A Call to Reopen the U.S. National Archives

Video and Show Notes

On their website, the U.S. National Archives states their mission is to: “provide public access to Federal Government records in our custody and control. Public access to government records strengthens democracy by allowing Americans to claim their rights of citizenship, hold their government accountable, and understand their history so they can participate more effectively in their government.”  (Source: https://www.archives.gov/about/history/about/history/history-and-mission)

Shockingly, as of February 2022 the archives has not been fulfilling that mission for nearly two years! (Source: Visit each facility web page listed at  https://www.archives.gov/locations)

us national archives news

Please share and help get the word out.

My guests Geoff Gentilini, President of the Archival Researchers Association, and Jessica Taylor president of the international genealogy research firm, Legacy Tree Genealogists explain:

  • more about the situation,
  • its far-reaching impact,
  • and what you can do to help.

Please make time to watch this important video and support the genealogy community! Sign the Petition: Two Years is Too Long: Reopen National Archives Research Rooms

Watch the Video

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Show Notes

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Geoff Gentilini is the president of the Archival Researchers Association. He is a professional researcher specializing in military records, individual veteran searches, unit histories, and family history research. He is the owner and project manager of Golden Arrow Research. In 2011, Geoff devised a unique process to rebuild the service histories of individual WWI, WW2 & Korean War veterans whose personnel records were lost in the 1973 archives fire. His work has enabled thousands of descendants to gain a better understanding of their ancestors’ military service. He is the president of the Archival Researchers Association, an organization that has been instrumental in advocating (to Congress) for an increase in the budget of the National Archives. 

Jessica M. Taylor serves as president of international genealogy research firm, Legacy Tree Genealogists, and as a board member for the Association of Professional Genealogists, the Genealogy Business Alliance, and the Association of Genealogy Educators and Schools. With a degree in Family History – Genealogy and over 20 years of experience, Jessica loves contributing to the genealogy community and pushing the industry forward to better help others discover their roots.

The Scope of the Records at the National Archives

Lisa: Can you give our audience a quick overview of the scope of the records that are housed at the National Archives?

Geoff: There are about 46 facilities, including 15, presidential libraries, 14 archives, 17, federal record centers, and these are spread out across the country. They contain more than 13 billion textual records, 20 million photographs, 40 million aerial images, there’s 75,000 miles of film. These records tell our national story. The holdings are massive.

Today, something like 1% of this material is online. Researchers access the other 99% of these records in our nation’s public research rooms, which are scattered across the country.

I think the National Archives has the goal of digitizing somewhere near 3% of these records by the year 2024. But as we all know, just because something is digitized, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be online or usable for research.

Jessica: The first time he said, you know, 99% of the records are digitized, I said “no way, there’s no way that that could be true.” So he sent me information that’s put up by the archives, and I did the math. And I said, “Holy cow, you know, it’s absolutely true.” There are records there that you can’t get any other way, besides going in person to get those records.

Research Rooms

Lisa: I did an entire hour show on the National Archives website last year, and it got on my radar as well, that as wonderful as the site is, and it’s got some access to some things, it’s such a tiny fraction! This means there’s a treasure trove remaining, but you have to access it in person.

(How to Search the U.S. National Archives Online Catalog for Genealogy with Lisa Louise Cooke.)

Jessica, that leads us to the research rooms because that’s where we gain access to the records. What and where are the research rooms? And who uses them?

Researchers

Jessica: There are 14 National Archives research rooms spread around the country. Washington, DC has a major one. There’s one nearby in College Park, Texas, a few on the West Coast, one in Missouri. So they’re spread out throughout the country.

Each one of these research rooms has different records. So, like we said, they’re all paper still, and in different facilities. If you want a certain type of record, you have to go to that facility to get it.

The people who use these research rooms are obviously genealogists, that’s my primary interest in them, historians, authors, filmmakers, and lots of use for veterans. There are educators, students, I mean, there are so many groups who need these records and have been on hold.

I have a friend who is working on a book that she’s had to put on hold for two years because she needs the information that’s in one of the archives. She can’t complete the book until the archives opens.

The Impact of the Research Rooms Closures

Lisa: Geoff, I know that you work a lot at the National Archives in St. Louis, can you explain to our audience the significance of that particular location, and its closure, and particularly on veterans? How are they affected?

Geoff: The Research Room in St. Louis is really special because it contains the personnel records and military records that tell the story of the men and women who served in the armed forces. These are records from World War I, World War II, the Korean War all the way up through Vietnam, and later.

Many living veterans and veterans’ advocates rely on researchers to work on these more complex research cases. They help to reverse denied benefits claims in many cases. This type of work has been stalled for two years!

From the historical record side of things, this is the work that I used to do primarily in St. Louis. I would rebuild the service histories, the individuals whose records were lost in the 1973 fire, primarily veterans of World War II but also World War I, and the Korean War. Families who really knew nothing about their loved ones service could gain closure by understanding their contribution to the war effort.

