May 22, 2017

Find Australian Ancestors and More: New and Updated Genealogy Records Online

These new and updated genealogical records span three continents and date to the Middle Ages: Australia colonial portraits, New South Wales and Queensland; millions of new U.S. marriage records, a WWI online exhibit, Liverpool church records, a Romanian digital archive, German (Bavarian) civil registers, Confederate musters (GA), PA obituaries, and a Minneapolis newspaper.

Featured this week: Australia Colonial Portraits, New South Wales and Queensland 

The State Library of South Australia announced a newly-digitized collection of more than 1,000 photographs of South Australian colonists. The original photos have been on display at the State Library. “In 2017 they have returned as facsimiles (along with new indexes and online catalogue records),” says a Facebook post. Click to explore the men’s photos or women’s photos online for free. Several people have already identified their ancestors in these collections, judged by comments on the Facebook post. Even better news: the images may be freely copied and used. The Library responded to a question about use with, “The images are well out of copyright. We just ask that you cite as appropriate.”

Subscription website Findmypast.com has posted new Australia content, too:

  • New South Wales Parish Registers, Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle.The records span the years 1804 to 1900 and will reveal the names of your ancestor’s parents,” states Findmypast. “Currently the collection holds just over 5,000 baptisms, around 2,200 marriages records, and just over 3,300 burials. Some burials have also been transcribed from newspapers and other sources.”
  • 1881 British Census, Crew and Passengers on Ships arriving in New South Wales. “Over 19,000 records….These records pertain to British and non-British passengers and crewmen arriving at Sydney from 1 January to 31 March 1881….Each record will reveal the individual’s age, status, nationality, occupation and details of their voyage.”
  • New South Wales, Closer Settlement and Returned Soldiers Transfer Files. “Over 19,000 records have been added….These land transfer records can help you determine the property dealings of your New South Wales ancestors and see if they were involved in transferring land ownership. The records also include files relating to returned servicemen from the First World War who took part in the soldier settlement scheme.”
  • Queensland School Pupil Index. “This database covers over 1.6 million names drawn from 1,022 Queensland schools,” says the collection description. “The earliest date of admission is 1864…. Schools range from large city schools with admissions in the thousands to one-teacher country schools with a total enrollment of only hundreds. Some schools have long ceased to exist; others are still functioning.”

Europe – Digital image archive

Just shy of a half million images from the cultural heritage digital archive Europeana are now part of the new Creative Commons (CC) search database. Now it’s even easier to discover and share images about an ancestor’s life–and to identify images you can re-use without copyright restriction.

“A tool for discovery, collaboration and re-use, CC Search enables users to search a variety of open repositories through a single interface to find content in the commons,” explains a Europeana blog post. “The new beta version of the project, which was released in early February, includes simple, one-click attribution, making it easier to credit the source of any image. CC Search beta also provides social features, allowing users to create, share, and save lists as well as adding tags and favorites to the objects in the commons….These records can all be used for commercial purposes, and are also open for modifications, adaption, or to be built upon. Click here to learn more about WWI and other genealogy-friendly content at Europeana.

England – Liverpool

Ancestry.com has updated its collections of Church of England parish records for Liverpool, England. These databases include baptisms, confirmations, marriages/banns and burials, along with a combined database of older baptisms, marriages and burials dating to 1659.

Germany (Bavaria) – Vital Records

Ancestry.com has published a new collection of Freilassing, Germany, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1876-1985. “This collection contains civil registry records from Bavaria,” states the collection landing page. “It includes births covering the years 1876-1899, marriages from 1876 to 1932, and death records for the years 1876-1985. Freilassing is a community in Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria. It is situated immediately on the German border with Austria and is adjacent to the city of Salzburg. Until 1923, Freilassing was called ‘Salzburghofen’ and this is the name given in many of the records.”

Romania – Digital Archive

Thousands of documents from medieval Romania have been digitized and published online at Arhiva Medievala a Romanie. It’s the first collection of its kind for the country, says an article at Romania-Insider.com. Because of the age and content of these documents, they likely don’t have direct genealogical research value for most people. But anyone with Romanian roots might enjoy getting a sense of the country’s deep history.

