Mayflower Ancestors Tops US Genealogy Records now Online

A new Mayflower ancestors database can help connect you with your Pilgrim roots. Also, amateur US newspapers: Hill Air Force Base newspaper, Norwegian and African American Mormons, PERSI updates and collections for Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

Featured: Mayflower ancestors database

An estimated 10 million living Americans and as many 35 million people worldwide have Pilgrim ancestors. So a new database of Mayflower passengers and their descendants at AmericanAncestors.org may prove helpful to a very large group of people! In fact, the new database was so newsworthy, USA Today even reported on it.

“The database contains authenticated information on more than 59,450 people in the fifth generation of the Mayflower passengers known to have descendants,” states the article. “That ‘fifth generation’ of descendants lived in the 1700s and 1800s, so the name you type in to search the database would have to be one of your ancestors who lived during that time.”

According to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, which runs subscription site AmericanAncestors.org, “The Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700-1880 database features more than half a million searchable names….This exclusive database offers meticulous documentation for the fifth generation of Mayflower families who arrived in 1620 and left descendants….All information in the database is derived from the original printed books published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. These volumes are often referred to as the ‘Silver Books’ for their distinctive covers.”

This “largest online database of authenticated Mayflower passenger genealogies” is only available to full members of AmericanAncestors.org. You can try a 3-month all-access membership plan for $34.95.

More US genealogy records now online

Amateur newspapers from the 1800s

A new digital archive of 19th-century amateur newspapers is now available to patrons of subscribing libraries. According to a press release, these youth newspapers are “considered the social media of the 19th century and gives students and researchers a unique inside look at how teens and young adults of the period expressed themselves and their opinions to the world.” Ask a reference librarian at your favorite library or archive if they have access to this collection. Even if you can’t access it, if you like old newspapers, it’s worth reading this blog post with lots of great discoveries from the collection.

Latter-day Saint (Mormon)

Two new databases may help you discover more about your ancestors who united with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • African Americans comprised a tiny minority of members of this faith before 1930. According to this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, a new database seeks to recover and compile information about them. Search it at its free website, A Century of Black Mormons.
  • AmericanAncestors.org has published a new collection, Norway: Mormon Missionaries and Emigrants to America (1886-1900). According to the site, it “provides a listing of approximately 650 Mormon emigrants, who boarded ships in Christiania from 1886 to 1897, and journeyed to the British Isles and then to America. This resource gives names, gender, ages, marital status, occupations, place of residence, destinations of specific ships, European departure dates, and arrivals at U.S. ports. The work also presents biographical sketches of approximately 160 Latter-day Saints who served as missionaries in Scandinavia and some who served as leaders aboard the ships carrying Norwegian emigrants.”

Military: Hill Air Force Base

A new addition to the free website Utah Digital Newspapers is a complete run (1943-2006) of the Hill Air Force Base’s Hilltop Times newspaper. According to this Deseret News article, “The installation, which was founded shortly before the U.S. entry into World War II, went on to serve a critical maintenance and supply role during the war. The bombers that defeated the Axis powers in World War II — the B-29, B-25, B-24 and B-17 — were repaired, modified or maintained in some way at Hill Air Force Base.” The collection includes more than 61,000 digitized newspaper pages.

Periodical Source Index updates

Genealogy Giant subscription website Findmypast.com continues to update the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). This comprehensive subject index to thousands of historical and genealogical magazines, journal articles, and periodicals is strongest for U.S. sources and can help you discover mentions of your relatives (and places or organizations associated with them) in sources you may otherwise never learn about. Findmypast is the exclusive online home of PERSI and has been adding digitized article images to the indexed entries. They’ve recently added over 13,000 more article images from:

  • “Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine / American Spirit – volumes 43 to 53, 56 to 57 – this magazine offers articles on American history and historical subjects pertaining to Colonial America, as well as sections on genealogy
  • Fitchburg Historical Society Proceedings – volumes 1 to 5 – including papers relating to the history of the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts
  • Genealogical Advertiser – volumes 1 to 4 – a quarterly magazine of family history, which includes marriage and probate records
  • Genealogical Magazine – volumes 1 to 4 – this periodical is a journal of family history, heraldry, and pedigrees
  • Genealogical Quarterly Magazine – volumes 1 to 5 – this periodical is devoted to ‘genealogy, history, heraldry, revolutionary and colonial records’. From its pages, you can discover marriage notices, cemetery inscriptions, inhabitant lists, and church records for various places in New England.”

