April 27, 2015

Find Your Family History in the 1950s

1950s Fords by Bob P.B. on Flickr Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

1950s Fords by Bob P.B. on Flickr Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

When we try to research our family history from recent decades, we often find privacy barriers: U.S. census records for 1950 and beyond are closed, as are many vital records. Here are some ideas for finding family history in the 1950s and beyond:

1. Interview relatives. The good news is that in many families, there are relatives around who remembers the 1950s. If there’s not, then look to the memories of the next living generation.

Interviewing a relative is one of the most fun and meaningful ways to learn your family history. You can ask specific and personal questions, deepen your relationships with those you interview and gain a better understanding of the lives that led to you. Older people often love to have someone take a sincere interest in them. The free Family History Made Easy podcast episode 2 has a great segment on interviewing your relatives.

2. Read the newspaper. Use newspapers to find obituaries and discover more about daily life, current events, popular opinions of the time, prices for everyday items and more. It’s getting easier than ever to find and search digitized newspapers online, but more recent papers may still be under copyright protection.

Use online resources like to discover what newspapers served your family’s neighborhood, or even whether an ethnic, labor or religious press would have mentioned them. In the US, I always start with the US Newspaper Directory at Chronicling America to search for ALL newspapers published in a particular place and time, as well as the names of libraries or archives that have copies of these papers. Historical societies and local public libraries are also wonderful places to look for newspapers. My book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, teaches readers what to look for in papers and how to locate them online and offline.

3. Search city directories. By the 1950s, most towns and cities published directories of residents, mostly with telephone numbers. I use annual directory listings to track families from year to year. These might give you your first clue that someone moved, married, separated, divorced or died! I can often find their exact street address (great for mapping!), who lived at the house and sometimes additional information like where they worked, what their job was or who they worked for.

Ancestry.com has over a billion U.S. city directory entries online, up to 1989. But most other online city directory collections aren’t so recent. Look for city directories first in hometown public libraries. Check with larger regional or state libraries and major genealogical libraries.

4. Search for historical video footage. YouTube isn’t just for viral cat videos. Look there for old newsreels, people’s home movies and other vintage footage. It’s not unusual to find films showing the old family neighborhood, a school or community function, or other footage that might be relevant to your relatives.

Use the YouTube search box like you would the regular Google search box. Enter terms like “history,” “old,” “footage,” or “film” along with the names, places or events you hope to find. For example, the name of a parade your relative marched in, a team he played on, a company she worked for, a street he lived on and the like. It’s hit and miss, for sure, but sometimes you can find something very special.

My Contributing Editor Sunny Morton tried this tip. Almost immediately, with a search on the name of her husband’s ancestral hometown and the word “history,” she found a 1937 newsreel with her husband’s great-grandfather driving his fire truck with his celebrity dog! She recognized him from old photos and had read about his dog in the newspapers. (Click here to read her stunned post.) Learn more about searching for old videos in my all-new second edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, which has a totally updated chapter on YouTube.

Click here to read more about the 1950s U.S. census: when it will be out and how you can work around its privacy restrictions.

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RootsTech Hits the Road! RootsTech Family Discovery Days Coming Your Way!

overhead_freeway_custom_sign_16324Were you among the record-breaking audience of 23,918 attendees at RootsTech 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah? Even if you were, chances are you didn’t catch all the top talks.

RootsTech staffers have announced that over 1000 FREE regional RootsTech events, called RootsTech Discovery Days, will be hosted around the world throughout 2015. “Select sessions and planning resources from RootsTech 2015 have been recorded, translated in 10 languages, and made available online to support…local volunteer organizers,” says a media statement.

“By the first week following the conference, 65 local family discovery day events had already been held, including 27 in Latin America, one in Korea, and another in the Philippines. Over 1,000 more events are expected to be held throughout 2015, significantly extending the reach and impact of this popular conference.”

Click here to search for a RootsTech Family Discovery Day event near you. We notice that there plenty of options across the U.S. and in England, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Where do YOU want to look for an event?

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

Lisa speaks to a packed audience at RootsTech 2015.

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Working-Class Roots? British Trade Union Records Now at FindMyPast

construction_tools_cross_icon_400_wht_15780Do you have ancestors who may have been part of a British Trade Union? They could have been carpenters, joiners, cabinetmakers, lithographic artists, engravers, printers, paper makers, railway servants, watermen, bargement, lightermen, woodworkers, newspaper proofreaders, school teachers, compositors, printers, boilermakers and even local government workers.  Explore these new British Trade Union records at FindMyPast.com:

British Trade Union Membership Registers are now available to browse–257 volumes of them! According to FindMyPast, “These consist of digitized images of original records books from nine different unions. The documents [like admission books, annual reports and membership lists] include details about individual members that can enrich your genealogical research such as payments made, benefits received, names of spouses, profiles of leading members, directories of secretaries and details of Union activities and proceedings.”

