New Google Video from Genealogy Gems!

Google your family history with Genealogy Gems! Google has a great collection of free online search tools–all powered by the same Google search engine–that can help you discover your family history. In this new Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning video, Google guru Lisa Louise Cooke demonstrates how she fleshed out a story on her family tree by using Google searches, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, and more.

Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members may now watch a brand new video tutorial: “Reconstruct Your Ancestors’ World with Google.” In this 60-minute video, renowned Google expert Lisa Louise Cooke uncovered a story on her family tree by using a variety of Google tools–then brings all her discoveries together in a compelling video that can be shared with your family.

Lisa’s case study begins with a story from her family archive: a short autobiographical sketch.

Already a rich narrative, the story is just the beginning of what can be learned about this family for free when you run certain details through Google’s many powerful online search tools: Google search, Google Earth, Google Images, Google Books, Google Scholar, Google Alerts, Google Patents, and even YouTube (which is owned by Google).

Google your own genealogy gems

In this video–available exclusively to Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning members–Lisa walks you through each step in the Google search methodology process. She helps you formulate “Google-able” questions and know which part of the vast Google search system might best help you answer them. Then she demonstrates how to search Google’s various facets most effectively and efficiently with queries that bring up the kinds of results you want. You’ll learn important tips such as the difference between Google Books and Google Scholar and how to fine-tune your Google Image searches. Finally, you’ll see how she skillfully and creatively threads together her discoveries to reconstruct meaningful stories she can share with her relatives.

Lisa delivered this presentation at RootsTech, the world’s biggest annual genealogy conference, but only as a Premium eLearning member do you have access to the downloadable handout that summarizes everything you need to know.

More about Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning

Every month, Premium eLearning Members get access to a brand new Premium Video just like this one, along with a new Premium Podcast episode. Plus, you get access to an archive of all previous video classes and podcast episodes. Enjoy them entirely at your own pace–all for less than $5 a month! You’ll find all kinds of genealogy topics, but especially DNA, online research, maps and geographical tools, using Evernote for genealogy, organizing your family history, technology, mobile and cloud-based research, and more! Here’s a 10-minute clip from Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 157 that includes an overview of how Premium eLearning works–check it out!
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.

Create Your Family History Google Earth Tour

Tours are great way to see highlights in the shortest amount of time. Why not take your relatives on a virtual family history tour? You can do just that using the free Google Earth pro software.

Read more as Lisa shares some tips and strategies to using Google Earth to create your own unique family history virtual tour.

Hop-on Hop-off Touring

One of the perks of being a genealogy speaker is that I get to travel all over the world and speak to folks who share my passion for genealogy. And it’s an added bonus when a genealogist who attended one of my sessions emails me afterwards. I love seeing their excitement spills across my screen as they share with me how they put into practice what they learned and a genealogical brick wall came a-tumblin’ down! (I LOVE my job!)

High also on the list of perks is the opportunity to see a bit of the local sites and history wherever I am speaking. Time is usually short, so I try my best to make the most of it and hit the highlights. That was certainly the case in Sydney, Australia earlier this year. There was so much to see and so little time to see it! When time is at a premium (and really, when is time ever not at a premium?) and there’s a lot to cover, I find that a tour by someone in the know is a best way to go. In Australia I turned to Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member (and now dear friend) Dot Elder and her husband Roly for advice on the best tour to see the city. Roly quickly dug up tickets to the Hop-on-Hop-off Sightseeing BIG BUS of Sydney. 33 stops, 2 tours, free wifi onboard, and earphones delivering recorded commentary on what was whizzing by us from the outdoor upper deck. It was the perfect way to orient the “Non-Australian” to the fabulous city of Sydney.

Family History Tour

We all have relatives who are not genealogists, and who don’t have time for or relish all the details of our genealogical findings. However, they would likely thoroughly enjoy a high-level tour of the highlights of the family tree with commentary from the expert: YOU! That kind of genealogical tour could come in many traditional forms (a book, a blog post, etc.) But if you really want to WOW your relatives, the closest thing to a Hop-on-Hop-off tour of your family’s history is what I call a “Family History Tour” in Google Earth Pro.

