It’s common to hear of long-lost relatives who rediscover each other online or through DNA tests. But nearly 100 years ago, another new technology–the radio–united a pair of long-lost siblings 40 years after one ran away.
This newspaper article reports that Alonso Jones’ children were sitting around one day in 1926 listening to the radio. Then they heard the announcer say, “Alonso Jones, wherever you are, listen…Your sister wants to see you at Worthington, Ohio. She has not seen or heard from you in forty years. You were born at Antiquity, Meigs County, Ohio, at the time of the Civil War….”
“You were reared by Captain William Roberts, an Ohio River flat boat man. You went with him on a produce boat when you were a boy and ran away while the boat was lying at the bank in Arkansas.” The article reports that the man telegraphed his sister and arranged to meet her. What a great story! And what a great family history find for anyone researching Alonso Jones or his sister, Mrs. Robert Eakin, or his guardian, William Roberts!
Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at Ancestry.com.
This article illustrates two fantastic tips for newspaper searching.
FIRST, I originally found this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, digitized at Ancestry. I was struck because the story was about people from Ohio and Arkansas–not Salt Lake. As we still see today, local news stories of the past were often reported in other cities. When searching digitized newspapers, don’t automatically discount search results that otherwise seem right but appear in out-of-town papers.
SECOND, curious about this story, I used Lisa’s search strategies from her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox to search for more information about the people mentioned in the article. I got a hit on a possible match for the riverboat caption. I also found that the Google News Archive had this same article in The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg, Florida (shown above). The copy above is much clearer to read and slightly different. For these reasons, it can sometimes be worth looking for duplicates of news articles and/or obituaries for your relatives.
Want to learn more? Genealogy Gems Premium members can also listen to Premium podcast episodes GGP 36 and 3GGP 37 about newspaper searching (Lisa talks about Google News Archive in episode 37). Or get the ultimate scoop in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers! It’s packed with inspiring family history finds in the newspaper and all the tools you need (online and offline) for finding your own.
The Newberry Library’s online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is finally fully updated and interactive! Read the good news here–and my preference for using the powerful geographic data that drives the Atlas.
The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at The Newberry Library’s website has been undergoing upgrades for quite some time. Genealogists who rely on this fantastic online resource to research old county boundaries in the U.S. have been able to access the basic data that drives the map (dates and geographic boundary changes). But they haven’t been able to use the popular interactive map. Great news: the Atlas is finally fully interactive again.
Changing Boundaries Reflected in the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
Understanding changes in county boundaries over time is key to doing genealogy research in the United States. Boundaries have changed repeatedly–and some dramatically. County governments typically keep important genealogical sources: vital records, court records, land records and more. We need to know which county would have housed our ancestors’ records during specific time periods so we can find the records we want.
What’s New at the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
According to the Newberry Library’s press release, users can now:
- view a base layer map that allows an overlay of boundaries on top of cities, towns and other geographic features;
- zoom in and out of maps and expand the view to full screen;
- select a date of interest from a drop-down box with all border change dates for that state; and
- view information about border changes in a hover box that changes as users hover over different counties.
Here’s what the new interface looks like:
Google Earth Pro vs. the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries
It’s great to see improved functionality on the Atlas site. But after reviewing the update, I still think the experience of using data from the site is superior in the free Google Earth Pro (GEP) program. To use the entire data set in Google Earth Pro, simply download the KMZ data file onto your computer,and when you click to open the file, your computer will detect the KMZ format and know to automatically open Google Earth Pro (as long as you already have GEP installed on your computer.)
Using the file in GEP allows you to use the data in conjunction with the rest of your genealogical information (such as placemarks indiciating places lived & schools attended, historic map overlays, embedded old family photos and home movies, etc.). This provides a more integrated genealogical research experience. Learn more by clicking here to watch a free video I’ve made about using Google Earth for genealogy.
During this giving season, why not give back to the community of global genealogy lovers who quietly and continually enrich our family history research? Here are 4 ways to pay it forward in genealogy from the comfort of wherever you are! One gem you may not have heard of: the British Library’s project to index old maps.
4 Ways to Pay it Forward in Genealogy
1. Help with global gravestone research.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably discovered the final resting places of many an ancestor–perhaps along with important biographical data and even additional relatives–with the help of websites such as BillionGraves and Find A Grave.
