Genealogy Case Study: Where did my ancestor get married?

If you want to find the marriage records of your ancestors, you may need to look somewhere besides where they lived. This genealogy case study with professional genealogist J. Mark Lowe demonstrates how the concept of a Gretna Green can solve this marriage mystery.

This is part 2 of a 2 part series on marriage records. Watch part 1 Gretna Green and Marriage Records

Watch the Video

My Guest: J. Mark Lowe. You can contact Mark through the Kentucky – Tennessee Research Associates

Show Notes

(This transcription was edited for clarity)

In our last video, J Mark Lowe was here and he explained that Gretna Green is a place in Scotland and it was a place well known for being very easy to get married, a lot fewer marriage restrictions than other locations. Well, that name has actually become synonymous with any place where it’s much easier to get married. And that means also here in the United States. So when you’re looking for a marriage record, and you’re not finding it, there’s a possibility that Gretna Green is playing a role. In this video, Mark Lowe is back and he is going to walk us through a case study that really illustrates the power of understanding Gretna Green, when you’re looking for marriage records.

(01:26) Mark: This case involves my grandparents, Papa Lowe and Mama Lowe. That’s what we call them. They were a very, very sweet couple. My dad knew a lot about his parents, and he was the oldest child. But do you know what he did not know? He thought they got married in Bowling Green where they lived. He just said they got married in Bowling Green. So, there I was with the county court clerk and there wasn’t a marriage for his parents!

I’ll have to tell you, my grandmother was, the term we use is a tea totaler. So that typically she was not an alcohol user. She was somewhat rigid and strict, in some ways. But I think I said to the clerk, “were my grandparents actually married?!” And he just burst out in big laughter. He knew them. So he just thought it was hilarious that a seven-year-old asked that. In the fact he said –  he called my grandmother Miss Eunice – he just laughed, and he said, “No son, I’m sure that they went somewhere else to get married.” It was pretty popular at the time. He didn’t tell me where they were married, though.

I did know that from the 1920 census, that they were already married. So in my great grandparents’ household there is my grandfather Earnest and his wife, my grandmother Eunice, living with his parents and they are married. And I knew that that had to be close to that time period that they married because I knew it was after my grandfather was back from World War I. So, this helps establish that they’re at least somewhere close, and that they’re a married couple living with his parents.

So they didn’t go to California, for example, or Texas. They didn’t go too far to get married. If they did they are already back. It was kind of like doing what we normally do, which I think is, as a beginner, we’re taught to look start in the county where they’re living. And I found a map of South Central Kentucky from that time period, 1924. I found it on David Rumsey.

map

You can see the blue star is generally where they lived kind of in the northeast corner of Warren County, Kentucky. Bowling green is the county seat, and so I looked there. I learned as a young researcher that if the marriage can’t be found where they lived, you will look at the surrounding place. You look at every place that touches that area. Well, there are a lot of counties! Nearby is Warren county, and I checked there. I checked every one of those counties and it took me a while to do it! (I couldn’t do it when I was seven. I had to wait till I could drive!) So, it took several years for me to be able to write a few letters.

You also see along that where that blue star is that there’s a railroad. It’s not a driving road. So the other thing that I thought about is the railroad. So I also went to counties beyond the adjacent counties because of the railroad. I went all the way even up to Louisville, which is just north, probably about two hours by train. North of that I even checked those counties. I didn’t find them.

Had I looked at this map more carefully, and had what I know today about the Gretna greens, I would have at least looked at the differences between the laws. I showed you those differences between Kentucky law and Tennessee law in the last video. I probably would have also looked at the statistics for the counties along the Tennessee Kentucky border where there were more marriages. Had I done that, if I had followed my own advice, I would probably have seen it.

If you follow that railroad on the map, it kind of goes down and then it goes straight south. And there is Simpson County. And it goes down to Franklin. And then there is the triangular jog. That’s a little break in the line up between Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s a historical point. Well, just south of that is a little town called Mitchellville. It’s in Sumner County. It’s just over the state line. There’s a railroad stop there. Well, guess what? That’s where they got married!

They hopped on a train, went to Mitchellville got off the train, went to the JP (Justice of the Peace) and were able to do everything and then probably hopped on the train, next train going north, and went back home.

I do want to verify that. And yes, it’s there. There’s a marriage bond for them. They married, and what’s interesting here is we always look at the bondsman to help us to connect with other family and associates and people that they know. What’s interesting about their record is that the bondsman is F.M. Groves, that’s also the justice of the peace who married them. And at the top it says that F.M. Groves paid for the bond. Do you know what he was known as? The marrying squire because if you crossed over to Mitchellville he was the JP. He had an office near the train station. I guess that probably was almost his full time job. People would come there to get married. Everybody knew about it. They would come and get married, he would take care of the license, and they would go on their way, and then he would record it. He would take all of those marriages to the county court clerk’s office over in Gallaton in Sumner County, and record those. I never thought about looking there. They actually are in the marriage register. But that’s not where they were married, and it wasn’t done the day they were married, because he did everything in his office, and then he took all the stuff over.

In the indexes, they copied my grandmother’s name which was Eunice. And on his record, you can clearly see it says Eunice Martin in that bond. Well, it’s a little scratchy. But when it’s indexed on the other record, they missed the U and the indexed her as Enis. And so that’s the other thing in a Gretna Green, when you’re checking an index, if it was copied by a JP and then taken to the clerk, it’s very possible  that there could be errors in the name transfer the copying. Or if the if the clerk was trying to read the JP’s handwriting and it was really bad, then the name could be totally obliterated in the register, which is usually what used to index the records. So that can also create a problem.

(10:10) So, they were married by this marrying squire. I found the article about him in the newspaper and he was involved with the railroad. So, he a smart man that realized that there were a lot of folks in the time period, post World War I, interested in getting married. He was in favor of that, and so that a lot of folks did it. And what’s interesting is that almost all of my grandfather’s siblings married all came to Mitchellville. They all came to the same place. And then all their cousins that married in that next decade from the 20s on, almost all of them did the same thing. They hopped the train and they came down to Sumner County, Mitchellville, and got married. It became almost like that was the heritage place and I wouldn’t have known that. But once I know it, then it’s like, I didn’t even have to go to Kentucky to look up any more records. They’re all right here in Sumner County.

So again, the Gretna Green creates a whole new situation of helping us. Once you begin to see it, you see the pattern.

One of the things that we have today that we didn’t have back when I was seven is we didn’t have access to the great records that have been indexed for us on FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and all these great resources. I could have looked for that marriage. But I might not have looked on Tennessee because I thought that they got married in Kentucky. So again, you do need to think about the possibility that they didn’t marry where they lived. Ask yourself, what are the places that people would typically go. If you can’t find them, clearly go back to that concept.