Google Earth Pro Explained

Google Earth Pro is a “geo-browser” (a tool for viewing geographic data) that uses satellite, aerial, and street level imagery. It also includes other geographic data that is accessed over the internet to show related information such as street names, train stations, and much more. Unlike Google.com, which is a website, Google Earth Pro is free software that is downloaded and installed on your computer. It also requires that the user is connected to the internet while using the program.

Don’t let the “Pro” name deter you. This tool is absolutely free, although just a few years ago you would have had to pay around $400 for it. If you have never installed Google Earth on your computer, you can do so here. If you already have, you can easily tell if you have the original free version of Google Earth or Google Earth Pro by looking at the icon on your desktop. If it’s blue, it’s the old version. If it’s grey, it’s Google Earth Pro.  

Many people use Google Earth Pro (which from this point forward we’ll just refer to as Google Earth) for mapping, to get a view of where they are headed or where they have been, or for their child’s social studies report. All of these are great reasons to use Google Earth, but wait until you see what else it can do!

One of the most dazzling features of Google Earth is Street View. By clicking the Street View icon (often referred to as the “yellow peg man”) and dropping him on a blue line on the map, you can get a panoramic view along many streets in the world. Street View was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and now includes cities and rural areas worldwide. Check out where Google will be capturing Street View next here on their Street View webpage.

Virtual_Tours_2

Google Street View also invites you to virtually tour many wonderful places on their highlights reels found here. Not only can you view the streets, but you can enter places you never dreamed possible. “Walk” into the abbeys and garden castles of Europe or dive deep into the ocean. Wherever you have always wanted to go is just a click away.

Example of a Family History Google Earth Tour

So what does a family history Google Earth Tour look like? Hop on the bus by clicking the video below and I’ll show you.

5 Steps to Create a Family History Google Earth Tour

The process for creating a family history Google Earth tour is easy and fun.

1. Outline the story: Like with genealogy research, you can save loads of time with some initial planning. Your first decision is which “story” you want to tell. Keep in mind that the average person’s attention span is short, so trying to include all the locations in your family tree is a recipe for disaster. Instead, pick one portion of your tree. In my example above, I told the story of a 10 year period that my great grandparents lived in San Francisco. This turns a tour into a story, which is much more interesting.

Once you have your story selected, make a list in chronological order of all of the significant locations and events that occurred. This will be your road map for creating your tour.

2. Create a tour folder: Since you will have several locations, it’s best to collect them all in one place. In Google Earth, that place is a folder.

To create a folder, go to the Places panel and right-click on My Places. Select Add > New folder. In the pop-up dialogue box, give your tour a title, and add any description you would like. Click OK to close the dialogue box.

3. Set placemarks at locations: Type the first location on your list in the Search box and fly to that location. Then click once on the folder you created to select it. Click the placemark button in the toolbar at the top of the Google Earth screen. Another dialogue box will pop-up. Fill in the title of the location (tip: keep it short so it doesn’t clutter up the map) and fill in the description (the reason this location is significant.) Click OK to close the placemark dialogue box. Now the pushpin placemark will appear on the map, and it is housed in the tour folder. When you click the placemark, the description you wrote will appear.

The placemark doesn’t have to be a pushpin icon. You can customize it by right-clicking on the placemark and selecting Properties. This will reopen the placemark dialogue box. In the upper right corner of the box you will see the default icon of a yellow pushpin (or you will you will see the last icon you used if you have customized icons previously.) Click the icon and then select for the collection of icons, and click OK. You can also change the color of the icon, upload your own, or have no icon at all.

4. Save your work: Google Earth currently doesn’t auto-save your work, so you will want to do so every few minutes as you work on your family history tour. Go to File > Save > Save My Places. Files saved in MyPlaces are only visible to you and reside on your computer’s hard drive. They are not stored in the cloud.

When your tour is complete, you will want to save the file to your desktop for easy access. In the Places panel, right-click on the tour folder and select Save > Save Place As and save it to the desired location on your computer. The file will be zipped by Google Earth so that all the components are neatly packaged in one file.

5. Share with others: Now that your tour is zipped and saved, you can email it to your family members. Simply attach it to your email as you would any document or photo. It can be helpful if you let your family member know that if they don’t have the free Google Earth Pro software already installed on their computer, they will want to do so before clicking the file. I like to provide a handy link to the download page to make it easy for them. Anyone with Google Earth on their computer can click the attachment and the computer will automatically recognize the file type and open it in Google Earth.

What Story Will Your Family History Google Earth Tour Tell?

Now I’d like to hear from you. What is the first story in your family tree that you would like to tell through a family history Google Earth tour? Sharing your ideas in the Comments below will help you solidify your idea and will certainly inspire others.

Resources:

We’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg. Get in depth instructions from these resources:

Book: The Genealogist Google Toolbox 
Video Tutorial: Google Earth for Genealogy

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.

Finding Hard-to-Find WWI Era German Ancestors

This surprise discovery of a WWI German ancestor on a free website can inspire your own family history research discoveries. Bonus: watch a free video on how to find your German ancestor’s home village!

Following Our German Expert’s Advice

Not long ago, I made a surprising military record discovery. It came about because I was looking at the e-book we put together of handouts of all the sessions we presented in the Genealogy Gems booth at FGS 2016. I was reviewing the notes from one of Jim Beidler’s sessions. (These handouts really are a wonderful benefit of coming by our booth at the big conferences!)

In the handout, Jim recommends des.genealogy.net and I didn’t recall having searched that site before. Here you can search among several kinds of records that have been transcribed or indexed by volunteers, including tombstones, memorial cards, World War I casualty lists and directories.

my first find: WWI German casualty list

Following Jim’s advice, I performed a search and, sure enough, I found a one-of-a-kind digitized document. At first glance it wasn’t clear what I was looking. The result contained a VERY rare surname in my family tree, Sporowski, that appeared alongside the name of my great-grandfather’s tiny home village of Kotten, which is rarely mentioned anywhere. The document was a World War I casualty list dated December 22, 1914! Aside from my great grandfather’s naturalization papers, this was the first time ever I had found the name Sporowski and the town of Kotten on the same page of any document. Just seeing them together gave me goosebumps!

Reading German Gothic Script

In order to confirm that I was reading the German Gothic script correctly, I turned to Google for a quick search of German Gothic Script Guide and quickly found several reliable options. I used the Foundation for East European Family History Studies German-Gothic Handwriting Guide available here

The guide helped me confirm my suspicions that the first letter of the first word was “G”, and that I indeed had the first letter of the surname correct, “S”. The entry reads:

“Gren. Emil Sporowski – Kotten”

While this document was not for my great grandfather, I had found the first documentation of his brother Emil! (Gustav also served in the military. Here’s his picture, below.)

Understanding WWI German Military Terms

So what did “Gren.” stand for? I suspected “Grenadier,” but I returned to Google and conducted a search of German Military Abbreviations to be sure. 

Google did not disappoint. The search led to several very helpful documents including one entitled German Military Abbreviations which was prepared by the War Department during World War II.  
Because it was a long PDF document I shaved off a lot of time by using Control + F to find the term “Gren” in this 246 page document. This found the answer instantly on page 72:  

WWI Germany Military Uniforms

I’m a very visual person, so I bee-lined back to Google to get my first glimpse of a Germany Grenadier Military WWI soldier:

WWI German Genealogy Research Success!

What a find in just a few short minutes! And what a lead that may result in additional records that exist for Emil’s military service. (This is the brick-wall family that Legacy Tree Genealogists helped me with recently.)

It was a good reminder that when searching online you never know what you’ll find. Leave no stone unturned — or in this case, no website unsearched — when an expert recommends it, especially if it’s free! And remember to take extra time to familiarize yourself with the sites you search and the collections you find: their original intended purpose, how they are organized, and where they may lead you next.

Learn More Like this 

Genealogy Gems will be rolling out the red carpet and more mini training sessions (like the one Jim gave at our booth) at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree (May 31 – June 2, 2018, Burbank, CA) and FGS 2018 (August 22 – 25, Fort Wayne, IN). Come by the booth to check out the schedule and learn how to get the handouts.

How to Find the Germany Villages of Your Ancestors

Here at Genealogy Gems we’re devoted to helping you be successful in uncovering your family history. Here’s a bonus for you below: a videotaped version of Jim Beidler’s RootsTech 2018 Genealogy Gems booth presentation, “How to find your German ancestral village.” Enjoy!

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.

Deciphering Place Names Just Got Easier

When you need help deciphering place names in hard-to-read genealogy documents, two free online tools may have great suggestions for you. Use them to take the guesswork out of identifying great-grandpa’s hometown!

Thanks to guest blogger Katherine Schober, expert German translator and author of the new book, Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting, for this article on deciphering place names (or anything else) in hard-to-read old documents.

There are times when you know from the context of an old document that a certain handwritten word is a city or town–but you aren’t sure of the exact letters the scribe has written. Perhaps you can make out most of the name, but not the first letter. Or maybe you can’t tell whether you’re looking at an “r” or an “n” in the middle of the word. Other times, you can read the place name, but this particular spelling doesn’t appear on a map.

Deciphering place names with a simple trick—and 2 free online tools

Two online resources that are very helpful for identifying town names are Google’s search engine and Meyer’s Gazetteer. At both sites, you can enter what you do know and have these sites help suggest possible place names.

Google search suggestions

Type your transcribed town name into Google—along with any other known place clues, such as the county/province or country name–and see if you get any search results for the region you are researching. If you do, congratulations, you likely transcribed it correctly!

If not, Google may actually suggest the correct transcription of your word for you. For example, when I was translating a nineteenth-century document a few months ago, I read the letters of the town as “L-e-h-t”. I typed “Leht, Germany” into Google, and waited to see what search results would appear. As it turned out, there were no search results for “Leht, Germany,” but Google’s “Did you mean…” function actually provided four other possibilities for what I could have meant as a town name! Here’s what it gave me:

After comparing these Google suggestions with my handwritten word and the specific region of Germany, I realized that the word actually had an “r” and an “e” squeezed in and was, therefore, the German town of “Lehrte.” Taking advantage of this “Did you mean” feature of Google can be very helpful when trying to decipher city and town names.

(Learn hundreds more tips on using Google search–and all the other free Google tools–in Lisa Louise Cooke’s popular book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.)

More help from Meyer’s Gazetteer

If you can only recognize the first few or the final few letters of a German town, Meyer’s Gazetteer is the site for you. Meyer’s Gazetteer is a free database containing names and information on pre-World War I German cities, towns, and villages (meaning that this site includes towns in present-day France, Poland, and other places). Type in the letters you recognize in your word and use an asterisk to represent the letters you don’t. Meyer’s Gazetteer will then provide you with a list of all places with your letter combination. Then you can then see if there is a town that matches your handwritten word and region.

In the example below, I recognized a capital “A” at the beginning of the word. The middle letters looked like a scribble, but I could see “e-n-b-a-c-h” as the final letters of the word. I typed this into Meyer’s Gazetteer, using an asterisk for those unclear middle letters. The website then provided me with a list of possibilities, and–by only looking at the town names in my specific German region–I was able to significantly narrow down what my handwritten town name could be. By comparing this list to my handwritten word, I was able to then decipher the remaining letters and figure out the name of the town. (Click here for more tips on using Meyer’s Gazetteer.)

By taking advantage of the resources available online, you can make your transcription process much easier and much more fun. Best of luck!

About the Author

Katherine Schober is a German translator who specializes in genealogy documents. Her new book, Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting, is available in paperback or Kindle format. Check out Katherine’s other Genealogy Gems guest blog posts:

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!

How to Research Your Ancestors’ Occupations

Tracing your ancestors’ occupations can be one of the best ways to learn more about their everyday lives, skills, financial status and even their social status. Follow these tips and record types into the working lives of your relatives to enrich your family history.

One of my favorite things to learn about my ancestors is the kind of work they did. Whether they were laborers, owned a business, worked on a farm or clerked in a store, there are often records that can tell you more about what their working conditions would have been like; what skills they likely had; and what kind of perks (or lack of) came with the job, like wealth or social status.

Not long ago I heard from Deidre, who was thinking along the same lines. She’s already explored many records that can tell you about an ancestor’s occupation, and now she wants to take things a little further:

“Hi, Lisa! I have listened to most of your podcasts…and have come across something I need some help with. I don’t remember any episodes on business owners and how to research them. I have been recently been researching a new part of the family and they were business owners. One of these family members had a taxi business in Parkersburg, WV then moved to Indianapolis (where I live) to open a restaurant in our downtown, then owned an apartment/business building and leased it out. One of his sons owned drug stores and another was a lawyer.

By using city directories I have found some information about the business, but still wondering if I might be missing more record types. I have used censuses, city directories and local newspapers so far, but are there official legal documents filed for businesses and where would I look? And were there censuses conducted for businesses that would have some detail about the business? The time period I am referring to is 1900 to 1960’s.

It seems this family were entrepreneurial types and tried a lot of business ventures. I had also thought of going down the deed record way for looking at buildings they may have bought, but wondered if these are typically stored in the same place as land deed records at the courthouse. LOTS OF QUESTIONS TO KEEP ME UP AT NIGHT! Any insight is much appreciated! Thank you so much for your show!”

Deidre’s family sounds fascinating—no wonder she wants to learn more about their work! She’s already off to a great start, having learned what kind of work they did. If you need to start from square one, turn to the same kinds of records she already has.

How to research your ancestors’ occupations

1. Identify their line of work

A host of records created about your ancestors may reveal what kind of work they did and who employed them. Census records, obituaries, marriage or death records, city directory entries, draft registration records, pension records, local or county histories: all might mention an occupation.

A photo may reveal an occupation, too. Here’s one that does: see the H.R. Cooke’s Carriage and Motor Works sign in the upper left corner of this photo? It’s from my husband’s Cooke family.

So may a notation on a local map, which might identify an ancestor’s mill, store, school, a factory or hospital that employed him, etc. Remember, our ancestors’ jobs changed over time. A young man may have progressed from a laborer in a mine to the brake man on the coal train to a shift supervisor. Relatives may have changed career paths altogether, too.

When looking through these old records, watch for the name of an employer. The name of a business is just as researchable as an industry or type of work! (More tips on researching the business below.)

2. Learn more about the trade

Depending on the time period and the trade itself, you may be able to learn various details about what the work typically involved (even if you don’t learn specifics about your ancestor’s experience).

Many terms we see in old records today apply to jobs that no longer exist. Googling an obsolete occupation may help you identify it. For example, if you Google the question, “What is a fuller?” you’ll see a definition at the top and, below that, a clickable explanation at Wikipedia. (For the sake of accuracy, you’ll want to verify that in more scholarly sources.)

I saw once on Facebook that someone was trying to figure out what an occupation was that was on a 1910 census. It turned out to be “Topper” at a Stocking Mill. I guess they added the top band to socks or stockings! (Here’s a fun article done by the folks at MyHeritage.com: 10 jobs that no longer exist. And here’s a list of now-obsolete occupations taken from a U.S. census. If your ancestor’s UK census entry is abbreviated, click here to see what that notation might mean.)

These dictionaries of obsolete occupations may help, too:

You can learn more details about historical occupations in history books and documentaries, some of which you can find online. Use smart Google search methodologies to discover what resources are right at your fingertips.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you discover from a census entry that your great-grandmother was running a boarding-house (or perhaps her husband was listed as the proprietor, but you are guessing she probably did a lot of the daily work for it). Googling the phrase running a boarding house gets you top search results about the modern practice of running a boarding house. Instead, add two more words to your search: historical and census (the latter will capture results about this occupation as it appears in the census). As you can see from this revised search, the top results are exactly the kind of thing you want to read.

