Recently Tom wrote in with a question about a Civil War veterans database:
“I’ve been a listener of your podcast for quite a long time. Great job.
“We have a grass-roots group trying to locate and document Civil War Veterans buried in Washington state. Is there a good website where I can enter a name and unit identification and get results of the person’s [Civil War] service? I’m having a really hard time finding US Navy sailors.”
It sounds like Tom is conducting a very worthwhile project! (We added the link above to the website for the project, in case you’re interested.) An excellent resource–still in progress for sailors with only about 20% of them–is The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS).
The site describes its resources as a “database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, which will be amended over time.”
This is an excellent resource for soldiers. As far as sailors go: “The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System currently contains the records of approximately 18,000 African American sailors, though additional records will be added in the future. The information in the Sailors Database is derived from enlistment records and the quarterly muster rolls of Navy vessels. Approximately half of the sailors entered the service at the Navy’s established points of enlistment. For these men and women, enlistment records serve as the primary sources of information. The Howard University research team used muster rolls to fill in missing data or to correct apparent misinformation recorded at the time of enlistment. Information about the remainder of the enlistees was derived directly from these muster rolls. When research uncovered inconsistencies in the data (such as conflicting reports of an individual’s age at the time of enlistment) the most frequently recorded response was used.”
“Descendants of Civil War sailors will find biographical details regarding age, place of birth, and occupation that may help supplement or clarify details from such other sources of genealogical information as birth, death, and census records. Moreover, information about any individual sailor’s enlistment and service is necessary for determining the presence or absence of their pension records at the National Archives.” Click here to read an article from the National Archives about African-American servicemen in the Navy in the Civil War. I covered the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 149. Be sure to check out the show notes page (click the link I’ve provided.) There you’ll find the information written out for you and the links I discuss in the episode.
If a Navy ancestor isn’t among those already listed, my first instinct is always to turn to Google searches first. I ran a search in Google Books for free (fully digitized) books meeting the criteria “civil war” “sailors” and there are some resources there as well. Here’s a link to the search results. One example is the book shown here to the left: Manchester Men, which appears to be a published list of those who served from Manchester, N.H. (click on the book cover to read it in Google Books). Learn more about Google searching for “niche” topics like this in the fully-revised and updated edition of my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
Have you ever wondered how the Internet works? I mean, how data from your computer actually makes to another computer somewhere else around the world? I found a very cool video that really manages to explain a very complex process that happens in a matter of seconds in a way that actually makes a lot of sense. And yet while it made sense, after I watched it it was almost harder to believe that it really works at all because it’s so amazing. Even if you are typically a person who doesn’t bother to click on videos, you have got to check out How Does the Internet Work in the newest of an edition of the free Genealogy Gems Podcast email newsletter.
Read Lisa’s blog post: Money Growing on Trees: Ancestry Buying and Selling
While the world’s largest online family history resource, Ancestry.com, awaits a possible buyout, they are keeping busy buying other companies. Reuters reported that Permira Advisers LLP has emerged as the front-runner to take Ancestry private in a deal that could exceed $1.5 billion. (Read more about the possible acquisition at PEHUB)
Ancestry also released the following press release about the company’s latest acquisition, San Francisco based 1000Memories. You can learn more about 1000 Memories by listening to my interview with Michael Katchen, Director of Business Development at 1000Memories in Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 119.
Learn more about using Google Books for genealogy in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.
New Premium Episode 92
Old maps can tell us a lot more than just where our ancestors lived: They put events into geographic context, reveal surprising genealogical clues, and can be incorporated into Google Earth for analysis and storytelling.
In the newest episode (#92) of the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast I’ll tell you about a terrific example of a website that has set the goal of have every image they possess (allowable by copyright) digitized and on their website by early 2013
I’m also going to tell you about something pretty shocking that happened to me recently while speaking at an international genealogy conference. I was really taken by surprise, and received some unexpected questions. I will share those with you as well as some solid answers.
It’s another packed episode. If you are a member sign in now to start listening. Become a Member today.
Stephanie also wrote in with an opinion about Ancestry Trees
“So here are my “2 bits”. I am new to all this and honestly never considered my public tree as published. I have used the Ancestry tree as a if were my workbook, just as if it were a software package like Roots Magic. Because I consider it a workbook I add names as I find them and work the family as a group to document the information AFTER I add them. It simply never occurred to me that others would see this as complete, documented information. I have kept my tree open since I want to be open to contacts. When I see hints from other trees I simply avoid the un-sourced ones. The Ancestry hints have moved me along much faster than I ever could have before. I truly hope others who get angry could see my point of view. Thank you so much for teaching us, you have made this journey so much more enjoyable and effective!!!”
From Loretta: Ancestry Trees
“I’ve had a little different reaction towards the “polluted” online trees… sarcasm. At the beginning of the year I started a blog, Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I post on Tuesdays and Fridays. Both days could be considered tips for beginners but Tuesdays are examples of what NOT to do. All the examples are actual online trees and because of the propensity of newbies to mindlessly copy other trees most examples are not just on ONE tree. It makes for a lot of head meets desk moments but I’m enjoying it. Hope you and some of your listeners will too.”
