by Lisa Cooke | Jul 30, 2014 | 01 What's New, Ancestry, Beginner, Book Club, Inspiration, Libraries, Research Skills
genealogy at the public library
This week, I’m researching at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, which has one of the best public library genealogy collections in the United States. They’ve got more than half a million items on microfilm and fiche and 350,000 more in print. Among these items are nearly 50,00o city directories; 55,000 compiled family histories; most National Archives microfilmed military service and pension records….Okay, I’ll stop before you get jealous.
But in fact, MOST public libraries have some good genealogy resources. Have you checked out the library near you lately? OR the local history and genealogy collection in a public library near where your ancestors lived? You may likely find these 5 great resources:
- Access to paid subscription genealogy websites like Ancestry.com Library Edition, HeritageQuest Online, Fold3 and other genealogy databases.
- Local historical newspapers–or at least obituaries from them. ALSO access to historical newspaper websites like GenealogyBank.com which may have papers you’ll never travel to see in person.
- City directories, old maps and/or local histories for that town.
- Surname files. These aren’t at every public library, but you’ll often find them in libraries that have dedicated genealogy rooms. These likely won’t be neatly organized files with perfect family trees in them, but collections of documents, bibliographic references and correspondence relating to anyone with that surname.
- Other surprising local history resources. For example, my hometown library in Euclid, Ohio, has online collections of Euclid newspapers, history, yearbooks and oral histories!
What does your library have? Browse its website or call and ask about its local history and genealogy collections. You might even Google the name of the county with the phrases “public library” and “local history” or “genealogy.” Another branch of the same library system (not in your own or ancestor’s town but nearby) might have just what you need to find your family history!
Listen to the Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast by Lisa Louise Cooke. It’s a great series for learning the research ropes and well as refreshing your skills.
Want to learn more about doing genealogy at the public library? Check out two recently republished episodes of Lisa’s Family History Made Easy podcast:
Episode 34: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1 Genealogy librarian Patricia VanSkaik talks to us about researching at public libraries. She shares what kinds of things may be at the library (including unique resources), how to prepare for a visit and lots of great tips for making the most of your research time there.
Episode 35: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 2 We go deeper into genealogy research at the public library. Genealogy librarian Patricia VanSkaik is back to talk about how to search an online library card catalog including advanced search methods, the unique collections that may be at public libraries, how to ask for exactly what we want, and the obstacles librarians face when it comes to cataloguing large and unique collections that may interest genealogists.
by Lisa Cooke | Apr 8, 2015 | 01 What's New, Digital Archives, Libraries
The 40 millionth record has been added to WorldCat, the enormous multi-library catalog that helps people find library materials all over the world.
Even cooler, that 40 millionth record was harvested to WorldCat through the WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway. This gateway allows for “unique, open-access digital content” to be brought into WorldCat, according to owner OCLC. “Once there…collections are more visible and discoverable to end users who search WorldCat as well as Google and other popular websites.”
If you haven’t used WorldCat for genealogy, you may be missing out on a lot. Like published history books (regional, county, local, ethnic, religious and more). And published family histories (search by the surname as a subject). The holdings of the enormous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah are now included in WorldCat, too (click here to read a blog post on that).
The idea that digital archives are integrating into WorldCat–hence becoming more searchable for us–is fantastic. What kinds of digitized materials might be cataloged here? Well, the Arizona Memory Project is the digital archive that provided that 40 millionth WorldCat record. The Arizona Memory Project “provide(s) online access to the wealth of primary sources in Arizona libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions including government documents, photographs, maps and objects that chronicle Arizona’s past and present.” Good stuff!
Remember to also search ArchiveGrid, WorldCat’s sister search interface for archival materials, for original family history documents.
by Lisa Cooke | Apr 3, 2017 | 01 What's New, Oral History
Have you used WPA records for genealogy? Their Historical Record Surveys and local and oral histories may help you in your family history research. Existing records and locations vary widely. Here are tips to help you in your search.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, employees of the Works Progress Administration (WPA, also known as the Works Projects Administration) created new resources for U.S. genealogical research. It’s possible you’ve even consulted some of these without being aware of their WPA origins. After all, the projects and their formats varied. They didn’t always prominently credit the WPA and some were printed long afterward. We’re going to shine the spotlight on WPA-era local histories, oral histories and statewide Historical Record Surveys.
WPA Records for Genealogy: Local Histories
In Annie Barrows’ novel The Truth According to Us, Layla Beck heads to the small fictional town of Macedonia, West Virginia to write a local history as a WPA assignment. Drama ensues, both in Layla’s personal life and as she tries to learn local stories, which everyone reports a little differently. (We featured this book in the Genealogy Gems Book Club.)