A lot of times our records are not where we think they will be. I was looking for one today. Pat Boone was a famous singer. All my life I’ve known that Pat Boone and his wife Shirley Foley, were a young couple that married in 1953. And I’ve always known that Pat Boone got married in this town in Springfield. It was kind of known as a Gretna Green because of the rural areas. People didn’t want to get married Nashville so they often came up here. I looked in the newspaper, and it actually said that Pat and Shirley, their newspaper accounts in Nashville, indicated that they had married in Springfield. It actually indicated the church that they were married in. It was in the study of a church right here. And it talked about who the witnesses were, because one of them was one of his college professors in Nashville. And so, I just wanted to find that record. I thought, well, since they married here, they also got their license here. But, again, that’s not the case. They actually got their marriage license in an adjacent County in Davidson County, and then they came up here and had it solemnized. So again, if I was looking for the record, even though they married here, (I looked for the record here), the record is in Nashville. And so sometimes, that’s not really the same thing as they went somewhere to get married in this case of Gretna Green, and the records are there, but again, you have to stop and think about what am I looking for? And what’s the truth of the situation? Listen to the story, and the story will help you find the details often.

(14:31) Lisa: That’s a great point. And I think you’re right, a lot of people assume that it always happens all in one place. but maybe not. And how amazing that the marrying squire performed 12,000 marriages. That’s a lot of people!

These strategies are so terrific because as you said even though we can search the index today, if it got transferred a couple of times there’s a chances of not finding it in the index because the name got kind of chopped up as it kept getting transcribed are good. You have to go back to these strategies.

(15:08) Mark: And also people had nicknames. You know me as Mark, but my first name is John. So if I actually was on the record as John Lowe, you might not have connected that with me. I know that’s often the case when I’ve been looking for brides, and I know them as Elizabeth, and I go look, and there’s not an Elizabeth in that marriage record. And I may have known she married somebody named William. So, I’m looking for an Elizabeth marrying a William. I know of a particular case where the young lady’s name was Caroline Elizabeth, and she went by Elizabeth, but her first name was Caroline, but she never used it. Guess what? She used it on her marriage record!

It could have been misheard. I know another person who went by Martha. Her name was not Martha. Her name was Mary Ann. She got a nickname of Martha, because she had an Aunt Martha. And so they called her Little Martha. It became a nickname. And so, she went by that. Her legal name was Mary Ann.

My grandfather ended up working for the railroad later. And I would say that when the railroad passes through an area, and I found this to be true in a lot of cases, with the transportation situation and a railroad often being an inexpensive way to travel, that often would have led to even more chances of the Gretna Green happening. I know of several couples along the railroad who decided to go somewhere else.

For example, to get out of Kentucky and go get married, they could hop on a train, and within about two hours, they could be up in Illinois in White County, Illinois. I know a couple in southern Kentucky who lived in different towns, they shared notes about how they were going to run off and get married and all this. But we don’t always have those notes afterwards, right? Grandma didn’t, grandma didn’t leave me all the personal things that she wrote to grandpa. In that case, this family ends up having these notes later, and they learned that the couple planned this whole thing. They hopped on the train and they met and had a bag and they went across the state line to White County, Illinois and got married. You would think, wow, I would never look that far away. All you’ve got to do is just follow that map of where the train goes.

Recently I talked to some folks in Eastern Kentucky and I helped some folks. In every case we used the railroad map and we were able to pinpoint the most logical place for them to go to get married. In almost in every case, they either went to Lexington or Louisville, because the big city had a JP. They might hear from the railroad guy who knew who to go see to get that done quickly. So they had a great experience. They were able to get back on the train and go back home and tell everybody, “Hey, we got married.”

So, one of the advantages of the Gretna Green is that the marriage can be quick, and you can get back home and announce it. I’m pretty sure that’s partly why my grandparents did what they did. They went and they came back and probably their friends knew and they probably had a reception or party either then or the next day.

Lisa: And it might be that people couldn’t necessarily afford a big wedding or it was just like a little getaway mini honeymoon or they had to get back to work on Monday. Who knows.

(19:40) Mark: Well, I think sometimes that’s the most logical reason. It’s probably very simple like that. There are some cases where we know that perhaps the father of the bride was not was not real thrilled about his potential son-in-law. He just didn’t think he was good enough for his daughter. And so he probably pushed back. I think that happened a lot.

I know in cases where they just didn’t want to wait. If all it took was crossing two county lines to get married they might just do that.  I can hear saying, “Daddy will be okay with it once we’re married, it’ll end once we’re married. He’ll be okay, you’ll all be fine.” I think the justification of young minds often will lead us to make those decisions.

Lisa: That sounds like my grandmother. I’m sure Daddy wasn’t thrilled. It was funny because they lived in Northern California, but they went to Carson City, Nevada to get married. It was just this little tiny thing in the newspaper, nothing fancy. Her fiance, my grandfather, worked for the railroad. So it was super easy. They picked a convenient spot along the railroad line.  I’m sure she felt like ‘well, we’ll come back and then we’ll ask forgiveness later.”

Use a Genealogy Research Plan

(21:21) Before I let you go, I really want to touch on one thing. I’ve been kind of trying to remind people lately about research plans. When it’s not a quick search, and what you’re looking for doesn’t just pop up on Ancestry or MyHeritage we’re going to have to dig a little bit and do this kind of background work.

As you were talking about getting the map out and then marking the spots I envision all those locations, go into that research plan. A plan helps you know where you’re going and how to approach it.

If you had to give a pitch on why it’s worth taking the time to take a deep breath and put a plan together, what would you say?

Mark: That’s easy because all of us have lost something important to us in our normal life. Now, as we get older, we lose a lot more. But when the research is important to you, a plan becomes essential. Not only does it help you think through it, and then you follow the steps as you as you see them developing.

It also helps you when you when you follow those steps and you don’t find the answer. A good plan helps you. It’s like a GPS that says “recalculating, recalculating!” If you have a written plan, if you’ve got a plan in place, when you get to that point it’s easy to just take a step back and look again. I call that my mull and ponder stage. I love to just sit and relax and rock and think through what’s my next option. A plan will help you decide what you’re going to do next.

In my years of experience, I’ll say, if it’s not there, then I’m going to look here, or I’m going to do this. I’m going to look for some alternates. That’s the real strength of a plan. I cannot imagine finding some of the great things that I’ve found without a plan. They don’t fall and hit you on the head.

You do not find new information by following the same old path. A plan helps you get to some new information.

Lisa: That’s a great point and a great note to end on. My friend, thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

About J. Mark Lowe

Contact professional genealogist J. Mark Lowe through the Kentucky – Tennessee Research Associates

Resources

Download the ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

 

Newspaper Obituaries for Genealogy – Episode 73

This week in Elevenses with Lisa episode 73 we are talking obituaries and the important role they can play in your genealogy. Obituaries can reveal a lot of really interesting and helpful information about your ancestors! My guest is Shannon Combs-Bennett, the author of the article A Genealogist’s Guide to Finding and Using Historical Obituaries published in Family Tree Magazine

newspaper obituaries for genealogy

Episode 73

In Elevenses with Lisa episode 73 Lisa Louise Cooke and Shannon Combs-Bennett will discuss:

  • The backstory on obituaries (which is vital to understand about any genealogical record)
  • what they can tell you about your ancestors
  • where you can find them both online and offline
  • and strategies you can use when they aren’t where you expected to find them.

Episode 73 Show Notes 

(Please note: This interview transcription has been minimally altered for ease of reading and clarity.)

Lisa: I think of obituaries as being such a cornerstone of the work that we do. It’s often one of the first places people start, right?

Shannon: Yeah, it is, they’re pretty accessible for most people. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, though the further back in time you go. But they seem to be one of the basic, I guess you could call staples, bread and butter type documents that genealogists try to find.

Type of Death Records Found in Newspapers

(01:28) Lisa: Exactly. And we typically find them in newspapers. So, I’d love to start there. Because obituaries are not the only kind of death record we’re finding in newspapers, right?

Shannon: There are actually several different types of death records published in a newspaper.

Obituaries
Of course the obituaries, which are the most common.

Funeral Announcements
You can also have funeral announcements. So, you might not get the obituary, but maybe you can find the announcement that this funeral home is servicing this family or that this wake will occur at such and such place, or the religious ceremony will occur at this church with graveside services.

Card of Thanks
In addition to that, you sometimes can find what were called for a long time card of thanks where families would put articles in the newspaper, essentially, in the advertisement and personal sections, thanking people for coming and participating in the service of their loved one. 

So, there’s a wide variety of different types of information. And if you don’t know it’s there, you don’t know to go look for it.

Coroner Inquests 
Lisa: Exactly. I remember I was doing some newspaper research in the British Newspaper Archives, from my husband’s family. I didn’t find a death notice, but there was an entire coroner’s inquest published in the newspaper! And I didn’t realize that we could find something like that. So, it’s wonderful to see the depth of the kinds of information that surround the death of a person that could be found in newspapers.

Shannon: And those aren’t as common here in the United States. But if your loved one died in a larger city, you can sometimes find (coroner inquests) in the newspapers. I was doing some research and found in from San Francisco, and they have published books of coroner’s inquests, so they’re not in newspapers, but the announcement was in the newspaper that there was an inquest. Then I was able to go to the library and thankfully they were all digitized. I found them online where I would find all sorts of information about the person, their family, the circumstances of their death. And if you’re doing family medical histories, sometimes those can be real gold mines.

The History of Obituaries

(4:03) Lisa: So, let’s take a moment and talk about the history of obituaries. Because, as you know, when we understand the history of any kind of genealogical record, then we do a lot better job of utilizing it. Please give us a little bit of a background story on obituaries. How long have they been around?

 Colonial Times
Shannon: You can find obituaries in even some of the earliest colonial newspapers here in the United States. Sometimes they were passing through an area and died. Or you might see information that someone had died abroad and there might be a little note in the newspaper.

Early 19th Century
In the early 1800s you can see themes developing around newspaper obituaries. (And sometimes if it was a very important person to the community you’ll be more than likely to find it.) These early newspaper obituaries don’t always have a lot of family information, but you’ll find all sorts of virtuous prose written about them where they were talking about how godly and worthy they were and those types of things.

Then the obituary started to morph and actually became a part of the personal and advertisement section of the newspaper. So, one reason you may not find information in an obituary for your ancestor is because your family didn’t have the money to pay for the obituary to put be put in. And then if they weren’t a real prominent person, they wouldn’t get the prime real estate in the actual reading sections. So, yeah, if your family were on the poor side, you might not find anything about them, unfortunately.

20th Century
(06:06) And then, as the 20th century came in these started to evolve from a celebration of death to a celebration of people’s accomplishments. You start finding late 1800s into the early 20th century is how the obituary as we know it today started to evolve. It went from maybe one or two lines about a person dying to three and four paragraphs about them, their families, especially if they had, you been a pensioner or veteran, or a pioneer of a town, the early 20th century saw a lot of those people who had really struck it out west for their fame and fortune start passing away in those towns. Sometimes you would even find the obituary, not only in the place where they died, but in their hometowns back further to the east. You might find obituaries, especially for those pioneering folk you could call them, back where they came from.

Lisa: That’s a great point. And that’s really kind of a nice newspaper research tip that expands beyond obituaries. It’s that idea that people often started back east, but then relocated out west, and particularly with the telegraph coming into play, they could send that article back to where they came from and get it to all those people who would be interested to know whatever happened to that person.

Shannon: Right.

21st Century
Now in the 21st century we’re moving more and more away from print newspapers for the obituaries. We’re going to almost completely digital newspapers for the obituaries and digital obituary sites. I’ve had several of my close family members in the last 10 years who have passed away, and the funeral homes are offering to put obituaries on their websites. And when my mother passed away, I was speaking with the funeral home director, and they had kept records. This was in Texas. And they had records going back several decades with written obituaries that, if you called the funeral home, you could see if they had one written up. It was not even necessary published in the paper, because the family couldn’t afford it. But the funeral home had it.

Lisa: How interesting!

It really drives home the point that you’ve got to know what kind of timeframe you’re looking at right to see what you can find and where you’d expect to find it.

Obituaries in Small vs. Large Cities

(08:48) I would imagine it’s true that in small towns, you might be more likely to find obituaries then perhaps let’s say in Chicago.

Shannon: Yeah, because you know, everybody knows everybody, in a small hometown. Those would be more likely to have the longer, more in depth information written about a person talking about their family, and where they came from, what they did, if they were the pillar of a community, or even just a local farmer.

And then in the cities, unless you were a prominent citizen, that’s where you’re more than likely to find a paragraph or less, maybe only even a few sentences: first and last name, age, died on this date, and maybe that’s all you get, unfortunately.

Where to Find Obituaries in Old Newspapers

(09:39) Lisa: Let’s talk about where to find these Historical Newspapers. Where do we start?

Shannon: Okay. Well, there are a lot of different newspapers online.

Chronicling America at the Library of Congress
Of course, the Library of Congress Chronicling America is a great start. See if they have one of the local newspapers for the place that you’re researching for the timeframe your ancestors were there. Start there because it’s free – you got to start with the free resources first.

FamilySearch
Family search also has a free obituary, historical obituary site that you can search. (Ed. Note: this link will take you to a resource page at the FamilySearch Wiki which includes many links to sources for obituaries.)

And then you can move into the paid / subscription websites such as:

(Disclosure: Thank you for using these affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase and that helps support this content which we make available for free.)

(Ed. Note: Of course there are many other websites featuring obituaries, and some are niche websites unique to their location. Google searching can help you locate these resources. Learn more about my strategies for strategic googling here.)