Note that the second and third search results are from Google Books (the URL in the search result starts with “books.google”). The first appears to be a history book and the second an academic study. Books written by experts in their field and packed with citations are just the kinds of high-quality research sources you want to find. (Click here to learn more about using Google Books.)

Historical documentaries and old film footage can show you an occupation at work, such as mining, working on the railroad, logging, working at a textile mill, sharecrop-farming. Look for these on YouTube. For example, Contributing Editor Sunny Morton was curious after learning from a city directory that her grandmother was a telephone operator in the 1940s. What did that involve?

She went to YouTube and found some fantastic 1940s-era training videos showing operators at work. While some of these may be staged performances, with every operator smiling for the camera and doing her job in tip-top shape, they do show long rows of operators at their stations and give an idea of what their responsibilities were. Sunny could see how they were expected to dress and behave and what their daily tasks looked like. Here’s a quick example of the kinds of short training videos she found:

The idea that telephone operators handled emergency calls surprised Sunny, who grew up in the 9-1-1 era. As a young woman just past high school, Sunny’s grandmother would have been coached to respond to frantic callers and dispatch first responders. Sunny’s grandma would also have received training on how to handle different kinds of calls, such as party lines and long-distance routing through multiple switchboards.

Click here for tips on finding old film footage online. Just for inspiration and proof that this really does work, here’s a video Sunny found after following my tips: it’s her husband’s great-grandfather driving his fire engine in 1937! (Click here to read Sunny’s story about that amazing discovery.)

3: Look for any records created by or about the business itself

If your relative worked at a major factory or mill, such as The Ford Motor Company or Lowell Mill, you may find historical books, documentaries and even museum exhibits specifically about them. But smaller businesses often received a shout-out in local history books, too. So it can pay off to run Google searches with the names of family businesses (or even the type of business, such as tailor, hotel or restaurant) and the name of the town and state. (Add the word history to narrow search results.)

Here’s an example an ecstatic Genealogy Gems listener sent in. He was tipped off by an old map about a place called Todd Pond in his ancestor’s small town. His ancestors were surnamed Todd and lived right there. So he Googled Todds Pond North Attleboro and found a real gem! His family’s business was mentioned in a local history:

“In the days before electric refrigeration, North Attleborough’s homes and stores relied upon ice harvested from either Whiting’s Pond or Todd’s Pond (depicted here). By the time this 1906 photograph was taken, farmers George, Henry, James, and William Todd found selling ice more profitable than farming and founded the Oldham Ice Co.”

(For copyright reasons, we can’t show the picture here. But click here to read more about Thom’s discovery and access the book for yourself.)

Businesses themselves often created records. Stores kept ledgers. Factories and other businesses may have kept personnel records and employee pay cards. They may have published newsletters or histories. Sunny shared the following two fun examples with me:

City directories from the 1950s state that her grandfather worked at the Sinton Dairy (he was the husband of the telephone operator, who by this time was a stay-at-home mom). Among the family papers handed down to one of their children was a company brochure. A picture in the brochure shows him standing next to a vat of ice cream.

The father of the ice cream man, Sunny’s great-grandpa, worked at Colorado Fuel & Iron for most of his life. Her mom Cheryl, a professional genealogy librarian, visited the Steelworks Center of the West, which holds the records of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company in its archive. Cheryl was able to get a copy of her grandfather’s employment application and work record. Though it’s partly illegible, this work record summarizes his dates of employment and steady progress through the ranks to become a foreman.

It’s possible you’ll find museum or archival collections like the one mentioned above by doing Google searches on the name of the company, place and industry. But you may need to search more specifically in ArchiveGrid, which is an enormous catalog of the original manuscript holdings of thousands of archives, libraries, museums and societies. Click here to learn more about using ArchiveGrid.

Now back to Deidre’s question

Deidre’s email shows she was thinking outside the box already about records that might document her family’s business, such as deeds for business properties. In addition to the above strategies, Deidre may next want to start hunting for the following:

  • Local histories that may mention her family’s businesses
  • Original archival records pertaining to the businesses
  • Maps showing her family’s neighborhood at the time, specifically Sanborn maps, which often identified businesses and included some detailed information about properties.