Britain, Trade Union Members, Service and Casualties is a new related dataset with over 61,000 entries. It contains the details of members from 18 different unions. The records are a collection of union documents from the war years and do not solely feature individuals who participated in the First World War. The records include daily trade union news and business and frequently acknowledge members who have left for war or joined the services. Many include pages of the union’s Roll of Honour and some include photographs of the members or feature short profiles about specific members. The most extraordinary of the records is the Workers’ Union Record, which regularly features full pages of photographs of service men.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a tip: Obituaries can be an excellent source of information about an ancestor’s working life. Click here to see an example of my own relative’s working life in his obituary. Click here to read more about finding recent obituaries, which are coming online in droves (by the million, in newly-indexed and/or digitized format). Learn more about finding obituaries (online or offline) in Lisa Louise Cooke’s book Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print or e-book editions.

 

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Calling Volunteers: Help Index Italian Civil Registration Records

Volunteers neededIt’s National Volunteer Week in the United States. What better time to put out a call for help? Volunteers are desperately needed to help index the biggest Italian records project yet: Italian civil registration records. At current rates, it won’t be fully indexed for another 100 years.

“FamilySearch’s Italian Ancestors Project is arguably the most genealogically significant initiative ever for Italy and all Italian descendants,” explains Paul Nauta from FamilySearch. “Over 115 million historic birth, marriage, and death records from every state of Italy are being digitally preserved and published online.

“Online volunteers are needed to index these records to make every name easily searchable online for free—over 500 million names from the birth, marriage, and death records, 1802 to 1944.  With the current base of volunteers, it will take over 100 years to complete. With more online volunteers helping, the initiative could be completed in as little as 10 years.”

Watch a short video about indexing these records below, or keep reading below for other opportunities to pitch in during National Volunteer Week:

Click to read Genealogy Gems posts on volunteering by:

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We Dig These Gems: New Genealogy Records Online

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

This week we highlight lots of British records and the WWI era:

UK SCHOOL RECORDS. FindMyPast has posted two new datasets on this topic. British School & University Memorial Rolls, 1914-1918 includes over 58,500 students from prominent UK universities who fought in World War I. And nearly 2 million names have been added to the UK National School Admission Registers & Log-Books, 1870-1914. These cover students in England and Wales, 1870 to 1914. FindMyPast says, “Explore their school records to find their birth date, admission year and the school they attended. You may also be able to discover their parents’ names, father’s occupation, exam results and any illnesses that led to absence from school.”

UK TAX RECORDS. About 10 million records and more than a half million images have been added to England, Westminster Rate Books, 1634–1900 at FamilySearch. According to the site, “This collection contains rate books from various parishes in Westminster City from 1634-1900. The rate books were an assessment of tax that was owed and are an excellent census substitute.” The index comes from FindMyPast, where subscribers can also search this collection.

UK WWI SERVICE RECORDS. Over 4 million records have been added to United Kingdom, World War I Service Records, 1914–1920. “This collection contains World War I service records from 1914-1920,” says the collection description. “It contains records from two publications in the National Archives: WO 363 (War Office: Soldiers’ Documents, First World War “Burnt Documents”) and WO 364 (War Office: Documents from Pension Claims, First World War).”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064

Google owns YouTube, the world’s most popular online video channel. More and more historical footage is being posted on YouTube, from amateur home movies to rare news footage and more. The search box is your best tool for finding footage of events, places and people, including World War I and II events. Conduct a search with the keywords that best describe what you’re looking for. After that initial search, the Filters button will appear: click the down arrow to reveal more search options and options to sort search results. Click here to see rare video footage I found on YouTube that made my jaw drop–it’s my husband’s great-grandfather, his fire truck and his dog.

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Land Ownership Maps: New Online Property Map Tools for U.S. Genealogy Research

Screenshot from First Landowners Project video, shown below.

Screenshot from First Landowners Project video, shown below.

Do you ever find it difficult locate U.S. property owned by your ancestors? Two online resources for land ownership maps are available by subscription at HistoryGeo.com, which might just prove helpful!

The First Landowners Project aims to map out the original landowners in public land states. Currently, they’ve charted about 8.8 million original landowners from 21 different states (Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin). “We will continue to add more of the Western states soon,” says a recent press release. “Information on eastern states can be found on our frequently asked questions blog entry.” Watch a video demonstration of this project below. Click here to read a detailed description of it.

