Tracing your African American Roots: Top Tips

Researching African American roots has unique challenges. This Q&A with expert Angela Walton-Raji can inspire you with tips and success stories. Learn what to ask, what history you should know, how to face the 1870 “wall” and how to explore your ancestor’s freedom story.

Not long ago, genealogy expert Angela Walton-Raji joined me on the Genealogy Gems Podcast. She shared fantastic insights about tracing your African American roots, including why it can be challenging and how to overcome some of the brick walls you might encounter.

I’ve distilled our conversation down to some essential points here. Of course, I invite you to listen to the whole thing yourself in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast, episode 201.

Tracing your African American roots: With Angela Walton-Raji

To start with, I asked Angela what was unique about tracing your African American genealogy. She offered this important background:

“The African American story is unique in and of itself. Of course we get into the standard records that everyone uses: the vital records and census records. But there are going to be some challenges once one gets into 19th century, particularly once one reaches what we call the “wall” of 1870. [On the previous census, about 90% of African Americans were enslaved and therefore they aren’t listed.] Often you’re not quite sure where to go next.”

Oral history: what to ask

When someone doesn’t appear in the mainstream record trail, you have to find another path. Sometimes, you can start down that path with living relatives. Here’s some advice from Angela about talking with your family:

“Oral history is really important. If you’re talking to an elder today who may be in their seventies, they were clearly born in the 20th century. They may be the last generation living who knew someone who had been born enslaved. So ask them: ‘Who was the oldest person that you remember when you were a child? And did that person ever talk about anyone who may have been enslaved?’ Find out whether they happened to know anyone when they were a child who had been born into slavery.”

“Also ask what they know about where the family was from: ‘Were we always from Georgia, or were we always from Pennsylvania, or was there a time when we came from another place?’ There are so many critical questions and also key points in the historical timeline that you want to zoom in on and ask elders. These are critical things to ask elders to sort of jar their memories and get them to start talking as well.”

I totally agree with Angela about the need to ask questions that get people remembering. Often when we sit down with someone for an interview, the first response may be, “Oh, I don’t know” or “I don’t remember.” But if you come prepared with a collection of really thoughtful yet pointed questions, you can help them access their memories. They may be amazed at just how much they really do remember.

The most compelling stories in our family histories are often to be found during moments of change and transition. And that’s certainly what the end of slavery was. Angela talks passionately about discovering your family’s freedom story:

“The war ended. Slavery ended. How did freedom come to your family? It was not the same for everyone. Don’t forget, a major war took place. Some had a male relative (or several) who enlisted in the Union Army. Some emancipated themselves. If there was a conflict nearby or if there was a Union raid coming through the town, this was an opportunity. Men, women, and children left and followed the line and became contraband. There were hundreds of contraband camps all around the South. Some volunteered; some became employees, nurses, matrons, and cooks. (Click on this Wikipedia Commons photo of a contraband camp to learn more about it.)

“And what’s amazing is there may be records. We know the Freedmen’s Bureau records are there, but there are a whole lot of other records also. The records of the U.S. Colored Troops contain a plethora of family data, particularly if the soldier upon his death left a widow, or children, or sometimes a mother (I’ve even seen fathers claim a pension for a deceased son).

“Again, sometimes the key is to learn the history—even the local history. Let’s take Memphis, Tennessee for example. Right now if you live outside of Memphis, there’s a big industrial park in a little area called President’s Island. Well, guess what? In the Civil War President’s Island became a contraband camp. There were three contraband camps close to Memphis, and these were individuals who had really freed themselves and then had started to settle and create little settlements during the war and into the late 1860s, and this became a community. And that’s a story right there.” [Angela actually shares her own family’s story at President’s Island in this blog post.]

Next steps: Finding your enslaved ancestors

After discovering that freedom story, a genealogist tracing African American roots will eventually reach the point in history when their ancestors were enslaved. Angela describes this as requiring an entirely new approach: “identify the last-known slaveholder, and then follow that person’s history—because within their history you often find your ancestors popping up, as well. It’s a challenge but it can be done.”