United States: WWI, Millions of Marriages and More 

A new online exhibit from the Library of Congress can help you better picture your U.S. ancestors’ experiences during and after World War I. “‘Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I‘ examines the upheaval of world war as Americans confronted it— both at home and abroad,” states the webpage. “The exhibition considers the debates and struggles that surrounded U.S. engagement; explores U.S. military and home front mobilization and the immensity of industrialized warfare; and touches on the war’s effects, as an international peace settlement was negotiated, national borders were redrawn, and soldiers returned to reintegrate into American society.”

Also in the U.S.: Findmypast has added over 6.7 million records to its U.S. marriage records collection. “New additions covering 127 counties across 18 states have been added to our collection of US marriages,” states a press release. “This is the first time ever these records have been released online, providing you with brand new opportunities to expand your family tree.” The 18 states with new records are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

More from across the U.S.:

  • Georgia: Confederate Muster Rolls. The Georgia Archives has digitized and published its collection of Confederate Muster Rolls. According to the site, “The majority of the company muster rolls in this series are from military organizations created by the State of Georgia during the Civil War for service within the state. These military organizations include the Georgia Army (1861), the Georgia State Guards (August 1863-February 1864), and the Georgia State Line (1862-1865). The Georgia Militia is referred to as Georgia State Troops.  Some units were later turned over to Confederate service. There are also nearly 250 muster rolls from Georgia Volunteer Infantry.”
  • Minnesota: Newspapers.com now hosts the entire run of The Minneapolis Star Tribune, which dates to 1867. That’s more than 54,000 issues, among which are a 1976 headliner about a teenage star in the making: Prince. (See that article here for free, just because you can).
  • Pennsylvania – Obituaries. A new collection of Beaver County, Pennsylvania obituaries (1920-1969) is now online at Ancestry.com.

2 Free Resources for Finding Australian Ancestors

Trove: Australia’s Digital Newspaper Website

Assisted Immigration to Australia: Queensland Passenger Lists

 

Source for our lead image: Click here to view map of Australia

School Yourself: 10 Ways to Find School Records for Genealogy

Using school records for genealogy will earn you an A+! Here are 10 proven ways to find your ancestors’ awkward yearbook photos, sports triumphs, and more.

school records for genealogy

1. Establish a Timeline

Check your genealogy database to figure out when your ancestor would have attended high school or college. Keep in mind, as recently as the 1960s, children did not go to Kindergarten but may have started school at about 6 years old and beginning in First Grade.

2. Consult Family Papers and Books for school records for genealogy

Go through old family papers and books looking for senior calling cards, high school autograph books, journals and diaries, senior portraits, fraternity or sorority memorabilia, and yearbooks. If you don’t have any of these items at your disposal, try the local library in the area where your ancestor grew up. Many times, libraries have a collection of old yearbooks, scrapbooks, commencement announcements, and more. Be sure to ask a knowledgeable person what items might be in their archives.

3. Search Newspapers

Look for school announcements, honor rolls, sports coverage, end-of-year activities and related articles. Start your search with these:

  • The Library of Congress’ newspaper website, Chronicling America. Search for digitized newspaper content relating to your ancestor’s school years. Also, search the Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present for the names and library holdings of local newspapers.
  • How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersLocal newspapers can also be found by searching your browser for the public library website in the town where your ancestor attended school. Check the online card catalog or contact them to see what newspapers they have and whether any can be loaned (on microfilm) through inter-library loan.
  • Newpapers.com is a subscription website with over 4,000 newspapers and more being added monthly.
  • Ancestry.com is another subscription website that has many newspapers online.
  • Lastly, my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, will teach you what you need to know to become a top-notch online newspaper sleuth.

4. Consult the Websites of U.S. State Archives and Libraries

Click here to find a directory of state libraries.

5. Contact State Historical and Genealogical Societies

In addition to newspapers, state historical and genealogical societies might have old yearbooks or school photograph collections. For example, the Ohio Genealogical Society library has a large collection of Ohio school yearbooks. Local historical and genealogical societies may also have school memorabilia in their small or archived collections. To find contact information to a local historical or genealogical society, Google the name of the county and state and add the word genealogy at the end. For example: Darke County Ohio Genealogy. (Click here to learn more about Google searching for genealogy and strategies you can use.)

