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!

New Genealogy Records on the Genealogy Giants

Millions of new genealogy records for Australia, the British Isles, the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Central and South America have been added to Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com, the “genealogy giants.

This week, we’ve sorted them by site, in case you’re just using one or two of them. But we do think you should know about them all! Click here for in-depth comparisons of the genealogy giants.

New genealogy records on Ancestry.com

Australia. Subscribers may search a new collection, Victoria, Australia, Asylum Records, 1853-1940. According to the description, “This collection is comprised of Asylum Records between 1853-1940 from the Public Record Office Victoria. The following information will typically be found: name of patient, age and birth place of patient, date admitted into asylum, reason they were admitted and photographs also occasionally appear.”

England. The new collection, Worcestershire, England, Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1541-1812, “is a collection of historical parish registers from Worcestershire, England…The records include baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records. All of the data was converted as it was originally presented in various published registers and books.”

Another new collection, Liverpool, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1970 “contains yearly registers listing names and residences of people in Liverpool, who were eligible to vote in elections. These year-by-year registers can help place your ancestors in a particular place and possibly also reveal a bit about property they owned.”

Poland. A new index, USHMM: Poland, Jewish Holocaust Survivors Registered in Warsaw, 1945-1946, “was indexed by World Memory Project contributors from the digitized holdings of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum…This database contains more than 31,000 registration cards completed by Jewish survivors in Warsaw after the war, in order to register with the Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce). While the cards themselves were compiled in Warsaw, only 15,270 individuals have Warsaw listed as their postwar residence. The original documents are held by the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland.”

New York. A new collection, New York State, Marriage Index, 1881-1967 “consists of indexes of marriages from the state of New York between the years 1881 and 1967. The collection contains only indexes to records, but the certificate number can be used to order a copy of the original certificate. Details vary, but may include names of bride or groom, marriage date, and place and certificate number.

Scotland. The new collection, Edinburgh, Scotland, Electoral Registers, 1832-1966, “contains yearly registers listing names and residences of people in Edinburgh, Scotland, who were eligible to vote in elections.” Another new collection, Fife, Scotland, School Admissions and Discharges, 1867-1916, “is a collection of School Admission and Discharges for schools in Fife, Scotland…These records are lists of children who were admitted to and discharged from schools. When education was required, children could be discharged from their schooling if they were needed to work to help support the family. The records vary by school and some are more detailed than others.”

United Kingdom. A new Ancestry.com collection, UK, Registers of Employees of the East India Company and the India Office, 1746-1939, “lists the employees, both civil and military, of the East India Company and later, the India Office. You may be able to find (where available): Name, Military Rank, Place of residence or military service, Date of death, Place of death, Date of marriage and Name of parents.”

New genealogy records on FamilySearch.org

Because there’s so much to find on FamilySearch.org (in so many different places), we recommend you consult an expert resource like the Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch by Dana McCullough.

Check out these collections—all of them free:

Australia. Over a half million indexed records have been added to the collection, Australia Cemetery Inscriptions, 1802-2005. The site describes the collection as “Cards of cemetery inscriptions from many cemeteries throughout Australia. The majority of the cemeteries are in Queensland, but there are some in New South Wales, Norfolk Island, Tasmania, and Western Australia. Some cards include information culled from local newspapers which sometimes include birth and marriage announcements.”

Austria. Nearly 200,000 digital images and nearly 300,000 indexed names have been added to Austria, Vienna Population Cards, 1850-1896. These are described as “population cards for individual residents of the city of Vienna, Austria. The cards include: name; birth date and place; marital status; old and new places of residence; and dates of arrival and departure. Frequently the names of the spouse and children are listed. Many people from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Eastern Europe passed through Vienna and may be included on these cards.”

Brazil. Nearly 100,000 indexed names have been added to Brazil, Santa Catarina, Catholic Church Records, 1714-1977. These are “baptism, marriage, and death records created by various Catholic parishes and diocese in the state of Santa Catarina. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection.”

Colombia. A new collection with more than 170,000 indexed names is Colombia, Diocese of Barranquilla, Catholic Church Records, 1808-1985. These are “Catholic Church records created by parishes in the Diocese of Barranquilla, Colombia. These records include: baptisms, confirmations, marriages, marriage investigation files, deaths, and indexes. Some of these records have been indexed and are searchable as part of this collection. Additional indexed records will be published as they become available.”

El Salvador. Nearly 200,000 indexed names have been added to El Salvador Civil Registration, 1704-2001. According to the description, these records are “Births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices in El Salvador.”