Angela goes deeper into this and other topics in her video class, African American Genealogy Research Essentials. This hour-long class covers barriers arising from the institution of slavery and how to overcome them with persistence and the right approach. You’ll learn essential resources for digging deep into your African-American family history, with an emphasis on those that can be found online. This video class was originally presented as a live webinar and includes her Q&A. Click on the image here to order that webinar.

Thanks to Angela for sharing these strategies with us here at Genealogy Gems—and thanks in advance to YOU for sharing this free article with others who will want to read it. You’re a gem!

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

About the Author: Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa is the Producer and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show and app. She is the author of the books The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Mobile Genealogy, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, and the Google Earth for Genealogy video series, an international keynote speaker, and producer of the Family Tree Magazine Podcast.

African American Genealogy Records: New and Free!

Explore these African and African American genealogy records in celebration of your family history and Black History Month!

Also this week: see new records online for Southern Claims Commission, GA, NY and VA as well as African heritage sites, Liberia and South Africa. And check out a limited-time offer from Fold3 to view its Black History collection for free.

Black History Collection free this month at Findmypast.com

“In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February,” states a recent company announcement. “The Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history: SlaveryThe Civil WarReconstruction & Jim Crow LawsWorld War I & II, and the Civil Rights Movement.

The Fold3 announcement lists several of its richest collections, and we think they’re worth noting individually:

African American genealogy records newly published online

U.S. Southern Claims Commission. The “genealogy giant” Ancestry.com has updated its collection of U.S. Southern Claims Commission, Disallowed and Barred Claims, 1871-1880. According to the collection description, “In 1871 the U.S. government created the Southern Claims Commission, an organization through which southerners could file claims for reimbursement of personal property losses due to the Civil War. Claims could only be filed by residents of AL, AR, FL, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA and WV.” Your African American ancestors may be among those listed therein: “Each claimant was required to provide witnesses. The witnesses had to answer the same 80+ questions that the claimant had to answer. Many of these witnesses were former slaves whose names rarely appear on any other legal document from the Civil War era. They also provided names and dates for family members who often lived on other plantations.”

Georgia. “The records of the Georgia Association of Educators (1921-2015)…are open for research,” reports the George State University Library. “The collection, comprised of unique documents and photographs, provides an in-depth look at the history of the organization that represents many of Georgia’s teachers. The collection includes convention proceedings, contracts and constitutions, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, audio-visual materials, photographs, and periodicals.” Among the topics covered are the mergers of the previously-segregated black and white state teachers’ associations and integration of public schools about 1970. Click here to explore the finding aid to this collection.

New York. A first-of-its-kind free database documents those involved in the institution of slavery in New York from the earliest times. The New York Slavery Records Index “is a searchable compilation of records that identify individual enslaved persons and their owners, beginning as early as 1525 and ending during the Civil War,” reports the site. “Our data come from census records, slave trade transactions, cemetery records, birth certifications, manumissions, ship inventories, newspaper accounts, private narratives, legal documents and many other sources. The index contains over 35,000 records and will continue to grow as our team of John Jay College professors and students locates and assembles data from additional sources.” A hat-tip to WGRZ.com for publishing this article that alerted us to this valuable new resource.

Virginia. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reports, “Students in an introduction to public history class at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, created a digital archive of newspaper and other clippings collected during the civil rights era by the Hill Street Baptist Church in Roanoke. The project documents efforts in the area to desegregate lunch counters, movie theaters, and public schools during the 1950s and 1960s.”

African Genealogy and History Resources Now Online

African world heritage sites. CNN.com recently reported on a new online resource that seeks to provide digital preservation and access to important archaeological sites across Africa. “The archaeological wonders of the world offer a rich window into the past,” states the article. “But many are crumbling, weed-laden and victim to vandalism and conflict….Concerned with the decay of African heritage sites, The Zamani Project, based at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, is seeking to immortalize historic spots in three-dimensional, virtual reality-ready models…. Presently, they’ve mapped around 16 sites including Lalibela in Ethiopia, Timbuktu in Mali and Kilwa in Tanzania.”