Obituaries at Libraries

(10:36) Sometimes you can also contact the local library for the place the person had died. I’m originally from Indiana, and I’ve had good luck calling around to the various county libraries. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of the newspapers digitized. But for a small fee, they were willing to send me a photocopy. And in some cases, now I can get email PDFs for a few dollars. I like to support the local library, so I’m okay with doing that. Because our local libraries need a lot of support.

Don’t give up if you can’t find it digitized, is what I’m trying to say. There’s a lot of information to be found, and there are a lot of places out there, especially for older newspapers. Be resourceful I guess you could say.

Obituary Indexes

(11:29) Lisa: You talked about online indexes. So sometimes we don’t get the actual obit but we could get enough information out of the index that we could then go track it down in person.

Shannon: Yeah, that’s very true. I’ve used those several times. One of the links that is in the article is to the Dayton, Ohio index. And you can put in as much information as you know. Sometimes I find it’s easier to start with a little bit of information, and then sort through and add details to weed through the large number. But all it will give you is the person’s name and the date of publication, so not even the date of death (so you know it’s somewhere in that timeframe) and then the page, issue, column number so that you can contact the Dayton Public Library, and they can help get you the paper. And a lot of the libraries are like that.

Obituary Search Strategies

(12:29) Lisa: When you do online searches for obituaries, do you tend to just go straight in and do a search on the name? Or do you go into the card catalog and find newspaper and obituary collections first and then try to search? Do you have any special tactics that you use to try to make sure you’re successful?

Shannon: That’s actually a really great question. It depends. If I have a really unique name and I am pretty sure of the location, maybe timeframe of the death, sometimes I’ll just start looking for that person. Especially like I said, if it’s a really unique name.

Unique Names
I had an ancestor named Bathsheba Kelly. I’m thinking there’s not many people named Bathsheba. So I was pretty confident maybe if I just started looking for her by name and the timeframe she died in Ohio, we’d be good to go.

Other times, yeah, I first want to narrow it down by collection because you don’t want to just go searching willy nilly, right? That’s going to waste a lot of time. Try to find like a five year, maybe a 10 year span. If you’re not quite sure, having a timeframe will help weed them down.

Common Names
If it’s a common name, you need to add in a lot more. Maybe those advanced searches. It may take you going town by town, or year by year as you go wading through all the names.

Indexes
If there is an index for the database I do like to use those first because that can help weed out a lot of information right off the bat.

Printing
Print it out, write it down, keep it on a separate browser tab or whatever you need to do so that you can methodically keep track of your search.  That can really help. Don’t give up!

Obituary Publishing Timeframes

(14:54) Lisa: I know I had an experience once where I was searching a weekly newspaper in California on microfilm, and I knew that obituaries were always on page seven, because I’ve just had been through so many issues of this particular newspaper. I looked at the obituary column in the next issue following the death of my great grandfather, and he wasn’t there. And I was like, What? I looked at the next week and he wasn’t there, and I went back a week. I wondered if maybe I got the date wrong. It turned out his obituary was on the front page! And that goes back to us saying that some people were kind of considered the pioneer of their town, even though in the family, he wasn’t Mr. Celebrity or anything, but he was revered for that. And they had him on the front page.

I’d love to have you touch on when you don’t see them where you think you’re going to see them. And what’s the timing of when we could expect to see their obituary published? And do you have any other tips on when they’re not where you think they’ll be? What are the kinds of places within the paper where you tend to find these kinds of articles?

Shannon: Yeah, that’s actually a really good question. Again, it depends. Like you said, even if you don’t think that your family member was someone famous, if you’re not finding the obituary where you expect to find it, try going through the newspaper cover to cover.

Sometimes if your ancestor died in mysterious circumstances, there might not be an obituary, but there might be an article about a court case. So that’s always a good thing to know. Because those death records, especially if it was salacious gossip, is going to turn up somewhere.

Lisa: It’s newsworthy.

Shannon: That’s right. If it’s newsworthy, it’s going to be in there.

Where Obituaries are Located in a Newspaper

(16:46) I was recently doing some research on professional genealogists. I wanted to find out when genealogists became a profession here in the United States. I figured if an obituary of a professional genealogist told me they were 80 years old and when they died, then I can kind of backtrack to when, they started became a professional. I did not find these obituaries in the late 1800s where I thought they should be. Sometimes they were in the Personal section. Sometimes they were in the miscellaneous advertisement section. But then once again, it goes back to somebody had to pay the newspaper to put this in it. So, they wouldn’t be in these larger newspapers. I was looking at like the New York Times, The Hartford newspaper, the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune. I wasn’t finding these obituary pages for them. I was finding obituaries in the Personal section, which kind of threw me for a loop a little bit.

Lisa: You kind of have to follow the money, right?

Shannon: Yeah.

Lisa: It’s so interesting that you’re talking about the history of genealogists, because I remember, quite a few years ago, I went to the census records. I started searching on genealogist as an occupation or the industry. That’s really interesting too to see who was doing it 100 years ago.

Obituaries were not always published the very next week after a person’s death, right?

Shannon: Right. A lot of people think that they are. I guess 1) it depends on the religion and the culture that you’re looking at –  what was done in that time frame. Or 2) it depends on the place. This might sound kind of odd to some of us who don’t live in really cold places, but when the ground freezes in our northern most states sometimes you wouldn’t be able to bury somebody until the next spring. And, and you may have a death notice when they died, but then a full obituary for when the service and the burial took place. So sometimes you may have several months gap in between when they died, and when information was published about them in the newspaper.

The other thing maybe, especially if they were in business, or if they traveled, or if they were in the military, they could have died abroad. So, you’re only going to hear the information see the death notice or the obituary when the ship lands.

Information Found in Obituaries

(20:00) Lisa: Before I let you go, I’d love to have you talk about the Obituary Fast Facts section in your article. What are some of the interesting facts and little bits that you want to share with us?

Shannon: Sure! Well, some of the things that you can find in an obituary can be surprising. As genealogists, we want to find all the family information we can. We want to know when they were born, who their parents were, if possible, family members, that type of thing. But other things that you can find in obituaries are :

Employment Information
employment information, which can then give you clues as to where else they might have been.

Migration Information
If they were a migrant, to that area, it can give you information, you know, where they originated from. If they immigrated to the Untied States, sometimes they list that they landed at the port of Philadelphia, or New York, or New Orleans, or wherever. And that can help lead information for passenger lists and future information.

Associated People
But most importantly, people who are listed in the obituary have to be somebody known to the deceased person, either a friend or a family, or a close acquaintance. I want to encourage people to not forget those associate people and collateral lines, because you might be able to find information about your ancestor while researching them.

Lisa: Great point! 

About Shannon Combs-Bennett

(21:30) Shannon, tell folks a little bit more about yourself and what you do.

