Why Abraham Lincoln is a Genealogy Gem: 150 Years Ago Today

We just celebrated the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s now famous speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg Cemetery, a national

Battery B East Hill cemetary Gettysburg

Battery B, East Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg, Pa, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. Wikimedia Commons Image.

cemetery created at the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

Presidents give a lot of speeches–and most are never remembered. But the Gettysburg Address, as it came to be known, was immediately appreciated as something special. The press described it as “a perfect gem…unexpected in its verbal perfection and beauty.”

150 years ago today The Caledonian newspaper reprinted the entire speech. (Don’t stop there: you can read high-resolution digital versions of all five of Lincoln’s handwritten copies of the address and learn all kinds of things about the Address at the Google Cultural Institute.

The Gettysburg Address is part of the genealogy of every American whose ancestors lived through the Civil War. Few were unaffected by the War, whether they lived in the North, South or further West. Certainly its tensions and outcomes shaped the nation’s economy, social mores and more for decades to come.

Life-shaping battles and other events–and responses to them like the Gettysburg Address–appear in newspapers. That’s why I love teaching genealogists about using newspapers, and why I wrote the book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. The “daily news” of the past tells us what people were doing and saying and why.

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Second editionIf you’re wondering what the Google Cultural Institute (GCI) is, you’re not alone. It’s a less-heralded but really important part of what Google offers. The GCI is a Google effort launched in 2011 to “make important cultural material available and accessible to everyone and to digitally preserve it to educate and inspire future generations.” (From GCI FAQ.) As of mid-2013, over 6 million photos, videos and documents are on the site, including all kinds of international cultural materials. If you haven’t explored the many Google tools helpful to genealogists, I suggest you read my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. Either of these books will make a great holiday gift to yourself–and your research!

Technology United These Long-Lost Siblings 90 Years Ago!

radioIt’s common to hear of long-lost relatives who rediscover each other online or through DNA tests. But nearly 100 years ago, another new technology–the radio–united a pair of long-lost siblings 40 years after one ran away.

This newspaper article reports that Alonso Jones’ children were sitting around one day in 1926 listening to the radio. Then they heard the announcer say, “Alonso Jones, wherever you are, listen…Your sister wants to see you at Worthington, Ohio. She has not seen or heard from you in forty years. You were born at Antiquity, Meigs County, Ohio, at the time of the Civil War….”

“You were reared by Captain William Roberts, an Ohio River flat boat man. You went with him on a produce boat when you were a boy and ran away while the boat was lying at the bank in Arkansas.” The article reports that the man telegraphed his sister and arranged to meet her.  What a great story! And what a great family history find for anyone researching Alonso Jones or his sister, Mrs. Robert Eakin, or his guardian, William Roberts!

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at Ancestry.com.

Salt Lake Tribune, January 1, 1926, p. 1. Digitized at Ancestry.com.

This article illustrates two fantastic tips for newspaper searching.

FIRST, I originally found this article in the Salt Lake Tribune, digitized at Ancestry. I was struck because the story was about people from Ohio and Arkansas–not Salt Lake. As we still see today, local news stories of the past were often reported in other cities. When searching digitized newspapers, don’t automatically discount search results that otherwise seem right but appear in out-of-town papers. 

SECOND, curious about this story, I used Lisa’s search strategies from her book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox to search for more information about the people mentioned in the article. I got a hit on a possible match for the riverboat caption. I also found that the Google News Archive had this same article in The Evening Independent in St. Petersburg, Florida (shown above). The copy above is much clearer to read and slightly different. For these reasons, it can sometimes be worth looking for duplicates of news articles and/or obituaries for your relatives.

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersWant to learn more? Genealogy Gems Premium members can also listen to Premium podcast episodes GGP 36 and 3GGP 37 about newspaper searching (Lisa talks about Google News Archive in episode 37). Or get the ultimate scoop in How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers! It’s packed with inspiring family history finds in the newspaper and all the tools you need (online and offline) for finding your own.