Liberia. The free “genealogy giant” FamilySearch.org has added over 24,000 new record images and nearly 27,000 newly-indexed names to its free collection of Liberia, Marriage Records, 1912-2015. Documents include “applications for marriage licenses, marriage licenses, marriage returns, documents certifying marriages from Liberia.”

South Africa. FamilySearch has also updated two of its existing South Africa records collections with more indexed names:  South Africa, Cape Province, Kimberley, Probate Records of the Supreme Court, 1871-1937 and South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989.

Listen to more African American genealogy topics

The free Genealogy Gems Podcast and the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast have both featured inspiring interviews on African African genealogy research. We recommend these:

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #201: Angela Walton-Raji joins Lisa Louise Cooke with tips for interviewing African American relatives, learning important history and getting past that 1870 brick wall into the era of American slavery. Listen for free!

Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #200: A university professor shares his discoveries about a mother and young daughter separated by slavery. Learn how he pieced together their story from a poignant family heirloom found at a flea market.

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #130: Oprah Book Club author Lalita Tademy talks about her book Citizen’s Creek, a novel about an African American and Creek Indian family. This special episode (and all Premium Podcast episodes) is something extra just for our Premium subscribers; click here to learn how to subscribe.

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.

New U.S. Vital Records Online: Freedmen’s Bureau, Statewide Databases and More

Millions of U.S. vital records have recently been published online! These include updates to the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index; nationwide obituary, funeral home, and cemetery databases; Freedmen’s Bureau field office records; a new African American Center for Family History; and updates to vital records collections for CA, ID, LA, MI, NV, PA, SC, St. Croix, and WA. 

U.S. Vital Records new and updated

Scan this list of nationwide, regional, and statewide collections of vital records: which should you search for your U.S. ancestors? Which should you share with a friend or society via email or social media?

U.S. Vital Records: Nationwide Databases

Ancestry.com has updated three nationwide databases of vital events for the United States:

  • Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Click here to learn more about this important collection, which takes the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) a step further by providing additional information on millions of names.
  • U.S. Obituary Collection, 1930-2017. “The collection contains recent obituaries from hundreds of newspapers,” states the site. “We scour the Internet regularly to find new obituaries and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”
  • U.S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-2017. “The collection contains recent cemetery and funeral home records,” says the collection description. “We work with partners to scour the Internet regularly to find new records and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”

Across the South and African American Heritage

Ancestry.com subscribers may now also search a new database, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878. The post-Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau provided support to formerly enslaved African Americans and to other Southerners in financial straits. This database includes records from field offices that served Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and the cities of New Orleans and Washington, D.C. It also includes records from the Adjutant General’s office relating to the Bureau’s work in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina. Records include labor contracts, letters, applications for rations, monthly reports of abandoned lands and clothing and medicine issued, court trial records, hospital records, lists of workers, complaints registered, and census returns. A related collection, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867, has been updated at Ancestry.com.

In related news, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced the online launch of its Center for Family History, “an innovative national genealogy research center dedicated solely to celebrating and researching African American ancestry.” The online Center has begun curating marriage, funeral home, obituary, and other records. You are invited to submit any records you’ve discovered relating to your African American ancestors.

California and Nevada marriage records

Over 4.3 million new records have been added to Findmypast’s collection of U.S. marriage records for the states of California and Nevada. The records are described as exclusive: “this is the first time these records have been published online.”

Idaho marriage records

Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Idaho, Marriage Records, 1863-1966. “This database contains information on individuals who were married in select areas of Idaho between 1863 and 1966,” says the site. “Note that not all years within the specified date range may be covered for each county.” Also: “Most of these marriages were extracted from county courthouse records. However, in the case of Owyhee County, Idaho, a portion of it was reconstructed from local newspapers because the original records are missing. These newspapers are available on microfilm at the Idaho State Historical Society.”

