Forensic Genealogy: Beyond the Golden State Killer Case

The Golden State killer DNA-credited arrest was just the beginning. Another cold case—a double murder—has new answers thanks to forensic genealogy research techniques and a company that helps criminal investigators use them. Though legal and privacy questions still remain, Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard points out a technology crime-fighters are refining that may prove beneficial to family historians.

Lisa recently shared with us in the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 217 her thoughts on the ramifications of the Golden State Killer case, in which a murderer and rapist was arrested nearly 40 years after the crimes were committed, thanks to some excellent genetic genealogy work.

Just three weeks after that discovery made headlines, a police department in Snohomish, WA, announced that they too had employed genetic genealogy to solve a cold case from 1987, when two high-school sweethearts were found murdered. This police department indicated they had assistance from a company called Parabon Nanolabs, a genetics company based in Virginia.

According to their website, Parabon deals in both pharmaceuticals and something they call Snapshot, where they reconstruct the facial features of an individual based on their DNA. While they do have a press release on their website regarding the aforementioned case, they do not have a specific product on their website indicating they can take genetic material and make a DNA profile compatible with genetic genealogy databases (they do mention using “biological evidence” on the Forensics page, shown below). But that is exactly what they must have done in order to solve this case.

Forensic genealogy: Beyond the Golden State Killer

According to an article in The Star, a Toronto newspaper, the police department in Toronto has DNA on the perpetrators for 30 cold cases. It is very likely that every police department is harboring similar evidence. Up until now, either in the US or Canada, investigators have generally only matched DNA profiles from crime scenes to genetic databases of known criminals. These are people who have already been caught and convicted. If no match is found, investigators are back to square one.

In both the Washington state and Golden State Killer case, these men had never been caught, and therefore their DNA was not part of these national databases. The way the DNA evidence was made useful was to compare it with samples from the general population, or in this case, a bunch of genetic genealogists who had uploaded their DNA results to the open-source website, GEDmatch. (Click here to learn more about GEDmatch.)

In the podcast episode, Lisa discussed many of the ethical and moral issues that we need to address as more and more different kinds of uses for our DNA are found, employed, and even commercialized. These are conversations we need to have as a community, and certainly that you need to consider personally.

But like most technology, there are good sides and bad sides to advancements. One of the best upsides I can see out of this is the feat of technology that took a small amount of DNA found at a crime scene 40 years ago and turned it into a DNA profile that can be useful in genetic genealogy databases. For years I have disappointed many genetic genealogists that have letters and stamps and hats from their loved ones who have passed on, and they want a way to obtain their DNA. Well, now we have evidence that it can be done. You can take some genetic material (licked stamps or envelopes, hair with a root, razors, teeth), and use it to create a viable profile that can be used to search genetic genealogy databases!

In fact, LivingDNA is currently openly accepting these kinds of samples, albeit at a hefty price tag, starting at $1,000 or so per sample. (This service is new enough that they don’t even have a landing page for it yet; submit your inquiries through their contact form.)

Now, whether or not the DNA from that stamp, or that stray piece of hair in the hat will be able to produce enough DNA to provide a complete enough DNA profile, still remains to be seen. But I would watch closely companies like Parabon and LivingDNA as they work to develop robust laboratory techniques that will provide answers for all of the genealogists whose parents and grandparents didn’t ever have a chance to spit to record their family history.

About the Author: Diahan Southard has worked with the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, and has been in the genetic genealogy industry since it has been an industry. She holds a degree in Microbiology and her creative side helps her break the science up into delicious bite-sized pieces for you. She’s the author of a full series of DNA guides for genealogists.