6. Browse RootsWeb to Find School Records for Genealogy

Now hosted by Ancestry.com, the free RootsWeb websites are a remarkable tool for genealogists. Check the message board for the county and state you’re looking for. You might even consider posting a message asking if anyone has access to yearbooks or other school records for genealogy. Sometimes, you  might be fortunate enough to find a RootsWeb site that offers digital images you can download from online.

TIP: Use the Google site search operator to find mentions of yearbooks on the county page you are looking at. Add the word site to the front of the Rootsweb page for the locale, then the word yearbook after it. (Genealogy Gems Premium members can watch my video tutorial on Google site search.)

7. Search for Online Yearbooks

Websites such as Old-Yearbooks.com or Classmates.com have lots of yearbooks online. Ancestry.com also has a large yearbook collection for the United States and Canada.

8. Check Township ArchivesSchool Records found in the township records

You might be thinking you didn’t read that right, but you did. Townships are small areas within the county. These small townships may have their own archives or one room museums. They are often the holders of some pretty one-of-a-kind finds. The best way to determine what the township may have is to contact the township trustees. Google your township name, the county name, state name, and add the word trustee. You will likely need to give one of the trustees’ a phone call to ask what resources might be available.

9. Call the School

If it’s still open, give the school or administration office a call. They may have old yearbooks and scrapbooks in their library or on display.

TIP: Go to www.whowhere.com and type the school name in the Business Name field. Call between 3 and 4:00 pm local time, when the kids are gone but the school office is still open.

10. ebay

school records for genealogyConduct a search on the school or town you are looking for to see if anyone is selling a yearbook that you want. Also, search for old photographs or postcards of the school building that you can add to your family history. Here’s my extra trick: From the ebay results page, check the box to include completed listings and email potential sellers to inquire about the books you are looking for. (Image right: I found this yearbook on ebay. It includes several photographs of my husband’s grandfather who was a music teacher at the high school back in the 1940s.)

TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask – ebay sellers want to sell!  And if all else fails, set up an ebay Favorite Search to keep a lookout for you. Check out the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #3 for instructions on how to do that.

Free Podcast

 

Learn more by listening to the free podcast

Have you listened yet? The FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast recently celebrated 2 million downloads worldwide. Why not tune in and see what everyone’s been listening to? You’ll get tech tips, inspiring stories, research coaching and please-try-this-at-home examples you’ll want to try right away!

 

England Emigrants and More: New Genealogy Records Online

England emigrants to its U.S. colonies appear in new genealogy records online this week. Also: the 1891 New South Wales census; Czech church, land and school records; English parish records; and U.S. collections from the Freedmen’s Bureau, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and New England towns and cities.

dig these new record collections

Australia – New South Wales census

Findmypast.com has published over 200,000 records from the 1891 New South Wales census. The census collectors’ books are the source, as these are the only surviving documents. “While they provide less detail than a full census would, they can still be a useful aid to historians and genealogists alike in placing people at a specific moment in time,” states the collection description. “Each result will provide you with a transcript and image of the original collector’s books from the 1891 census. Original images may provide you with additional details, such as the number of individuals living in the same household or the number of residents who were Aboriginal or Chinese.”

Czechoslovakia – Church, Land and School

FamilySearch.org has added to its collection of Czech Republic Church Records spanning more than 400 years (1552-1963). You’ll find “images and some indexes of baptisms/births, marriages, and deaths that occurred in the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Reformed Church parishes, as well as entries in those registers for Jews.” These are taken from parish registers and synagogue records now in regional archives. Though not fully indexed, the browse-only records number over 4 million! (Click here to learn how to use browse-only collections on FamilySearch.org; remember you can use the FamilySearch wiki for help in translating records in another language.)

FamilySearch has also added more than 850,000 browsable images to its existing collection of Czech Republic Land Records 1450-1889 and more than a million browsable images to the existing collection Czech Republic School Registers 1799-1953.

England Emigrants

Remember recently when we blogged about emigrant records, or those created about people leaving a country? Ancestry.com recently posted a new database called Emigrants in Bondage, which it says is “the most important list of ships’ passengers to be published in years.” Indexed are names of “more than 50,000 English men, women, and children… sentenced to be deported to the American colonies for crimes ranging from the theft of a handkerchief to bigamy or highway robbery.” The collection dates cover 1614 to 1775, after which time the British empire was not permitted to ship its “undesirables” to U.S. shores.

England – Parish records – Staffordshire and Sussex

Findmypast has added to its collections of church vital records for Staffordshire, England. Its browsable parish registers, 1538-1900 now includes 300,000 full-color page-by-page images. Separate databases of baptisms, wedding banns, marriages and burials have also been updated.

Also, more than 1.2 million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of England, Sussex, Parish Records, dating 1538-1910.  Sussex parish registers contain baptisms, marriages/banns, and burials. Date ranges of available records vary by locality; you will want to use the coverage table at the FamilySearch wiki to see what’s available.

U.S. – Freedmen’s Bureau Records

Now that the Freedmen’s Bureau collections have been fully indexed, FamilySearch is dumping them onto its website in batches. This week, they added these new databases:

U.S. – Military

FamilySearch.org has added just over 4 million indexed records to its database of United States Muster Rolls of the Marine Corps (1798-1937). The collection is described as an “index and images of muster rolls of the United States Marine Corps located at the National Archives. The records are arranged chronologically by month, then by post, station or ship.”

This week, the Fold3.com blog reminds us of its Coast Guard collections, in honor of the Coast Guard’s 226th birthday. Hundreds of thousands of search results on the site relate to Coast Guard history, from disapproved Navy survivors pension files to photos dating to the Civil War; accounts of shipwrecks or accidents, WWII war diaries for several units, images of insignia and Navy cruise books.

U.S. – New England

FamilySearch has posted a new index of New Hampshire Vital and Town Records Index for the years 1656-1938. It contains shy of half a million records of births, marriages and deaths. Entries were sourced from multiple archives in New Hampshire; the citation for each record is included in the index entry at the bottom of the record screen.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has announced improvements to its databases for three New England cities, which now include more searchable fields and images. “Hartford, CT: General Index of Land Records of the Town of Hartford, 1639-1839, is now searchable by grantee and grantor name, and results provide the record type and volume and page of the record (available on microfilm at the Connecticut State Library). Boston, MA: Births, 1800-1849, and Dover, NH: Vital Records, 1649-1892, are now searchable by first name, last name, record type, family member names, date, and location.”

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records onlineHere’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online. This week: Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Wales and U.S. passport and homestead records.

AUSTRALIA – QUEENSLAND. Ancestry.com has added several indexes for Queensland, Australia: Prison and Reformatory Indexes (1824-1936), Property Indexes (1842-1895), Index to Aliens (1913) and Occupational Indexes (1857-1922). These indexes all come from the Queensland State Archives. You can search them for free at Ancestry.com or from the QSA website.

BELGIUM CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch has updated its civil registration collections for several parts of Belgium (dating back to the 1500s for some areas): Antwerp, Brabant, East Flanders, HainautLiège and West Flanders. According to FamilySearch, these collections include “civil registration(s) of births, marriages and deaths from the Belgium National Archives. The collection also includes marriage proclamations, marriage supplements, and some original indexes.”

CZECH REPUBLIC SCHOOL REGISTERS. Over a million browsable digital images from the Opava State Regional Archive have been added to a free collection of Czech Republic School Registers (1799-1953) at FamilySearch.org. “School registers contain the full name for a child, birth date, place of birth, country, religion and father’s full name, and place of residence.”

ENGLAND AND WALES SCHOOL RECORDS. Findmypast.com has just added about 687,000 new school admission records for 41 counties in England and Wales (1870-1914). Original records may include names, residence, birth data, school name and location, parents’ names, admission information, father’s occupation, any exemption from religious instruction, previous school attendance, illnesses/absence and even exam results.

ENGLAND – CORNWALL. Several new collections on Cornwall are searchable at Ancestry.com: Congregational and Baptist Church Registers (1763-1923), Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1839-1872), Militia and Sea Fencibles Index (1780 – 1831), Bodmin Gaol Records (1821-1899), Penzance Dispensary Admissions (1828-1841), Truro Police Charge Books (1846-1896) and Inmates at St. Lawrence’s Asylum, Bodmin (1840-1900).

