We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Premium 126 – Road Trips, Facebook, New Database, Book Club

premium podcast 126

Click to download the show notes pdf

It’s August, and here in North America, we are determined to squeeze the last little bit of sunshine and fun from the long summer days. So who can blame me today for wanting to talk about road trips, and squeezing some family history into them no matter who’s along for the ride? I’ll talk about a new genealogy resource that’s so exciting it was worth interrupting a vacation, and a few tips I shared during MY recent trip to the beautiful mountain-backdropped campus of Brigham Young University in Utah.


A few weeks ago, I got a hurried phone call from Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. I was surprised because she was on vacation with her kids. But she was really excited. She said, “I was sitting by the hotel pool with my laptop—just checking in on the world–and I found a dataset we HAVE to blog about!” But she had to drive several hundred miles that day and didn’t have time. Could I blog about it?

She directed me to a “hot-off-the-press” database on Ancestry, and boy was she right! I blogged about it, then shared the post on Facebook. My post quickly reached over 7000 people, thanks to so many of you who passed it along to friends.

The hot database is the new U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, and it’s a critical update to our ability to access information from U.S. Social Security applications from 1936 to 2007. The database description tells us that “this database picks up where the Social Security Death Index leaves off by providing more details than those included in the SSDI. It includes information filed with the Social Security Administration through the application or claims process, including valuable details such as birth date, birth place, and parents’ names. While you will not find everybody who is listed in the SSDI in this database, data has been extracted for more than 49 million people.”

There are still some privacy protections in place, but there’s so much more here than in the SSDI, without forking out nearly $30 to order original applications that might not even have some of the info we want (or we might find it blacked out). In my post I compare an SSDI entry for one ancestor with the enhanced information in the new Social Security Applications and Claims Index.

This is the link to my blog post: https://lisalouisecooke.com/2015/07/us-social-security-applications/

genealogy gems podcast mailboxMAILBOX

I got a great email from Richard about this new database. “I want to thank you for the Facebook post you provided on July 23, 2015 regarding the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims database. I have been researching my family trees for going on 25 years. As with all new database indexes, I have the most common names I search for. The first one I do is my second great grandfather, James Walter Holder. He was born in Van Wert OH in 1883. I have found him in all the census records, the military records and even phone books. But I did not have any information on his death, the date, the location or anything else.

Well, on Thursday when I saw the post, as I mentioned, I clicked the link, and entered the information I had to perform the search.  Within 30 seconds, I was almost in tears.  To my wonder, amazement and delight, what was presented to me was the date of death for my James Walter Holder.  I am now one step closer to crumbling my brick wall on this critical ancestor in my life. Thank you for the post.”

I’m so pleased to hear that! Thanks to sharp-eyed Sunny for noticing this fantastic database as soon as Ancestry published it, and I hope many more of you break down more brick walls with it!

Kathy from Northridge, CA also emailed me the cutest note! She says, “I’m kinda late listening to the podcast and love the premium membership. I am curious as to how you got your grandma name of “Sha Sha.” In my family, both my grandmothers had special names. My maternal grandmother’s name was Marian. She had a cat named Kitty Mit. According to family lore, my grandmother would always say to my oldest cousin “You’re my little Kitty mitty” and my cousin ended up calling her “Minnie” because of that. My paternal grandmother had the initials MD. Her friends gave her the nickname of Doc so my brother and I called her Grandma Doc.”

“I only had one grandfather (my paternal grandfather died at 59 when my dad was 17) so he just got the name grandpa. Now when my nephew was a toddler he started out by identifying my parents as Big Grandma and Little Grandma. He didn’t quite get the gender reference straight. My father was 6’ 4” tall hence he was “big” and my mom was 5 foot 3 so she was “little.” Now my nephew is a father himself and my great nephew calls his grandmas “LaLa (whose name is Linda) and YaYa (whose name is Cathy). We don’t know how he came up with those names but they are stuck with them!”

I emailed Kathy back that Davy started calling me Sha Sha as soon as he learned to talk. Like so many grandparent names, it stuck. (I fully admit I was SO anxious for him to call me anything that I took the first name he offered.) Now if anyone tries to refer to me as Grandma he scowls at them and asks why and the world they are calling me some foreign name. (Here they are with me, signing books.)

I think I discussed this on Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 118, and on the next episode #119, I shared lots of wonderful stories from listeners about their terms of endearment. (You can access these on the Genealogy Gems website under Podcasts.) Kathy’s is right up there in being adorable! I LOVE Big Grandma and Little Grandma. Kids know what they see!