This research in St. Louis also helps to do things like correct grave markers for veterans and locate the remains of fallen soldiers who were lost on the battlefield.

At this point, there hasn’t even been a minimal reopening in St. Louis, the way that there was at some other research locations.

Lisa: You’re talking about veteran records. I imagine that people are trying to verify benefits. Don’t you guys work with people who volunteer to help veterans get the records they need so that they can apply for their benefits or is that stalled?

Geoff: Yeah. There is a massive backlog right now of requests that come in from veterans and their families for DD 214 records. These are like the military discharges that you can use to when you’re seeking benefits to get a home loan and things like that. What has happened is that the historical research portion of the archives there has not been reopened, because of that enormous backlog. But at this point, it’s been two years, and they’ve sort of locked the doors. But that that backlog is still growing. The St. Louis Research Room is also a smaller Research Room, and we believe it can be reopened by leaving a smaller footprint.

Lisa: Jessica, can you give us a sense of the financial impact of these closings on the people who rely on access to the research rooms for their work?

Jessica: When when COVID first hit in 2020, and they were closed, that’s the time period when I got in contact with Geoff. What drew me to trying to help his organization initially was people like Geoff who are completely out of work. Their businesses revolve around access to archives, to the National Archives, to specific facilities in specific regions. And so, I thought, wow, I’ve got to help them be able to work again, right?

So we’ve tried and now two years have gone by, and I just can’t imagine how these people are faring. Because they’ve been out of work for two years. I just talked with somebody on LinkedIn who reached out about this petition, and he was so thankful that we have this petition and said, “Well, I’ve been so frustrated. I was actually told, you know, shame on me for building my business model around relying on the National Archives.” And I thought wow, how sad that we can’t rely on the National Archives to open. It just hurts my heart. I mean, beyond that, there is this author I mentioned who is trying to finish her book can’t finish it. It’s been two years!

And of course, we have many clients who have ordered genealogical research that we can’t finish. Many have asked for refunds, because two years is a long time to wait for something like this. So unfortunately, it definitely has had an impact in the genealogy industry and other industries as well.

Geoff: The work that we do is important work. It’s specialized skills, too. And after two years, we’re starting to see our colleagues quit and move on to other things, because how long can you sustain yourself without being able to access these records that enable you to do your job? So that that’s something else too. It’s a loss for the public. We’re losing the expertise and the people that help to tell these stories by accessing these records.

Will the National Archives Reopen?

Lisa: Let’s talk about the reopening because right now, we’ve looked at two full years of closure and lack of access. I was doing some research in anticipation of getting together and talking today and I was looking at what the National Archives is saying about their policy and what they call high, medium and low risk. Even if the risk is considered low, they’re not saying full reopening. They’re talking about appointments and screenings and things.

I know that David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, put out a letter, the most recent one I could find was November 8 of 2021. He says “at low transmission level staff will be on site to complete all types of work, and research rooms are expected to remain open by appointment only.”

Geoff, does that sound like an organization that’s planning on and anxious to get back to full time access?

Geoff: Yes, well, it certainly sounds like a difficult system for someone who would need to be able to do their job five days a week and get in there and really access these records in the way that we need to, to do our jobs. We really are trying to look past that. The restrictions, until we can get back to a level of normalcy, at least in the level of access to records, the sliding scale system with the case rates, and how they open and close. This appears to be how the federal government has structured things for the agencies that fall underneath of the executive branch, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. Some of this is out of the hands of the archives management.

Other things we think they might be able to do when they do open to kind of prioritize the research rooms and get them back to functioning at pre pandemic levels. That’s really what we’re seeking. We kind of feel like where there’s a will there’s a way. And when 99% of the records that you work with are physical, it really demands that you have the staff and be open to meet that public demand.

Lisa:  I noticed on the petition website, which we are going to talk about, there is a way that our viewers can help try to get the message forward to those in power to make a different decision and maybe open this up.

One of the things that’s interesting is that the museum in the Washington DC area is open. It’s in the same building as the research rooms, and those are closed.

Geoff, have they told you anything about ‘here’s the mark, here’s the goalpost? When this happens, we will welcome you all back.’ Do you have any sense of what that place is?

Geoff: I think that the pandemic has been so unpredictable that no one is willing to make any type of you know, there’s no clarity. Everyone is sort of seeking cover. And in this hyper partisan environment that we live in today, nobody’s willing to kind of stick their neck out and say, ‘Well, this is what we’re going to do to take initiative, be imaginative.’ And that’s really what we need so that we can function in a type of new normal when it comes to research.

We know that we’ve got vaccines – 95% of the federal workforce is vaccinated. I believe that you have to either show proof of vaccination status to get inside of the archives or show that you’ve had a negative test. And then of course, you’re required to wear a mask. So, there are things in place to make sure that we have a safe environment when we’re researching. So, the public is safe, and the staff are safe. We just need to figure out how to get back to pre-pandemic levels of access, even if we do have some new restrictions in place, like masks or vaccines or things like that.

Jessica: Geoff mentioned to access the archives, showing that you’re vaccinated, using a mask. So that was in place during the couple of weeks that two of the archives were actually opened in November. We had two archives opened for a couple of weeks, in November. And we did follow all of those protocols. However, they were closed, and the other facilities around the country have never opened since March 2020.

Lisa: And of course, since then, with the coming up Omicron, we know that the vaccinated get ill just like the unvaccinated. So, you’re right, it keeps changing and keeps moving. And that’s where the lack of the goalpost is kind of a challenge.

Let’s talk about some of the ways you’re trying to communicate with the National Archives to see what could be resolved so that everybody feels good about what’s happening and can participate and get what they need.

How You Can Make a Difference in the Reopening

Jessica, you’ve put a petition together. This is what first came to my attention. Tell us about what that is and what your goals are.

Jessica: Absolutely. A main goal that I have with this petition is I just thought ‘I can’t let over two years go by with these important archives being closed, and the leaders of the archives not receive a united strong message from our communities that we care about this, and that it affects us.’ So a major goal is I just want to be able to show them how many people care that they’re closed, especially because it affects us not only now, but genealogists and historians have a long history of having to fight for public access to records.

I don’t want those leaders to look back on this event, years into the future and think ‘well, nobody really seemed to mind that they couldn’t access those records.’ I want them to know that many, many thousands of people cared that they couldn’t access the records.

The ask of this petition is that they reopen by sometime in March 2022. That will be a full two years that many of these facilities have been closed. We’ve seen many other events and businesses and groups have been able to safely reopen, I think that the National Archives is capable of doing the same. I think that it’s important that we ask for that strongly and in the united fashion.

The petition is at https://change.org/reopen archives. We want thousands of signatures. We have about 3000. We’d like to at least double that. We want them to know that these archives matter to the citizens of the United States and the world.

The Petition: Two Years is Too Long: Reopen National Archives Research Rooms

Lisa: I wholeheartedly agree. And I know you’ve just had it up a couple of days, and that’s an amazing start right out of the gate.

As you said, there’s a lot of different players involved who make the decisions, but it’s so important that we make our voice known and our needs known because how else would they incorporate that into the decision-making?

Anything else Geoff that you want to mention about this and things that you would encourage people to do?

Geoff: Something else folks might think about doing is reaching out to your house representative to your senators and just letting them know that you care about this issue that you want to see the archives open all the research rooms back open again. Citizens need and deserve access to government records. That’s the archives mission.

Lisa: it certainly is, and I really appreciate and respect that the two of you have taken some action and made your voices known and hopefully we will ask everybody here watching to help do the same.

 Jessica: And please share, you share it, sign it and also share!

Lisa: Yes, That’s the best way to get the word out. Everybody knows another genealogist!

Resources

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New Genealogy Records Available Online April 15 – May 15, 2020

With so many new records coming online, I’m going to focus today on collections that are new, or have had a substantial update. These records are from around the world, and offer excellent opportunities to expand your genealogical research. 

New Genealogy Records Online

Keep reading here at Genealogy Gems for all the latest new records.

New Record Collections at FamilySearch

New indexed record collections offer new hope for genealogists yearning to bust a brick wall in their family tree. FamilySearch has recently launched several noteworthy new genealogical record collections. Some have substantial amounts of new records and some are just getting started. As always, they are free to access with an account. Here’s the latest:

England

England, Devon, Plymouth Prison Records, 1821-1919
Indexed Records: 13,495

Germany            

Germany, Saxony, Church Book Indexes, 1500-1900
Indexed Records: 32,709

Ireland

Ireland, John Watson Stewart, The Gentlemen’s and Citizen’s Almanac, 1814
Indexed Records: 17,266

Norway

Norway, Oslo, Akershus Prison Records, 1844-1885
Indexed Records: 808

Peru

Peru, Piura, Civil Registration, 1874-1996
Indexed Records: 878

United States

California
California, Geographical and Name Index of Californians who served in WWI, 1914-1918
Indexed Records: 27,306

Hawaii
Hawaii, Hawaiian Islands Newspaper Obituaries, 1900-ca.2010
Indexed Records: 243

Maine
Maine, Alien Arrivals, 1906-1953
Indexed Records: 199,010

New Mexico
New Mexico Alien Arrivals, 1917-1954
Indexed Records: 17,240

Oregon
Oregon Death Index, 1971-2008
Indexed Records: 1,063,054

Oregon Divorce Index, 1991-2008
Indexed Records: 340,289

U.S. Newspapers
United States, GenealogyBank Historical Newspaper Obituaries, 1815-2011
Indexed Records: 1,827,447

Updated Records at FamilySearch

FamilySearch has also added indexed records to several interesting existing collections:

United States

United States, New York Land Records, 1630-1975
Indexed Records: 3,868,777

New York, Southern District, U.S District Court Naturalization Records, 1824-1946
Indexed Records: 103,000

Michigan, Detroit Manifests of Arrivals at the Port of Detroit, 1906-1954
Indexed Records: 323,121

Austria

Austria, Vienna, Jewish Registers of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, 1784-1911
Indexed Records: 27,317
Added indexed records to an existing collection comprising 1.8 million historical records.

