British Isles Descendants Will Love these New Records Online

Millions of British Isles descendants—whether still living in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales or dispersed to the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, may find their ancestors in these new online records that include medieval maps, BMD and immigration records, name changes and even medical records for British troops in WWI.

British Isles descendants: Time to explore!

New collections for across Britain

Britain name changes. TheGenealogist.co.uk has published a new database that will help researchers identify official name changes by their ancestors in Britain. According to Family Tree (UK), “The Change of Names Database covers information gathered from a number of sources including Private Acts of Parliament; Royal Licences published in the London and Dublin Gazettes; notices of changes of name published in The Times after 1861 with a few notices from other newspapers; registers of the Lord Lyon [King of Arms] where Scottish changes of name were commonly recorded; records in the office of the Ulster King at Arms and also some private information.” Click here to learn more about name change records and subscription options.

British WWI records. British Isles subscription-based Genealogy Giant Findmypast.com has added nearly 700,000 records to its collection of British Armed Forces, First World War Soldiers’ Medical Records. According to the site, “These records may allow you to discover when and where your ancestor was wounded, where they were treated how long they were held at the medical facility for treatment. Images may provide a variety of additional details such as their service history and a description of the wound.”

British Isles descendants FMP British WWI medical record

Sample image from Findmypast.com. Crown Copyright Images reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London, England.

Battle artifacts. You can now browse or search a new database of more than 2000 archaeological artifacts that have been recovered from Anzac Cove and the Gallipoli Penninsula, in the area where thousands of Turkish, Australian, New Zealander, British, French, Indian and Newfoundlander troops died as part of a campaign over control of Istanbul. According to News Australia, this artifact collection results from “the world’s most extensive battlefield archaeological study uncovered items which gave a glimpse of life on the frontline for Turkish and Anzac troops, uncovered the trenches where men fought, lived and died, and unearthed everyday items such as bottles of beer and belt buckles.”

Medieval maps. Those who can trace their family history back to medieval times (even just to a particular region) will be excited to hear that the British Library has published a collection of free online maps. According to this announcement, “The Virtual Mappa Project has been officially released as an open access publication, with an incredible collection of digitised medieval world maps from the British Library and beyond, all online, annotated and waiting to be explored.” This collection is published “in a visually navigable, text-searchable, translated format that makes their intricacies much more accessible to modern minds.” Click here to read more instructions and to start exploring this collection!

Australia

Obituaries. Subscription-based Genealogy Giant Ancestry.com has updated its databaseAustralia and New Zealand, Obituary Index, 2004-2018, which now has more than 370,000 records. According to the collection description, this recent collection is curated through online research: “The collection contains recent obituaries from hundreds of newspapers. We work with partners to 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.”

Queensland immigration. The tech-savvy subscription-based Genealogy Giant MyHeritage.com has published a new collection with more than 100,000 records in it: Queensland, Australia Passenger and Crew Lists, 1852-1885. According to the site, “This collection is an index to inwards passenger and crew lists arriving in Brisbane and Moreton Bay between 1852 and 1885, sourced from the Collector of Customs (Brisbane) records, held at the National Archives of Australia, Brisbane (Shipping Inwards Series J715). Many of the ships have two lists–one prepared at the time of departure (classified in this index as a “Departure” list), and another prepared upon arrival (classified in this list as an “Arrival” list). The index covers over 100,000 individuals from 485 different voyages. A few outwards lists are also included. Information provided may include name of passenger or crew member, age, marital status, occupation, name of ship, departure date and place, and arrival date and place.”

South Australia immigration. The free Genealogy Giant, FamilySearch.org, has added more than 25,000 records to Australia, South Australia, Immigrants Ship Papers, 1849-1940. According to the site, this update includes “a record of births and deaths aboard, 1849-1867 and 1873-1885. Indexed records in collection include passenger lists arriving and departing from South Australia. Information on images varies but may include ship’s name, master’s name, tonnage, where bound, date, port of embarkation, names of passengers, ages, occupation, nationality, and port at which passengers have contracted to land.”

Canada

New Brunswick births. FamilySearch has also added nearly 24,000 names to its collection, New Brunswick Late Registration of Births, 1810-1899. “These records include indexes and images of provincial returns of births, 1869-1906 and late registrations, 1810-1906. The late registrations from 1810 to 1899 are arranged by birth year and then surname. Although the index is complete, images are being added to this collection as they become available. The returns of births, 1870-1906, and the late registration documents which were original certificates and some returns, 1810-1899, are arranged alphabetically within each year.”