BillionGraves says it’s “the world′s largest resource for searchable GPS cemetery data, and is growing bigger and better every day.” Its volunteers take GPS-tagged pictures of headstones in cemeteries around the world and transcribe them for their free searchable database.
How you can help:
- Image headstones: download the free app to your smartphone from the App Store or Google Play. Take images of headstones in cemeteries you visit, whether it’s your own ancestor’s burial place or a local graveyard.
- Transcribe personal information found on gravestone images. You can transcribe the images you take or you can visit the site and transcribe images that someone else has uploaded. Click here to get started.
- Upload additional source documentation to BillionGraves tombstone images, such as obituaries, cemetery records, and the like. You’ll make these virtual gravestone sites even more genealogically valuable! Click here to learn more.
Find A Grave has a slightly different model for collecting global gravestone data. Here you can create free memorial pages for ancestors, which “generally include birth, death, and burial information and may include pictures, biographies, family information, and more.” You can also upload your own headstone images and transcribe them (or someone else’s images), and you can even upload a spreadsheet of cemetery burials you may have already transcribed.
Who’s behind Find A Grave? It’s owned by subscription website Ancestry.com, but it’s a separate, free site powered by volunteers: “Thousands of contributors submit new listings, updates, corrections, photographs and virtual flowers every hour. The site simply wouldn’t exist without the million+ contributors.”
Find A Grave has recently updated its site to make it more secure, faster, easier to use, and accessible to new devices and other languages. More than 100 million graves from over half a million cemeteries worldwide are already searchable at the site. To get started, download the Find A Grave app at Google Play or the App Store, or just visit the website.
2. Transcribe old documents and maps.
Millions–even billions–of digital images of old documents contain genealogical clues, but those names, dates, and places need to be extracted from those image files before they become easily searchable. Transcribing that information is also known in genealogy circles as indexing (or creating indexes). Here are four places to contribute your indexing skills:
FamilySearch Indexing. Thousands of you have likely participated in this best-known volunteer record transcription project out there. (We blogged about it recently in honor of their worldwide weekend indexing event.) Their indexing platform recently became fully cloud-based, so you can index more easily on your computer or mobile device. Volunteers are especially needed right now who can read Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, and Dutch.
British Library Georeferencing Project. The British Library is recruiting volunteers to help geo-reference thousands of old maps that are already online. Geo-referencing, or geotagging, means assigning geographic reference points (longitude, latitude) to points on a map image. Doing this with old maps allows them to be linked to their modern-day locations, allowing us to compare the past and present (as Lisa teaches about in her free Google Earth video class). Over 8,000 maps have already been “placed” by participants (and subsequently checked for accuracy and approved by their panel of expert reviewers). The latest phase of the project includes 50,000 maps, mostly 19th-century maps from books published in Europe. The British Library says that “some places have changed significantly or disappeared completely,” increasing both the intriguing challenges for volunteers and the value to those who will benefit from their map sleuthing skills.
Ancestry World Archives Project. “The Ancestry World Archives Project is thousands of volunteers from around the world with a passion for genealogy and a desire to help others discover their roots,” says the project home page. “And all it takes is a computer, some basic software we provide and a little of your time.” Even though Ancestry.com itself is a subscription website, any records indexed through the Ancestry World Archives Project remain free to search on the site.
Here’s a screenshot of their current projects (click on it to visit the site):
National Archives Citizen Archivist Program. “A Citizen Archivist is a virtual volunteer that helps the U.S. National Archives increase the online access to their historical records,” reports Melissa Barker in a recent blog post. “This is done by crowdsourcing metadata about their records through tagging, transcribing, and adding comments to the U.S. National Archives catalog.” Click here to read the full article and get started.
3. Reunite heirlooms with long-lost relatives.
Probably millions of “lost” family items are out there: in flea markets, second-hand shops, online auction listings, perhaps even your own closets or attics. Genealogy Gems has reported many times in the past about genealogy heroes who claim these “orphaned heirlooms” just long enough to research and contact living relatives who would love to find them.
