United States Colored Troops (USCT) Service Records Digitization Project

Here’s the latest from the National Archives:

National Archives Marks 150th Anniversary of U.S. Colored Troops

Sic semper tyrannis - 22th Regt. U.S. Colored Troops, 1864. Bowser, David Bustill, 1820-1900 , artist

Sic semper tyrannis – 22th Regt. U.S. Colored Troops, 1864. Bowser, David Bustill, 1820-1900 , artist

Washington, DC. . . Marking (the) 150th anniversary of its creation, the National Archives announces the completion of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Service Records Digitization Project, in partnership with Fold3.  For the first time, this collection – nearly four million images of historic documents with detailed information on former slaves – is available online to anyone, anywhere.

On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army.  These service records – including those of the men of the famed 54th Massachusetts Infantry featured in the movie Glory – are a treasure trove for genealogists and a rich source of documentation on the black experience in America during the Civil War.

Researchers may be surprised to find that the USCT military service records hold not only muster rolls but also a huge array of personal papers that can include enlistment papers, correspondence, orders, prisoner-of-war memorandums, casualty reports, and final statements.  Starting in October 1863, slave owners could enlist their slaves and receive up to $300 upon filing a “manumission” or deed of ownership.  Unique to some of the records of the USCT are these deeds of manumission and bills of sale.  For genealogists, these records may offer the only source of documentation of an enslaved ancestor in the absence of other vital records.

For the first time, these valuable historical records are available online, thanks to Fold3, and to National Archives staff and volunteers who spent years preparing, preserving, microfilming, and digitizing them.  The collection is available free of charge to non-subscribers on www.fold3.com/category_268 today through May 31, and can be accessed for free at any time on computers at National Archives research facilities nationwide.

In total, the USCT consisted of seven cavalry regiments; 13 artillery regiments plus one independent battery; 144 infantry units; two Brigade Bands; and other miscellaneous smaller units.  Records are arranged by regiment and then alphabetically by surname of the soldier.

The USCT fought in 39 major engagements and more than 400 other ones.  Sixteen African American soldiers received the Medal of Honor.  The last USCT regiment was mustered out of Federal service in December 1867.

One soldier chronicled in the records is Edmund Delaney, a slave who served in Company E of the 117th USCT Infantry.  Delaney was 25 years old when he enlisted in August 1864.  His owner, Harvey C. Graves of Georgetown, Kentucky, filed a compensation claim for Delaney’s military service in December 1866, stating that Delaney was “purchased at private sale when he was quite a small boy.”  Graves attached to his “proof of ownership” a rare photo of Delaney, and letters Delaney had written to him while serving in Brownsville, Texas.

Another soldier’s file reads like an ultimate page turner and details the tragic story of Fortune Wright, a free black man before the Civil War who served in the 96th USCT Infantry.  Read USCT project manager Jackie Budell’s fascinating Prologue “Pieces of History” blog post.

More information:

MyHeritage 10 “Don’t Miss” Features You Need

I’m going to share with you my 10 “DON’T MISS!” features of MyHeritage. If you don’t currently use the site, this is your chance to see what it can do for you. If you do use it, let me introduce you to some of the GEMS you should be using. Scroll down to watch the video replay and get the show notes.

Watch Episode 63 

 

10 best reasons to use MyHeritage

Video & show notes below

Episode 63 Show Notes 

10 Awesome MyHeritage Features You May be Missing:

1. Instant Discoveries

Want to get started fast? After you add what you know about your family, you can start taking advantage of instant discoveries. You’ll find Instant Discoveries in the menu: Discoveries > Instant Discoveries.

There are three types of Discoveries:

  • All Discoveries
  • Person Discoveries
  • Photo Discoveries

I particularly like Photo Discoveries:

  • Finds photos of people in your tree
  • Consolidates into packages of up to 10 photos from different family sites.
  • Photos will originate only from family sites where the privacy setting for allowing photos to be copied from Smart Matches™ is enabled.

Click the View Discovery button for a batch of photo discoveries. Click “View original photo” to see a larger version and who else is tagged in it. By default, all photos in a Photo Discovery will be
copied to your tree when you add the discovery. Exclude specific photos by clicking the checkmark to deselect it.  Click Add to add all selected photos to your tree. 

To reject a Photo Discovery, click Reject this Discovery at the bottom of the list of photos.
Rejected discoveries will not be offered again. After applying a discovery, your tree will change,
and new discoveries will need to be recalculated (up to 24 hours.) Unlike SmartMatches, once a person or photo discovery is added, you can’t “undo”. You’ll need to remove them manually.

PremiumPlus and Complete subscribers have access to unlimited Discoveries.

2. Tree Consistency Checker

No tree is perfect! That’s why MyHeritage provides this handy tool that accelerates your ability to find and correct problems.

You’ll find the Tree Consistency Checker in the menu under My Family Tree > Consistency Checker.

MyHeritage’s Consistency Checker flags three types of issues:

  • Errors: Obviously incorrect. (red triangle icon)
  • Warnings: Possible but unlikely. (orange circle icon)
  • Notices: Maybe OK but worth a look. (grey square icon)

To adjust what the tool searches for, click the gear icon to change the settings. The Consistency Checker searches for 37 types of issues. Make adjustments as desired.

As you review the found issues, you can:

  • dismiss individual issues
  • hide issues
  • dismiss checking for this issue.

3. U.S. Yearbooks

After starting with what you know, the next logical and honestly one of the most fun record to go after is yearbooks! MyHeritage has over 250,000 yearbooks. To find the yearbook collection, go to the menu Research > Collection Catalog > U.S. Yearbooks Name Index, 1890-1979. To find even more school related records head the to grey column on the left side of the page and click School & Universities.