Peru. Nearly 275,000 indexed names have been added to Peru, Lima, Civil Registration, 1874-1996. These are “births, marriages, deaths, indexes and other records created by civil registration offices in the department of Lima, Peru.”

Russia. Over 180,000 record images have been published online in a new collection, Russia, Karelia Poll Tax Census (Revision Lists), 1782-1858. These are “images of family lists for the tax-paying population (about 95% of the population) conducted primarily in the years 1782, 1795, 1811, 1816, 1833-1834, 1850-1851, and 1857-1858. Some outlying years are included. Localities reflect the places that existed during the period of the Russian Empire since the records were created at that time.”

New genealogy records on Findmypast.com

England: Derbyshire Parish Records. “Brand new records covering the parishes of Alvaston, Boulton, Chellaston, Holbrook, Longford, Newton Solney and Wilne have been added to our collection of Derbyshire Parish records, including: 255,626 baptisms; 126,083 marriages; and 16,902 burials.…Parish records generally begin from 1538 after the Church of England mandated the keeping of parish registers in 1537. Baptisms, marriages and burials were all recorded in a single volume until 1774, when the law changed to require a separate marriage register and another one for banns (or proclamations of an intent to marry). Standardized forms for these registers appeared in 1812.”

US Catholic parish records

  • Illinois (Archdiocese of Chicago). Search over 411,000 baptismal registers, over 153,000 parish marriage records, over 37,000 parish burial records and over 1.9 million cemetery records (burial index cards, burial registers, daily burial logs, and registers of cemetery lot owners). The parish records span from the late 1800s up to 1925 and the cemetery records from 1864-1989. In baptismal records, discover the date and location of baptisms, the names of parents and family residence. Marriage records include “the couple’s marriage date, marriage location, the names of their parents and the names of any witnesses.” All have both transcripts and images of original records. The Archdiocese of Chicago was first established in 1843 and serves the Catholic population of Cook and Lake Counties in northeastern Illinois.
  • Maryland (Archdiocese of Baltimore). Subscribers may now browse “over 54,000 individual baptism, marriage, burial, communion, and confirmation registers from the Archdiocese of Baltimore in their entirety. The registers span the years from 1782 to 1918 and can provide a variety of important biographical details about your ancestor.” Click here to start browsing!
  • New York (Archdiocese of NY). “Search brand new indexes of Sacramental Registers, released in partnership with the Archdiocese of New York, of both baptisms and marriages “covering the boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island in New York City, as well as the Counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. The records date back to 1785, span more than 130 years of the region’s history and come from more than 230 parishes across the Archdiocese.

New genealogy records on MyHeritage.com

Get the most out of MyHeritage.com, a genealogy giant with a global user base and free family websites! Check out our essential (yet inexpensive) MyHeritage.com Quick Reference Guide, available in the Genealogy Gems store.

England & Wales: 1939 Register. This huge addition was announced during RootsTech 2018 last week. According to a press release, “Prepared on the eve of World War II, with 33 million searchable records, the 1939 Register is the most complete census-like collection for the population of England and Wales between 1911 and 1951….For each household member, the 1939 Register records name, gender, address, birth date, marital status, place of residence, and occupation….The 1939 Register collection is not exclusive, but other than MyHeritage, it is currently available on only one other website [Findmypast.com]. The initial collection on MyHeritage includes an index, without images.”

Canada: Canadian Obituaries, 1997-2017 is a new collection of “2 million records, documenting obituaries and memorials from the 10 Canadian provinces, spanning mostly 1997-2017. It includes the name of the deceased, the date of death, the publication source including locality information, and the text of the obituary or memorial — in English or French depending on the source. When available, a photograph of the deceased is also included.”

Share with your friends!

Who do you know with ancestors in Australia? England? Scotland? Austria? The United States? Poland? Brazil? Peru? Russia? The other countries mentioned above? Why not take a second and share this post with them? Thank you–you’re a gem!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

About the Author: Sunny Morton

About the Author: Sunny Morton

Sunny is a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems; her voice is often heard on the Genealogy Gems Podcast and Premium Podcasts. She’s  known for her expertise on the world’s biggest family history websites (she’s the author of Genealogy Giants: Comparing the 4 Major Websites); writing personal and family histories (she also wrote Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy); and sharing her favorite reads for the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

New State Genealogy Records Online

Local and state genealogy records can be some of the best resources for tracing your family history in the United States.

Check out these new or updated collections from 15 different states: AR, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, MD, MA, NE, NJ, NM, NC, SC, TX and WY.

State genealogy records now online

Arkansas. The University of Arkansas at Little Rock website reports that “a history class at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has created a new digital index of Phillips County death certificates from 1917 to 1922. Dr. Brian Mitchell’s American Urban History Class created the index during the fall 2017 semester and donated the archive to the Arkansas History Commission so it can be made available for public use.”