England

Kent births. This collection isn’t huge, but it’s new and as the record of a male midwife, it’s fairly unusual: Kent, Lydd Midwife’s Birth Register 1757-1815. The site states, “The collection contains over 2,400 records transcribed from the original register of William Waylett (1729-1815), a male midwife who practiced in Lydd and the surrounding parishes on Romney Marsh in Kent….Transcripts span the years 1757 to 1815 and will reveal a combination of your ancestor’s birth date, birth place, parent’s names and any additional notes. Notes may include details of the pregnancy, delivery, mother, or payment for services.” If you find your ancestor in these records, we hope you’ll let us know about it!

Liverpool church records. Ancestry.com has added to several separate collections of Liverpool Anglican church records so that they now total more than 4 million records. You may want to search first the multi-record type Liverpool, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1659-1812, and follow up by searching within these individual collections of Liverpool, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1917, Liverpool, England, Church of England Confirmations, 1887-1921, Liverpool, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932 and Liverpool, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1975.

Northumberland and Durham burials. Findmypast.com has added over 14,000 new records to Northumberland and Durham Memorial Inscriptions. According to the site, “The new additions cover churchyards in Birtley, Blyth, Boldon, Eighton Banks, Gosforth, Great Lumley, Penshaw, Ryhope, South Shields, Whitley Bay and Woodhorn. Each result includes a transcription of an original inscription. The amount of information listed may vary although most transcripts will include a combination of your ancestor’s burial year, birth date, death date, age at death, denomination, inscription, location, plot, stone type and any additional notes.”

Yorkshire burials. Findmypast.com has added more than 38,000 new records to its database, Yorkshire Burials. According to the site, the collection “now contains over 5.1 million records spanning more than 400 years of the county’s rich history.”

New Zealand

Nearly a half million records already appear in New Zealand, Cemetery Transcriptions, 1840-1981, a brand new free collection you can search at FamilySearch.org. Containing indexed names and images from various places across New Zealand, the records may include the cemetery name, name of deceased, death date, age at death and names of family members.

Scotland

Ancestry.com subscribers may now search a new collection with more than 3.2 million records: Aberdeen City and Former Counties of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Electoral Registers, 1832-1976. “This database contains yearly registers listing names and residences of people in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, who were eligible to vote in elections. These year-by-year registers can help place your ancestors in a particular place and possibly also reveal some information about property they owned. Coverage for the area and timeframe is not complete, so it may be helpful to check the browse menu on the right [of the database’s search page, linked to above] for details of which volumes are included.”

British Isles descendants Aberdeen voters Ancestrycom

Sample image from electoral roll of Aberdeenshire County, 1862, images 25-26 on Ancestry.com.

United States

Deceased physicians. Findmypast.com has published more than 700,000 biographical card files of deceased doctors from the American Medical Association. The Deceased Physician File (AMA), 1864-1968 is a browse-only collection. The site explains, “Each record consists of a transcript that may reveal when your ancestor died, where they practiced, where they attended school, where they were living at the time of their death, details relating to their career and their cause of death.”

Indiana marriages. Findmypast.com has added nearly 80,000 records of Indiana marriages (1818-1920) to its growing (and already enormous) collection of United States Marriage records. According to the site, “The collection includes both transcripts and images of original documents that will list a combination of your ancestor’s marriage date, location, the names of both the bride and groom, their birthplaces, birth dates, ages, residence and the names of both their parents.”

Massachusetts. The Boston Public Library has curated a collection of thousands of high school yearbooks from across the state of Massachusetts and published them online for free viewing at the Internet Archive. The collection page appears to comprise 4440 volumes dating back to 1892. (We read about this new collection in this online article at CBS Boston.)

Native American census. New and free to explore on FamilySearch.org is United States, Native American, Census of the Ute Tribe, 1944. Though a small collection (only about 2500 records), it may be key to helping you trace Ute ancestors and tribal membership. According to the site, these records come from an “index and images of Indian Census Roll taken on the Uintah and Ouray reservation in northeastern Utah during the month of January 1944 by the Office of Indian Affairs….Additional records for this tribe, reservation and agency will be found at the National Archives at Denver in Record Group 75 Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

North Carolina. A new collection of nearly 20,000 records at FamilySearch is North Carolina, County Divorce Records, 1926-1975. The collection description states, “This collection contains an index and images to the ‘index to former husbands and maiden names of divorced women’ covering the years 1926 to 1975. The documents included are affidavits, which are titled “Notice of Intention to Resume Use of Maiden Name.”