Statewide genealogy collections: From Alabama to West Virginia

Alabama. New at Genealogy Giant subscription website Ancestry.com is the collection, Alabama, Surname Files Expanded, 1702–1981. According to the site, “This database contains various records providing biographical information on individuals who lived in Alabama….Staff members at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) started compiling these records on Alabamians in 1901. They include a variety of items and record types arranged by surname: newspaper clippings, obituaries, local and family histories, donated family research and records, extracts from censuses, research requests made to the archives, and other items. While ADAH staff began collecting and assembling these records in 1901, names of people included can predate this year.”

Georgia. We’ve reported in the past on individual updates to the Digital Library of Georgia. Now the entire website has been redesigned and relaunched. According to a press release, “The site connects users to a half a million digital objects in more than 700 collections from over 130 institutions and 100 government agencies.” Site visitors will now be more easily able to navigate the site, perform full-text searches, browse collections in different ways (including map browsing) and access virtual collections from several organizations. Click here to visit the new site.

Indiana. Most issues of The Southeastern Student, an early newspaper at Indiana University, are now available in digitized format online on the Indiana University Southeast Library Student Newspapers home page. The paper and its successors appear in a collection spanning 1947 to 2007.

Massachusetts. AmericanAncestors.org has added new browsable Catholic church record collections for the following parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston Records: Most Holy Redeemer (East Boston) (7 volumes), Sacred Heart (Malden) (3 volumes), St. James (Haverhill) (7 volumes), St. Mary (Lawrence) (12 volumes), and St. Peter (Lowell) (9 volumes).

Ohio. One of the oldest Catholic diocesan publications in the United States, The Catholic Telegraph (Cincinnati, OH), is being digitized and placed online. Issues dating 1831-1885 are already online and eventually all through 1922 will be placed online. Read these issues here for free—along with several other digitized Catholic newspapers from around the United States.

Vermont. Millions of Vermont newspaper pages dating from the 1700s up to 1922 are now available online, thanks to a collaboration between the Vermont Secretary of State’s office and Newspapers.com. Access is free to Vermont residents and available to subscribers of Newspapers.com. Click here to learn more about accessing these newspapers.

Washington. New at Ancestry.com is Washington, Episcopal Diocese of Spokane Church Records, 1870-1947. According to the site, “This collection includes baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death records from the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane between the years of 1870 and 1947. Established in the mid-1860s, the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane is comprised of 38 congregations and covers all of Washington State east of the Cascade Range, as well as the northern Idaho panhandle.”

West Virginia. Another of the Genealogy Giants, subscription site MyHeritage.com, has published West Virginia Death Index & Certificates, 1853-1964 with more than 5 million records. According to the site, “West Virginia death records between 1853 and 1964 include name, gender, date of death, age of death, and often other important information such as marital status, birth date, burial date, cemetery where interred, and details about the decedent’s occupation, spouse, father, and mother. The associated images in this collection, including copies of state-issued death certificates, should be examined to discover other information not present in the index. This index and images are provided by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.”

Note: Many West Virginia vital records are free to explore here and are an incredibly rich resource, but the search interface is very limited AND it doesn’t include all data for all counties. According to the site, “Death records in West Virginia are withheld from the public for 50 years from the date of issuance but all extant state death certificates for individuals from all 55 counties dating from 1917 through 1964 are available. Additional records extending the collection from 1964 will be added as they become available.”