Ricky in Birmingham, Alabama asks about citing sources and paper and file organization
GEM: New Family History Bloggers
Family History blogging is hotter than ever and the ideal way to get your research out on the web where others working on the same family lines can find you through Google searches! Many of you have been taking advantage of free blogging services like Blogger at Mom Cooke’s nagging here on the podcast, and reaping some rewards. So let me highlight a few listeners who have turned in their “Round To It” for a “Gitter Done!”
First up is David Lynch who started a blog on his St. Croix research
“I recently started in my genealogy and find your show both entertaining and helpful. My 200 Years in Paradise
The reason I’m writing is that sometimes we forget that the world wasn’t homogeneous throughout the 1800s. Right now, I’m writing a series on illegitimate births on the island of St. Croix from 1841-1934. From my research, it seems that over 77% of the children born were to unmarried households. Typically they formed stable family units, but just didn’t marry. In fact, in my personal family history, I have a set of ancestors who had 16 children and got married after their 12th child was born. In the US at the same time, only about 4% of the children were illegitimate.”
Jennifer shares her blog
“Just wanted you to know that I’ve started my own blog, based largely on the encouragement in your podcasts. What appealed to me was that it’s a medium where I can share information, but not in a way that’s an online family tree. This will prevent readers from copying and pasting family tree branches, without slowing down to learn some context. It also allows me a forum to correct some gigantic errors floating around out there about my ancestors. I finally woke up to the fact that I’ve moved to the head of the line in the experience department. I’ve placed a lot of tags on the entries, so the information is easily located in Google.” http://jenongen.blogspot.com/
Sonja Hunter wrote in to share her blogging success
First, I would like to thank you for putting together your podcasts!…I only became a listener about a year ago, but have been working my way through old Genealogy Gems podcasts as well as the Genealogy Made Easy podcasts, mostly while gardening.
I also wanted to let you know you inspired me to start blogging. I rang in the New Year by starting a blog about doing genealogy in my hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. One primary goal is to highlight helpful area resources. I imagine this will be most helpful to those new to conducting family history research in the area.
In addition, I am trying to include Kalamazoo area or Michigan history items that I think are interesting. One example is an article I found in the local paper describing what Kalamazooans from 1884 imagined life would be like in 1984. I’ve also written about poisonous cheese in the 1880s, diphtheria and the case of my gg-grandfather’s brother-in-law who may or may not have committed suicide by slitting his throat. I consulted Paula Sassi for that case and plan to blog about her handwriting analysis in the future.
Thank you for inspiring me to embark on this project! I’m learning a lot. And keep up the good and valuable work you do on your podcasts!
From John in Maryland:
“I want to thank you again for everything you do to inspire people to be enthusiastic about their family history. I learn so many “Gems” within all of your resources and put many of them to practice. You are the family history “Go-To” person in my book. I recently started a blog for the primary reason of documenting my findings so that I wouldn’t forget what I’ve been discovering. The blog also appears to be a good way to share my success stories with others that may be interested. I credit you for introducing the idea of using a blog in Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast. When I first listened to the podcasts about blogs, I didn’t think it was something that was applicable to me, as I felt I had no new information to share with others since many experts like yourself already handle this. However, I’m giving it a try and enjoy it so far. I really like how I’m able to place images within the text to help convey my information.”
And finally Shannon Bennett has really made a blogging splash. She writes:
“I have been hemming and hawing on writing to you and finally took the plunge to do it. Last spring a friend of mine told me about your podcasts (yes all of them) since I had just started into family research. She thought I would like it, and boy was she right! I have taken you on my iPod to drop my kids off to school and pick them up again, cleaned house, grocery shopping as well as everywhere in between. The wealth of information I have gathered from your podcasts have been very helpful, and I have loved all the interviews and tid-bits that have come along the way as well. There is no way that I could just pick one out of so many to be my all-time favorite. Maybe a top 10 list would cover it.
However, I do have to blame you for the latest adventure in my life, which is why I am writing. Listening to you tell us, in almost every episode, about the importance of having a family blog finally sank in. The first couple of times I heard you say it I thought to myself “there’s no way I would/could ever do such a thing, I barely have time to keep up with my Live Journal account.” A few weeks went by and the thoughts began to change to “hmmm…maybe I could do this.” Then after 4 months of thinking about it I started to do some research into how to run a successful blog.”
Shannon took the plunge and applied to Family Tree University to write for their Family Firsts Blog. “I come to find out that they are looking for their second blogger. I sat…I thought…I clicked the application button. Yes, on a whim I entered because I thought I had nothing to lose. You see I never win these types of things.
A month goes by, and I have given into the feeling that well it was a good try but of course I didn’t get it.…then later on that week I find out I won it!
So thank you, I never would have entered let alone thought about creating my own blog less than a year into my family research, without you and your wonderful podcasts.”
Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”
“I lost my photos on my phone!!”
This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.
“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”
That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.
Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan
I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.
First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!
Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.
One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:
Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.
1. Take the photograph
2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app
3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)
4. Tap Done to close the editor
5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox
6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save
However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.
Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.
Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan. Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.
Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.
Amie’s Response to the Plan
I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:
“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”
Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device
When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.
One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.
I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.
Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy
Here’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.
Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.
Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.
More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy