’s no advertising, so it’s very respectful and “quiet.” Anyone searching for that loved one’s name will find the obituary indexed by major search engines. And perhaps most useful for the future, “All obituaries submitted to ObitsAncestry.com will be indexed and linked by familysearch.org for family history and genealogical purposes.” That gives me a little more confidence in the “staying power” of obituaries I would post there. The site just launched during RootsTech, so their database is growing now.

Available at http://genealogygems.com

Available at http://genealogygems.com

Of course many obituaries are already searchable through digitized newspaper websites. But the accuracy rate for searching these isn’t as high–I’ve seen it reported it as about 60%. Which is a great start, don’t get me wrong, but I’m so pleased that better searching of obituaries is in the works!

Want to learn more about using newspapers and obituaries in genealogy? Check out Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.