Louisiana death records

Nearly 50,00 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free database, Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960. According to the site, http://www.mindanews.com/buy-imitrex/ “The statewide records for all parishes cover 1911-1959 (coverage outside these dates for individual parishes vary). Death records from 1850-1875 are for Jefferson Parish only.”

Michigan death records

Ancestry.com has updated its database,Michigan, Death Records, 1897-1929.” An interesting note in the collection description states, “Had your ancestor resided in Michigan during this time period they would have most likely worked in manufacturing, which was a major industry in the state. Three major car manufacturing companies are located in Detroit and nearby Dearborn: Olds Motor Vehicle Company, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors. Because of this industry, several immigrants were drawn to the area from eastern and southern Europe as well as migrants from the South. Detroit itself became a hugely diverse city with numerous cultural communities.”

Pennsylvania Catholic baptisms, marriages, and burials

Findmypast.com has added new databases from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to its Roman Catholic Heritage Archive. These include:

  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms. Over 556,000 new records, which include name, date, and place of baptism and the names and residence of parents.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Marriages. Over 278,000 sacramental register entries. Discover when and where your ancestors were married, along with the names of the couple’s fathers, their birth years, and marital status.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Registers. Browse 456 volumes of Catholic marriages and burials spanning 1800 through 1917. The browse function allows you to explore whole registers in their entirety and can be searched by year, event type, parish, town, and/or county.

South Carolina marriages and deaths

Ancestry.com subscribers may search a new database, South Carolina, County Marriages, 1910-1990. “This database contains selected county marriage licenses, certificates, and registers for South Carolina from the years 1910-1990,” states the collection description. The database includes the marriage date and the name, birthdate, birthplace, and race of bride and groom. “Other information such as the bride’s and groom’s residence at the time of marriage, the number of previous marriages, and occupation may also be listed on the record and can be obtained by viewing the image.” A related Ancestry.com collection, South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1965, has been updated.

St. Croix: The Enslaved and the Free

A new Ancestry.com database reveals more about life in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Slave and Free People Records, 1779-1921. “The diversity of records in this database reflects some of St. Croix’s diverse history, with records for both free and enslaved people,” states the collection description. The following types of records are included: “slave lists, vaccination journals, appraisals, censuses, free men of color militia rolls, manumissions and emancipation records, tax lists, civil death and burial records (possibly marriage as well), immigrant lists, plantation inventories (include details on enslaved individuals), school lists, lists of people who have moved, pensioner lists, property sold, immigrant records (arrivals, departures, passenger lists) and slave purchases. Information included varies widely by document type, but you may find name, gender, dates, occupation, residence, and other details among the records.”

Washington death records

FamilySearch.org has added over 1.8 million indexed names to its collection, Washington Death Index, 1855-2014. “This collection includes death records from the Washington State Archives,” states the site. “There is an index and images of deaths recorded with the state. The following counties have free access: Benton, Cashmere, Douglas, Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin, Chelan, Grant, Klickitat and Okanogan.”

Learn all about how to start cemetery research with the brand new book, The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide. Discover tools for locating tombstones, tips for traipsing through cemeteries, an at-a-glance guide to frequently used gravestone icons, and practical strategies for on-the-ground research.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

What to Ask: African-American Family History Interview Tips

Learning about your African-American family history starts with asking questions, which can sometimes be challenging. Expert Angela Walton-Raji shares tips on talking to your relatives to uncover your family’s stories and heritage. 

All of our relatives have unique stories. Like these young ladies at a Naval Air Station spring formal dance in Seattle, Washington, in 1944. (Click on the picture to learn more about it.)

Many African-American families share particular types of memories and experiences–for better or for worse–from having lived in the United States. Recently genealogy expert Angela Walton-Raji joined Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 201 to share tips about researching these stories.

She especially talked about the importance of interviewing elders, and shared several questions she suggested asking. These will help you learn more about your relative’s own life and other family experiences with the Civil Rights movement, migration, and military service. These questions also delve deeper into passed-down family memories that may help you trace your family history back to the era of slavery.