Also new for North Carolina is the online availability of some issues of the Charlotte Post, an African American weekly newspaper founded in 1878 and now available on DigitalNC. According to this article, “The first issues that we are making available online on DigitalNC cover 1988-1990, 1993, and 1996.” However, the landing page shows online issues back to 1971.

Ohio. Nearly 168,000 records have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Ohio, Crawford County Obituaries, 1860-2004. These records come from the obituary file at the Crawford County Genealogical Society in Galion, Ohio. (We love societies and the work they do to compile and preserve local records!)

Tennessee. More than 150,000 records have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Tennessee Death Records, 1914-1963. This collection includes indexed images of statewide death certificates.

Washington, D.C. FamilySearch.org has added nearly 100,000 record entries to District of Columbia, Glenwood Cemetery Records, 1854-2013. According to the site, “This collection includes images of cemetery records from 1854-2013 from the Glenwood Cemetery, a historic cemetery located on Lincoln Road NE in Washington, D.C.” This collection continues to grow as more images are added.

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!

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.

Mid-Atlantic and Southern Genealogy: Tips & Record Types

Researching your U.S. mid-Atlantic and Southern genealogy can be a challenge (ever heard of “burned counties?”). These top tips and key record types may help you bust your genealogy brick walls in these regions.

Thanks to Robert Call of Legacy Tree Genealogists for writing this guest post! Learn more about Legacy Tree Genealogists below.

The Challenge

Some of the most difficult genealogical research problems filter down to us through the poor record keeping, burned depositories, and social customs of our ancestors who lived in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern United States. Notoriously challenging, many of the requests that we receive at Legacy Tree Genealogists are to assist others in discovering their Southern ancestors. In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the key record types we use when solving a Mid-Atlantic or Southern States problem.

Top tips for mid-Atlantic and Southern genealogy

First, three general tips are good to keep in mind when researching Mid-Atlantic and Southern ancestors.

1. Be patient

Research problems from these states generally require much patience—slowly chipping away at the problem at hand, searching out documents, considering the evidence, and letting it simmer. Rushing through a problem will result in missed evidence, conclusions with insufficient proof, or even just accidental errors. Giving a research problem time allows for more evidence gathering, more critical evaluation, and for fresh ideas and potential solutions to emerge from the documents and our analysis.

2. See what’s been done

Evaluate the pertinent work others have done on the same ancestral families. Usually, the best places to find the best research are periodicals such as National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (which publishes articles pertaining to all regions of the United States), and The American Genealogist. (The article shown here comes from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol 99:1, March 2011, pp. 5-14.) In addition to these, there are state, regional, and local genealogy journals. [Note from Genealogy Gems: use PERSI, the Periodical Source Index at Genealogy Giant Findmypast.com to search for surnames and other subjects that appear in genealogy journal and newsletter articles. Click here to learn more about PERSI.]

Similarly, use search engines and library catalogs (such as the FamilySearch Catalog, university catalogs, and WorldCat) to discover whether book-length treatments of your family have been published. Because these volumes are usually not published by academic presses, are self-published, and are rarely peer-reviewed, the credibility of each history must be carefully evaluated but could offer important clues for your own research.

Online family trees at the Genealogy Giants, like the Public Member Trees at Ancestry.com or the global Family Tree at FamilySearch.org, may also provide good research or point to the holy-grail source—such as a property deed, family bible, probate document, etc.—that provides the necessary evidence. Of course, there is a lot of bad information floating around the Internet (including in online family trees) so be careful about what you accept as reliable. [Click here to watch a free video comparing the online tree model at Ancestry.com with the tree type used at FamilySearch.org.]

3. Befriend your ancestors’ friends

Pay attention to the extended kinship network and friends of your ancestors. These people often followed similar migration patterns, which can help you discover where ancestors originated, especially as people frequently moved throughout the South. For example, perhaps you know your Fitzpatrick ancestors in Georgia were born in North Carolina, but you cannot determine where in North Carolina. If many of the Georgian neighbors migrated from Rowan County, North Carolina, it would be worth a look in Rowan County’s records for your ancestors. Documents pertaining to aunts, uncles, cousins, or in-laws may shed light on your direct ancestors and help untangle the web of relationships that may not be clear from documents related to your ancestors.

Now for some insight into record types we frequently use for Mid-Atlantic and Southern States problems.

Top records for mid-Atlantic and Southern genealogy

Property records

This record type is one of the most useful when tackling families in the South or Mid-Atlantic regions. Property records document the transaction of real and personal property among the parties to the transaction. This usually means the transfer of land but could also include enslaved people or other high-value items (we’ve even seen the rights to use and sell a patent in designated areas recorded in property collections).

Property was often transferred among family members, which in turn helps the genealogist in his or her work. Family relationships are not always stated in deeds, but sometimes can be inferred from the phrasing. Even a possible relationship can be noted until additional evidence proving or disproving the hypothesis is discovered. And don’t ignore the witnesses! Property records usually include one, two, three or more witnesses attesting to the validity of the transaction and the witnesses were sometimes family.

Less-experienced genealogists sometimes only search the deed volumes, but a county may have kept other types of property records (mortgages being a common one) which should be searched as well. Property records are helpful when researching enslaved ancestors as well because they document the movements among various slaveholders and sometimes the enslaved person’s family relationships. Because property almost always constituted an inheritance—which fell to family members after debts were paid—the distribution of an estate is sometimes documented in the property collections rather than the probate records.

Excerpt from a property transaction between William C. Cross and his wife, Elizabeth, and William D. Cross, recorded in Calhoun County, Alabama. FamilySearch.org.

Probate Records

Probate records are the documents a court generates to distribute a deceased person’s estate. As mentioned above, the property almost always was divided among the deceased’s family members (instances where the testator chose to bequeath his or her property exclusively to non-family which was a rarity). Thus, in the absence of good vital records, as is the case in Southern and Mid-Atlantic states for most periods, probates may offer the necessary evidence to prove a family relationship.

A word of caution: That someone was listed as an heir to a deceased person’s estate is not proof that he or she was a child of the deceased. Frequently, when an heir was not a child, he or she was a grandchild of the deceased, suggesting the parent of the grandchild was deceased and his or her portion of the inheritance then went to the grandchildren. Like property records, probate records can also help in researching enslaved individuals because they were considered property in the law and were included in probate records as property sold to pay debts or bequeathed to the deceased’s heirs.

Excerpt from a 1730s will from Cecil County, Maryland, where the testator leaves property to his “couzens.” FamilySearch.org.

[Ready to learn more about probate records? Click here to read Gems contributor Margaret Linford’s reasons for loving these genealogically-rich records.]

Guardianship Records

These records were created when a minor needed a legal guardian to represent them in legal matters (especially when the child inherited or could inherit property). It was not necessary for both parents to be deceased for a legal guardian to be appointed for a minor child. We have seen guardians appointed in instances when the mother was still alive, but the father deceased, and when the mother was deceased with the father still living. Guardianships can help prove a parent-child relationship or even whether a set of proposed siblings were truly siblings. These records also help prove the death of an ancestor. Guardians were sometimes older siblings, in-laws, grandparents, or extended families, so noting who the guardian was can help crack your Southern or Mid-Atlantic States research problem.

Excerpt from a guardianship bond from Butts County, Georgia appointing a guardian for William, Samuel, and John Shedrick, orphans of Samuel Shedrick. FamilySearch.org.

Civil court records

Once again, this type of record for mid-Atlantic and Southern states research problems often focused on property. When a dispute arose over property ownership, these matters were usually settled in the courts and there is a good chance that the documents pertaining to those proceedings may survive today. Disputes over property ownership may have been caused by conflicts regarding an inheritance. Or, perhaps neighbors argued over where a property boundary was located and the court records may document how the parties came about owning the property—which could have been through the family.

Court records may be more difficult to access because fewer have been microfilmed (the collections at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, are a good place to start but are by no means complete) or digitized, so it may be necessary to contact the local courthouse or the state archives. But the patience and effort may be well worth the discoveries.

Excerpt from the 1820s civil actions collection of Macon County, North Carolina, naming Su-e-Killah and Yo-hoo-lah as the children and heirs of Au-back, a Cherokee Indian, and his widow, Ta-nah. Ancestry.com.