Actually, local histories were written as WPA projects. Their scope, topics, and formats varied, depending on the unique background and resources of each region and how active WPA workers were in each state and county. For example, WPA historical materials in Morrison County, Minnesota include “histories on townships, cities, churches, schools, businesses, the military, and miscellaneous county history topics,” which have since been collected and reprinted by the county historical society. Many historical projects included photographs, such as this one for the city of New Orleans.
WPA Records for Genealogy: Oral Histories
WPA workers also captured oral histories of individuals, too. Many were collected in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940, now online at the Library of Congress. According to the collection description, “The documents chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, factory work, and the immigrant experience. The documents often describe the informant’s physical appearance, family, education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores.”
Other important WPA oral histories are narratives of former slaves and their families. You can browse an enormous collection of these online at the Library of Congress. These aren’t the ideal eyewitness accounts we wish for, as they were gathered so long after the end of slavery, from many who were young children at the time. Also, many researchers believe interviewees may not have spoken candidly, especially to white interviewers who may have known them personally.
It’s a long shot to find an ancestor mentioned by name in WPA oral histories. In some instances, pseudonyms were even used for names and places. But, you can still learn a lot from others’ descriptions of daily life and unusual events your ancestors may have experienced.
From one of the slave narratives mentioned in this article.
Historical Record Surveys
The Historical Record Surveys created by the WPA are among the most genealogically-valuable of their projects. “Under the auspices of the WPA, workers went to archives, historical societies, public and university libraries, and compiled inventories of manuscript collections,” writes Bryan Mulcahy in an online report. “They went to courthouses, town halls, offices in large cities, and vital statistics offices and inventoried records. Besides compiling indexes, they also transcribed some of the records they found.”
Today, many of their efforts still exist. They include indexes to cemeteries, newspapers, and naturalization records, as well as inventories of courthouse records, church records, and other manuscript collections in various archives or libraries. Of course, some records may have been moved or destroyed since inventories were created, but knowing what records existed around 1940 and what they were called may help you locate surviving collections. Some indexes, such as those of cemetery tombstone inscriptions, may actually be more valuable since they captured information from tombstones that may no longer exist or be legible.
A blank WPA Historical Records Survey church records inventory form. Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida. Click this image to find it online at Florida Memory.
One great example is the Historical Records Survey for the state of Oregon, described as “the most comprehensive documentary project of Oregon history and related records of its time.” It includes historical essays, document transcriptions, interviews, research notes, photographs, pamphlets and more. According to its collection description, “The territorial and pioneer periods of the mid-to-late nineteenth century receive the greatest attention, with an emphasis on the growth of state government and infrastructure, business and agriculture, transportation, education, biography, and relations between social groups. Native Americans figure prominently in this collection.”
Finding WPA Records for Genealogy Online
Some WPA projects were carried out on a federal level and others by state agencies. They were never centrally published or collected. Today, surviving original files and published volumes are scattered across the country. Some can be found in the National Archives, many in state libraries or societies, and many more available at local repositories.
A Google search such as historical records surveys and the name of the state and/or county is a great way to start your search for WPA records for genealogy research. Some results will lead right to the kinds of resources you want, such as this guide to WPA records in archives in the Pacific Northwest. Others, such as this one for the Iowa Historical Records Survey published in The American Archivist, are mostly a history of the effort. However, they do contain several useful bibliographic citations to records that were created. Add the name of the county to your search and you may find more targeted results, such as this library catalog entry for the inventory of the Jasper County archives. Click here to learn more about Google searches for genealogy records you want to find.
Remember, though, that many WPA publications and collections aren’t identified as such. Don’t fixate on needing to find WPA listed in the title. Just concentrate your efforts on finding the local and oral histories, photos, historical record indexes and inventories, and other resources that may be out there. When you find one created during the Great Depression, you’ll know it may have been done by the WPA.
Love what you’re reading and want to learn more? Go deeper into genealogy “gems” like these in Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcasts. Lisa produces a free internationally-renowned monthly podcast that’s had over 2.5 million downloads! Additionally, Genealogy Gems Premium website members also have access to her full archive of monthly Premium podcast epidodes: check out a full description of these here including Episode 2 on WPA records for genealogy.
by Lisa Cooke | Dec 9, 2016 | 01 What's New |
New and updated genealogical collections for the Royal Irish Constabulary are just the tip of the iceberg this week. Scroll down for more cool finds for New South Wales, Scotland, U.S. marriages, and an update to the Freedmen’s Bureau collections at FamilySearch.
Ireland – Royal Irish Constabulary Records
You can now search the Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Service Records 1816-1922 at Findmypast for over 486,000 records that uncover the details of your ancestor’s career with the R.I.C.