What to ask in African-American oral history interviews

1. Do you know of anyone in the family who was born a slave? (If old enough: as a child, did you know anyone personally who was born a slave?)

2. Who was the oldest person that you remember when you were a child? And did that person ever talk about anyone who may have been enslaved?

3. What do you know about where the family was from? (Were we always from Georgia, or was there a time when we came from another place? Why did we move? Who remembers that journey?) These questions may help you trace your family during the Great Migration.

4. Were you (or other relatives) involved in the Civil Rights movement, in the Garvey era, with the Freedom Riders, or other important events in your lifetime? What kinds of things did you see?

5. Who in the family participated in the military (in World War II, World War I, or the Spanish-American War)? FYI: African-American military units through the mid-20th century were still referred to as Buffalo soldiers. (In the interview, Angela mentioned the Triple Nickel, a unit of all-black World War II paratroopers.

“If you just drop a couple of key words you might jar their memory and get an amazing narrative to come out.” -Angela Walton-Raji

Ready to learn more about tracing African-American ancestry? Angela Walton-Raji instructs the African-American Genealogy Research Essentials downloadable video class. Purchase it with this link and use coupon code GEMS17 for 10% off, valid through 12/31/17.

More African American Genealogy Gems

A Slave Birth Record is among the Touching Heirlooms in This Exhibit

The Colored Farmer’s Alliance: Learning the History Behind their Stories

Finding Your Free People of Color

New York State Death Index Online for the First Time!

The New York State Death Index (1880-1956) is online for the first time! Also: letters of complaints to the city of Sydney, Australia; marriage records for Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington; and the newspaper of a historically black North Carolina university. Coming soon: a major new online archive for Ontario, Canada.

Featured: New York State Death Index

For the first time, the New York State Death Index (1880-1956) has been made available online–and it’s free! The nonprofit advocacy group Reclaim the Records won its case that this index should be made available as free public records. According to the organization’s announcement, the index isn’t completely statewide: New York City death records were maintained separately, and Yonkers, Buffalo and Albany are not included until 1914 or 1915. The index for 1880 and 1881 is sparse, as record-keeping wasn’t good yet, and the index for 1943 is difficult to read. And it’s unclear whether those who died at some state institutions were included. The link above takes you to each year’s index on Internet Archive.

Australia: Complaints to the City of Sydney

Over 56,000 letters written by residents to the City of Sydney in the latter part of the 1800s have been digitized and added to the City of Sydney Archive online. A city historian quoted at the Daily Telegraph.com said people’s complaints “range from the mundane to the bizarre,” such as “foul smells, night time noise, stray farm animals and smoke billowing from homes and blacksmiths’ forges.” This same online city archive also hosts a collection of historical photographs, a full run of Sands directories, postal directories, and other resources for researching your house history. Find this collection by clicking Archives Investigator and then “Letters Received by Council, 1843-1899.”

Canada: New Ontario collections planned

Findmypast and the Ontario Genealogical Society have announced a new partnership that will bring millions of Ontario records online. According to a Findmypast announcement, “The first phase will be launched later this year with the online publication of over six million fascinating Ontario records, including:

  • The Ontario Name Index (TONI) – over 3.7 million records – a mega-index of names with the goal of including every name found in any publication relating to Ontario, ranging from registers of birth, marriage & death to obituaries, memorial inscriptions, newspaper articles and more.
  • The Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index (OGSPI) – over 2.6 million records – containing data from censuses, birth, marriage and death registers, references in books, land records, passenger lists, military records and a host of other references.
  • Oddfellows Life Insurance Applications (1875-1929) – over 240,000 names released online for the very first time, containing a collection of just over 59,000 life insurance applications to the Odd-Fellows’ Relief Association of Canada. The applications contain answers to up to thirty-one questions about sex, age, occupation, height, weight, ethnic origins, marital status, family structure, and past and present health conditions.
  • Ontario Genealogical Society Bulletin/Families and NewsLeaf – new images from official society publications and journals will become available to search through Findmypast’s Periodical Source Index (PERSI) – the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world.”

Stay tuned to the Genealogy Gems blog for an announcement when the collections are available.

US: North Carolina university newspaper

Several issues of the student newspaper for Johnson C. Smith University are now online at DigitalNC. “Johnson C Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte, NC was founded in 1867 as the Biddle Memorial Institute,” explains a Digital North Carolina blog post. “The name was changed to Johnson C Smith University in 1923 after a benefactress’ husband, shortly before the available run of papers were published.” Online editions span 1926 – 1930.

Marriage record example from “Nebraska Marriage Records, 1855-1906” on Ancestry.com. Click to view.

US: Marriage records: NE, WA, IN, IA

Ancestry.com has published a new index of Nebraska, Marriage Records, 1855-1908 with over 1.4 million records. It includes indexed images of records that generally include the couple’s names, birthdates, birthplaces, parents’ names and date and place of the wedding. Also new on Ancestry.com is Washington, State Marriage Indexes, 1969-2014, described as “a statewide index to over 3.9 million marriages that were performed in Washington between 1969 and 2014.” It includes only the names of the couple, date of the wedding, and county.

The site has also recently updated marriage records collections for the states of IndianaIowa and an update to Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013, described as “images of and indexes extracted from various records of marriages in Washington” from the state archive (and, with over 10.5 million records, likely overlaps with the above new collection).

Thanks for helping us spread the word about new genealogy records online! Just share this post with your genealogy buddies and fellow society members. You’re a gem!

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links. Thank you for supporting our free blog and podcast.

New England Vital Records and More: New Genealogy Records Online

Millions of New England vital records are among newly-published genealogy records online. So are English parish records, Irish Easter Rising records, Italian civil registrations, South African church records, and records for Georgia WWI soldiers and Louisiana women.

New online this week are millions of new genealogy records from around the world! First, we’ll feature these (mostly) free vital records collections for New England states–but keep scrolling. We’ve got records to mention for other parts of the U.S., as well as England, Ireland, Italy, and South Africa.

New England Vital Records

New England vital records online got a BIG bump this week with the following additions:

Sample image from “Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921.” Database with images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 2 May 2017. Citing Division of Vital Statistics. State Board of Health, Augusta. Click to view.

Connecticut. More than 755,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Connecticut Marriages, 1640-1939. This hybrid index/image collection has this note: “We have legal rights to publish most of the images associated with these records; however, there are a few records that will not have an accompanying image available for view.”

Maine. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a half million indexed names to its collection of Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921. According to the site, the collection is comprised of a “name index and images of birth, marriage, and death returns acquired from the State Board of Health, Division of Vital Statistics and the state archives.”

Massachusetts: New images have been added to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s collection for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, 1789-1900. The update includes the following volumes: Immaculate Conception (Salem), St. Mary (Salem), and Sacred Heart (Roslindale).

Rhode Island. FamilySearch has added over a half million new indexed names and 30,000 digital images to its free collection, Rhode Island – Vital records. These are described as “Certificates and registers of births, 1846-1898, 1901-1903, marriages 1901-1903 and deaths, 1901-1953 acquired from the State Archives in Providence.”

Other new and updated records in the US include:

  • Newspapers – Baltimore MD and Hartford CT. Newspapers.com has added issues for two major papers: the Baltimore Sun (1837-2017) and the Hartford Courant (1764–2017). (With a Newspapers.com Basic subscription, you can access issues of these papers through 1922; or, with a Publisher Extra subscription, access those early years and additional issues from 1923 onward.)
  • Georgia. A memorial book for Georgia soldiers who served in World War I is being updated to include the names of African-Americans who served. “Due to the social and racial conditions of the time, this Memorial Book contains the information for only white soldiers,” explains the database landing page on the free United States World War I Centennial Commission website. “The current project is rectifying this by adding information for Georgia’s African-American personnel that also died in service. Further, we are adding names found on WWI monuments and plaques that are missing from the original Memorial Book….As missing names are determined and documented, they will be added” We learned about it in this press release from the University of North Georgia.
  • Louisiana. A collection of digitized publications by the Louisiana United Methodist Women (and predecessor organizations) is now free to search at the Centenary College of Louisiana Archives & Special Collections web portal (scroll down to Digital Collections and click Louisiana United Methodist Women’s Publications). According to an announcement by the college, “The digitized material includes annual reports (1884-2014) and newsletters (1963-2006) – 12,000 pages in total. Researchers can access them online, page through each volume, download complete PDFs, and search the full text versions.” Published digitized material is easy to keyword-search for ancestors’ names and hometowns. Here’s a general tip for finding married women’s names in older documents: search on just her surname or her husband’s name, as she may appear as “Mrs. Alexander Reed.”

England: Newspapers and Parish Records 

The British Newspaper Archive has added two new titles, The Yarmouth Independent (a Norfolk paper, 1862-1891) and The Rugby Advertiser (a Warwickshire title, 1850s-1950s).

Subscription website TheGenealogist has published over 100,000 parish records and thousands of voter records. According to the announcement, polls books include “35 different registers of people who were entitled to vote in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and other constituencies situated in Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Somerset and New Westminster in Canada….Electoral records are taken from the official lists produced to record who was entitled to vote in the various parliamentary elections.” Among new parish record collections are “100,000 new individuals added for the County of Worcestershire and additionally the Registers of the Parish Church of Rochdale in Lancashire that covers the period between 1642 and 1700.”

Findmypast.com has added 312,000 new records to its collection of Kent marriage records. New additions are for the parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham. Additionally, over 18,000 new records have been added to Kent Baptisms (parishes of Bapchild, Brompton, Chatham, New Gillingham, Wingham and Wittersham); over 3,000 records have been added to Kent Banns (parishes of Bapchild, Biddenden, and Wittersham); and over 18,000 new records are in Kent Burials (parishes of Bapchild, Kilndown, Tenterden, and Wittersham).

The site has also added to its records for North West Kent, described as “areas within the London boroughs which were historically part of Kent.” Over 23,000 records have been added to the North West Kent Baptisms collection, and another 15,000 to North West Kent Burials.

Ireland – Easter Rising and Newspapers

Findmypast.com has added over 76,000 records to its collection, Easter Rising & Ireland Under Martial Law 1916-1921. According to the site, “These once classified records, digitized from original documents held by The National Archives in Kew, record the struggles of life under martial law in Ireland and contain the details of soldiers and civilians who participated in or were affected by the Easter Rising of April 1916.”

“Your ancestor may be found in the records if they were killed or wounded during the conflict, arrested and held in internment, or tried by court martial. Additionally, if their home or place of work was searched they may appear in the records as the collection shows the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids.”

Also, Findmypast.com has added over 401,089 new articles and one new title to its collection of historic Irish Newspapers. The Ballymena Weekly Telegraph is the latest publication to join the collection and currently covers the years 1904, 1906-1916, 1921-1929 and 1931-1957.

Italian genealogy Italy flagItaly – Civil Registration

FamilySearch.org has added to its free online collections of Italy’s civil registration records. Among them are:

  • Trapani, 1906-1928; 1.1 million images added to an existing collection
  • Brescia, 1797-1815, 1866-1943; 620,801 new browseable image
  • Napoli, 1809-1865; 164,991 images added to an existing collection
  • Benevento, 1810-1942, over a million images added to an existing collection

South Africa – Church records and civil death records

FamilySearch.org has added more than 61,000 digital record images and over 3,000 indexed names to its collection, South Africa, Dutch Reformed Church Records (Stellenbosch Archive), 1690-2011. Also updated at FamilySearch.org is South Africa, Cape Province, Civil Deaths, 1895-1972, with over 16,000 new names.

Keep up with genealogy news from around the world with Lisa Louise Cooke’s FREE Genealogy Gems weekly e-newsletter. You’ll get a free Google Research e-book as a thank-you gift when you do. From this page (or any other on this website), just enter your name where it says “Sign up for the free email newsletter” and click GO.

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