Shannon: I’m an author, lecturer, and an educator, full time student – a perpetual student is what my father would call me. You can find me at my blog, which is Trials and Tribulations of a Self-Taught Family Historian. You can also find me on Facebook and LinkedIn and on Twitter, I’m not I’m not on Twitter as much as I used to be. I’ve spoken all across the United States. I’ve even spoken internationally in Scotland and in France for the Heraldic and Genealogical Congress. But I think that’s because I come from a background of teachers. I love educating, writing, lecturing and helping people learn more information about their pasts and about who they are and who their families were. It doesn’t hurt that my undergraduate degree was in human genetics. So sometimes I can throw a little bit of that DNA in there.

Lisa: Thank you so much for being on the show!

Resources

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Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here.

Elevenses with Lisa Archive

You can find the Elevenses with Lisa Video Archive here or through the menu: Premium > Premium Videos > Elevenses with Lisa.

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Comments

Do you have a question about using obituaries for genealogy? Have you found something fascinating in an obituary? Tell us about it in the Comments below:

 

 

 

Episode 70 – Getting Started Using Evernote for Genealogy

Doing genealogy research generates a wide variety of research notes: typed and handwritten, audio, photos, video, and screenshots of information on websites. If you want one tool to pull together your current research projects, Evernote might just be the answer. In this video and article you’ll learn the role that Evernote can play, what it is and how to set it up, and your options for using for free or as a subscriber. 

evernote for genealogy tutorial

Evernote for Genealogy Video Tutorial

In this video and article Lisa Louise Cooke will discuss:

  • What Evernote is and the role Evernote can play in your genealogy research
  • How to get started with Evernote
  • Using it for free or as a subscriber
  • Best Practices for tagging, notebooks and more. 

Click here to get started with Evernote.

Use it for free or upgrade to get all the bells and whistles like OCR and use on all your devices. (We will be compensated if you use our affiliate link. Thank you for supporting this free show.)

 

Show Notes 

In my recent videos on how to avoid research rabbit holes that keep you from your genealogy goals, I mentioned that I use Evernote to capture BSOs or bright shiny objects that are interesting but not what I’m working on at the moment. So in this video I’m going to explain what Evernote is, and how to get started using it.

Give Evernote a try with our link

https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
(Using our link helps support the free show. Thanks!)

What is Evernote?

Evernote puts all your notes in one place and offers an incredibly fast and easy way to retrieve them.

Evernote is a:

  • website
  • software program for your computer (Win & Mac) that you download for free from their website
  • mobile app (iOS & Android): search for Evernote in your device’s app store
  • a web clipper for your computer’s web browser

Benefits

Genealogy can get a big messy. Information can be gathered from countless sources and in a variety of forms. You could funnel things through a cloud service like Dropbox. However, because Evernote is a note taking app, it offers unique and super helpful features:

  • Create all types of notes
  • From all of your devices. Thanks to Cloud synchronization you can take a note on any device and always have access to the most current version. (Free mobile app)
  • Web clipping – It allows you to clip items from the Internet (rather than saving entire bulky web pages),
  • OCR technology makes notes (such as newspaper articles) keyword searchable (subscription)
  • Data like URLs and the date you created the note is automatically included
  • No total storage limit, just monthly upload
  • You can use it for free, and upgrade for all the bells and whistles.

Getting Started with Evernote

  • Sign in for a free account at https://evernote.grsm.io/genealogy
  • Install the software on your desktop computer (Windows & Mac)
  • Download the web clipper to your browser (app store or Google it)
  • Download the free Evernote app to your mobile devices from the iTunes App Store or Google Play

Features & Costs

(Subject to change. Visit evernote.com/compare-plans)

evernote pricing plans comparison 2021

Evernote pricing plans comparison Sept. 2021 – See the website for the most current offer.

 

Software Home Layout

Evernote’s Home view gives you a summary of what you’ve got going on in Evernote. If Home is new to you and you don’t see it, simply head to the left Navigation menu and click Home.

Home gives you a place to sort of summarize what you’ve got going on in Evernote. It also allows you to add more personalization.

A fun way to personalize Evernote is by adding a background image. Click Customize in the upper right corner, and then click the Change Background button. Here you can add a preset image or add your own.

By default, Home comes with widgets such as:

  • Notes (highlighting your most recent notes, and Suggested notes based on your activity)
  • A Scratch Pad
  • Recently Captured items by type (web clips, images, documents, audio and emails)

While you’re in Customize mode, you’ll see additional available widgets like:

  • Calendar (allowing you to sync your Google calendar with Evernote)
  • Filtered Notes
  • Notebooks
  • Pinned Notes
  • An additional Scratch Pad
  • Shortcuts
  • Tags
  • Tasks

We’ll explore some of these further in a moment. But first, let’s create our first note!

All Notes View – Snippet View:

  • Left column = your files and organization
  • Center column = search for notes
  • Right column = the note you are currently working on

Change the layout by clicking the View Options icon (in Snippet View it appears at the top of the search column). This will give you a variety of layout options.

Change what appears or is hidden from view, and whether the view is dark or light by clicking View in the menu.

Notetaking 101

Create a note by clicking the New Note (+) button at the top of the screen.

Creating a new note is as simple as starting to type. Evernote saves your work instantly and without any extra effort on your part. Notes are saved in “the Cloud” on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up. In addition, all of your notes will sync across all of your various computing devices. And Evernote facilitates sharing notes with others for research collaboration.

Click the Info icon at the top of the note to see the meta-data for that note. You can add and edit this information.

Types of Notes:

  • Typed
  • Sketched
  • Photos
  • Attachments
  • Video
  • Audio

Note Info has changed and can now be found by pressing Control + Shift + I on your keyboard, or clicking the More Actions (3 dots icon) in the upper right corner of the note and selecting Note Info.

Tagging is the Key to Organization

Add a tag based on important keywords associated with the note.

Examples of tags for genealogy:

  • Surnames (Cooke, Moore)
  • Record types (birth, census, land)
  • Locations (Indiana, Germany)
  • Time frames (1900-1909, 1910-1919)
  • Tasks (pending, add to database, follow up, etc.)

To tag a note, click Add Tag at the top of the note and select a tag from your list or add a new tag. Tags will appear in the left column. Click any tag in the left column to retrieve all notes with that tag.

Evernote Tasks

In June of 2021 Evernote added a Tasks feature. It operates just  a little differently than how I’ve been using tasks. Evernote tasks are:

  • To Do Items
  • Note Specific (versus a tag which can retrieve all notes with that task)
  • Often Deadline Driven
  • Assignable to Others
  • Searchable

Where is the Trash?

You will find Evernote’s Trash bin at the bottom of the Navigation bar on the left.

Notebooks

Notebooks take organization a step further. I create notebooks sparingly. I use them to divide Evernote up into workspaces: Genealogy, Personal, Business, etc. I also use them for long-term and collaborative research projects that I may want to share with others.  You can drag and drop notebooks on top of each other to create Stacks, although Evernote only allows one level of stacking.