Keep up with what DNA can tell you

Stay at the cutting edge of what your DNA (or your relatives’ DNA) can tell you about your family history with Diahan’s Advanced DNA Bundle of quick reference guides, with try-it-now techniques for your DNA test results (click on individual titles to buy them separately or click here to save by bundling them together):

  • Gedmatch: A Next Step for Your Autosomal DNA Test. GEDmatch is a third‐party tool for use by genetic genealogists seeking to advance their knowledge of their autosomal DNA test. This guide will navigate through the myriad of options and point out only the best tools for your genetic genealogy research.
  • Breaking Down Brick Walls with DNA. With this guide in hand, genealogists will be prepared to take their DNA testing experience to the next level and make new discoveries about their ancestors and heritage. Learn how to leverage the power of known relatives who have tested, explore chromosome browsers, employ a methodology for finding a family tree for a DNA match that does not have a tree, and more.
  • Organizing Your DNA Matches. With millions of people in possession of a DNA test, and most with match lists in the thousands, many are wondering how to keep track of all this data and apply it to their family history. This guide provides the foundation for managing DNA matches and correspondence, and for working with forms, spreadsheets, and 3rd party tools.

Irish history in pictures, film and folklore

This week’s records roundup features Irish history in pictures, film and folklore; 1939 Register updates; British and Irish newspapers; UK WWI War Memorials Register, British folk music, Norfolk and Somerset parish records, Wiltshire wills and probate and Scotland historical photography. See if any of these can enrich your family history or genealogy research!

This week’s collections come from a variety of sources, including free private, public and government websites and subscription-based Genealogy Giants such as Ancestry.com and Findmypast.com. Enjoy!

Featured: Irish history in pictures, film and folklore

Historical images. A new database shows illustrations of Ireland created by travelers and dating back to 1680. According to Galway Daily, where we read about this fantastic collection, “Ireland Illustrated, 1680-1860, is a database of over 500 images of Ireland – woodcuts, water colours, engravings and other illustrations – with related text, drawn from more than 50 manuscript and printed works, and highlighting several neglected or rarely accessible sources. Many of the pictures in the database, woodcuts, water colours, engravings and other illustrations, have rarely, if ever, been seen by the public.”

Film footage. The Irish Times announced that a new archive has been founded to house “thousands of hours of film documenting Ireland’s past from potential decay and allow the Irish Film Institute (IFI) to open its doors to more amateur collections.” A spokeswoman in the article points out that “’from the 1890s until the 1960s, all there really was in Ireland was amateur footage’…and that “the reason amateur film is so important is because it is sometimes the only record we have of how Ireland was.” Click here to explore the Irish Film Institute’s digital archive, which includes rare historical footage of the bombing of the Four Courts. Watch a brief film clip of the latter here.

Folklore collection. Over 100,000 pages of Irish folk stories, customs and beliefs have been transcribed and placed online by the National Folklore Collection, says a recent article in The Irish Times. And more are coming. According to the article, “A voluntary collective online is working its way through transcribing 700,000 pages of folklore that were collected throughout Ireland between 1937 and 1939. This mass of previously inaccessible material was gathered by more than 100,000 children who were sent to seek out the oldest person in their community just before second World War to root out the darkest, oddest and weirdest traditional beliefs, secrets and customs.” Click here to start exploring!

Around the British Isles

1939 Register update. Genealogy Giant Findmypast.com, the first to publish the 1939 Register online, has added over 64,000 newly opened records to the collection. “The 1939 Register, compiled by 65,000 enumerators and sent to every household in England and Wales, documents the lives of 41 million people,” states the site. “It gives the names of the inhabitants at each address, their date of birth, marital status and occupation….Findmypast has more 1939 Register records than any other site, with thousands more being opened and made available to search every month.

British and Irish newspapers

The British Newspaper Archive is now home to more than 25 million digitized newspaper pages from Britain and Ireland. It has recently added several new newspaper titles and additional pages for existing titles on its site. Here’s a sample of new and enlarged collections:

WWI War Memorials Register. The Imperial War Museum is compiling the War Memorials Registry, “the comprehensive national register of UK war memorials and the names of the individuals they commemorate.” The database contains over a million names from over 74,000 memorials in the UK., Channel Islands and Isle of Man, along with a sizeable database of images of these war memorials.

According to the site, “War memorials form an important part of our cultural heritage and reflect the changing face of commemoration as well as artistic, social, local, family, military and international history. The Register includes memorials to members of the armed forces, civilians and animals from all wars and to those who died in service….We will be adding more records to the names database throughout the First World War Centenary so please check back for updates.”