Chile

Chile, Catholic Church Records, 1710-1928
Indexed Records: 8,575

Chile, Cemetery Records, 1821-2015
Indexed Records: 87,220

Italy

Italy, Benevento, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1810-1942
Indexed Records: 155,594

Italy, Brescia, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1797-1943
Indexed Records: 78,275

Italy, Salerno, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1806-1949
Indexed Records: 32,447
Images: 31,969

Peru     

Peru, Diocese of Huacho, Catholic Church Records, 1560-1952    
Indexed Records: 260,438

Venezuela         

Venezuela, Archdiocese of Valencia, Catholic Church Records, 1760, 1905-2013
Indexed Records: 306,392

MyHeritage

MyHeritage, the leading global service for discovering your past and empowering your future, announced today the publication of three important Greek record collections:

  1. Greece, Electoral Rolls (1863–1924),
  2. Corfu Vital Records (1841–1932),
  3. and Sparta Marriages (1835–1935),

comprising 1.8 million historical records. Click here to start a 14-day free trial at MyHeritage.

This release constitutes the first substantial set of Greek record collections available on MyHeritage. All three collections have been indexed by MyHeritage and for the first time are now searchable in English, as well as in Greek. The total size of MyHeritage’s historical record database is now 12.2 billion records. This release positions MyHeritage as an invaluable genealogy resource for family history enthusiasts who have Greek roots.

“As the cradle of western civilization and a crossroads of continents and cultures, Greece is becoming a gem among MyHeritage’s historical record collections. The records in these collections are rich in detail and have pan-European, Balkan, and Mediterranean significance. The communities documented were shaped by Greek, Italian, French, and Russian influences, have been home to significant Catholic and Jewish communities, and represent some of the world’s most progressive systems of governance. These collections will prove valuable both to novice researchers and experienced genealogists,” said Russ Wilding, Chief Content Officer of MyHeritage.

The publication of these collections furthers MyHeritage’s commitment to providing new avenues for Greek family history research. In one of the company’s pro bono initiatives, MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet personally traced the descendants of a Jewish family that was hidden during World War II on the small island of Erikoussa, north of Corfu. The entire population of the island collectively gave refuge to the family, and saved it from death. His genealogical detective work, combined with MyHeritage’s extensive global database of historical records, culminated in recognition for the courageous people of Erikoussa, who were presented with the House of Life award by the Raoul Wallenberg Foundation. This was depicted in the books ‘When the Cypress Whispers’ and ‘Something Beautiful Happened’ by Yvette Manessis Corporon, whose grandmother was among those who saved the Jewish family on Erikoussa.

Japhet utilized his hands-on experience in Greek research to develop the enhanced method by which MyHeritage now handles Greek surnames in the new collections. In Greece, a woman’s last name is the genitive form of her father’s surname, or when she marries, of her husband’s surname. The new Greek collections on MyHeritage have been made gender-agnostic so that searches and matches will work to the fullest extent. For example, a search for the Jewish surname “Velleli” in the new collections on MyHeritage will also locate people named “Vellelis”. It is also possible to find these surnames by searching for “Belleli”, because the Greek letter beta is pronounced like the English letter V, but in some countries this distinction has been lost and Greek surnames are sometimes pronounced with the letter B, the way they are written in modern English. MyHeritage’s Global Name Translation Technology further ensures that when searching on MyHeritage in other languages, such as Hebrew and Russian, the results will also include names in the new Greek collections. No other major genealogy company has these Greek record collections, nor such sophisticated algorithms customized for Greek genealogy research.

The Greece Electoral Rolls (1863–1924) consist of 1,006,594 records and provide nationwide coverage of males ages 21 and up who were eligible to vote. They list the voter’s given name, surname, father’s name, age, and occupation. Each record includes the individual’s name in Greek, and a Latinized transliteration of the name that follows the standard adopted by the Greek government. MyHeritage translated many of the occupations from Greek to English and expanded many given names, which are often abbreviated in the original records. This new collection includes scans of the original documents and is the most extensive index of Greek electoral rolls currently available anywhere.  

The Corfu Vital Records (1841–1932) consist of 646,807 birth, marriage, and death records. The records were collected by the civil authorities in Corfu and document the life events of all residents of the island regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Birth records from this collection may contain the child’s given name and surname, birthdate and place of birth, name and age of both parents, and the given names of the child’s grandfathers. A marriage record from this collection may include the date of marriage, groom’s given name and surname, age, place of birth, residence, and his father’s name. Similar information is recorded about the bride and her father. Death records in this collection may include the name of the deceased, date of death, age at death, place of birth, residence, and parents’ names. The indexed collection of Corfu Vital Records includes scans of the original documents and is available exclusively on MyHeritage.