See your Facebook favorite people firstGEM: SEE WHAT YOU WANT FIRST ON FACEBOOK

Facebook now has a new feature to allow you to select which friends and pages you want to see at the top of your news feed. Along with your close friends and relatives, we hope you’ll include the Genealogy Gems Facebook page on your See First list.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Go to the Facebook friend or fan page you want to “see first.”
  2. Find the “Following” or “Liked” button on the profile picture. The Following button shows up for your friends and the “Liked” button on fan pages, like Genealogy Gems.
  3. Click “Following” or “Liked.” Then select “See First” from the menu that shows up below.

It’s that easy! You can choose up to 30 people to see first in your feed.

These folks and fan pages will filter to the top of your feed so you always “See First” the messages you care most about. Now I don’t have to chance missing updates from my kids, my good friends and favorite online groups.

I hope the Genealogy Gems Facebook page is on your See First list!

Family History Road TripINTERVIEW: FAMILY HISTORY ON ROAD TRIPS with Sunny Morton

Here are the links we promised in this conversation:

The little restored Mormon village on the Illinois shore of the Mississippi River

Historic Nauvoo (owned by LDS church)

Lisa’s funny video about taking her family to the Family History Library:

Summer Vacation: A Wild Genealogy Story

For finding heritage and historic sites to visit:

The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums

The Time Travelers program, with reciprocal visiting privileges (discounted admission, etc) to other historic sites for members of affiliated historical societies/attractions:


genealogy book club genealogy gemsGENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB

We hope you are still enjoying this quarter’s featured Book Club title, Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Pamela Smith Hill. Just to tide you over until next month, here are a few of Sunny’s favorite titles about the American west, when it was wild.

  • The Homesman: A Novel by Glendon Swarthout. Most startling book I’ve read in recent years. I’m not going to tell you every reason it was so startling or it will give away the plot. I will say that this is a sweaty and intense and gritty and face-paced story. You get the dark side of braving the frontier, for sure, but it’s not a depressing read. It’s just startling.

  • Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, another novel of a couple’s lives on the frontier. I read this early in my marriage, and maybe that’s why I read it as such a powerful treatise on a marriage. It did make me wonder about a few frontier novels I’ve loved that are as much about relationships as they are about action. I wonder, when you are a couple with no modern distractions and survival depends on your cooperation, whether the relationship really does become as wide and consuming as that wide horizon.


Now let’s time travel a little more: along a timeline of sorts. We mark two important anniversaries in technology this month: the 24th birthday of the internet and the 31st birthday of the personal computer. Can you believe they’re so young? Don’t they look great for their age—so grown up!

According to Profile America, the concept of the world wide web was born in Geneva, Switzerland, from two scientists in 1991. “At 24, the Web is quite a bit younger than the U.S. median age of 37, but in its brief life has come to shape our daily lives,” says Profile America. “It took some time to get going, though: In 1995, there were just 100,000 sites on the Web, and it reached 1 million in 1997. Last September, it exceeded 1 billion.

Ibm_px_xt_colorA slightly older technology celebrates its birthday in August, too. According to Profile America, “On August 12, 1981, IBM introduced its model 5150 — which soon became known simply as the “PC.”  There had been consumer computer models for some years before, such as the early Apple and Commodore, but the IBM machine marked a turning point in acceptance. Today, over 90% of college graduates live in homes with at least one computer.

These technology birthdays make me think about a recent talk I gave and some online comments it inspired. At Brigham Young University’s Conference on Family History and Genealogy in July, my keynote address looked at how we will continue to use new technologies in genealogy research. I blogged about this and the talk was covered in the local news, but I want to expand on this a little here with you.

Technology moves so fast these days it can make your head spin. Just when you start to get used to a new website or app, it seems to change or go out of date. I continue to be impressed at how enthusiastically genealogists continue to embrace new opportunities given them by technology. Just recently I was emailed a great technology question from a 79-year old man who is clearly keeping up pretty well!

It’s part of my mission to learn about all the new technologies I can and pass the best ones—and the ones most relevant to genealogy—on to you. But here’s a tip I shared during my keynote address that will help you focus your own “technology energies:” Think about which tasks you want to accomplish with technology, rather than just learning genealogy-specific technology. Then keep up with developments in the technologies that accomplish those tasks.

For example, by now, many of us have used (or at least heard of) Google Translate. We can use it with foreign-language documents and to correspond with overseas relatives and archives. But Google Translate’s functionality keeps improving. The FamilySearch blog reported on the audience’s response at my BYU keynote when I told them what Google Translate does now: “By the audible gasps of the audience, most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.”