England

British folk music. The British Library recently announced that it has placed online “around 350 English folk songs recorded by composer Percy Grainger in different regions of England between 1906 and 1909.” These unique, early recordings were made on wax cylinders, which don’t have a long lifespan, and then transferred to a more permanent recording format in 1940, a remarkable chain of events that makes it possible to hear audio recordings over a century old.

Norfolk. Almost 6 million records are in the new Ancestry.com collection, Norfolk, England, Bishop and Archdeacon Transcripts of Parish Registers, 1600-1935. According to the collection description, “This collection contains images of transcripts created by Bishops and Archdeacons of baptism, marriage, and burial records for the years 1600–1935 from the county of Norfolk, England. Also included are Weekly Register Bills from Great Yarmouth….Later this year, we will be adding Archdeacons’ Transcripts for parishes beginning O-Z.” Related Ancestry.com collections have been recently updated:

Somerset. Ancestry.com has also recently updated a few parish records collections for Somerset. These include: Somerset, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812; Somerset, Marriage Registers, Bonds and Allegations, 1754-1914; Somerset, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1914 and Somerset, Church of England Burials, 1813-1914.

Wiltshire. Last week, we announced some Wiltshire records updates for Ancestry.com. This week, we add updates to Wiltshire, England, Wills and Probate, 1530-1858, now with over 100,000 records in the collection. Tip: read the collection description for important instructions on navigating it.

Scotland

Historical images. Thousands of images of Scotland from the 1970s are now available online. According to an article on the Historic Environment Scotland website, the images were originally taken as part of a visual survey of historic architecture. However, “the backdrop to their work is life in rural Scotland.” You can view a curated sample of these images by clicking here.

In related news, The National Library of Scotland (NLS) reports that more than 14,000 photographs of Scotland taken between the 1840s and the 1940s has been acquired by the NLS and the National Galleries of Scotland. “The McKinnon Collection covers an expansive range of subjects — including family portraits, working life, street scenes, sporting pursuits, shops, trams, tenements, mountains and monuments, and it was one of the last great collections of Scottish photography still in private hands,” states the NLS release. It is expected that the collection will tour on exhibit and then be digitized to share online—so watch for that in a few years.

More British Isles resources on Findmypast.com

As one of the Genealogy Giants, Findmypast.com is a global leader in online genealogy and history research for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. We keep up with what’s going on at Findmypast. Check out this short conversation I had with CEO Tamsin Todd and Executive Vice President Ben Bennett at RootsTech 2018 about an intriguing new approach they are piloting for collaborative online family trees. Click here to read more about Findmypast and how it stacks up to the other Giants, Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and MyHeritage.com.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

Now Online: England Parish Records and More

English parish records top this week’s list of new online genealogy records. More new or updated family history collections: British newspapers, pensions and India records; records for Brazil, Germany, The Netherlands, Peru, and Poland; UK images and deaths; US obituaries; newspapers for Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island; and more for Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana and Oklahoma.

Featured: England parish records and more

As England made international news with the recent royal wedding last weekend, I found myself wondering what the couple’s entry in the official wedding register looks like (they signed it behind closed doors). That disappointment notwithstanding, plenty of historical Church of England registers have recently come online.

Find new and updated collections of these English church records on the following Genealogy Giants:

  • Cheshire, England, Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1564-1837 at Ancestry.com is a new collection of historical parish registers from Cheshire and includes christenings, marriage bonds and licenses, marriage records, burials and even inhabitants lists.
  • Derbyshire records at Ancestry.com. There are separate collections of marriages and bannsburials, and baptisms, marriages, and burials. Dates and record types overlap, so it’s worth searching across more than one of these collections for your family.
  • Devon Bishop’s Transcripts, 1558-1887 at FamilySearch.org. Close to half a million indexed names have been added to this “index to and images of baptismal, marriage, and burial records in the county of Devon….Bishop’s transcripts contain more or less the same information as parish registers, so they are an invaluable resource when a parish register has been damaged, destroyed, or otherwise lost.” This collection is free to view, as all FamilySearch collections are, but the Devon Record Office, which supplies the collection, requires that you sign in with a free FamilySearch account.
  • Northumberland Registers & Records at Findmypast.com. “Explore publications of original parish records including Early Deeds Relating to Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1100-1600, Parish Registers of Alnham, Ceadnell, Chatton & Ilderton, 1688-1812, Parish Registers of Edlingham, 1658-1812, Parish Registers of Halton, 1654-1812 and Parish Registers of Ingram, 1682-1812.”
  • Nottinghamshire Registers & Records at Findmypast.com. Five new “publications cover parish registers from the parishes of Gedling and Warsop, Archdeaconry Court Marriage Licenses and Parish Register Transcripts from the Peculiar of Southwell, the history of the county and its highways and byways.”
  • Rutland Registers & Records at Findmypast.com. Subscribers may now search 180 pages from registers of North Luffenham, 1565-1832, to uncover baptisms, marriages, burials and monumental inscriptions.
  • Somerset Registers & Records at Findmypast.com. “These records cover Bishop’s Transcripts from Wells Diocesan Registry, Parish Registers from Chipstable, Raddington, Kittisford, Pitcombe and Wilton, as well as Wells Cathedral Monumental Inscriptions and Heraldry.”
  • Wiltshire Church of England records at Ancestry.com. There are separate collections of births and baptisms; marriages and banns; baptisms, marriages and burials; deaths and burials.

More English records to love:

British newspapers at Findmypast.com have been updated. More than 6.5 million new articles from 37 titles include “local newspapers from across the UK and Good Morning, the official Submariners newspaper during WW2.” Coverage includes “Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, the British Armed Forces, Music Halls and Theatres.”

British in India. Findmypast.com subscribers can now “browse through 75 assorted almanacs that offer a comprehensive view of life in British India” in the collection, British in India, Directories 1792-1948. According to the site, “They contain lists of medical staff, veterinary staff, police, civil servants, and engineers working in India, as well as lists of debtors, charity members, and Freemasons. You can also discover practical information for living in India, such as gardening calendars and advice for posting parcels and letters.”

British pensions. Explore more than 150 years of pension applications in British Army Officers’ Widows’ Pension Forms 1755-1908 at Findmypast.com. “Released online for the first time in association with The National Archives, the collection includes forms and evidences of vital events extracted from widows’ pension files, including application forms, death certificates, marriage certificates, births and baptisms.”

British in India directories FMP England parish records

Sample page in 1878 British in India directory at Findmypast.com.

Continental Europe

Germany. Nearly 2.5 million indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection, Germany, Baden, Archdiocese of Freiburg im Breisgau, Catholic Church Records, 1678-1930. This database includes baptism, marriage and burial records. Another German collection at FamilySearch, Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Kreis Steinburg, Civil Registration, 1874-1983, has also been updated.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has recently published new German vital records collections: Menden (Sauerland) Births, 1874-1906Menden (Sauerland) Marriages, 1874-1935 and Menden (Sauerland) Deaths, 1874-1986.

Netherlands. FamilySearch.org has added over 40,000 indexed records to the free Netherlands, Noord-Holland, Civil Registration, 1811-1950. This collection includes “Civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths,…ten year indexes, marriage intentions, marriage proclamations, and marriage supplements.”

Poland. Ancestry.com has published a new collection, Poland, Krakow Apartments of Displaced Jews, 1940. This comes from the World Memory Project in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, so these records are free to search (click here to search all USHMM collections for free).

South America

Brazil. FamilySearch has added over 35,000 indexed names to Brazil, Minas Gerais, Catholic Church Records, 1706-1999. These are “baptism, marriage, and death records created by various Catholic parishes and diocese,” and the collection continues to be updated. Additionally, nearly 60,000 names have been added to the FamilySearch database, Brazil, São Paulo, Immigration Cards, 1902-1980.

Peru. FamilySearch has updated two civil registration collections for Peru: Puno, Civil Registration, 1890-2005 and Junín, Civil Registration, 1881-2005. These include “births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices.”

The United Kingdom

UK images. The Irish Times and other news outlets recently picked up the news that subscription giant Ancestry.com published a new collection of historical images: UK, Historical Photographs and Prints, 1704-1989. The Irish Times reported that the collection “include[s] more than 120 images taken in Ireland, offer an insight into daily life in Irish cities, towns, villages and countryside between the late 1800s and the 1950s.” Just for fun, try browsing the collection on the different images categories, such as transport, nurses, navy, royalty or weddings (an image from the latter category is shown at the top of this article, in honor of the royal wedding).

Recent UK Deaths. Find over 2.5 million records in Findmypast’s UK Deaths, 2007-2016. “The collection covers England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Jersey and list the individual’s name, date of death, and location of death.”

United States

U.S obituaries. Findmypast.com has added over 2.5 million new records to its United States Obituary Notices index, which references data from Tribute.com, an online obituary news site.

Delaware. MyHeritage.com has published over 125,000 pages in a new collection, Delaware Newspapers, 1880-2009 from three newspaper titles: The Sunday Morning Star, Cape Gazette and Delaware News.

Idaho. Ancestry.com has updated several vital records databases for this state, including: Idaho, Birth Index, 1861-1917, Stillbirth Index, 1905-1967, Idaho, County Birth and Death Records, 1863-1967, Idaho, Marriage Records, 1863-1967, Idaho, Divorce Records, 1947-1967 and Idaho, Death Records, 1890-1967.

Iowa. More than a quarter million indexed names have been added to FamilySearch’s free database, Iowa, Old Age Assistance Records, 1934-1946. According to the site, “These records include principal name, date, and place of birth; parents’ names; and contemporary addresses. The birth information is especially significant as it applies to Iowa settlers who may not appear in regular birth records.”

Kentucky. FamilySearch has added over 30,000 new records to its free collection, Kentucky Death Records, 1911-1965, which comprises indexed images of state death certificates.

Louisiana. Over 235,000 indexed names have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Louisiana, Parish Marriages, 1837-1957. Record images are included in this collection of “marriage licenses and certificates, including a few marriage declarations and marriage stubs for the years 1837 to 1957.”

Maine. More than 2 million newspaper page images appear in the new MyHeritage.com collection, Maine Newspapers, 1861-2008. Among the 16 titles represented at present are Sun Journal, Bangor Daily News, Lewiston (Evening/Daily Evening/Wednesday/Saturday) Journal, Biddeford Weekly Journal, The Quoddy Times, Riddeford Journal, The Union and Journal, New Gloucester Independent News and The Original Irregular.

New Hampshire. MyHeritage also published nearly 650,000 images in the new New Hampshire Newspapers, 1869-2008. The seven newspapers represented are The Telegraph, Nashua Daily Telegraph, Peterborough Transcript, The Milford Cabinet and Wilton Journal, Merrimack Journal, Hollis Brookline Journal and Bedford Journal.

Oklahoma. Free at FamilySearch are nearly 25,000 new records added recently to Oklahoma, School Records, 1895-1936. According to the site, the school records are “primarily annual censuses, of pupils who attended schools in Oklahoma counties between 1895 and 1936. This collection will be published as records and images become available.”

Rhode Island. MyHeritage.com has published nearly 600,000 digital images in the new collection, Rhode Island Newspapers, 1778-1938. At launch, the collection includes 26 titles. Among them are The Morning Herald, Evening Tribune, Providence News, Manufacturers and Farmers Journal, Evening Telegraph, Providence Evening Press, Providence Morning Star, Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, Hope Valley Advertiser and more.

Learn to use England parish records

England’s earliest useful census is from 1841, and civil records only go back to 1837. So England’s parish records just might prove your genealogical salvation. Click here to learn more about using them.

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Join Lisa at GeneaQuest 2018 in Illinois

Lisa Louise Cooke will be at CAGGNI’s GeneaQuest 2018 in Hoffman Estates, Illinois on Saturday, June 23. Join her and other expert presenters all day to learn Google strategies for genealogy, a master plan for organizing your research, DNA solutions, brick-wall solutions and more!

The Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois (CAGGNI) is welcoming Lisa Louise Cooke as a featured speaker at GeneaQuest 2018. This year’s annual event will be held at Northern Illinois University (NIU) Conference Center in Hoffman Estates, Illinois on Saturday, June 23, 2018 from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm.

The theme is Building Your Genealogy Skills, and a genealogy conference is a great place to do just that. In addition to nurturing your skills in the area of analysis, genetics, geography, organization, problem-solving, research and technology, GeneaQuest offers you an opportunity to come shoulder to shoulder with genealogist’s who share your passion for climbing the family tree. 

