May 29, 2015

3 Sources for Historic Maps that May Surprise You

Old maps are an essential tool for discovering more about your family’s history. If you have exhausted more traditional sources, here are three places to find maps that may surprise you.

#1 Surprising Finds within the David Rumsey Map Collection

www.davidrumsey.com

You’re probably aware that the David Rumsey map collection website is a terrific source for old maps. But you may be surprised by the variety of maps, some which you likely don’t come across every day. Here’s a fun little tactic I took today to see what it may hold in store beyond typical maps. A search of the word neighborhood reveals that their holdings go well beyond traditional maps. Here’s an example from San Francisco showing a neighborhood in its infancy:
google earth maps for genealogy

And the image below depicts the Country Club district of Kansas City in the 1930s. If your family lived there at that time, this is a real gem.

Google earth for genealogy maps

#2 Google Books

www.books.google.com

If you think Google Books is just books, think again. Historic maps, often unique and very specific, can often be found within those digitized pages. Try running a Google search such as: neighborhood map baltimore. 

Click the MORE menu and select BOOKS. Then click the SEARCH TOOLS button at the top of the results list, and from the drop down menu select ANY BOOKS and then click FREE GOOGLE BOOKS:

baltimore search

Select a book that looks promising. Then rather than reading through the pages or scanning the index, save loads of time by clicking the thumbnail view button at the top of the book. This way you can do a quick visual scan for pages featuring maps!

baltimore history

When you find a page featuring a map, click it display it on a single page. You can now use the clipper tool built right in to Google Books to clip an image of the map. Other options include using Evernote (free) or Snagit ($).

Google Image search for maps google books

#3 Old Newspapers at Chronicling America

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

Like Google Books, the digitized pages housed at the Chronicling America website contain much more than just text. Old newspapers printed maps to help readers understand current events like the progress of war or the effect of a natural disaster. This map from The Tacoma Times in 1914 shows a map of Europe and several quick facts about the “Great War,” World War I:

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

The Tacoma Times, August 22, 1914. Image from Chronicling America. Click on image to visit webpage.

Here’s one more example below. A search for “San Francisco earthquake” at Chronicling America brought up this bird’s eye view of San Francisco at the time of the major 1906 earthquake. Articles below the map explain what you’re seeing:

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

The Minneapolis Journal, April 19, 1906. Image at Chronicling America; click on image to see it there.

Learn more about using newspapers to understand your ancestors’ lives in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. 

Want more inspiring ideas for finding historic maps? Below is my FREE 8-minute video on using Sanborn maps. This is an excerpt from my Genealogy Gems Premium video, “5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” (Premium membership required to watch that full video along with others like “Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps.”)

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Female Census Enumerators? Check Out These Backstories!

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/.

A female census taker interviews a mother and child for the 1950 US Census. Image courtesy of the US Census Bureau, found at Flickr Creative Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/uscensusbureau/5020542240/in/photostream/.

There’s a story behind every census record. In fact, there are as many stories as there are names on each census page. This is true not just for people being enumerated, but also for the census-takers themselves.

I was reminded of this by Joanne, author of the Researching Relatives blog. She wrote in response to a blog post I wrote about a census taker a few months ago:

genealogy gems podcast mailbox“Thank you for inspiring me with one of your posts from October. I never paid attention to the census takers until I read your post, and then I went back and looked at some random pages and found two female census enumerators.”

Of course I went right to her blog. She says she looked through random census entries about her relatives without finding anything special. Then, “In the 1930 census, the enumerator was Anna M. Allen and, in 1940, it was Bessie Dorgan. I’m guessing that female census takers weren’t that unusual, but it still caught me by surprise. So like Lisa, I wanted to find out more.” She put her research skills to work and learned more about these women and their roles as providers for their family. Click here to read more about her discovery.

 

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastDo you blog about your family history? Have you ever blogged about a discovery made in response to a tip you got from Genealogy Gems? I’d love to hear about it! Learn more about blogging your family history in my FREE Family History Made Easy podcast, episodes 38-42. Learn how-tos and get inspired by the stories of others who are sharing their family history discoveries online!

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View-Master Toys are Going Virtual Reality

" The View-Master first appeared in 1939 at the New York Worlds Fair. My View-Master Model C, pictured here, was produced between 1946 and 1955. It was made from bakelite and was the first viewer to have a slot into which the reels were placed for viewing. Believe it or not, all reels made for any view master will work in any model from 1939 to present." Image by Jack Pearce, Flickr Creative Commons.  Image used without changes; find it at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwpearce/10725366513/.

” The View-Master first appeared in 1939 at the New York Worlds Fair. My View-Master Model C, pictured here, was produced between 1946 and 1955. It was made from bakelite and was the first viewer to have a slot into which the reels were placed for viewing. Believe it or not, all reels made for any view master will work in any model from 1939 to present.” Image by Jack Pearce, Flickr Creative Commons. Image used without changes; find it at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jwpearce/10725366513/.

Did you have a View-Master toy as a kid? Using these stereoscopic viewers (long before kids had cameras of their own), children could see pictures of any topic from Disney to dinosaurs to the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. According to a collector, whose image is posted here, “all reels made for any View-Master will work in any model from 1939 to the present.”

Well, this decades-only technology is about to get boosted into the 21st century. According to this news report, “Mattel is teaming up with Google on an upcoming virtual reality-based View-Master that is infused with Google Cardboard VR technology.”

“The Cardboard-based View-Master…will share some design elements with vintage View-Masters, but instead of dropping in a reel, you slide an Android smartphone into the unit. View-Master will work with a custom Mattel app, as well as any Google Cardboard-compatible app, of which there are now about 200 in the Google Play Store.”

Want to learn more about these great vintage toys–or share one with the next generation? Click here to purchase a View-Master Viewer and Reels and click here to purchase Collectible View-Master: An Illustrated Reference and Value Guide. (Thank you! Purchasing from these links helps support the Genealogy Gems podcast and blog.)

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Did you know that nostalgia buffs (and anyone else) can search Google Patents for fun objects like the View-Master? Click here to see the original patent application materials for the 1939 View-Master, including a design drawing of that first model. Here’s a tip: if your ancestor ever applied for a patent, search Google Patents for his or her name! Learn more about Google Patents–and other fabulous and FREE Google tools you can use for family history–in the new, fully-revised 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke.

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Are You Smarter Than An 8th Grader–From 1895?

School genealogy recordsIn years past, a five-hour graduation exam was required for eighth graders (around 13 years old) in many U.S. states. It made me wonder: are questions they asked still relevant today? How well would we score? Are we smarter than an 8th grader from 120 years ago?

A copy of an 1895 graduation exam from Kansas has become famous since being circulated online. We tracked down the original exam at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society in Salina, Kansas.

Here’s the Geography part of the exam, which took an hour (taken from a transcription at the above website):

1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of N.A. [presumably North America]
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall, and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give inclination of the earth.

The Smoky Valley Genealogical Society has posted a copy of the original exam, along with links to the answers, at the above link. Their site also comments, “Many people forget that Kansas is an agricultural state. 8th grade was as far as many children went in school at that time. It was unusual for children to attend either a high school or a normal school because they were needed on the family farms.”

Wonder how each of our forebears would do on it? Consider following up on an ancestor’s level of education (like from a census entry) by finding a copy of a textbook, exam or another document showing the kinds of things they would have learned? The free Google Books is a great place to start! I devote an entire chapter to Google Books in the brand new Second Edition of my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

Learn more about researching your ancestor’s education here at Genealogy Gems:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 98 answers a listener’s question about finding Yearbooks. Sign in to your membership to listen, or become a member today.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

Image taken from exam posted by the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society, Salina, KS, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~kssvgs/school/exam1895/8th_exam_orig.pdf.

You’ll never look at “8th Grade Education” in a genealogical document the same way again!

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These 1939 Dress Designs Survived the Holocaust. Their Designer Didn’t.

dresses compressedA new exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee tells the story of some 1939 dress designs that made it out of Nazi-occupied territory–and pays tribute to their designer, who didn’t.

“When the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, tens of thousands of Jews applied for visas to anywhere,” explains the caption to a YouTube video about the exhibit (see below). “Among them, Paul Strnad and his wife Hedy, a dress designer. Ultimately, neither would get a visa to leave Czechoslovakia.”

Years later, their story was literally stitched together by descendants and local historians. The couple sent her dress designs to a cousin in Milwaukee in a desperate attempt to get work visas to leave. It never happened. Paul was killed. Hedy’s fate is unknown.

A few years ago, the designs were rediscovered along with letters that told their story. Now the design drawings–and dresses newly created from them–are the centerpiece of “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” an exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. Read more about the exhibit here, or click below to watch this video about it. I think you will be as moved as I am to hear this story.

 

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Free App, E-Book Celebrate Constitution Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What I Believe We Must Do as Family Historians Today

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Santayana in The Life of Reason, 1905

One of the most important jobs we will have as family historians is passing on to the next generation our memories of September 11, 2001.

I’ll never forget my daughter Lacey calling me from the top of the stairs on that morning. She was listening to the radio as she prepared for school. “Mom,” she said, “I think you better turn on the TV. Something is happening.”

And like so many in America and around the world, I turned on the TV only to be glued to it into the wee hours of that night, devastated by the evil appearing on the screen.

The quote at the beginning of this article is often mistakenly attributed to Winston Churchill, but in fact, his statement to the House of Commons on May 2, 1935 after the Stresa Conference was even more thorough and extremely compelling:

SNAG_Program-0286

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”

Learning from history and passing it on is key to our survival, as families, and as freedom-loving countries.

On this September 11 let’s pull our children and grandchildren close and be brave enough to share the reality of our experience. We, and future generations, need to remember.

God Bless America,
Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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Got 10 Minutes? Here’s 100 Years of History

Can 100 years be packed into 10 minutes? This YouTube video attempts to do it!
(Warning: contains some graphic images)

The video also illustrates how the movie camera has captured our triumphs and tragedies for over 100 years.

Do you have old family movies? Consider posting them on YouTube with relevant descriptions that will help others find and watch them. Just like old photos, old film can play a TV animatedsignificant role in our family history, and the Internet provides a forum for sharing them. If you have a free Google account (perhaps you use Gmail or another Google service) then you can use that account to activate your own YouTube channel.

You can learn how to get your free YouTube channel up and running at my upcoming class at RootsTech2014 called How to Use YouTube for Family History: Setting Up Your Own YouTube Channel (RT1508) Thursday, February 6 at 10:30 AM in Room: Ballroom H

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Newsboys: Colorful Figures of the Past

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress.

Newsboy. Little Fattie. Less than 40 inches high, 6 years old. Been at it one year. May 9th, 1910. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Wikimedia Commons image, original at Library of Congress

Newsboys or “newsies” used to sell the news. But for a time in American history, they were the news!

You’d know them by their common call: “Read all about it!” It was their job to sell stacks of inexpensive newspapers on every street corner that would support them. The Library of Congress has posted a fascinating page about the history of newsies, including their own appearance in the papers.

In 1899, newspaper prices rose–and that cut into the profit margins of boys who had very little  profit to begin with. In New York City, many newsboys refused to sell papers published by Pulitzer and Hearst. Over the next few years, the newsboys didn’t exactly unionize, but they did organize. Eventually they formed the National Newsboys’ Association, which evolved into today’s Boys Club and Girls Club.

It’s interesting to read how the newspapers reported the doings of the boys who were essentially their salespeople. I bet it was a tricky place to be caught: a newspaper couldn’t afford to totally alienate their own best salesmen. Those salesmen were actually children, whom nobody wants to be accused of targeting. But their activities were aimed at driving down prices. In some cases, you see newspapers taking “the high road” and reporting charitable efforts to help these boys, like this story from the 1909 Washington Herald:

Newsies article

Click here to read this full story on Chronicling America. And click here to “read all about” newsboys and their role in American newspaper life.

Remember, stories like these are the kind that shaped our ancestors’ lives. Whether we find our relatives mentioned directly in the paper or we just see what life was like around them, we can learn so much from reading the same newspapers they did. Learn more from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers–and Genealogy Gems Premium Subscribers can check out “Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors in Newspapers” in the Premium Videos section.

 

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