The Antique Maps Project is a growing collection of historical maps that contain names of U.S. landowners. Their comment: “Many of these maps are indexed and searchable, and the ones that are not will be (thanks to our volunteer labeling program).” Watch a video about this project below:

Learn more about great mapping tools for genealogy by searching our blog by the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Premium PresentationMaps category (do this from our home page, lower left side). Or become a Genealogy Gems Premium member to gain a full year’s access to video classes like:

  • 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps
  • Google Earth for Genealogy (use Google Earth to identify an old photo location)
  • Google Earth: Follow Your World
  • Time Travel with Google Earth
  • and NEW! Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

 

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Walka walka walka: New Google PAC-Maps!

pacman2It may not help with genealogy, but Google Maps just got a lot more fun!

Yep, it’s PAC-Maps, and with this latest update you can find where NOT to go! Google has added imagery of “dangerous virtual beings, starting with Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde. When navigating fruit-filled streets, determine at a glance which turns to pass to evade ghosts and get where you’re going safely. When you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can simply gobble up a few pac-dots or a cherry and keep on nommin’.”

I’m a little embarrassed to say how many hours I spent playing PAC-MAN in high school. Back then we had to hunch over a machine located next to the bathrooms at the local pizza parlor. Now you can take a break from your brick walls and walka walka walka around the world from the comfort of your desk. With PAC-Maps you can navigate select locations using the left, right, up or down arrows on your keyboard. Below is a screen shot from the desktop version:

desktop google pac maps

 

Actually, PAC-MAN isn’t new to Googlers. Back on May 21, 2010 (yep, it’s official, I’m a Google geek) Google’s home page featured a desktop version that you can still play here.

Genealogists Google Toolbox 2nd edition coverWhen you’re ready to head back to your genealogy brick wall, take my new book with you. The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition makes Googling for your family tree easier than every!

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DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

Slave traders in Senegal. "Marchands d'esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526" by Rama - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Slave traders in Senegal. “Marchands d’esclaves de Gorée-Jacques Grasset de Saint-Sauveur mg 8526″ by Rama – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Click to see image online.

Did you hear what has been discovered about the remains of three Caribbean slaves found on the island of St. Martin? Scientific techniques identified them as two males and one female, all between 25 and 40 years of age, who were buried around the mid-to-late-1600s.

But where were they from? It took DNA to help answer that question, with a process very similar to that used to identify our ethnic origins in DNA testing today.

First, scientists had to retrieve DNA from the sun-bleached, humidity-soaked remains. Their first stop: the teeth. Traditional DNA extraction and analysis methods failed, but results were found with a new method called whole genome capture. You can think of this method like unleashing an army of vigilantes on your DNA, each one tasked with bringing back a particular portion for analysis. While this method was far more successful, it still was only able to find 7% of the DNA of the best sample.

Second, they needed a reference population: a group of Africans to compare these results to in order to find a match. There is such a group assembled, which contains 11 of the likely 50 population groups that contributed to the slave trade.  Keep in mind that in Africa, especially at that time, populations were not defined by geography as much as language. So when you hear African populations defined, it is often according to their relationship to one very large language group in Africa, called Bantu. There are really two groups: those that are Bantu speakers, and those who are not.

Even with the incomplete DNA and the limited reference population, the group was able to determine that two of the slaves belonged to non-Bantu speaking tribes, likely in present day Ghana or Nigera, while the third was Bantu speaking, possibly from northern Cameroon.

Finding ancient samples such as these, and having technology enough to analyze them, if even just a small part, has huge implications for the future of genetic genealogy, and family history. These kinds of genetic techniques can help place you in a genealogical relationship with another person, where your traditional genealogical methods could not.  Family history, the substance and story of your relationship, inevitably follows.

I think Fatimah Jackson, a biologist and anthropologist at Howard University, said it best. “It seems to me that, as a scientist, the best way to ‘honor’ these unfortunate individuals is to allow their story to be told,” she says. “The story of a few can illuminate the condition of the masses.” We may never know the names and specific life histories of this woman and two men any more than we already do. But DNA has gotten us closer to telling at least some of their story. Click here to read the scientific study.

DNA and genealogyAre you ready to let your genetics help tell your story? Learn more about DNA testing with my Getting Started in Genetic Genealogy Quick Guide, available now in the Genealogy Gems store. In fact, I have a whole series of Guides there on using DNA for genealogy. Check them all out! 