While Southern and mid-Atlantic States genealogy research is some of the most challenging research in the United States, solving those “brick wall” problems is exciting and satisfying! Patiently working through the property, probate, guardianship, and court records while searching for our direct ancestors and those connected to them can help extend our ancestries and discover previously unknown ancestors.

Robert Call is a researcher for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit www.legacytree.comExclusive Offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code GGP100! (Offer may expire without notice.)

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!

New Digital Archives for Genealogy

Do you use digital archives in your genealogy research? You should! Check out these new digital archives relating to notable women in the U.S. and Sweden; Scottish WWI hospital records; the WWI Armenian genocide; Ohio; Irish-Americans; and African-American military service. Bonus: we also provide quick links to new archives for Kansas in WWI; historic Montana; post-WWII Manchester, England; vintage Tacoma, WA; and colonial Florida.

New digital archives: genealogy treasures

Irish-American resources at the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress announced recently on its blog the release of a new guide to researching the Irish-American experience and new images in its “Free to Use and Reuse” archive. The latter features “sets of themed content: travel posters, presidential portraits, Civil War drawings and all manner of dogs,” explains the article. “All the sets highlighted in the archive—and these are just a few examples—are fee to use and reuse, meaning there are no known copyright restrictions associated with the content, and you can do whatever you want with it.” New content comes from various Library of Congress collections relating to folklife, maps, music and prints/photographs.

Women’s obituary collection in the New York Times. “Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now, we’re adding the stories of remarkable women.” So states the home page of Overlooked, a new obituary collection at the New York Times website. The site goes on to explain how they will be adding belated obituaries—short biographical sketches—of women and others whose lives deserve recognition. You can read about many, search them and even suggest nominees for the series.

Oral history archive of Armenian genocide. The USC Shoah Foundation “has received one of the largest collections of testimonies from survivors of the Armenian Genocide” of World War I, PR Newswire recently reported. More than 1,000 oral history interviews comprise this collection. Only a small number appear online presently; more will be added as the files are digitally remastered and indexed. Click here to learn more about this collection.

Biographies of notable Swedish women. The Chicago Evening Post reported recently on a new online biographical dictionary of women in Swedish history. The site itself is Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexicon (it does have an English-language home page). Its home page encourages visitors to “Read up on 1,000 Swedish women from the Middle Ages to the present day. Use the search function to reveal what these women got up to, how they were educated, which organisations they belonged to, where they travelled, what they achieved, and much more. All of them contributed in a significant way to the development of Swedish society.” According to the Chicago Evening Post, the current collection of 1,000 biographical sketches will soon double (at least).

Scottish WWI hospital admissions. The records of a hospital that treated WWI wounded have been digitized and put online. “Erskine Hospital [in Renfrewshire, Scotland] – then called the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers – was set up in 1916 to treat soldiers who had suffered the loss of a limb during the war,” explains an article at BT.com. The original leather-bound admissions registers from 1916-1939 have been digitized and placed online at Erskine.org. In many cases, not just admissions are recorded, but patients’ progress, prosthetic fittings and other long-term care details.

Ohio Digital Network Collections. The State Library of Ohio recently announced that “over 90,000 new materials from Ohio Digital Network are now discoverable in Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).” Several institutions have partnered to contribute content, including the State Library of Ohio, Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN), and Ohio History Connection [the state historical society). “The Ohio Digital Network builds on strong digital collection efforts across the state including Ohio Memory and the Ohio Digitization Hubs project. Click here to start exploring Ohio Digital Network collections.

Digital archive of African-American military service. The Library of Congress has also launched the William A. Gladstone Afro-American Military Collection, named for a historian and author of books about black Civil War troops. According to the site, “The collection spans the years 1773 to 1987, with the bulk of the material dating from the Civil War period, 1861–65. The collection consists of correspondence, pay vouchers, orders, muster rolls, enlistment and discharge papers, receipts, contracts, affidavits, tax records, miscellaneous military documents and printed matter. Most items document African-Americans in military service, especially the United States Corps d’Afrique and the United States Colored Troops, which were organized during the Civil War. Also included are many documents concerning slavery and various other Civil War documents that mention African-Americans.”

More digital archives for genealogy: quick links

These smaller collections are more specific, so they won’t apply to as many of you. But if they DO apply, they may reveal unique family stories or documents.

Didn’t find anything here that applies to your family history? Let the diverse topics and record types in these collections inspire your searches for similar items about your relatives.

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.

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.

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