Whether it’s a family bible, an old marriage certificate in a dusty frame, a fading photo album, or a pile of old letters, each “orphaned heirloom” is unique–and so is the experience of tracking down its family and reuniting them. Here are several stories to inspire your next visit to eBay or a secondhand shop:
4. Solve “unclaimed persons” mysteries.
“Many people are aware that it can be a real challenge when a coroner obtains a John or Jane Doe, an unidentified person,” writes Lacey Cooke, Genealogy Gems service manager, who has a forensic anthropology degree. “It presents the difficult task of identifying the person. But few people know that in fact the even bigger problem consuming morgues today is unclaimed persons, rather than unidentified ones: individuals who have passed but with no trace of living relatives to come and claim them.”
Lacey is the one who introduced us to the Unclaimed Persons project earlier this year. With Unclaimed Persons, an online community of volunteer researchers joins forces with medical examiners, forensic investigators, and coroners to help reunite families and bring closure so that the dead can finally be laid to rest. Click here to read more about that effort.
How will you pay it forward in genealogy?
Click on one of the opportunities above–or tell us about one you’ve tried–to give back to your genealogy community this season. This largely-invisible community is all around us and enriches all our efforts, from late-night research sessions by ourselves (in records indexed by volunteers!) to local societies who host classes that inspire us or who answer our obituary inquiries and Facebook posts about their locales. If you are already one of those volunteers, THANK YOU. You are a gem and we here at Genealogy Gems are grateful for you.
P.S. You can also “pay it forward” by sharing free content like this from our website with your genealogy friends and society members. Why not link to this post on social media or in an email and challenge those you know to do good in the genealogy world?
Here are the latest genealogy records newly online from Findmypast. You’ll find a large selection from Scotland, and others from around the world.
Scotland, Published Family Histories
Is your family from Scotland? Discover more about your Scottish families’ name and history from this collection of publications. There are over 400 publications in this collection of Scottish family histories.
The publications mostly date from the 19th and early 20th centuries, they include memoirs, genealogies, and clan histories. There are also publications that have been produced by emigrant families.
Scotland, Newspaper Birth Notices
Over 121,000 new records have been added to our collection of Scottish newspaper birth notices. These new additions have been transcribed from our existing collection of Scottish newspapers.
Each record includes a transcript and an image of the original newspaper announcement. The amount of information listed varies, but most records will list a combination of your ancestor’s birth date, birth place and parents’ names.
Scotland, Newspaper Marriage & Anniversary Notices
A further 201,000 new records have also been added to our notices of marriages and anniversaries.
Also taken from our existing collection of historical newspapers, the records will include a combination of your ancestor’s marriage date, marriage place, spouse’s name and parents’ names. Images of the original notices may reveal additional details.
Scotland, Newspaper Death Reports & Obituaries
Over 500,000 additional records are now available to search. This collection of newspaper death reports and obituaries may reveal interesting or undiscovered stories surrounding your ancestors’ life and death.
Transcripts will reveal your ancestor’s death date, age at death, parents’ names and the name of their spouse.
Scotland, Glasgow & Lanarkshire Death & Burial Index
Over 37,000 records have been added to the Glasgow & Lanarkshire Death & Burial Index. These new additions cover Bent Cemetery in Hamilton and consist of transcripts of original documents that will reveal a combination of your ancestors’ birth year, death and burial dates, age at death, burial place and mortcloth price.
Scotland, Court & Criminal Database
Over 28,000 records from the Fife Kalendar of Convicts have been added to our collection of Scottish crime records.
The result of a 20 year project by Andrew Campbell of the Fife Family History Society, the Kalendar is an indexing to many of the courts in Fife as well as the High Court between 1708 and 1909. It includes information taken from a variety of sources ranging from court, prison and transportation records to births, marriages, deaths and newspaper reports.
Each result will include a transcript of the original document. The amount of information listed in each transcript will vary, but most will reveal a combination of the accused’s name, birth year, birth place, address and occupation, the nature of their offence, the date and location of their trail as well as the sentence they received.
Some records will also include trial notes, verdict comments, details of previous convictions and additional comments.
The Scotland, Court & Criminal Database now contains over 160,000 including Crown Office Precognitions and High Court Trial Papers. Crown Office Precognitions are factual statements that have been given by witnesses to both the prosecution and defence before the case goes to trial. Precognitions differ from a witness statement, a witness statement is an account of what the witness has said or seen were as a precognition is an account of the witness’s evidence.