If you’re ready for some one-on-one consulting to see what DNA can tell you about your family history, visit my website to learn more.

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Attend Free sessions in the NERGC 2015 exhibit hall

NERGC-frontI am coming to New England in a few weeks to keynote at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC 2015). Will you be there, too? Come say hello!

Here are the classes I’ll be teaching:

  • Tech Day (Track 2) – Wednesday – 15 April 2015 – 10:45am – How to Turn your iPad or Tablet into a Genealogy Powerhouse
  • Tech Day (Track 1) – Wednesday – 15 April 2015 – 3:15pm – How to Use Google Earth for Genealogy
  • T-118 – Thursday – 16 April 2015 – 3:15pm – How to Use Evernote for Genealogy
  • S-329 – Saturday – 18 April 2015 – 3:15pm – Master Using Google for Common Surname Searches
  • S-344 – Saturday – 18 April 2015 – BANQUET – 7:00pm – The Google Earth Genealogy Game Show

I’ll also be giving a series of Outside the Box presentations in the Exhibitor Hall alongside New Englander Maureen Taylor (The Photo Detective) and Janet Hovorka (Family Tree Chartmasters). Here’s a schedule:

NERGC-schedule

New England genealogy conference NERGC 2015More about NERGC:

The conference theme, “Navigating the Past: Sailing into the Future”, references the distinctive history of Rhode Island, while focusing on methodology with “navigating the past” and looking towards the changes of the future (technology, passing on information, and getting kids involved in genealogy). There’s nearly 100 lectures over two and-a-half days,  with levels ranging from beginner to expert. There’s an Exhibit Hall (where I’ll be!), Society Fair, Special Interest Groups, and an Ancestors Road Show, in which I will also be participating. Click here to learn more.

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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: a photo archives for Canadian Mennonites, a Georgia state newspaper collection, a genealogy index for a northeast Ohio archive and WWII Cadet Nursing Corps membership cards (US).

CANADIAN MENNONITE PHOTO ARCHIVE: A new database is now online with over 80,000 images of Mennonite life from across Canada and dating back to 1860s. A press release says that the archive “is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada  and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.” An online ordering system allows visitors to order image copies for noncommercial use.

GEORGIA NEWSPAPERS: The Digital Library of Georgia has launched an archive of north Georgia historical newspapers. “The North Georgia Historic Newspapers Archive provides online access to six newspaper titles published in three north Georgia cities (Dalton, Gainesville, and Rome) from 1850 to 1922. Consisting of over 33,000 newspaper pages, the archive provides historical images that are both full-text searchable and can be browsed by date. The site is compatible with all current browsers and the newspaper page images can be viewed without the use of plug-ins or additional software downloads. The archive includes the following north Georgia newspaper titles: Gainesville News (1902-1922), Georgia Cracker (Gainesville) (1894-1902), North Georgia Citizen (Dalton) (1868-1921), Rome Courier (1850-1855), Rome Tri-Weekly Courier (1860-1880), Rome Weekly Courier (1860-1878). The Digital Library of Georgia will add additional titles from the region over time.

OHIO GENEALOGY INDEX. The Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, OH has created an online Genealogy Index to some of its most valuable and unique genealogical records, including original funeral home and Bible records. Also in the index are Jewish marriages and death notices, an index of names in a significant African-American manuscript collection, a 1907 Cleveland voter registration index, a photo database of Cleveland military personnel from WWII and the Korean War and a biographical sketch name index. Currently, there are about 320,000 records in the index; more are being added on an ongoing basis. The Society primarily archives records relating to Cleveland and northeast Ohio. Soon to be added are indexes to the 1870 mortality census for Ashtabula, Ohio and indexes to several church records collections.

WWII CADET NURSING CORPS (US): The WWII Cadet Nursing Corps Card Files, new on Fold3, contain membership cards of women who joined. According to Fold3, the cards “are organized by state, nursing school, and cadet name. Some cards include the date of admission to the school, date of admission to the corps, and date of graduation (or date of other reason for termination from the school). Others contain details like the woman’s marital status, father’s/husband’s name and profession, years of college completed, place of residence, and how they heard about the corps. Still others also record the woman’s age in addition to the previously mentioned information.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064To search for images you can use without violating copyright, do a keyword search in Google Images (or just do a keyword search from Google’s home page and then click “Images” above your search results). Click Search Tools. Another toolbar will pop up. Click “Usage rights.” You can sort search results by those that are labeled for reuse in different ways. You won’t capture every copyright-free image, but hopefully you’ll get a decent selection of options! 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.

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