Even more US genealogy gems

If you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning member, you can listen to Lisa Louise Cooke’s new interview with Genealogy Giants guru Sunny Morton on an unexpected source for US newspaper content. This conversation is in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode #160. Learn about millions of newspaper pages you may already have access to–and get step-by-step instructions for how to access it. Think you’d like to join our Premium eLearning community? Click here for more info.

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 York Genealogy Records and More

Work on your New York genealogy research with these new naturalization and marriage license records. Also: WWII draft registrations; family history records for AL, ID, KS, KY, LA, OH, VA; and records from Australia, Canada (including a mapped-out photo archive of Toronto streets), Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and Sweden.

Welcome to our weekly roundup of new and updated genealogy records online. Most of this week’s images come from Genealogy Giants Ancestry.com and the free FamilySearch.org, but there are few additional sites represented here, too! Happy researching!

Featured: New York genealogy records

Over three-quarters of a million indexed records have been added to New York, Southern District, U.S District Court Naturalization Records, 1824-1946. New York research is challenging for many reasons, not least among them limited access to vital records for your transient and immigrant ancestors in this state. Naturalization records are also typically difficult to find, as your ancestors in certain time periods could submit paperwork in any court they pleased. So this is a great collection! Let us know if you find any ancestors in this collection. We love hearing about your successes.

New York. The New York City marriage license index for 1996-2017, with 1.5 million records, is now free online, searchable and even downloadable. This announcement is from Reclaim the Records: “We successfully fought the New York City government for nine months to get the first-ever public copy of the 1996-2017 New York City marriage license index. It’s about 1.5 million records, which is about 3.1 million names. And you can now search this data, or even download it or reuse it, totally free. It’s in the public domain, no copyright. This 1996-2017 data is the continuation of the 1908-1929 and 1930-1995 data sets we won in two previous lawsuits from the NYC Municipal Archives and the NYC Clerk’s Office, respectively. (You can also check out the scanned microfilm images of the 1908-1972 portion of the marriage license data at the Internet Archive.)

More new genealogy records from around the United States

World War II draft registrations. Ancestry.com has updated its collection of U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1 940-1947. “This database contains images and indexes for registration cards filled out by men born between the years of 1898 and 1929 from Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina.” It also contains an index (with a link to images available on Fold3) for about half of U.S. states.

Alabama. Subscription giant Ancestry.com has added a new collection, “Alabama, Surname Files Expanded, 1702–1981.” According to the site, “This database contains various records providing biographical information on individuals who lived in Alabama. Staff members at the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) started compiling these records on Alabamians in 1901. They include a variety of items and record types arranged by surname: newspaper clippings, obituaries, local and family histories, donated family research and records, extracts from censuses, research requests made to the archives, and other items.”

Idaho. Ancestry.com has recently updated these collections of Idaho vital records:

Also for your Gem State ancestors, About 80,000 indexed records have been added to the free collection, Idaho, Southern Counties Obituaries, 1943-2013, at FamilySearch.org. According to the site, these obituaries come “from a variety of Idaho newspapers and [are] housed at different LDS Family History Centers throughout the state.”

Kansas. Search a new and free FamilySearch collection of Kansas, Cemetery Abstracts, already with more than 110,000 indexed records in it. Compiled by a voluntary missionary society, it includes records from “Allen, Butler, Chase, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Cowley, Crawford, Dickinson, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Franklin, Geary, Gove, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Greenwood, Hamilton, Harvey, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jefferson, Jewell, Kearney, Kingman, Labette, Lincoln, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Montgomery, Morton, Neosho, Norton, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Reno, Republic, Rice, Riley, Rooks, Russell, Saline, Scott, Sedgwick, Seward, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Sumner, Thomas, Wabaunsee, Wallace, and Wichita counties.”

Kentucky. Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1965. You can search the index or browse the images, which include death certificates, 1911-1965 as well as “mortuary records, registers of deaths, and death certificates for Newport, Louisville, Lexington, Covington, and Jefferson County, up to 1911.”

Louisiana. Subscription giant Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Louisiana, Soldiers in the War of 1812. “This compilation contains an alphabetical list of Louisiana soldiers who fought for the state militia during the War of 1812. Taken from the National Archives, each entry includes the rank and company to which the soldier was attached.”

Ohio. New (and always free) at FamilySearch is a collection of Ohio, Washington County Newspaper Obituarie s, 1884-2013. The collection already contains nearly 700,000 new indexed records. Washington County is key to Ohio history because it was the original county in this Northwest Territory state.

Virginia. Ancestry.com has updated its collection, Virginia, Birth Records, 1912-2014, Delayed Birth Records, 1854-1911. According to the site, “This database contains an index of birth details extracted from Virginia birth records for the years 1864-2014 as well as images of birth records for the years 1864–1914, which fall outside the 100-year privacy restriction. You’ll find basic details such as name, birth date and place, father’s name, mother’s name, and certificate number.”

More genealogy records from around the world

Australia. Nearly 34,000 new indexed entries and over 14,000 accompanying digital images have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Australia, Victoria, Tombstone Transcriptions from Various Cemeteries, 1850-1988. According to the site, the cemeteries included so far in the collection are “Beechworth, Bowmans Forest, Bright, Bundalong, El Dorado, Greta, Hyam, Milawa, Old Chiltern, Rutherglen, Springhurst, Stanley, Tarrawingee, Tawonga, Una Boorhaman, Waygunyah, Winton, and Yackandandah. [Records come from] original transcriptions located in the Wangaratta Family History Centre.”

Canada. About 4,000 images have been added to a free digital archive of historic photos of Toronto. OldTo organizes these images in an easy-to-use map interface. Even if you have no personal connection to Toronto, it’s fun to play with this and look at the pictures, which date back to 1850.

Subscription giant Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935. “Passenger lists of ships arriving in various Canadian ports, as well as some eastern U.S. ports from 1865–1935, are indexed this database. This collection, covering 2.2 million people who arrived in these ports, has never been indexed before.”

Denmark. Nearly 9,000 indexed records have been added to the free FamilySearch collection, Denmark, Military Conscription Rolls, 1789-1792. The records are written in Danish. For tips and more information about using the records, see this article on the FamilySearch wiki.

Italy. About 85,000 indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free database, Italy, Napoli, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1809-1865.“Includes marriage banns (pubblicazioni; notificazioni); baptismal records; ecclesiastical returns of marriages; marriage memorandums (atti di memorandum); diverse records (atti diversi); marriages and deaths outside of the place of usual residence (matrimoni e morti fuori domicilio); and marriage supplemental documents (processetti).”

Portugal. Over 114,000 indexed records have been added to Portugal, Porto, Catholic Church Records, 1535-1949. “These records include baptisms, marriages, and deaths. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional images and indexed records will be published as they become available.” Tip: scroll down to the bottom of the page and click where it says you can browse over 1.2 million record images. That’s where you’ll find the pages that haven’t been indexed yet.

Sweden. About 13,000 indexed records have been added to Sweden, Örebro Church Records, 1613-1918; index 1635-1860. As the title of the collection indicates, only a portion of the records have been indexed (had the names extracted). That means, if you REALLY want to find your ancestor, you may need to browse the records as described above.

Learn more about naturalization records

Lisa Louise Cooke teaches a 3-part series on naturalization records in her free how-to podcast series, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. Listen to episodes 29, 30, and 31 for all you want to learn about passenger arrival lists, certificates of arrival, passenger departure lists, annotations on passenger lists, and the Ellis Island experience.

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!

Pennsylvania Genealogy Brick Wall Strategies

It’s a common Pennsylvania genealogy brick wall: “My ancestors are from PA—but I don’t know where!” Pennsylvania expert Jim Beidler has strategies that may help narrow down the needle-in-a-haystack problem of identifying your ancestor’s home county. Here, we also add tips on how to follow through—including how to access record images for a major Pennsylvania birth index at FamilySearch.