Deidre specifically asked about legal documents or censuses conducted for businesses for the period 1900-1960s. The special U.S. census schedules relating to specific businesses and industries largely only exist with individual data before this time period. Legal documents would need to be researched on a case-by-case basis: it’s very possible at least one of those businesses faced lawsuits, bankruptcy or other issues that would have taken them into court. Click here to read up on researching on courthouses.

Another possibility is professional directories that could have been published specific to her relatives’ line of work. Here’s a link to an Ancestry.com wiki article on professional directories: the first category mentioned is law directories.

Finally, it might be helpful to contact the local genealogical and historical societies for the areas they lived. Often, a longtime local may know about gems that may only be on library shelves or tucked into a manuscript collection that isn’t listed in ArchiveGrid.

Learn more about ancestors’ occupations

Now that you’ve finished reading, I encourage you to go back and click on links provided to learn MORE about discovering ancestors’ occupations. If you’re ready to learn advanced online research skills (like mastering Google searching and Google Books) please consider becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium member. You’ll have access to full-length video tutorials on these topics and more–for a full year! To give you a taste of Premium, here’s a preview of my Google Books class.

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.

How to find the full text of a book in Google Books

I love Google Books research tips for genealogists–and this researcher sent me a fabulous one! Here’s what she did when Google Books didn’t give her everything she’d hoped for. And here’s where she finally found the full text of a book that wasn’t on Google Books. 

Google Books is a vast and free virtual library that’s literally available at our fingertips–but it’s greatly underused. So I love teaching Google Books research tips for family history, and then hearing success stories from listeners and readers. Here’s one I think you’ll love, with a great message about following through after “partial” discoveries.

Google Books vs. a genealogy brick wall

Was Jesse Purdy a longtime Loyalist or Revolutionary War veteran? Marci wrote in about a mysterious ancestor whose political loyalties seemed conflicted. She’d found a man by his name who was a Revolutionary War soldier and then another who appears in records as a Loyalist (a British subject who remained loyal to the Crown when the American colonies rebelled).

“I knew my Jesse also went by Justus and I found his Revolutionary War pension records, learned he died in 1840 in Bovina, New York and was a patriot,” she wrote. She had identified him as the son of Thomas Purdy and Rachael Odgen, but that particular Jesse “was listed as a Loyalist and…died in Ontario in 1819….It never made sense that he lived out his life (and all his children were born) in New York state.”

When she looked on Google Books for ‘Justus Purdy,’ she found a tantalizing “snippet view” of a book called The Purdy Family in New Brunswick and Elizabethtown, Ontario:
Google Books research tips
She thought the book might go on to mention his parents, but in this case, the full text of the book is not available on Google Books, so she could only see the snippet.

Google Books research tip: Follow all leads!

As you can imagine, Marci really wanted to see this book. She says, “I am retired, living in Mexico, so I don’t have InterLibrary Loan (click here to read more about using this with WorldCat). I was about to email a…cousin to see it they would order it when I thought, “NO, Lisa would look for other sources on Google search first. So I did, and found the full text on FamilySearch. And (drum roll please) here it is! Lots on Jesse the Loyalist (nothing more on Justus the Patriot):”
Google Books research tips
“So it goes,” she concludes. “I have another source and I’m still looking for parents.”
Good for her for persevering until she found the full text of the book! I love how she widened her search past Google Books to a more universal Google search (click here to learn free Google search tips). That led her to another vast, free online library, FamilySearch.org’s free Family History Books search page, a search portal for more than 350,000 digitized family history-related books. Here’s the Purdy family history book on that site:
Google Books research tips

More Google Books research tips

Click here to read another inspiring success story with several Google Books research tips. Genealogy Gems Premium subscribers can take their Google Books searches to the next level after watching my full-length tutorial video, “Google Books for Genealogy.” Discover the best techniques for finding fully digitized books FAST, and search secrets for locating genealogical data. Learn to translate foreign language volumes from your ancestor’s homeland and even track down maps, images, photos and more.
About the Author

About the Author

Lisa Louise Cooke 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.

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