Florida. Subscription website Newspapers.com recently added these titles: “Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times), as well as the Tampa Tribune and the Tampa Times.” According to the site, “The Tampa Bay Times, currently Florida’s largest paper, got its start in 1884 as a small weekly paper called the West Hillsborough Times. During the 1890s, the paper moved to St. Petersburg and the name was changed to the St. Petersburg Times, a title it would retain for more than a century.”

Also: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has created a new statewide database of “cold cases.” It features more than 400 unsolved cases, according to this article.

Georgia. The blog of the Digital Library of Georgia has announced “the addition of over 10,000 digitized pages of African American funeral programs to the Augusta Public Library’s Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. Spanning 1933-2017 and consisting of over 3,000 programs, the digital collection provides both a rich source of genealogical information and local history about the African American community. Programs are freely available online through the DLG.”

Also at the Digital Library of Georgia: Henry L. Benning Civil War materials are now available online. During the Civil War, Henry L. Benning “served as Colonel of the 17th Georgia Infantry in twenty-one engagements including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga… Benning’s war correspondence deals with his service throughout the war and includes orders sent to him, reports of engagements, both those sent to him and those he submitted to his superiors.”

Idaho. Genealogy giant Findmypast.com has published Idaho, Southeast Counties Obituaries 1864-2007. The collection includes over 9,000 browsable images of “obituaries collected and printed in various Idaho newspapers. The collection is not confined to deaths that occurred in Idaho; obituaries of native Idahoans who died out of state were sent in to Idaho newspapers and are also included. Discover biographical details including key dates and life events of those included in these records.”

Another of the giants, Ancestry.com, has published Idaho, Old Penitentiary Prison Records, 1882-1961. According to the collection description, “This collection contains prison records from between the years of 1882 and 1961. The various documents found in this collection may contain the following information: name of inmate, age and race of inmate, birth date and place, marriage date and place, date of trial, date of pardon, date of conviction, spouse of inmate and other miscellaneous information such as physical attributes and the crime committed may be found.”

Illinois. Illinois State University reports that back issues of the university newspaper, The Vidette, are now online. “The archive currently holds approximately 75 volumes—from the first edition dating back to February of 1888 to May of 1963. Within those 75 volumes, there are 2,621 issues and over 21,300 pages. The Vidette Digital Archives plan to continue adding more volumes in the future.”

Indiana. Now at genealogy giant and subscription website MyHeritage.com is a collection of Indiana Newspapers, 1847-2009, a collection of 1,014,820 pages in 44 newspaper titles. The largest numbers of pages come from The Rochester Sentinal, Times-Union, The Madison Courier, Warsaw Times-Union, The News-Sentinel, Warsaw Daily Times and Warsaw Union.

Maryland. MyHeritage.com has also published  Maryland Newspapers, 1790-2009, a collection of 475,492 pages in 10 newspaper titles. Titles in this collection include (Baltimore) Afro-American, (Baltimore) American and Commercial Advertiser, Baltimore Herald, The Hancock News, The Maryland Herald, The Weekly Herald, The Baltimore Bee and American Eagle.

Massachusetts. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has recently added to its collections on AmericanAncestors.org:

  • new parishes available in the image-only Archdiocese of Boston database, Massachusetts: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records, 1789-1900: Anthony of Padua (Brighton), St. Margaret (Dorchester), St. Rose of Lima (Chelsea), fourteen volumes from St. Stephen’s in Boston’s North End (this parish was initially known as St. John the Baptist, and served primarily Irish immigrants);  and St. James the Greater in Boston is located in what is now Chinatown, although many Irish immigrants lived in the neighborhood in the 1800s.
  • new sketches in Western Massachusetts Families in 1790. This database focuses on families listed in the 1790 census in historic Berkshire and Hampshire Counties, an area which also includes parts of modern Franklin and Hampden Counties. The new sketches are: Asaph Stebbins, Daniel Smith, Eldad Parsons, Elijah Bardwell, Israel Cowles, John Cowles, Sr., Joseph Bardwell, Joseph Bardwell, Jr., Martin Bardwell, Obadiah Bardwell, and Timothy Cowles.
  • new volumes in Mayflower Families Fifth Generation Descendants, 1700-1880: Billington, John (Vol. 21), Hopkins, Stephen (Vol. 6), and Alden, John (Vol. 16, part 5).