GERMANY VITAL RECORDS. Ancestry.com has recently added a new collection of death records for Mannheim. It has also updated collections of birth records for Hamburg; birth, marriage and death records for Regen County (dating to 1876) and birth, marriage and death records for Oldenberg.

JAPAN GENEALOGIES AND VILLAGE RECORDS. FamilySearch.org has added nearly a quarter million browsable images to its collection of Japanese village records (dating back to 709 AD) and nearly 60,000 browsable records to its collection of Japanese genealogies (dating to 850 AD).

MEXICO CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. Ancestry.com has updated its collections of indexed images to Chihuahua, Mexico birth, marriage and death records from civil registrations. The collections are in Spanish, so use Spanish names and locations.

U.S. HOMESTEAD RECORDS. Ancestry.com’s collection of U.S. Homestead Records (1861-1936) has recently been updated. According to the collection description, “Homestead files consist of unbound documents that include final certificates, applications with land descriptions, affidavits showing proof of citizenship, register and receiver receipts, notices and final proofs, and testimonies of witnesses. These documents are part of the Records of the Bureau of Land Management (formerly known as the General Land Office), Record Group (RG) 49. The collection currently includes records from Arizona, Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, and part of Iowa. Additional records will be added in future updates.”

U.S. PASSPORTS. Nearly 40,000 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection of United States Passport Applications (1795-1925). These are a fantastic resource for finding immigrant ancestors and those who traveled a lot. Click here to learn more about U.S. passport records.

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing this post with others who have ancestors from these parts of the world. You’re a gem!

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Every week we blog about new genealogy records online. Which ones might help you find your family history? New this week: more Italian civil registrations, Ohio and Pennsylvania marriage records, thousands of New York genealogical resources, Illinois state censuses and school records for England, Wales, Ireland and Australia.

We dig these gems

SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 2.9 million School Admission Register records from England and Wales, Ireland and NSW, Australia are now searchable on Findmypast. Record content varies, but according to Findmypast, “These fascinating new records can allow you a glimpse into your ancestors’ early life, pinpoint the area they grew up in, reveal if they had a perfect attendance or occasionally played truant and can even determine whether they worked in a school as an adult.”

ILLINOIS STATE CENSUSES. Ancestry has updated its collection of Illinois state censuses, which now include 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855 and 1865, along with 1865 agricultural schedules for several counties and nonpopulation schedules of the federal censuses for 1850-1880. (Learn more about U.S. state censuses here.)

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATIONS. FamilySearch continues to upload Italy’s civil registration records. This week, they added browse-only records (not yet indexed) for Potenza, Rieti and Trapani.

NEW YORK GENEALOGY MATERIAL. Thousands of pages of materials from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society are now searchable on Findmypast. Among these are all back issues of the NYG&B Record, the second-oldest genealogical journal in the U.S. (in print since 1870). Findmypast’s Joshua Taylor calls it “the single most important scholarly resource that exists for people researching New York families.” Other collections include unique census fragments, vital records abstracts, baptismal registers and old diaries. Click here to see and search the full list.

OHIO MARRIAGES. More than a quarter million indexed records and thousands of images have been added to FamilySearch’s collection of Ohio marriage records for 1789-2013.

PENNSYLVANIA MARRIAGES. Over a million digitized images of Pennsylvania civil marriage records (1677-1950) are now free to browse at FamilySearch. The collection description says it’s an “index and images of various city and county marriage records, many from Philadelphia.”

www.geneaogygems.comDid you find anything worth sharing here? Please do! We love getting the word out about new genealogy records online.

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gemsHere’s our weekly list of new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with your genealogy buddies or with societies that might be interested!

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. Over a million total indexed Italian civil registrations have been added to FamilySearch for Bario, Caltanissetta, Genova, Mantova, Pesaro e Urbino and Pescara. See and search (for free) all available records here.

MEXICO CHURCH RECORDS. FamilySearch also just updated their Mexican church records by the millions, from Aguascalientes to Zacatecas. The biggest updates are for the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) and Pueblas. Search these here for free.

SOUTH DAKOTA SCHOOL RECORDS. Nearly 3 million indexed names have been added to this free collection at FamilySearch. According to the database description, “School records, including teacher’s term reports, school census and attendance records located at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre. Records are generally arranged by county, year and school district number.” It looks like this is a work-in-progress and more indexed records will be added.

US ALIEN CASE FILES. Nearly half a million In 1940, immigrants in the U.S. who had not naturalized had to register and be finger printed. Case files resulted! Nearly a half million indexed records from all over the U.S. are part of this new FamilySearch collection. (Residents of Guam; Honolulu, Hawaii; Reno, Nevada; and San Francisco, California are not part of this collection.)

US CENSUS RECORDS. Updates, corrections and additions to their U.S. federal census collections have been posted recently by both FamilySearch (1790 and 1800) and Ancestry (1880 and 1920 as well as the 1850-1885 mortality schedules). No additional detail was provided about specific changes to the collections. We blogged a few months ago about why FamilySearch was re-indexing part of the 1910 census; read it here.

sign up newsletterSign up for our weekly newsletter, and this weekly round-up of major new record collections will be among the “gems” you find in it! With your sign-up, you’ll receive a free e-book on Google search strategies for genealogy. Simply enter your email address in the box in the upper right-hand corner of this page. Thank you for sharing this post with anyone else who will want to know about these records (and this weekly blog post.)

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested! This week:

BRITISH NEWSPAPERS. Over 800,000 new articles have been added to the British newspaper collections at Findmypast. You’ll find coverage from 19 new newspapers, along with over 138,000 new articles in The Berwick Advertiser, over 108,000 in The Sheffield Evening Telegraph and over 60,000 in The Falkirk Herald. Click here to read more about the additions.

CANADA YEARBOOKS. Ancestry just released over 1 million Canadian yearbook entries between 1908 and 2010. These span middle school to college years and can help fill in an ancestor’s younger years while pinpointing a family residence for that year. Note: these records were indexed by OCR and may contain errors. Be sure to browse them as well as search!

ENGLAND SYNAGOGUES. TheGenealogist has released online 99,500 records of London synagogue seat-holders spanning the years from 1920 to 1939. Eighteen synagogues and affiliated guilds, societies and charities are represented. These include “names of gentlemen eligible for office, life member of the council, women who are seatholders in their own right and seatholders who are not eligible to vote….These fully indexed records allow family historians to search by name, keyword, synagogue and address and with one click see an image taken from the pages of Seatholders for Synagogues in London.”

US SOCIAL SECURITY. This is a critical update to our ability to access information in U.S. Social Security applications! This Ancestry index from applications and claims for 1936-2007. “This database picks up where the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI,” says the database description. “It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.” Some data will not appear for newer records; click the above link to read more about it.

 

Find Your Ancestors in Freedmen’s Bureau Records–or Help Others Do the Same

freedmens bureau announcementThe more I learn about U.S. history and records, the more I appreciate the challenges faced by those researching their African-American roots. In addition to the emotional toll of learning about their ancestors’ hardships, today’s researchers face the practical challenges of finding kin in records that mostly ignored their existence.

That’s why I’m super excited that the Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed. Scattered records are already transcribed (see the Freedmen’s Bureau Online). But there hasn’t been a comprehensive index of its 1.5 million state field agency documents. These include military pensions, marriage records, property claims, hospital records, trial summaries, labor contracts, school rolls, registers and censuses. Many of the four million African-Americans freed from slavery are mentioned, as are many white Southerners.

FamilySearch indexers began quietly indexing Freedmen’s Bureau records in 2009: the state of Virginia’s records are already searchable. Last week, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday (which celebrates emancipation), FamilySearch issued a call to action. They asked for help indexing the rest of the Freedmen’s Bureau within the year.

“Records, histories and stories will be available on DiscoverFreedmen.org,” says a release. “Additionally, the records will be showcased in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and expected to open in late 2016.”

freedmens bureau infographicHere’s a quick history lesson: The Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

The richest genealogical records of the Freedmen’s Bureau are in the field office records of each state. Click here to download a PDF from the National Archives about these original records.

Find more tips on finding African-American and other Southern U.S. ancestors here on the Genealogy Gems website. Recent posts include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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