In the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #218, I shared listener Tammie’s question about finding a PA family who had lived in Ohio and throughout the Midwest during the late 1800s. She followed leads online and offline, even visiting a Mennonite archive in Pennsylvania, but couldn’t pinpoint their origins in Pennsylvania. So I invited Pennsylvania research expert Jim Beidler to share some strategies that could help Tammy—and everyone else with Pennsylvania genealogy brick walls.

In case you didn’t catch that episode yet, here’s a summary of some of his top suggestions, along with some step-by-step instructions on how to implement Jim’s strategies.

“Yes, but WHERE in Pennsylvania were they from?”

Jim reminds us that Pennsylvania has 67 counties. That’s a big haystack in which to find a needle! So you either need to make the haystack smaller—by winnowing down the number of possible counties—or make the needle (your ancestor) easier to spot.

Look for children’s birth records

If you can locate a birth record for any child in the family you’re researching, it may indicate where in Pennsylvania the child was born. (If you can find one for the last child born in Pennsylvania before the family moved, you may be able to determine their last area of residence in the state.)

Statewide birth registration didn’t start until 1906 and wasn’t fully implemented until 1915. (Search a free index of births at the Pennsylvania State Archives for 1906-1912  or indexed images for 1906-1910 at Genealogy Giant Ancestry.com.) But 39 counties kept birth records for 1852-1854, too (search these at Ancestry.com as well).

Church birth or baptismal records may also prove helpful in Pennsylvania. Start by accessing the free FamilySearch database Pennsylvania, Births and Christenings, 1709-1950 (you’ll need a free login). Because it’s just an index, you won’t see the original record. But you’ll see a note on the lower right referring to a “GS film number.” Copy that number.

Next, open the FamilySearch Catalog (from the home page, you’ll find it under the Search menu). Click the option to search by film/fiche number (#1 in the image shown to the right). Then paste in the GS film number you copied (#2).

That will bring up the name of the collection. In this case, that “Birth registers, 1860-1903, for the city of Philadelphia.” Click on the collection to see whether online access is available. In the case shown below, it is, as indicated by the bright red text by the arrow.

Clicking through shows that it’s even been indexed. (Note: to view these images, you need to be at a Family History Center, FamilySearch affiliate library or log in as a member of FamilySearch’s sponsoring church (Mormons).)

Findmypast.com (one of the Genealogy Giants subscription websites) also has collections that may prove helpful:

Another set of helpful indexes to early Pennsylvania church records is a multi-county series by the late John Humphrey. It’s not as easy to access but worth the effort. Some of these are searchable for members of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania. You can also find these as published volumes organized by county (he indexed several counties in southeast Pennsylvania and the indexes).

If you can determine when a child was born but not where in Pennsylvania, Jim has another strategy to try. Look at the next U.S. census taken after that birth and see where the family’s surname occurs. If it’s a less-common surname, you may be able to narrow down the number of counties.

Search Pennsylvania tax lists

Pennsylvania residents paid property taxes but also taxes on certain kinds of personal property (so they didn’t need to be landowners to appear in property records). Jim explains several different kinds of tax records from colonial times forward. Here’s a summary of places to start your search online:

More help for your Pennsylvania genealogy brick wall

Listen for free to the full Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #218, which will be available on Thursday, June 14, 2018. You’ll hear more tips from Jim, including what to do when you’ve exhausted your online research options and need to start researching offline. Hear tips on researching at the state archive and state library and how to understand Pennsylvania land records (how they were supposed to be and how they actually are).

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.

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!

Celebrating Women in US Military History

Our female ancestors in the U.S. military had to serve incognito. Only in the 20th century have women served openly and with greater frequency—and in combat roles. Here, military expert Michael Strauss salutes the women who have bravely served, including one in his own family.

In times of emergency, men primarily bore arms in U.S. history. However, not all women filled the traditional roles relegated to them by society. From the days of the Revolutionary War, any woman who chose to fight would have to disguise herself as a man. This was the case of Deborah Sampson, who served under the alias of Robert Shirtliffe until she was discovered and discharged from the Army.