A New Place to Look for Your Immigrant Ancestor’s Passenger List

S. MacMillen monument Scottish

By S.MacMillen (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Been looking for an immigrant ancestor to the United States? See if they’re among the nearly 3 million passengers to Boston or the nearly 850,000 passengers to Philadelphia recently added to FamilySearch.org.

The time period covered by these indexes includes an enormous wave of immigrants, mostly from southern and Eastern Europe. Italians, Portuguese, Russians (including Jews), Poles, Slavs and more entered the U.S. by the millions. Record content varies, but may include ports of departure and entry, age, birthplace, gender, marital status, occupation, citizenship or last country of resident, contact information for loved ones in the Old World or in the U.S., intended destination, and even a physical description. Images of the actual record can be viewed.

Also new at FamilySearch are nearly 1.5 million indexed records from the Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005, collection and over half a million indexed records from the Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895, collection. See the table below for the full list of updates. Search these diverse collections and more than 3.5 billion other records for free at FamilySearch.org.

Collection

Indexed Records

Digital Images

Comments

England, Lancashire, Cheshire, Yorkshire, Parish Registers, 1603-1910 35,896 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg, Eberswalde, City Directories, 1890-1919 0 2,836 New browsable image collection.
Hungary Catholic Church Records, 1636-1895 572,243 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Mexico, Distrito Federal, Civil Registration, 1832-2005 1,452,770 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Netherlands, Limburg Province, Church Records, 1542-1910 0 131,396 New browsable image collection.
Russia, Samara Church Books, 1869-1917 88,149 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
Ukraine, Kyiv Orthodox Consistory Church Book Duplicates, 1840-1845 129,110 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Florida, Marriages, 1830-1993 1,012,025 720,622 Added indexed records and images to an existing collection.
U.S., Iowa, State Census, 1905 1,445,414 0 New indexed record collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, Boston Passenger Lists, 1891-1943 2,829,077 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Massachusetts, State Vital Records, 1841-1920 755,766 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.
U.S., Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1883-1945 874,690 0 Added indexed records to an existing collection.

New Videos Can Help You Find African-American Family History in Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has posted a series of new videos aimed at helping people trace their African-American family history with Freedmen’s Bureau records.

Marriage records created by the Freedmens' Bureau. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

FamilySearch’s YouTube channel has published several new videos to help researchers better understand how to trace African-American ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau records. As we explain more fully in this article, the Freedmen’s Bureau was organized after the Civil War to aid newly-freed slaves in 15 states and Washington, DC. For several years it gathered “handwritten, personal information on freed men, women and children, including marriage and family information, military service, banking, school, hospital and property records,” according to FamilySearch.

Freedmen’s Bureau records are finally being fully indexed and posted online for free at FamilySearch and at DiscoverFreedmen.org. (Read the article we refer to above to see how you can help.) Now it’s time to teach everyone how to USE these records and to begin to share success stories. That’s the purpose behind these videos:

Telling a Story with the Freedmen’s Bureau with the Reverend Dr. Cecil L. Murray:

Research the Records of African-American Ancestors with the Freedmen’s Bureau with Kimberly Freeman:


Uncover Information about your African American Heritage wih the Freedmen’s Bureau with Judy Matthews:

Discover Stories from Your Ancestry with Insights from the Freedmen’s Bureau Project with John Huffman:

Use Freedmen’s Bureau Records to Demystify Your Family History with George O. Davis

Enrich Your Family History with Information from the Freedmen’s Bureau with Ambassador Diane Watson

Additional Resources

Free Database on Civil War Soldiers and Sailors  (African-American sailors)

Missing Birth Record? Here’s How to Track It Down (Special tip for African-American births)

DNA Helps Scientists Identify Homeland of Caribbean Slaves

New! Map for Freedmen’s Bureau Resources

Who do you know that will want to learn more about the Freedmen’s Bureau and African-American family history resources? Thank you for sharing this article with them.

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