Each search result includes an image of the original document and a transcript. The nature of the information recorded will vary significantly depending on the subject and type of the original document. The following is a list of what types of records can be found in this collection:
Auxiliary division general registers: These are nominal rolls that recorded member’s service number, rank, dispersed date, and company name. The registers also include division journals that recorded dates of appointment, promotions, and medical details.
Clerical staff: record of service and salaries: These lists of clerical staff include birth date, age at appointment, rank, department and salary.
Constabulary Force Funds: These correspondence registers are of members who paid into the fund with notes on whether they had been pensioned, died or received any rewards from the fund.
Constabulary lists: These are lists of chief constables created during the first year of the Royal Irish Constabulary.
Disbandment registers: These registers are of serving members who were with the force in 1922 when it disbanded after the creation of the Free Irish State. They also noted the number of years the constable served and their recommended pension.
General registers: Records of constables’ service history are contained in these general registers. The entries include the individual’s birth date, native county, religion, previous occupation, date of appointment, and promotions, as well as any rewards or punishments received and the date of pension or discharge.
Nominal returns, arranged by counties: Nominal returns are lists of all serving members of the Royal Irish Constabulary organised by county that recorded the individual’s number, rank, name, religion, date of appointment, marital status, and station location.
Officers’ registers: These registers are lists of Officers that include transfers and dates, favorable and unfavorable records, dates of promotions and details of previous military service.
Pensions and gratuities: Pension records reveal the constable’s rate of pay and the amount of pension calculated.
Recruits index: Lists of new recruits, their dates of appointment and arrival, and their company can be found in the recruits index.
Also at Findmypast, Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary History & Directories has had a significant addition of over 43,000 records. You will be able to explore a variety of publications between the years of 1840 and 1921. These records will provide insight into the administration and daily operations of the police force.
Each record includes a PDF image of the original publication. The collection includes training manuals, codes of conduct, salary scales, circulars and staff lists that cover promotions, deployments, and rules & regulations.
Ireland – Valuation Books
At FamilySearch, the Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856 are now available to search. These records are the original notebooks that were used when the property valuations were conducted between the years of 1831-1856. They are arranged by county, then alphabetically by parish or townland.
Land valuation records may contain the following information:
- Land occupier’s name
- Location, description, and monetary valuation of each land plot surveyed
New South Wales – Passenger Lists
The New South Wales Passenger Lists is a collection at Findmypast that contains over 8.5 million records. The collection includes records of both assisted and unassisted passengers. The assisted passenger lists cover 1828 to 1896 and the unassisted passenger lists span the years 1826 to 1900. Assisted passengers refers to those who received monetary assistance from another party or agency/government for their passage.
Each result will provide a transcript and image of the original record. The information included on the transcript will vary depending on whether your ancestor was an assisted or unassisted passenger, although most will include your ancestors name, passage type, birth year, nationality, departure port, arrival port and the dates of their travels.
Scotland – Parish Records
The Scotland Non-Old Parish Registers Vital Records 1647-1875 found at Findmypast is a collection of registers created by churches outside of the established church. It contains over 12,000 transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths.
Non-old parish registers are different from the Church of Scotland’s old parish records.
Though these are only transcripts and do not include a digital image of the original, you may find the following information on the records included in this collection:
With each result you will be provided with a transcript of the details found in the original source material. The detail in each transcript can vary depending on the event type and the amount of information that was recorded at the time of the event. Here are some of the facts you may find in the records:
- Birth year, date, and place
- Event year
- Event type – birth, marriage, or death
- Register name
- Parish and county
United States – Freedmen’s Bureau Records
FamilySearch has updated their magnificent collection of United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872. Records found in this collection include census returns, registers, and lists of freedmen. They also include letters and endorsements, account books, applications for rations, and much more. Many of the records will hold valuable genealogical data.
For a complete list and coverage table of the full collection, click here.
United States – Marriages – Oregon and Utah
Ancestry.com has recently updated two marriage collections. The Oregon, County Marriages, 1851-1975 and the Weber and Piute Counties, Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1940 have some new records. Marriage records will often provide many helpful genealogical details. Depending on the year, you may find:
- Name of the groom and bride
- Date and place of the event
- Birth dates and places of bride and groom
- Names of parents of both bride and groom
- How many previous marriages and marital status
- Place of residence of bride and groom
United States – Washington – Newspapers
Washington State historic newspapers added to their digital collection of newspapers this week. With nearly 50,000 digitized pages from historical newspapers based in Centralia, Eatonville, Tacoma, and Spokane newest titles include the Centralia Daily Hub (1914-16), The Eatonville Dispatch (1916-61) and Den Danske Kronike (1916-17), a Danish-English publication based in Spokane.
The Centralia and Eatonville papers were added this month and Den Danske Kronike was added last summer, along with the Tacoma Evening Telegraph (1886-87).
You will be able to search this newspaper collection for free from the Washington State Library website.
by Lisa Cooke | Oct 14, 2016 | 01 What's New, Records & databases |
This week, we bring you new and updated record collections from genealogy societies around the world. We are often familiar with the record sets available at FamilySearch, Findmypast, and MyHeritage, but many more wonderful virtual repositories exist online. Check out these records for New Zealand, Belgium, Israel, Britain, and Ireland.
New Zealand – Civil Records
FamilySearch has added a large new collection this week for New Zealand. New Zealand, Civil Records Indexes, 1800-1896
is an index only, but numbers 857,382 records. This index collection contains birth, marriage, and death records between the years of 1800 to 1896. The original records are located with the New Zealand Government, Internal Affairs.
Birth records may contain:
- First and last name of child
- Date of birth
- Location of birth
- First and last name of father and mother
Marriage records may contain:
- Date and location of wedding
- Bride’s first and last name
- Groom’s first and last name
Death records may contain:
- Date and location of death
- First and last name of deceased
- Date of birth
- Age at death
Belgium – Civil Registrations
Though FamilySearch has only added to these collections, it is a good idea to check back in to see what’s new. This week, four Belgium collections regarding civil registrations have been added to.
You will notice in the chart above, some of these record sets are indexed records only. Belgium, Antwerp, Civil Registration, 1588-1913
; Belgium, East Flanders, Civil Registration, 1541-1914
; and Belgium, Liège, Civil Registration, 1621-1914
are the index only collections. Belgium, Limburg, Civil Registration, 1798-1906
is the only one that contains digital images.
Each of these civil registration collections contain birth, marriage, and death records for the town locations and time periods listed. The records for Limburg are written in Dutch or Flemish depending on the timeframe. You will find names, dates of events, and sometimes details such as residence, marital status, and names of parents in any of these civil record sets.
Israel – Misc. Records
Societies around the world bring a wealth of information to our research. A Gem’s reader, Elena, shared with us this next record collection set for Israel. The Israel Genealogy Research Association
has over 730,000 records from over 260 databases on their website. You can search in English or Hebrew and for free, though you are required to register.
The IGRA adds or updates their record collections about every two months. In particular, record collections cover:
They also have miscellaneous records from various parts of the world, such as a list of Russian Jewish POW’s in World War I and a list of Jewish soldiers in the International Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War.
Britain – Registers
Findmypast has released the new Britain, Registers of Licences to pass beyond the seas 1573-1677 collection which records the details of early travelers who left Britain for Ireland, continental Europe, New England, Barbados, Bermuda and other overseas colonies.
The collection includes over 27,000 fully searchable transcripts and scanned images of original documents. It includes lists of soldiers who signed a statutory oath of allegiance before serving in the “Low Countries” between 1613 and 1633, licences for individuals traveling to Europe between 1573 and 1677, and registers of individuals traveling to America between 1634 and 1639.
The records showing passengers licensed to sail to the Americas are very rare, making this collection quite significant. They record groups headed for colonies in New England, Maryland, Virginia, Barbados, Bermuda, St Kitt’s, and the Providence Island colony during the 1630s. Very few original records from this early period of American history are available online. Registers record the details of some of earliest English settlers to arrive on the continent.
After 1609, all travelers over the age of 18 had to swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch before the Clerk of the Passes could issue them with a licence to leave the country. The dates shown in these records are the date the oath was taken or the date the licence was issued – not the date of actual departure.
Ireland – Indexes
Societies around the world continue to amaze us, as does The Irish Genealogical Research Society with three recent updates. These updated collections include new birth, marriage, and death confirmations of citizen of Ireland.
In particular, the birth index was most recently updated to reflect information gathered from several thousand records taken from Index of Nuns, a CD publication in 2015 by the Catholic Family History Society. which notes biographical information for about 14,000 nuns, many of them from Ireland.
Also, there are entries from a census-substitute dated 1887 recording the Roman Catholic residents of the parish of Kirkinriola, Co. Antrim and entries taken from Emigrants from Ireland, 1847-1852.
IGRS is another genealogy society around the world containing Irish records.
The full database is available only to Members. However, a restricted but free surname-only search of the database can be made by non-members. A search will tell you how many entries in the database match your search criteria. It will not provide all the details of those matched records. You can however become a member with all access by visiting their subscription page here.
Genealogy Societies Around the World
You may never have considered joining a genealogical society outside of your country, but may find it is just what you need to break through that brick wall. Do you know of a genealogy society that has an extensive collection of records? If you do, would you share it with us? We would love to hear about it in the comments below. Be sure to leave a link so that we can check it out!