Other women, such as one named Margaret Corbin, were camp followers and served by cleaning and cooking. During the battle at Fort Washington in New York, her husband John was mortally wounded while manning his artillery piece. Margaret took his place on the gun, continuing the fight against the British. For both women their sacrifice was not forgotten; each was awarded pensions from the Government based on their military service–although Corbin received only half of the pension allowance because she was a woman.

During the Civil War, women again sought to join the ranks of the military. Take, for example, Jennie Irene Hodgers, a native of Ireland who enlisted in Company G of the 95th Illinois Infantry, where she served using the alias of Albert Cashier. Her identity was kept secret during the entire war. It wasn’t until she was much older—in 1911—that a doctor discovered she was actually a woman.

The turn of the twentieth century had women more accepted in the ranks of the Army. The establishment of the Nursing Corps in 1901 saw the first large scale enlistment of women.  Still later in World War II was the forming of the Woman’s Auxiliary Corps (WAC) and the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS) who flew to great heights.

The other military branches took nearly as long to accept women in their ranks. The Navy in 1908 established the Nursing Corp with the first enlistments of women. In 1918, Opha Johnson became one of the first women to put on the uniform of the United States Marine. Twin Sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker were the first women to join the Coast Guard during in 1917. Like the Army’s organizations in 1942 the Naval Women’s Reserve (known as the WAVES), was followed shortly by the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (known as the SPARS).

Many of these women were relegated to nursing and clerical positions, with very little opportunity for actual combat experience. It wasn’t until World War II that larger numbers of women were sent into combat. In 1948, President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Service Integration Act that allowed for a permanent presence of women in all of the military branches, a tradition that still holds strong. Today, the descendants of these early pioneers can look back to learn from their past experiences by striving for continued service to the United States for future generations.

Women in U.S. military history: My family

Recently I shared a profile of my relative Russell Strauss, who served in the Navy during World War II. One of his two Sisters also served during the war. His younger sibling Kathryn Strauss served in the United States Army.

Kathryn graduated in 1930 from the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School at the age of twenty years old. She worked in the University Hospital in Philadelphia and later in the Public Health Department in Vineland, New Jersey until the start of World War II.

Kathryn joined the United States Army on September 15, 1943 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. She was commissioned a 1st Lieutenant in the Army Nursing Corps. Kathryn served both in the United States and overseas. From her enlistment date until September 2, 1944, she was stationed in New Jersey and New York. She served overseas stationed aboard the S.S. Jarrett Huddlston, a hospital ship on which she made 34 trips across the Atlantic Ocean.

Kathryn afterwards was sent back to the United States where she was discharged on November 13, 1945 in Brooklyn, New York. She returned to Pennsylvania, where she continued to work in the nursing field until her death on November 12, 1972 in Jonestown. The above photograph of her in uniform and postcard of her hospital ship were passed down to me through my relatives.

I located her application for compensation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1950 on Ancestry.com. It gives details about her military service during World War II (see below). This personal story along with genealogy documents that I was able to locate shared how women in my family served alongside some of the men during war and how their place in history is reserved for honor.

Keep watching this blog for an upcoming post about unique research resources for finding your female ancestors in U.S. military records. Meanwhile, here’s something fun to read:

Genealogy Gems Book Club Recommendation: Story of a WASP

Want to read a fun and fascinating novel about women of the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS)? Genealogy Gems Book Club Guru Sunny Morton highly recommends The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion, in which a lively, lovable Southern lady searches for her biological family and finds women of the WASPs. The story is by internationally-acclaimed novelist Fannie Flagg, a Genealogy Gems Book Club author who appeared on the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode #148. Want to browse more fantastic Genealogy Gems Book Club picks? Click here!

Author: Michael Strauss, AG

Author: Michael Strauss, AG

Michael Strauss, AG is the principal owner of Genealogy Research Network and an Accredited Genealogist since 1995. He is a native of Pennsylvania and a resident of Utah and has been an avid genealogist for more than 30 years. Strauss holds a BA in History and is a United States Coast Guard veteran.

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!

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