Photo Credit: Ancestry Insider

Photo Credit: Ancestry Insider

The Ancestry Insider blog reported my observation in that keynote talk that genealogists haven’t been embracing digital video at the same speed at which we embrace other forms of digital media (We are great but we do have our weak spots!) I noticed a comment that was posted by someone named Cathy: “Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YouTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living….Our children and grandchildren don’t write letters; they email, text, Instagram. They don’t write journals; they blog. They make videos of current history….We all need to look to the future and [learn] how to save the new technologies.” Cathy gets that we are doing double-duty: researching and capturing the past, while trying to capture the present as we go along. It’s not always easy—the days fly past—but new technologies make it so much more possible to grab the moments we want to savor, and tuck them away for the future, so they won’t be lost to the haze of memory.

(Click here for Full Disclosure regarding our links)

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We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any collections below relate to your family history? Please share with genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested! This week: Midwestern U.S. newspapers (Cleveland, OH and Chicago, IL) and records of Pennsylvania coal and canal workers’ and English and Welsh criminals.

CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS. Technically this isn’t new content, but access to the Cleveland Jewish News is newly free, so it’s new to most of us! You do need to provide your name and email address for free access to 125 years of Cleveland Jewish newspapers. Subscribers have immediate access to all content as it is published; the public can access materials 90 days after they go online.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE ARCHIVE. For a very limited time–during beta testing of its new archive–old issues of The Chicago Tribune are free to search on its Archives website. Click here for their FAQ page or read a more detailed report on the National Genealogical Society (US) blog.

ENGLAND & WALES REGISTER OF CRIMINAL PETITIONS. Findmypast added over 77,000 records to its Registers of Criminal Petitions index to imaged registers of correspondence relating to criminal petitions. Documents usually give the outcome of any appeal and registers note the place of imprisonment.

PENNSYLVANIA COAL AND CANAL WORKERS. Ancestry just posted employee cards and applications from the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company for first half of the twentieth century. “The cards may list name, marital status, occupation, birth date, record date, residence, spouse, nationality, number of children and their ages, citizenship, date range for jobs, who to notify in case of an accident, and pension date. Applications can contain other details, including parents’ names, schooling, employment record, birthplace, and height and weight.”

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064When searching digitized newspaper sites, remember that the search technology used (optical character recognition) is much less thorough for historical newspapers than modern text, especially for capitalized words. Use creative search terms if searches on an ancestor’s name aren’t productive, like the person’s occupation or death date. Click here to learn more about using Google to search digitized newspaper pages, or read Lisa Louise Cooke’s newly-revised and updated book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, available now both in print and e-book format.

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Share World War I Family History

flagTo commemorate the centennial of the First World War, and to mark the last full month of the exhibition Myth and Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture, the Wolfsonian at Florida International University (FIU) created a special Tumblr for sharing family stories, WWI memorabilia, and genealogy research tips called #GreatWarStories.

I first crossed paths with FIU’s Digital Outreach Strategist Jeffery K. Guin in 2009 when he interviewed me for his Voices of the Past website and show. Jeff was an early innovator in the world of online history, and he’s now brought those talents to the Wolfsonian, a museum, library and research center in Miami that uses its collection to illustrate the persuasive power of art and design.

The Wolfsonian team of historical sleuths is inviting the public at large to help them unearth the forgotten impact of the Great War by posting family facts, anecdotes, documents, and photographs. They were inspired by their current art exhibition Myth and Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture which focuses on artists’ responses to the war. They hope that #GreatWarStories project at Tumblr will be a “living, breathing digital collection of personal WWI stories, photos, documents and letters compiled in remembrance of the transformational war on the occasion of its centennial.”

Great war

Jeff asked me to join in on this buy add medication online history crowd-sourcing effort, and it was easy to comply. Several years ago  in going through the last of my Grandmother’s boxes, I found a booklet she had crafted herself called The World War.As a high school student, and daughter of German immigrant parents she set about gathering and clipping images from magazines and newspapers, depicting this turning point in history. I’ve been anxious to share it in some fashion, and this was my opportunity. Here is the result:

Do you have a piece of World War I history hiding in our closet? Why not join in this experiment in storytelling, sharing and curating, and share World War I family history?

Here are some ways you can contribute:

  • Sharing the story of your family’s WWI-related history through photos, documents, or anecdotes (possibilities include guest blogging, video/podcast interview, or photo essay)
  • Using your expertise and unique perspective as a launching pad for discussing the war’s impact in a different or surprising way
  • Alerting the museum to related resources or materials that would dovetail with the mission of the project

To see the living, digital collection, visit http://greatwarstories.tumblr.comIf you would like to participate, send an email to greatwarstories@thewolf.fiu.edu and the Wolfsonian team will be in touch to discuss storytelling ideas.

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