Nebraska. Subscription site Newspapers.com reports these new additions to its lineup: “the Lincoln Journal Star and some related papers: the Lincoln Star, the Nebraska State Journal, the Weekly Nebraska State Journal, the Sunday Journal and Star, the Courier, and the Lincoln Evening Call. Coverage for the Lincoln Journal Star alone spans more than a century (1881-2009) and includes nearly 1.6 million newspaper images.

New Jersey. Genealogy giant MyHeritage.com has published New Jersey Newspapers, 1859-1946, a collection of 277,295 pages in 7 newspaper titles. Titles in this collection include Paterson Daily Press, Daily True American, Newark Sunday Call, Camden Democrat, The Bayonne Herald, The Paterson Weekly Press, The Political Intelligence and New Jersey Advertiser.

New Mexico. Ancestry.com has published a new database relating not just to New Mexico history but the “old” Mexico that preceded it. Materials in the collection New Mexico, Census, Military, and Other Records of Mexico, 1821-1846 “vary but include records from the provincial administration, treasury, legislative, local government, judicial cases, military, Indian affairs, and some period newspapers. Lists in the hacienda, military, and miscellaneous record groups have been indexed; other record groups can be browsed by year and record group.

North Carolina. The State Archives of North Carolina announced a new digital collection: Secretary of State Wills. “The digital collection contains wills from 1663 to 1789. These are loose original wills probated in the province. After 1760 most original wills were kept by the clerk in the county in which they were probated, though there are some wills after 1760 in the collection.”

Additionally, more newspaper content continues to appear on Digital North Carolina. Click the announcements below to read more details:

South Carolina. A new digital history resource explores Latino history and communities in the Low Country. “Las voces del Low Country” is the name of the exhibit and it “documents the little-known history of Latinos in the Charleston area through oral interviews conducted between 2012 and 2014, photographs, historic documents, and artistic images.” Click here to read more about it.

Also, Findmypast.com has published (or updated) several collections relating to South Carolina:

·         South Carolina, Will Transcripts 1782-1866 (an index to more than 181,000 will transcripts)

·         South Carolina, Plats for State Land Grants 1784-1868 (an index to more than a quarter million records)

·         South Carolina, Legislative Papers 1782-1929 (more than 228,000 records)

·         South Carolina, Criminal Court Records. (transcripts for 1769-1944)

·         South Carolina, Records of Confederate Veterans 1909 – 1973 (index of lists and pension applications)

Texas. Findmypast.com has published  Texas, Laredo Arrival Manifests 1903-1955, with over 1.3 million records. Explore images of arrival manifests from the border town of Laredo in Texas. This National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) collection will enable you to discover your ancestors’ names, ages, nationalities, and physical descriptions.”

Wyoming. The University of Wyoming has put online a digitized version of a state atlas designed for use by schoolchildren. But these maps may be valuable for understanding the geography of your Wyoming ancestor’s life, too. Click on the Interactive web pages tab to see a list of maps. Among them are those relating to physical geography, but also related to people. For example, there are maps showing emigrant trails, landmarks and forts; railroad expansion, stage roads and cattle trails; migration in and out of the state; land ownership and more.

More state genealogy records and tips

Local and state research is often the key to discovering your U.S. ancestors! Read these articles for more gems on finding genealogy resources in states and locales across the country.

Ohio genealogy research and the virtual courthouse

West Virginia genealogy research and working with changing county boundaries

“Deeper into census records”–Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast episode #10 includes info on state-level censuses. Listen for free!

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! North American Genealogy Records Online

New North American genealogy records online this week! Featured are U.S. military, passenger and yearbook records (including WWII film footage); regional collections for New England and Great Lakes; Congressional statutes; and over 63 million Mexican genealogy records now free at FamilySearch.org.

North American genealogy records

New online recently are North American genealogy records from all four “genealogy giants,” plus tons of other websites, including the Library of Congress and the U.S. National Archives. For those with Mexican roots, you’ll also love the enormous new cache of Mexican civil registration records online, all free to search from a central portal listed below.

U.S. military collections

World War II film footage. The U.S. National Archives has uploaded over 16 minutes’ worth of silent film footage identified as outtakes from the 1944 documentary, “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress.” The film images are from 1942 and 1943. The shot scenes include combat missions and tour scenes.

Veterans History Project adds Guadalcanal coverage. The Library of Congress blog recently announced,The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project (VHP) today launched its new “Experiencing War” website feature, titled “Guadalcanal: 75 Years Later,” recognizing the anniversary of the end of the major World War II campaign known as the Battle of Guadalcanal. The feature highlights 12 digitized collections found in the VHP archive, each of which includes the first-person narrative of a veteran who fought in this epic, six-month offensive in the South Pacific during 1942 and 1943.”