How to create a new notebook:

  1. In the menu select: File > New Notebook
  2. Name the new notebook in the pop-up window
  3. Select notebook type – usually you would set it up to synchronize, but you do have the option to have the notebook reside only on the computer it was created by selecting Local

The Cloud and Synchronization

Notes are saved on your computer and in the Cloud on Evernote’s servers. This means all of your notes are automatically backed up, and also accessible from your account on their website. Your notes will sync across all of your computing devices that have Evernote installed. There’s no need to manually sync with the new version. It happens automatically whenever you’re connected to the internet.

Web Clipping

As you visit webpages, you can clip just the portion of the page that you want to remember and keep rather than printing the page or bookmarking it. You can type the source citation directly into the note. Clippings appear as images in the note.

How to clip a screenshot using the computer software:

  1. Right-click on the Evernote icon in your computer task bar.
  2. Select Clip Screenshot.
  3. Use the cross-hairs to draw a box around the desired content.
  4. Release you mouse and you will see a quick flash on the screen indicating the content has been saved as a note in Evernote.
  5. In Evernote click on the note to type additional information if desired.

How to download the free Evernote web clipper for your web browser:

  1. Go to: evernote.com/webclipper
  2. The download page will detect the browser that you are using and offer the correct web clipper. Click the download button.
  3. The Evernote web clipper will install in your web browser (look in the upper right corner of your browser for the elephant icon.)
  4. Sign into your Evernote account in the clipper.

Using the Browser Web Clipper:

When you visit a web page and find something that you want to clip, click the Evernote Web Clipper (elephant) icon in your web browser. The browser web clipper can save:

  • a full page (even the parts out of view)
  • an article
  • a simplified article (removing unwanted graphics and text not pertaining to the article)
  • a screenshot (where you precision clip with cross hairs)
  • a bookmark

As you clip you can select which notebook to file the note in and add any desired tags. It will also include the URL in the note header.

Search and Retrieval

Type a keyword into the search box and Evernote will locate and display notes that contain the keyword in the center column. This includes typed text from a website clipping or image, as in the example above. With a subscription, OCR technology makes it possible for you to search for words in Evernote to retrieve notes that include those words, both on the clipped image and in printed handwritten text.

Resources

Genealogy Gems Premium Videos including:

  • Organize Your Research with Evernote
  • Making Evernote Effortless
  • Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan
  • Evernote: 10 Projects You Can Do
  • Collaborative Genealogy with Evernote

Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF
Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

 

MyHeritage 10 “Don’t Miss” Features You Need

I’m going to share with you my 10 “DON’T MISS!” features of MyHeritage. If you don’t currently use the site, this is your chance to see what it can do for you. If you do use it, let me introduce you to some of the GEMS you should be using. Scroll down to watch the video replay and get the show notes.

Watch Episode 63 

 

10 best reasons to use MyHeritage

Video & show notes below

Episode 63 Show Notes 

10 Awesome MyHeritage Features You May be Missing:

1. Instant Discoveries

Want to get started fast? After you add what you know about your family, you can start taking advantage of instant discoveries. You’ll find Instant Discoveries in the menu: Discoveries > Instant Discoveries.

There are three types of Discoveries:

  • All Discoveries
  • Person Discoveries
  • Photo Discoveries

I particularly like Photo Discoveries:

  • Finds photos of people in your tree
  • Consolidates into packages of up to 10 photos from different family sites.
  • Photos will originate only from family sites where the privacy setting for allowing photos to be copied from Smart Matches™ is enabled.

Click the View Discovery button for a batch of photo discoveries. Click “View original photo” to see a larger version and who else is tagged in it. By default, all photos in a Photo Discovery will be
copied to your tree when you add the discovery. Exclude specific photos by clicking the checkmark to deselect it.  Click Add to add all selected photos to your tree. 

To reject a Photo Discovery, click Reject this Discovery at the bottom of the list of photos.
Rejected discoveries will not be offered again. After applying a discovery, your tree will change,
and new discoveries will need to be recalculated (up to 24 hours.) Unlike SmartMatches, once a person or photo discovery is added, you can’t “undo”. You’ll need to remove them manually.

PremiumPlus and Complete subscribers have access to unlimited Discoveries.

2. Tree Consistency Checker

No tree is perfect! That’s why MyHeritage provides this handy tool that accelerates your ability to find and correct problems.

You’ll find the Tree Consistency Checker in the menu under My Family Tree > Consistency Checker.

MyHeritage’s Consistency Checker flags three types of issues:

  • Errors: Obviously incorrect. (red triangle icon)
  • Warnings: Possible but unlikely. (orange circle icon)
  • Notices: Maybe OK but worth a look. (grey square icon)

To adjust what the tool searches for, click the gear icon to change the settings. The Consistency Checker searches for 37 types of issues. Make adjustments as desired.

As you review the found issues, you can:

  • dismiss individual issues
  • hide issues
  • dismiss checking for this issue.

3. U.S. Yearbooks

After starting with what you know, the next logical and honestly one of the most fun record to go after is yearbooks! MyHeritage has over 250,000 yearbooks. To find the yearbook collection, go to the menu Research > Collection Catalog > U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979. To find even more school related records head the to grey column on the left side of the page and click School & Universities.

Description from MyHeritage: “This collection contains almost 290 million records…A student or faculty member often appears in a yearbook several times. Part of the work conducted to produce this collection merges all occurrences of the same name in a yearbook into one record with references to the pages where the person is mentioned. Records in this collection will list the person’s name, often their gender, school’s name and location, and likely residence based on the location of the school. Additional work was done to identify the grade of the students to be able to infer their age and an estimated year of birth for some of the records.

The same person will often occur in previous or subsequent editions of the same yearbook and these related yearbooks are presented at the bottom of the individual’s record – to assist the researcher in finding other books where their person of interest might be found.

This collection is a name index produced by MyHeritage from the U.S. Yearbooks, 1890-1979 collection and is based on the same set of yearbooks…In case you didn’t find what you were looking for, we encourage you to check out the U.S Yearbooks 1890-1979 collection to search the entire free-text index of this amazing collection.”

Yearbook Search Tips:

  • Review the entire yearbook carefully for handwritten notes.
  • Look for people in their social circle.
  • Take a look at the Advertisers
  • Keep in mind that yearbook content had to be submitted early, often by early spring. Events occurring after that may be missing.
  • Copyright: “Most yearbooks are NOT covered by U.S. copyright laws. Yearbooks published before 1963 and without a copyright notice (©) are not covered by copyright restrictions.” (MyHeritage Knowledge Base)

5. U.S. City Directories

In the menu: Collection Catalog > U.S. City Directories

561,503,516 records in 25,468 directories

Description of the collection from MyHeritage: “City directories contain an alphabetical list of adult residents and heads of household, often with their spouse, with addresses and occupations and additional information. This collection is a huge genealogical compilation from 25,468 city directories published in 1860-1960 across the United States, created exclusively by MyHeritage using advanced machine learning technologies developed specifically for this purpose.”