More on GeneaQuest 2018

Who: Lisa Louise Cooke and other expert presenters
What: GeneaQuest 2018
Where: Northern Illinois University Conference Center, Hoffman Estates, IL
When: Saturday, June 23, 2018, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Cost: Register online by May 31 for $60 ($55 for CAGGNI members) or $70 after June 1; registration includes buffet lunch (if you register by June 12). Extra fee for labs.
Event Host: Computer Assisted Genealogy Group of Northern Illinois

Lisa will kick off the day with the brush-up-on-Google presentation every genealogist needs, “Update Google! What’s New.” She’ll tell you what you need to know about how Google is evolving and changing. Then she will unleash some advanced Google search strategies for genealogy that you can put into practice right away to get the best results from your online searches.

She will also be teaching these powerful family history classes:

  • Create a Free Google Earth Map Collection for Your Research. Come to this session and you’ll walk out with potentially thousands of free historic maps organized for your family history research. And the good news is, you don’t need a lot of tech know-how to do it! You’ll learn how to find free digital maps for your ancestral locations, add them as permanent map overlays to Google Earth and then organize them into your personal map reference collection. Lisa will also cover best practices for keeping them organized so that they continually enrich your research.
  • Genealogy On the Go With Mobile Devices. Tablets and smartphones are built for hitting the road and are ideally suited for genealogy due to their sleek size, gorgeous graphics and myriad of apps and tools. In this class, you will discover the top apps and best practices that will make your mobile device a genealogical powerhouse! (iOS and Android.)
  • How to Organize All This Genealogy Stuff. Save yourself future frustration and disappointment by putting a solid genealogy organizational plan in place for all the types of items that will be coming your way. Lisa will share with you the systems she personally uses that have proven to be reliable and efficient. She will cover systems for four types of stuff: paper and physical items; digital files; family tree data and all that information you’ve discovered online and need to put somewhere.

Other topics for the day also promise to be fabulous. There will DNA labs for AncestryDNA and GEDmatch, strategies for finding the most elusive ancestors (including DNA strategies), finding female ancestors, and introductory presentations on the free websites, WikiTree and Find A Grave. Click here for a detailed schedule of the day’s event and registration information.

Learn Virtually: Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning

Can’t make it to GeneaQuest 2018? You do have another learning option. Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning gives you access to video versions of Lisa Louise Cooke’s top classes for a full year! Think Google, Google Earth, organizing your genealogy, Evernote, using the cloud for genealogy, mobile research strategies, methodology and more than 20 classes from Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard on getting the most out of your DNA testing. You’ll need that full year to get through more than 50 video classes as well as all episodes of the Genealogy Gems Premium PodcastClick here to see how Premium eLearning can help you open new doors in your genealogy research.

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

New Records at US History Digital Archives Tell Amazing Stories

Record collections and digital archives of US history reveal fascinating stories from our collective past. Here we report on resources relating to the US Colored Troops in the Civil War, old Southern architecture, higher education in Virginia, Southern burial grounds, the south side of Chicago, the history of Illinois, and WWII Japanese internment camps. What might any of these reveal about your family history?

Coming soon: U.S. Colored Troops Database

Usually, we wait to report about new online record projects until they are actually online. But we can’t wait to share this good news about records of the U.S. Colored Troops (African American soldiers who served in the Civil War). According to an NYU news release, researchers are “transcribing the contents of thousands of personnel and pension records from the Civil War, which also include marriages, children, and residencies, among other data, that are gradually forming the African American Civil War Soldiers database.” That database will eventually be housed at the African American Civil War Museum website.

US history digital archives you should know about

Southern architecture: Surveying the South

The Library of Congress has created a new series called Story Maps, which “combine text, images, multimedia, and interactive maps [from their collections] to create engaging online narrative experiences,” according to a recent announcement.

One of the first Story Maps to be created is Surveying the South, based on about 7000 photographs taken in the 1930s of “exteriors and interiors of houses, mills, and churches as well as mansions, plantations, and outbuildings” in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and West Virginia. According to the site, “Domestic dwellings are the most frequently represented structures, ranging from farmhouses and slave quarters to elegant mansions and houses, including abandoned buildings and ruins.” But there are also “city halls, courthouses, schools, churches, and cemeteries…law offices, mills, stores, and taverns.” If locations associated with your family history are part of this Story Map, it could be an incredible resource for you.

Virginia yearbooks

The Archives at the Library of Virginia announced recently, “We have been able to digitize and provide access to 2,308 yearbooks [from around the state] published though 1977, the year that copyright law impacts use. So far, 35 local libraries have contributed their yearbooks, with more in process. There is no set end date for this project; it will continue as long as…funding supports it and there are willing participants.” Click here to explore The Library of Virginia’s digitized yearbook collection (sorted by the public libraries that have contributed their copies).

Southern burial grounds

This isn’t a new collection, but it’s been moved, so it’s a nice opportunity to make you aware of it. The Tennessee State Library and Archives announced the following on its Facebook page: “The Richard C. Finch Folk Graves Digital Photograph Collection is now on [The Tennessee Virtual Archive] TeVA (formerly on the Library and Archives’ Flickr). Dr. Finch has visited hundreds of cemeteries in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana and Texas photographing covered graves. His main focus has been on comb graves, so called because architecturally, the slabs of stone make a roof or comb over a grave. Click here to learn more about comb graves and the project.

Holocaust News in US Newspapers

We have reported in the past on History Unfolded, a project by the United States Holocaust Museum that collects local U.S. newspaper coverage in the 1930s and 1940s of Holocaust-related events in an effort to better understand what American readers knew about Nazi Germany. The Dallas News reports, “With the help of hundreds of students and dedicated volunteers, the museum built an extensive online archive of American newspaper coverage of key Holocaust events, including more than 12,000 articles from every U.S. state.” Click here to search the growing archive of newspaper stories or to help find more stories in local newspapers.

Home Movies and Oral Histories: Chicago’s South Side

The rich and famous aren’t the only ones who created home movies in the past. The University of Chicago has launched a new online digital archive chronicling everyday life on the South Side of Chicago in the 20th century. “The new South Side Home Movie Project Digital Archive is a globally accessible online portal to home movies shot by residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods from 1929-1982,” says a university announcement.

The archive “showcases home movies organized into easily navigable categories: by the family that contributed their films; by subject matter, ranging across topics like fashion and birthdays to graduations, road trips, and the Bud Billiken Parade; year of production [and] filming location, including local landmarks like Buckingham Fountain….Oral histories recorded by family members describing their home movies are also available as companion works to the films. The archive continues to accept old home movies and encourages viewers to “to add tags and comments to help with identifying places, people, and events in the footage as participants in a collective historical project.” Click here to explore this digital archive.

Story of Illinois

The state of Illinois is celebrating its bicentennial soon, and has launched a new website to celebration. Story of Illinois is hosted by the Illinois State Museum and “features objects from the museum’s Illinois Legacy Collection as well as collections from other museums across the state that celebrate Illinois heritage,” reports the WAND 17 news website. Visitors to the free digital archive can explore the virtual exhibit by several time periods, from colonial to territorial times to early statehood, the Civil War, the industrializing age and history since 1917.

WWII Japanese internment camps

Another Story Map created by the Library of Congress is “Behind Barbed Wire,” an interactive exhibit offering “a unique glimpse into the daily lives of Japanese-Americans in internment camps during WWII through the digitized collection of internment camp newspapers at the Library of Congress.” Here, you’ll follow the story of about 120,000 U.S. residents of Japanese descent who were forcibly removed from their homes and located first in temporary assembly centers and then in permanent internment camps.

At the heart of this collection are more than 4,600 English- and Japanese-language newspaper issues published in 13 camps by the residents themselves. According to the site, “Camp newspapers kept residents informed, relaying administrative announcements, orders, events, vital statistics, news from other camps, and other tidbits concerning daily camp life. They published not only straight news, but also editorials, opinions, human-interest stories, and entertainment pieces such as sports news, literary works, and comic strips. They recorded the daily activities of residents for whom, even in detention, life still continued on.”

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

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