The Sparta Marriages collection (1835–1935) consists of 179,411 records which include images of the couple’s marriage license and their listing in the marriage register. The records in this collection list the full names of the bride and groom, the date of marriage, their fathers’ names, the birthplace of the bride and groom, and occasionally the names of witnesses to the marriage. The images in this collection were photographed, digitized, and indexed by MyHeritage from the original paper documents, in cooperation with the Metropolis of Monemvasia and Sparta.

The new collections are available on SuperSearch™, MyHeritage’s search engine. Searching the Greek record collections is free. A subscription is required to view the full records and to access Record Matches.  Click here to start a 14-day free trial at MyHeritage.

 

Ancestry

Alabama 

Alabama, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, Church Records, 1837-1970
From Ancestry: “This collection includes baptism, marriage, and burial records from the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama between the years of 1837 and 1970. Established in 1830, the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama is comprised of 92 congregations and covers all of Alabama, with the exception of the very southern portion of the state.”
Click here to search this collection.

Oregon

Oregon, State Marriages, 1906-1966
The original data comes from the Oregon State Archives. Oregon, Marriage Records, 1906-1910, 1946-1966. Salem, Oregon.
Click here to search this collection

Oregon, State Births, 1842-1917
These birth certificates will typically include the following information:

  • Name of child
  • Gender and race of child
  • Date and place of birth
  • Father’s name
  • Father’s birth place and age
  • Mother’s name
  • Mother’s birth place and age

Click here to search this collection

Pennsylvania

U.S., Pennsylvania, Grand Army of the Republic Membership Records, 1865-1936
These records are made available through a partnership with FamilySearch. The describe the collection as follows: “Index and images of membership records of the Pennsylvania Department Grand Army of the Republic that cover from the years 1865-1936. An organization of Union army and navy veterans of the Civil War. The collection consists of registers, lists, minute, account and descriptive books of local post (chapters) The descriptive books include town of residence, military unit, date of enlistment,date of discharge, age and birthplace. The collection was acquired from the Pennsylvania State Archives.”
Click here to search the collection. 

Washington

WEB: Washington, Various County Census Records, 1850-1914
The original data for this collection comes from the Washington State Archives – Digital Archives. Census Records. Cheney, Washington, United States: Washington State Archives – Digital Archives. 
Click here to search the collection.

Finland

Finland, WWII Military Casualties, 1939-1945
In this collection you will find details on Finnish soldiers killed during World War II. From Ancestry: “From the start of the war until 1944, Finland was involved in battles with the Soviet Union and from 1944-1945, Nazi Germany. Altogether, nearly 95,000 Finnish soldiers were killed or declared missing in action.”  The National Archives of Finland created these indexes. They are in Finnish, reflecting the original source material.
Click here to search this collection

Germany

Germany, Military Killed in Action, 1939-1948
Notes about this collection from Ancestry: “This collection is searchable using the search form, which among other things allows you to search by Last Name, First Name, Birth Date, Birthplace, Date of Death and Place of Death. Under “Browse this collection,” you can select the Box Number Range and Box Number of the cards desired.”
Click here to search the collection.

German Concentration Camp Records, 1946-1958
These records include copies of German records including camp records, transport lists, and medical data cards. The camp records include inmate cards, death lists, and strength reports.
Click here to search this collection

Updated Records at Ancestry:

New York

New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957
Click here to search this collection

New York, Executive Orders for Commutations, Pardons, Restorations, Clemency and Respites, 1845-1931
39,246 new records have been added to this collection of executive clemency application ledgers and correspondence.
According to Ancestry: “Each record includes the felon’s name, crime, date and county of conviction, sentence, and prison. Signatures on the records can include the governor, secretary of state, and/or deputy secretary of state.”
Click here to search the collection. 

North Dakota

North Dakota, Select County Marriage Records, 1872-2017
30,266 new records were added for the following counties in Washington State: Adams, Cavalier, Hettinger, McIntosh, Nelson, and Pierce.

Search Tips from Ancestry:

  • This collection includes images of indexes as well as the actual marriage records. If you’re having trouble finding your ancestor through the search, try browsing the index for the county in which they lived and use that information to locate them in the actual records.
  • Don’t overlook the possibility that your ancestor may have been married in a nearby county that was more convenient to them, or where other family members lived.

Click here to search this collection

Tennessee

Tennessee, Death Records, 1908-1965
This is a significant update with 1,019,533 new records added covering 1959-1965. Be aware that, according to Ancestry, the forms used for reporting deaths 1908-1912 contain far less information than those used from 1914 forward. “No death records were recorded by the State of Tennessee in 1913 due to a change in the state law requiring vital records registration.”

Click here to search this updated collection.

More Genealogy for You

Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn. In the episode below I share viewers’ family history displays, answer your questions about my genealogy organization method, and show you how I file my genealogy digital files. Click here for the episode show notes. 

 

Genealogy Playlist Ultimate Guide for this Summer’s Road Trips

Summer_Road_Trip_PlaylistAre you going on a road trip this summer? Do you have a genealogy playlist ready? Here are some favorite resources for creating the ultimate genealogy playlist for the open road.

The Apps

Whether you have an Android, Apple, or Windows device, plan your own audio genealogy playlist for your next road trip. Here are some of our top picks:

get the app1.  The Genealogy Gems Podcast App allows you to listen to our regular podcasts with tips and tricks for genealogy and includes extra bonus content you won’t find anywhere else. By downloading the podcast before you hit the road, you won’t have to worry about using your data or hoping you have enough bars! And don’t miss the Bonus content available in many of the episodes. It’s a nice perk of our app.

2. AudioBooks from Audible. Audio books are a great idea for any road trip. For the highest quality reading voice, consider downloading a free app like AudioBooks. With 180,000 available titles, you will be sure to find something you like. AudioBooks offers a free 30-day trial and includes one free audio book. After the trial month, you can download a new book each month for $14.95, or purchase any book you want for the listed price.

3. Kindle Audio App is also free and easy to navigate. Once you have downloaded the app to your device, you can sign-in with your Amazon account to purchase the books you want. You can even sample books before you buy! Kindle Audio App allows you to experience “immersion” reading by allowing reading and listening simultaneously. Or, turn your Kindle e-book into an audiobook by having your iPhone read it to you: click here to learn how.

Genealogy Playlist Book Recommendations

Would you like some great summer reading options? These Genealogy Gems Book Club titles are some of our picks for listening on the road, on the beach, or wherever the sun takes you.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a fun read about Beatrice Nash who lands in East Sussex, where locals aren’t exactly thrilled to meet her. She spends the summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging, eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy,) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then, the Great War breaks out. Listen to a free excerpt of an interview with the author in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192.

Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austin Weaver, author of the internationally-acclaimed blog Tea & Cookies. This memoir is one part food, one part gardening, and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. Tara’s mother moves to Seattle to be near her. Together, they purchase a home with a wild garden. The challenge of reinvigorating the garden is nothing compared to the challenge of renewing their troubled relationship. It’s an honest (and mouthwatering) story of planting, cultivating, and harvesting the fruits of family and garden. The Genealogy Gems Premium website members can access the full interview in our premium podcast episode 133 or click here to hear a free excerpt.

The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. This is the most recent book in a “genealogical crime mystery” series by the British author. Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is hired to find out what happened to his client’s great-aunt Mary, who disappeared without a trace a century ago while working as a maid at a grand English estate. The author joined us on the June podcasts if  you would like to take a listen. Genealogy Gems Premium members can hear the entire interview hereOther titles in the series: Hiding the Past and The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella.

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline, spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list and top of The Bestsellers List in Canada. The novel intertwines the stories of Vivian and Molly. Vivian is an Irish girl who lost her family in New York City and was forced to ride the ‘orphan train’ to find a new home. Decades later, the aged Vivian meets a teenager, Molly, who is struggling to find identity and happiness in the modern foster care system. Click here to catch highlights of our interview with Christina Baker Kline on the The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to listen to the full-length interview.

Find more books we think are perfect for family history lovers at The Genealogy Gems Book Club

How to Use Google Photos for Beginners

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 23 Video and Show Notes

Live show air date: September 3, 2020
Join me for Elevenses with Lisa, the online video series where we take a break, visit and learn about genealogy and family history.

Google Photos for Beginners

Today’s Topic: Google Photos for Beginners

Have you thought about using Google Photos but just weren’t sure how it worked or where to start? This video webinar will answer your questions and give you the confidence to use it effectively. In this introductory tour to Google Photos we will answer the questions:

  • What is Google Photos?
  • Is Google Photos private?
  • What features do I get with Google Photos?
  • How does Google Photos storage work? (Is Google Photos free?)
  • How do I start using Google Photos?
  • How do I upload my photos and videos?
  • How to search and retrieve photos and videos in Google Photos
  • How would Google Photos benefit genealogists, archivists and others?

Watch the video and follow along here with the show notes. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download a PDF handout of these notes in the Resources section below.

What is Google Photos?

Google Photos is a free Cloud-based photo and video sharing and storage service. You can use the website on your computer and download the Google Photos app to all of your mobile devices.

How to Get Started Using Google Photos

Visit the website, and download the mobile app.

  • Website: https://photos.google.com/
  • Mobile: Search in your app store for the Google Photos app and download.
    (May appear and behave differently on iPhone, Android, or Google Pixel phone, etc.)

Log in to each device with your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can set it up for free. You will use this same account with all Google tools and products.

  1. Sign up for a free Google account.
  2. Sign into each device with this same account.
  3. Google Photos can synchronize your photos between devices.

Google Photos Privacy

It’s understandable to be concerned about the privacy of your photos and videos. Here’s what you need to know about Google Photos privacy:

  • Your photos are only available to you
  • Your account is secured by your personal password
  • Your photos are not uploaded to the Internet or searchable with Google.com
  • Read the Terms of Service

Google Photos Features

There are a wide range of great features, some of which may not be obvious at first. Google Photos features include:

  • Massive storage (allowing you the option to free up space on your devices)
  • Reliable backup
  • Powerful search and retrieval
  • Facial recognition
  • Object recognition
  • Text recognition (OCR)
  • Organization
  • Sharing and creation tools

Google Photos Storage

You have two options when it comes to your Google Photos storage plan:

  1. Free version called High Quality
  2. Low cost subscription to upgrade photo storage capacity called Original Quality.

Let’s take a closer look at these two storage plan options.

Option #1: High Quality

  • Free
  • Unlimited storage
  • Image compression (takes up less storage space)
  • Photos (Larger than 16 Megapixels (MP) resized to 16MP. Good quality prints up to 24” x 16” meet most needs)
  • Videos (If higher than 1080p then resized to HD 1080p)

Option #2: Original Quality

  • ($) Upgrade
  • No compression of photos or videos.
  • Uses the 15 GB of free storage in your Google account. This storage cap includes everything you have saved in Gmail, Google Drive, and all Google apps.
  • When you hit storage limit: Option to purchase additional storage called Google One.

Visit Google One to get all the latest information about plans and features.

High Quality versus Original Quality can be a bit confusing to remember. It may help to think of it this way:

 High Quality (FREE)
compressed but still high quality and printable.

 Original Quality ($ Storage)
Stored at original size. Larger sizes take up more storage space.

Google Photos Back Up and Storage Benefits

Considering the volume of photos and videos we take these days with our phones, and the volume of old family photos we have digitized, storage is a pressing issue. Google Photos can help because:

  • It can relieve the storage burden on your phone by giving you a place to store your photos. You can then elect to remove them from any of your devices if you wish.
  • The ability to upload, search, organize, edit and share your photos from any device.
  • If you lose or break your phone, your photos are stored on the cloud and can be accessed and downloaded again on any device that is signed into your Google account.

I strongly believe it is important to have multiple backups. So while I see Google Photos as one of my backups, all of my important photos and videos are on my computer which is backed up to the cloud. I use the Cloud backup service Backblaze and have for many years. If you decide to try them (and they usually offer a 15 day free trial here) , I do appreciate it if you use my link. We are compensated at no additional cost to you, and that helps make this free show and show notes possible.

How to Upload Photos to Google Photos

There are two ways to add photos from your computer:

  1. Click Upload at top of the page.
  2. Drag and drop photos onto the Google Photos screen.
How to upload photos to Google Photos computer desktop

Drag and drop photos into Google Photos

When using the Google Photos App on a mobile device:

  1. Tap your face in the upper right corner of the screen (your account)
  2. Tap Photo Settings
  3. Turn on Back Up & Sync.
  4. I recommend turning off Use cellular data to back up photos / videos.

Also in the Settings you will find Manage device storage. You can opt to have the original photos and videos removed from your device once they are uploaded to Google Photos. This will free up space and manage the amount of storage the app uses on your device.

How to Delete and Archive Your Photos in Google Photos:

  1. Click to select the photo or video (you can select one or multiple) on your computer or tap the photo in the app.
  2. Click / tap the trash can icon.

Searching Your Photos and Videos in Google Photos

You can search your photos and videos for:

  • People & Pets
  • Places
  • Selfies
  • Screenshots

For example, type the word Selfie into the search field and Google Photos will retrieve all of the photos that were taken as selfies.

You can also search your photos and videos for:

  • Recently added items
  • Videos (Type the word Videos into the search field)
  • Favorites
  • Names
  • Dates (Find photos based on when they were taken. For example, you can search October 2019 through December 2019.)

Facial Recognition in Google Photos

After initial set up your backup, Google Photos starts to identify and group faces that are the same.

Check your Settings to ensure the feature is activated: Settings > Group similar faces > slide the Face Grouping button to the “on” position.  It might take a few hours or a few days from your initial setup for this feature to activate. It depends on number of photos and your WiFi connection.

how to turn on facial recognition in Google Photos

Group similar faces in Google Photos

Searching for photos and videos that include certain people (faces) is very easy to do.

  1. Tap in the search box
  2. Tap a face to see all photos for that face.

You can Show and Hide Faces and include or exclude Pet Faces in the Settings.

Keep in mind that facial recognition, and object and text search aren’t (and realistically can’t be) perfect. However, it improves every day thanks to machine learning. The Google Photos of today is more accurate than when the service was first launched.

You can help train Google Photos to more accurately identify faces in photos by adding names to the faces that you know. You can also answer the questions that Google Photos poses regarding whether two faces are the same or different person.

Object Search in Google Photos

You can search for objects that appear in your photos and videos. Simply type in the word that represents the object. The example I used in this video was: Wedding Dress

Notice that this search retrieved content that included weddings and dresses. In order to narrow in on strictly content where someone is wearing a wedding dress, I put quotation marks around the phrase: “Wedding Dress”

I also searched for Typewriter. This retrieved content that featured a typewriter predominately and even when a typewriter simply appeared in the background. It also found videos where a typewriter appeared briefly.

Text Search in Google Photos

Searching for words will retrieve any photo or video in Google Photos that mention that word. There are countless uses for this as a genealogist. In the example I showed in the video, photos of tombstones can be retrieved simply by searching for the surname that appears on the tombstone. This text recognition applies to all types of text including newspaper articles, signs and more. Again, we must keep in mind that Google Photos isn’t perfect and will have difficulty reading text that is unclear.

Create New Content in Google Photos

Google Photos creates fun projects and content using the photos and videos in your account including:

  • Photo Collages
  • Videos
  • Short Animations
  • Stylized Photos

The content Google Photos creates can only be seen by you. It is not public. You decide whether to keep it, share it or delete it.

I show an example in this session of creating a video by selecting a theme, and a face. Google Photos did the rest by retrieving and assembling the photos chronologically and adding appropriate music! You can download these projects to your computer, and share links too.

Resources

Premium Members: Download the show notes handout

Premium Members: Watch the Premium Video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available with your Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.
From Debra H: “Your topic is so on track with me. I have been scanning old photos. What a great delight to see your Solving Unidentified Photo album Cases. It was perfect. Thanks!!”

Recommended reading: The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke (chapter 10 Google Photos)

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

Live Chat Q&A with Lisa

From Gwynn: Does Google Photos have a way to share with a link?
Answer: Yes. In the video you can see how to do on a computer. On an iPhone: tap the photo, tap the Share icon, tap Share to, then tap Create link

Question: ​If you share the link on social media they can’t change it (the photo) right?
Answer: Correct. 

From Kathy: With photos in the Cloud with Google Photos, can you tell the phone’s iCloud to disregard backing up your photos since you already have them in Google Photos?
Answer: Look at Settings > General > iPhone Storage> Disable iCloud Photos

Kelli: If I delete a photo on my phone does it delete from Google photo?
Answer: It depends exactly what you mean.  If you delete the photo from your phone’s camera roll, no, it does not remove it from Google Photos. If you remove it from the Google Photos app on your phone, then yes it will remove it from Google Photos on your computer as well. 

From Retta: Can you put a PDF on google photos?
Answer: No

From John: What add-on do you use to highlight your cursor? (in the video) 
Answer: I use this software

From Kathy: ​Is this good for sharing albums with family?
Answer: Yes!

From Natalie: Is there a limit of how many photos you can put in an album?
Answer: Currently 20,000 photos and videos. 

From C: Synchronize means it downloads to all devises?
Answer: Yes, the photos and videos will be available through all of the devices in which you are signed into the same Google Photos account. 

From GeneBuds: How do I access archive?
Answer: On a computer: You’ll find Archive on the left side of the screen under Library.  On a phone: Tap Library in the menu at the bottom of the screen and then tap Archive

Sarah: Somehow I have several copies of the same photo. Will Google photos help me sort those out so I can delete duplicates?
Answer: My understand is that Google Photos can detect identical duplicate images. If you already uploaded a photo to Google Photos, it will not re-upload the same photo. It will skip uploading that photo. It may look like Google Photos is uploading the photo again, but it isn’t. It’s just running it through identical duplicate detection. 

From John: Where in Settings is “Group Similar Photos”? Does it vary by provider (like AT&T, Verizon)?
Answer: Look for Group Similar Faces in the Settings

From Cindy: So if it recognizes faces at all ages, how might you use to help see if your unknown pics are who you might think they are?
Answer: I cover this in depth in my video Solving Unidentified Photo Album Cases available to those with Genealogy Gems Premium Membership. I also cover it in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. 

From Karen: What about trying to identify unknown photos of ancestors from an old album? Can you put them on a google search that goes out on the internet to see if anyone else has identified that person? In addition to my previous answer, watch the free YouTube video How to Use Google Chrome to Identify Old Photos and Images for Genealogy and Family History.

From Kelli: ​If they are on google photos only, how do you print them, say at Costco?
Answer: You can order prints from the For You section of Google Photos. Check the Costco website because I think they can coordinate with Google Photos. 

From Cathy: Can I give one person more than 1 name? Like Lucy Haley and Mother Cline?
Answer: In the same name field. You can’t assign two completely separate names. If you include both names in the field you will be able to search for either one and retrieve the photo. 

 

 

 

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