“City directories, like census records, contain information that helps genealogists establish residences, occupations, and relationships between individuals. The added benefit of city directories is that they were published annually in many cities and towns throughout the United States.”

MyHeritage says that this collection will be updated soon to include pre-1860 directories as well as a large and unique set of directories published after 1960.

Snagit

In the video I showed you how I use Snagit to capture clippings. Learn more by watching episode 61.  Get SnagIt here

snagit tutorial for beginners

Watch this video to learn how I use SnagIt.

5. Family Statistics

There’s a ton of data in your family tree, and MyHeritage has the tech tools to help you see it in many forms. One of the coolest and most fun is Family Statistics. You’ll find it in the menu under Home > Family Statistics. Here you’ll find stats on:

  • Gender
  • Living or Deceased
  • Marriage Status
  • Common Last Names
  • Common First Names – Male
  • Common First Names – Female
  • Places of Birth
  • Places of Death
  • Places of Residence
  • Age Distribution
  • Average Life Expectancy
  • Oldest Living People
  • Youngest People
  • Lived the longest
  • Lived the shortest
  • Birth Months
  • Zodiac Signs
  • When Were People Born

 6. MyHeritage PedigreeMap™

PedigreeMap™ is a free feature on MyHeritage. It allows you to visualize and navigate information found in the Place field of the ancestors in your family tree from a geographic perspective. You’ll find PedigreeMap in the menu under Family Tree > More > PedigreeMap.

 Use MyHeritage’s PedigreeMap to help identify errors and migration patterns over time.

At the center of the PedigreeMap screen, you’ll see a map of the world with circles indicating the locations listed in your family tree.

  • Gray circles = aggregations of locations in the same country or state
  • Orange circles = specific locations

To the left of the map you’ll see your ancestral places in list form, sorted by the number of references in your tree and grouped by country or state. By default, PedigreeMap™ will display places associated with your extended family, with you as the central person. In the field where you as the central person are name, type in the name of any family member to change the view to focus on them. Then use the filtering options in the bar at the top of the map to change which groups of people in your tree are displayed (ancestors, descendants, etc.)Click the funnel icon for even more filtering controls.

PedigreeMap™ Top Tips:

  • Click Heat Map in the bottom right corner. This displays concentration areas for your family. It is especially useful when combined with filtering by year and type.
  • Click Not Found in the list on the left to quickly find family members who need Place information added.
  • Look for grey exclamation marks which indicate that the place name needs more clarification.
  • Because PedigreeMap™ is based on Google Maps, it can be best to use the current country so you can accurately locate it on the map. For example, you could list the country as “Poland (formerly East Prussia).”

7. MyHeritage Relationship Report

Have you ever found a person in your family tree and lost track of how you are related to them? MyHeritage’s Relationship Report makes it quick and easy to visualize your connection to any person in your tree. In fact, it will show you the relationship between any two people in your tree.

You’ll find the Relationship Report in the menu under Family Tree > More > Relationship Report. Simply enter the names of the two people and click the Display Relationship button. Change the detail drop down menu to show the amount of detail you want.

8. Confirm or reject a Theory of Family Relativity™

The Theory of Family Relativity ™   helps provide theories about how you and your DNA matches might be related by incorporating genealogical information from MyHeritage’s records and family trees. Of course, some theories might not be accurate.

Until recently, you didn’t have the option to confirm or reject theories. Now you can review theories, marking the ones you have already processed so the new ones are easier to notice.

Status Options: Pending, confirm, or reject. 

Go to the DNA Matches page and use the filters to see only those DNA Matches that have a Theory of Family Relativity™.

 Theories can be confirmed or rejected in two places:

  • Review DNA Match page, which includes a summarized view of the theory.

2) Full theory view.

In the list of DNA Matches, once you’ve confirmed a theory, it will be displayed in the DNA Match card. Change your mind? Click View theory and then undo your confirmation or rejection, returning the theory to pending status.

Learn more about DNA at MyHeritage. Watch episode 42 on Genetic Groups at MyHeritage.

9. MyHeritage Photo Tools

Some of the most exciting advances coming from MyHeritage recently have been in the area of family photos. Currently they offer three outstanding tools:

  • Photo Enhancement
  • Photo Colorization
  • Animation

You try them a few times for free. Complete plan subscribers get unlimited usage. You will find the photo enhancement tool in the menu under Family tree > Enhance Photos. It works much the same way as colorizing your photos.  

Use the Comments section under the photo to share information and collaborate with others.

How to colorize a photo at MyHeritage: Under Family Tree in the menu select Colorize Photo. Click the Upload photo button and select a photo from your computer. You can drag and drop it onto the screen. In a few seconds your colorized photo is ready.

After colorizing your photo you can:

  • Share the colorized photo to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Copy link to clipboard
  • Download the photo

Go back to your photos and click the photo. You can compare the before and after. You can click to view the photo full size and use the zoom tool for an even closer look. Click the edit icon to edit the photo title, date, and place. Click Apply to save the changes. You can also make manual adjustments to the colorization.

Animate photos: You can upload a photo by going to the menu: Photos > Animate Photos.  If you plan on enhancing or colorizing the photo do that first. Then from the photo page click the Animate button for that image. Currently you can animate one face at a time in a group photo. Closeup faces animate better than smaller faces in a bigger photo. Once the animation has processed you in the animation window, you can download the video or select different types of animations.

Photo Tools as Research Tools: Sometimes colorizing and enhancing your photos can help you spot more information in the photograph than was originally visible. You can colorize both photos and documents to improve clarity, readability, and visibility.

Learn more about photos at MyHeritage: Watch Lisa’s video Fabulous Photo Discoveries at MyHeritage

10. Commitment to Privacy

MyHeritage recently published the following announcement about their commitment to privacy:

“Earlier this year, prior to MyHeritage’s acquisition by leading private equity firm Francisco Partners, we issued a press release in which we promised to expand MyHeritage’s strong privacy framework for the benefit of our users.

The current updates to our Privacy Policy fulfill this promise. The highlight of the updates is the unequivocal commitment not to license or sell genetic data to any third party. This is highly unique among the larger genealogy and consumer DNA industry…”

Read the updated Privacy Policy

Resources

These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

 

 

Genealogy at the State Library of Pennsylvania

One thing that many genealogists have in common is a connection to Pennsylvania. Perhaps one of your family tree branches extends back to the early founding of the Pennsylvania colony. Or it may be that one of your ancestors was one of the hundreds of thousands who arrived through the port of Philadelphia. Even if you don’ t have Pennsylvania ancestors the State Library of Pennsylvania has a lot to offer.

State library of Pennsylvania Genealogy

Genealogy at the State library of Pennsylvania 

In this episode I’ll be sharing with you a video of my interview with two librarians from the State Library of Pennsylvania. We’ll discuss their collections and specifically what’s available through their website. After the interview I’ll show you some specific search techniques that you can use at the State Library of Pennsylvania website, including a trick that you can use with any state library website.

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 46 Show Notes

My special Guests from the State Library of Pennsylvania:
Kathy Hale, Government Documents Librarian
Amy Woytovich, Genealogy Librarian

State Library of Pennsylvania Website
Genealogy at the State Library of Pennsylvania

 State Library of Pennsylvania Update

This interview was recorded in December 2020. Here’s the latest update (as of this writing) on the library closure and access:

  • The State Library is currently closed to all visitors. However, staff is teleworking. People may send inquiries to ra-reflib@pa.govand staff will answer questions as best they can. 
  • Renovations have begun on our library in the Forum Building. There may be times we cannot get to the materials requested because of the construction. 
  • Interlibrary loan services are available, but patrons must check if their home library has the equipment and are open for patrons to use that equipment. The Library still ships all over the U.S.
  • Watch their website for instructions on how to access the State Library of Pennsylvania when it does reopen to the public.

The State Library of Pennsylvania Background

The library has been a federal repository library since 1858, and is one of the oldest in the country. The government printing office deposits materials here.

The State Library of Pennsylvania Collection

The State Library of Pennsylvania physical collection includes:

  • 30,000 volumes
  • 100,000 reels of microfilm
  • A million pieces of microfiche

 The State Library of Pennsylvania digitized items include:

  • County and family histories
  • Local histories
  • Small church histories from rural areas
  • City directories
  • Passenger lists
  • Regimental histories (Revolution to Spanish-American War)
  • Pension Lists
  • Pennsylvania Published Archives (collection of military, government, marriage, immigration records from colonial times)
  • The 1940 U.S. Federal Census

Pennsylvania Documents
Example: a report for Pennsylvania of the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg. Includes information gathered at reunions including names, pictures, and more.

U.S. Government Documents – Serial Set
This collection includes reports to the legislature from agencies and institutions. Example: The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) were compelled to provide to Congress a yearly report of the names of people approved by DAR. These can be accessed through many libraries, the federal government or by contacting the State Library of Pennsylvania via email: Ra-reflib@pa.gov

State Library of Pennsylvania Research Guides

Amy discusses research guides available on the website. However, here is the link to the topics she specifically mentions such as Cemeteries and Zeamer collection – recorded information about Cumberland County PA cemeteries. General Research Guides page. These research guide pages include links to additional helpful websites.

State Library of Pennsylvania website’s Genealogy Page

At the top of the page look at the For General Public tab which will take you to all of the genealogy research guides. Visit the Genealogy page at the State Library of Pennsylvania.

Newspapers at the State Library of Pennsylvania

The library’s collection of newspapers includes papers from all 67 Pennsylvania counties on microfilm. They do have a lot of digitized newspapers at the Pennsylvania Photos and Documents Collection at the Power Library.

Newspapers at the Power Library

Newspapers at the Power Library

The Power Library

You can find the Power Library by going to the libraries home page, and under the For General Public tab go to Our Collections > Power Library. Or visit the Power Library website at Powerlibrary.org.

  • Electronic Databases: you have to be a resident with a library card.
  • Digital Documents: you don’t have to be a Pennsylvanian to access this collection.

At the top of the Power Library home page on the right you’ll find Digital Docs and Photos:

Power Library genealogy

Pennsylvania Photos and Documents Collection at the Power Library.

There you will find many materials from Pennsylvania colleges including yearbooks. You can browse by subject area, with Genealogy being one of those areas.

Interlibrary Loan and Lookups

At the time of the interview the library was not open for interlibrary loan and lookups. Check the website for the latest updates.

The library does loan its newspaper microfilm. Up to 5 reels of microfilm per request. Kathy says that if you find a newspaper article at Newspapers.com and you see the title, date and the page that an article is on, you can provide the information to the interlibrary load reference librarian at your local library and place a request for a scan of the article from the State Library of PA microfilm. The article can then be returned to you digitally through interlibrary loan. The digitized scan is yours to keep.

The Librarians Favorite Collections

Amy’s Pick: Historic maps found at the library’s website Home > For General Public > Genealogy and Local History > Maps and Geographic Information. This includes Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. Note: log in with a library card may be required. Contact the library with questions.

Kathy’s favorite collections include:

  • Map Collection consisting of over 35,000 maps.
  • The 5 generations from the Mayflower collection.

Usage of Materials

Usage rights and copyright are important considerations when utilizing library materials. Usage depends on the individual item’s copyright. It should be researched as much as possible. Check the meta data of digital images for copyright information.

How to Get Research Help from the State Library of Pennsylvania

“Think of Amy and I as your personal librarians.”  Kathy Hale, Librarian

Contact State Library staff by phone at 717-787-2324 or by email at:

Lisa’s Tips for Using the State Library of Pennsylvania Website

Maps for Genealogy

At the website go to Home page > General Public Tab > Our Collections > Search our Resources.

  1. Type in a location and the word map
  2. Use the filters on the right side of the page > Library > State Library
  3. Click to select a map
  4. Try filtering to Full Text Online
  5. Look for the Online Access link, just above Text Item Call Number.

On the map viewer page, click the thumbnail button (looks like a checkerboard) to see multiple pages at a time. You’ll find the Download button in the bottom right-hand corner. The Print button is in the upper right corner.

Cite your source: Go back to the result page, and scroll down. Click the red button called Cite This. This allows you to copy the source citation which you can then paste into other documents and programs.

Newspapers for Genealogy

The Library of Congress Chronicling America website has many Pennsylvania old newspapers, but it doesn’t include all of the newspaper that the library has in its collection. Here’s how to find old Pennsylvania newspapers at the State Library website:

  1. On the State Library website go to General Public > Research Guides > Newspapers
  2. Click the link to the Pennsylvania Newspaper Archive
  3. Browse by title or date, or use the drop-down menus
  4. On the viewer page, zoom into the desired article. Then click Clip/Print Image
  5. Right-click on the clipped image to save it to your hard drive.
  6. The Persistent link is the URL address to your clipping.

Google Site Search Tip 

This tip comes from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox and my Premium Membership video The Genealogist’s Google Search Methodology.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available at the Genealogy Gems store.

Many websites have their own search engine. However, each search engine is only as good as it was programmed. If you can’t find what you want on a website like the State Library PA website, try using a Google site search. Site search tells Google to search for your search terms only on the website you specify. 

In my example in the video, you can see that Google found the one page mentioning the surname in a listing of microfilms much faster than I would have found it digging around and navigating the website itself. This page was not a card catalog entry so it would not have come up in a search of the catalog on the website.

Learn More About the State Library of PA Collections

In episode 43 of Elevenses with Lisa we discussed genealogy records available for free at the Internet Archive. The State Library of Pennsylvania has been partnering with he Internet Archive to digitize many additional items from their collection. You can access these items for free at the State Library Internet Archive Collection. This collection includes a large number of World War I materials as well as a growing number of 19th and 20th century pamphlet volumes.

How to Use the Internet Archive

Resources

 

 

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