Church of Scotland Ministers 1560-1949
Explore PDF images of the “The Succession of Ministers on the Church of Scotland from the Reformation”. Compiled by Hew Scott, D.D., The work was revised and continued up to 1949 under the Superintendence of a Committee appointed by the General Assembly.
As quoted in the book, “the design of the present work is to present a comprehensive account of the Succession of Ministers of the Church of Scotland since the period of the Reformation. An attempt is made to give some additional interest by furnishing incidental notices of their lives, writings and families, which may prove useful to the Biographer, the Genealogist, and the Historian.”
Isle of Man Roll Of Honour WW1
Find your Isle of Man ancestors who fell in the Great War. The Isle Of Man Roll Of Honour recorded the names of more than 1,900 men who died during the First World War or died as a result of wounds, injury or disease contracted on active service. These transcripts will reveal your ancestor’s rank, regiment, parish and biography.
Originally published in 1934 by the War Pensions Committee, the publication was funded entirely by Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby.
In 1936, the War Pensions Committee donated copies to each parish church throughout the island.
The foreword, provided by Lord Stanley, reads ‘It is well that the deeds of those who died in the Great War should find a permanent memorial in such a list. Whilst this generation lives their names will not be forgotten, but other generations will arise to whom they will not be personally known. This Roll will serve to keep their memory green and future Manxmen and Manxwomen, when reading it, will realise that in our great struggle the Isle of Man played a noble part’.
International Records Update – Czech Republic
Two new Indexes, Czech Republic Births & Baptisms 1637-1889 and Czech Republic Marriages 1654-1889 are now available to search. These transcripts will provide you with vital dates and locations as well as the names of parents and spouses. Hints will also be generated from these records against any matching names stored in your Findmypast family tree.
International Records Update – Belgium
Celebrate Belgian Independence Day this coming Sunday by discovering your Belgian roots. Explore two indexes, Belgium Marriages 1563-1890 and Belgium Deaths & Burials 1564-1900, containing more than 212,000 records.
These records will enable you to determine when your ancestors died, where they were laid to rest, when they married and the name of their spouse.
International records update – Finland
Search for your Finnish ancestors in three indexes of more than six million baptisms, marriages and burials between 1657 and 1909. These transcripts will also generate hints against any names stored in your Findmypast Family Tree.
Pinpoint your ancestor’s final resting place with new additions to our Billion Graves Cemetery Indexes. Our latest update includes:
Cemetery records are of great importance in discovering where and when your ancestor died. They can also provide you with information regarding their birth and marriage dates.
With an abundance of cemeteries, it can be overwhelming trying to pinpoint the precise cemetery in which your ancestor was laid to rest, and visiting each potential location is costly. However, in partnering with BillionGraves, we aim to make available all the cemetery records held on their site for free, saving you time and money as you search for your ancestor. BillionGraves is the largest resource for GPS-tagged headstone and burial records on the web, with over 12 million headstone records.
International Records Update – Netherlands
Unearth your Dutch roots with three indexes to more than three million births & baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials that took place in the Netherlands between 1564 and 1945.
These transcripts were sourced from the International Genealogical Index and will generate hints against your Findmypast family tree.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Every where we go, we are snapping pictures. Whether you are interested in capturing your current family history or want to preserve the past through pictures, photo editing apps and software are a must! Read more to learn what software and apps are out there for the active genealogist who loves to take pictures.
A Gems reader recently asked if we have any suggestions on photo editing software and apps for family history. Our Genealogy Gems team members are each active in their personal family history and are quite savvy when it comes to some of the best photo editing apps and software out there.
Lisa Louise Cooke’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps
I think one of the best photo editing software programs out there is Adobe Photoshop Elements, the consumer version of the high-powered Photoshop CS/CC software. On my mobile device, Photoshop Express is my go-to photo editing app which I discuss in Chapter 8 of my book Mobile Genealogy. In fact, I use the app far more for the photos I’m actively taking with my iPhone 6 Plus than the software on my computer.
Adobe Photoshop Elements is an ideal editor for entry-level photographers, image editors and hobbyists. You’ll find most of the features of the more expensive professional version, but with fewer and simpler options. It allows you to create, edit, organize, and share your images to social media sites. Use the built-in Guides to quickly accomplish your goals.
Adobe’s Photoshop Express app can be downloaded to your mobile device for free from Google Play (for Android) or the Apple Store (for iPhones.)