Military service rolls and records: Revolutionary War through Indian Wars. The always-free genealogy giant, FamilySearch.org, has added significantly to its resources about Revolutionary War soldiers:

Genealogy giant and subscription website Ancestry.com has added a new database, “U.S. Army Indian Campaign Service Records Index, 1815-1858. According to the collection description, this database contains alphabetical card indexes to compiled service records of Volunteer soldiers who served 1836-1939 from units in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee or the Volunteer Field and Staff of the Army of the Cherokee Nation. Also included are others who “served in various Indian wars or participated in the quelling or solving of Indian disturbances or problems, 1815-1858.”

More historical statutes online

The Library of Congress has posted new materials that will enable you to more easily research the laws relating to your ancestors’ lives. According to the site, “The individual statutes for congresses 68 through 81 are now available on the Law Library of Congress website. This addition closes the gap for the years for which the Statutes at Large were not available on the Internet. As with the volumes for previous congresses, each of these statutes is tagged with tailored, descriptive metadata to help users search and browse by facets.” Click here to explore these online collections for free.

U.S. passenger lists: Virgin Islands arrivals

FamilySearch.org has published a small but significant new collection of indexed records,  United States, Virgin Islands Index to Passenger Arrivals, 1906-1947. According to the collection description, “This collection corresponds with NARA publications A3404 and A3407, both of which are passenger index lists. Publication roll A3404 serves as an index to the series “Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, July 16, 1907- May 12, 1923” NAID 2953525 and “Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, June 5, 1925 to-June 30, 1948” NAID 2953511. Publication roll A3407 consists of microfilmed index cards, which contain passenger list information for ships arriving at Honolulu 1900-1952 (ARC identifier 4493348).” Note that the title doesn’t reference Honolulu arrivals but the collection description does.

U.S. yearbooks

MyHeritage has published US Yearbooks, 1890-1979, a new collection claiming 36,207,173 digitized pages in 253,429 yearbooks, “one of the largest collections of digitized US yearbooks in existence,” states the collection description. “Yearbooks are excellent genealogical records that include personal portraits and group photographs. These books can give a researcher insight into students, faculty, and staff who attended or worked at a school. The yearbooks in this huge compendium are primarily from high schools, which in the United States normally comprise grades 9 to 12 or 10 to 12.”

New England

The New England Historic Genealogical Society has published new resources for those with New England heritage:

  • “Thanks to our volunteers, we’re announcing three improved databases this week. These databases are now indexed by first name, last name, parents’ names, spouse’s name, location, date, and record type. They also now include images scanned from our manuscript collection. The improved databases are Guilford, CT Deaths, 1883-1890, Lincoln County, ME: Commissioners Marriages Records, 1759-1777, and Westfield, MA: Deaths in the First Church, 1728-1836.”
  • “The Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS is pleased to announce the launch of our new website, JewishHeritageCenter.org. This enhanced website will be another resource for patrons to explore the history of Boston and New England’s Jewish communities, and provide the Jewish Heritage Center at NEHGS the opportunity to further tell the stories of families, organizations, and synagogues. The website offers subject guides, links to featured exhibits and events, collection finding aids, and a variety of other resources for those with an interest in Jewish history and genealogy. Make sure to bookmark our website, and check back often for updated content!”

Great Lakes rail history

The Lake States Railway Historical Association is working to build an online archive and expand awareness of its important historical collections. According to this article in the Baraboo News Republic, “The collections at the Lake States Railway Historical Association contain countless stories of early railroads and the people who worked on them, and the organization’s leaders want to share them with the world. The 5,000-square-foot historical archive on Lynn Street in Baraboo is home to thousands of books, negatives, photographs, blueprints, drawings and other historical documents that detail early railroads, with a principal focus on the Western Great Lakes Region from 1880 to 1916. Volunteers are in the process of cataloging the collections in an online database so railroad enthusiasts around the globe can see what resources the organization has to offer.” Click here to explore their online catalog to their collection.

More Mexico civil registration records now online

FamilySearch.org has recently added over 63 million Mexico civil registration records! Among them are records from Aguascalientes, Baja California (and Sur), Campeche, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Distrito Federal, Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo Leon, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosi, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Yucatan and Zacatecas. Search them all from the main search portal for Mexican genealogy.

Please share these North American genealogy records

We scour the internet every week looking for the best new collections you’ll want to see, then group them to help you better find the ones you need. These Friday record roundups are some of our most popular posts. Please help us get the word out about these new North American genealogy records online! Share this post on your favorite social media site or email it to your genie friends and society buddies. Thank you for sharing! You’re a gem!

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!

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