In her book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research, Lisa explains how the Blemish tool can be used to restore old family photos.
Using the Photo Express Photo Editing App for Photo Restoration
If you want to restore old family photos, this app is now also capable of doing a lovely job with the new Blemish Removal tool. The app allows you to access your photos straight from Dropbox, as well as Adobe Creative Cloud, and Facebook. You can copy the old photos you want to edit to a dedicated folder in Dropbox. Remember, always leave your master digital photos where they are on your computer, and make sure your computer is backed up. (The Genealogy Gems Podcast uses and recommends Backblaze.)
How to add photos to Adobe Photoshop Express:
- On the computer where your photos are stored, go into Dropbox (either your Dropbox desktop application, or sign in to your account at www.dropbox.com)
- Create a folder called “Photos for Editing”
- Save copies of the photos you want to edit into the folder you created, leaving the originals where they are on your hard drive
- On your tablet, tap the Adobe Photoshop Express app
- Tap Dropbox. (See the chapter on File Sharing and Storage for more information on Dropbox)
- Tap the “Photos for Editing” folder
- Tap the photo you want to edit
- The photo is now on your screen and ready to edit and embellish
- When editing is complete, tap Close, then Save
Above is a photo of Lisa’s great-grandfather. On the left is the original scan, and on the right is restoration with the Blemish Removal tool (the icon looks like a band-aid.) After the touch up, Lisa applied the Dream filter which provided a bit more clarity and softened the rough spots in the background. Dream is one of the many free “Looks” available in the app, in addition to “Premium Looks” filters that you can purchase. She loves the fact that if she finds a certain combination of filters is working well, she can save it under “My Looks.” This saves time in the future because with one tap, you can apply your own special mix.
Amie’s Favorite Photo Editing Software and Apps
“One of my favorite photo editing tools is Pixlr Express. It is easy to use without having to read through the ‘instructions.’ It is a web-based tool or a mobile app. It makes correcting and enhancing my old photos a breeze.”
Using Pixlr Express
Pixlr Express is a web-based tool and a mobile app. Resize, rotate, filter, correct, and even add borders and text. Pixlr Express is free to use, which is always a plus. On your laptop, simply go to www.pixlr.com/express. Click on Browse.
Choose the photo you wish to edit. The example below is a cute little picture of Amie’s dad in the fourth grade.
It could use some more color definition, maybe a new border to clean up the edges, and a caption on the front so that when shared, others will know who it is. To begin doing these edits, first click Adjustment.
From the icons that pop-up, choose Auto Fix. It really looks great with just the click of one button! Add a fun border if you wish and click Type to add the text you want. Here’s the finished product in less than 3 minutes:
Don’t you just love it!
Enlisting the Help of Others
In some cases, our old photos are in seriously bad shape. We could pay to have a professional doctor it up, but I enlist the help of others at one of my favorite Facebook groups. Photo Restoration Free Service group on Facebook is dedicated to fixing images for free. Many of the people offering their talents are truly amazing. One man in particular caught my attention and gave me permission to use a before and after shot of his work. Thank you to Balazs and others who gave their permission for the before and after screenshot you see here.
What are your favorite photo editing apps? Do you use a different app for your mobile device? We’d love to hear from you and what you are doing to make the most of your treasured family photos. Please leave a comment in the comment section below.
Sunny’s Tips for Restoration of Digital Documents
It’s not only the pictures of ancestors we sometimes need to restore, but it can also be those hard-to-read images of documents. When dealing with this problem, Sunny says:
“I do most editing on my laptop. This is where the nearest free software is and the default photo editor for Microsoft 2010. Most of the time, I just want to tweak the lighting: brighten up a scanned image or heighten the contrast in the image. To do this quickly, I open the image, then click Edit Pictures > Brightness and Contrast. In the Before/After images shown here, I just adjusted the midtones (+22) to make the gray areas lighter, then upped the contrast (+43).”
With so many photo editing apps available, it is hard to know what is going to work best for your needs. We hope that our experiences might help you to decide! We would love to see some of your before and after photos of a remarkable restoration. Will you share with us on our Facebook page? We’d love to hear from you!
More Gems on Photo Restoration and Preserving
“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do
Tips for Digitizing Old Home Movies and Photographs
How to Use Google Image Search to Identify Old Photos on Smartphones and Tablets – Free Video