Description from MyHeritage: “This collection contains almost 290 million records…A student or faculty member often appears in a yearbook several times. Part of the work conducted to produce this collection merges all occurrences of the same name in a yearbook into one record with references to the pages where the person is mentioned. Records in this collection will list the person’s name, often their gender, school’s name and location, and likely residence based on the location of the school. Additional work was done to identify the grade of the students to be able to infer their age and an estimated year of birth for some of the records.

The same person will often occur in previous or subsequent editions of the same yearbook and these related yearbooks are presented at the bottom of the individual’s record – to assist the researcher in finding other books where their person of interest might be found.

This collection is a name index produced by MyHeritage from the U.S. Yearbooks, 1890-1979 collection and is based on the same set of yearbooks…In case you didn’t find what you were looking for, we encourage you to check out the U.S Yearbooks 1890-1979 collection to search the entire free-text index of this amazing collection.”

Yearbook Search Tips:

  • Review the entire yearbook carefully for handwritten notes.
  • Look for people in their social circle.
  • Take a look at the Advertisers
  • Keep in mind that yearbook content had to be submitted early, often by early spring. Events occurring after that may be missing.
  • Copyright: “Most yearbooks are NOT covered by U.S. copyright laws. Yearbooks published before 1963 and without a copyright notice (©) are not covered by copyright restrictions.” (MyHeritage Knowledge Base)

5. U.S. City Directories

In the menu: Collection Catalog > U.S. City Directories

561,503,516 records in 25,468 directories

Description of the collection from MyHeritage: “City directories contain an alphabetical list of adult residents and heads of household, often with their spouse, with addresses and occupations and additional information. This collection is a huge genealogical compilation from 25,468 city directories published in 1860-1960 across the United States, created exclusively by MyHeritage using advanced machine learning technologies developed specifically for this purpose.”

“City directories, like census records, contain information that helps genealogists establish residences, occupations, and relationships between individuals. The added benefit of city directories is that they were published annually in many cities and towns throughout the United States.”

MyHeritage says that this collection will be updated soon to include pre-1860 directories as well as a large and unique set of directories published after 1960.

Snagit

In the video I showed you how I use Snagit to capture clippings. Learn more by watching episode 61.  Get SnagIt here

snagit tutorial for beginners

Watch this video to learn how I use SnagIt.

5. Family Statistics

There’s a ton of data in your family tree, and MyHeritage has the tech tools to help you see it in many forms. One of the coolest and most fun is Family Statistics. You’ll find it in the menu under Home > Family Statistics. Here you’ll find stats on:

  • Gender
  • Living or Deceased
  • Marriage Status
  • Common Last Names
  • Common First Names – Male
  • Common First Names – Female
  • Places of Birth
  • Places of Death
  • Places of Residence
  • Age Distribution
  • Average Life Expectancy
  • Oldest Living People
  • Youngest People
  • Lived the longest
  • Lived the shortest
  • Birth Months
  • Zodiac Signs
  • When Were People Born

 6. MyHeritage PedigreeMap™

PedigreeMap™ is a free feature on MyHeritage. It allows you to visualize and navigate information found in the Place field of the ancestors in your family tree from a geographic perspective. You’ll find PedigreeMap in the menu under Family Tree > More > PedigreeMap.

 Use MyHeritage’s PedigreeMap to help identify errors and migration patterns over time.

At the center of the PedigreeMap screen, you’ll see a map of the world with circles indicating the locations listed in your family tree.

  • Gray circles = aggregations of locations in the same country or state
  • Orange circles = specific locations

To the left of the map you’ll see your ancestral places in list form, sorted by the number of references in your tree and grouped by country or state. By default, PedigreeMap™ will display places associated with your extended family, with you as the central person. In the field where you as the central person are name, type in the name of any family member to change the view to focus on them. Then use the filtering options in the bar at the top of the map to change which groups of people in your tree are displayed (ancestors, descendants, etc.)Click the funnel icon for even more filtering controls.

PedigreeMap™ Top Tips:

  • Click Heat Map in the bottom right corner. This displays concentration areas for your family. It is especially useful when combined with filtering by year and type.
  • Click Not Found in the list on the left to quickly find family members who need Place information added.
  • Look for grey exclamation marks which indicate that the place name needs more clarification.
  • Because PedigreeMap™ is based on Google Maps, it can be best to use the current country so you can accurately locate it on the map. For example, you could list the country as “Poland (formerly East Prussia).”

7. MyHeritage Relationship Report

Have you ever found a person in your family tree and lost track of how you are related to them? MyHeritage’s Relationship Report makes it quick and easy to visualize your connection to any person in your tree. In fact, it will show you the relationship between any two people in your tree.

You’ll find the Relationship Report in the menu under Family Tree > More > Relationship Report. Simply enter the names of the two people and click the Display Relationship button. Change the detail drop down menu to show the amount of detail you want.

8. Confirm or reject a Theory of Family Relativity™

The Theory of Family Relativity ™   helps provide theories about how you and your DNA matches might be related by incorporating genealogical information from MyHeritage’s records and family trees. Of course, some theories might not be accurate.

Until recently, you didn’t have the option to confirm or reject theories. Now you can review theories, marking the ones you have already processed so the new ones are easier to notice.

Status Options: Pending, confirm, or reject. 

Go to the DNA Matches page and use the filters to see only those DNA Matches that have a Theory of Family Relativity™.

 Theories can be confirmed or rejected in two places:

  • Review DNA Match page, which includes a summarized view of the theory.

2) Full theory view.

In the list of DNA Matches, once you’ve confirmed a theory, it will be displayed in the DNA Match card. Change your mind? Click View theory and then undo your confirmation or rejection, returning the theory to pending status.

Learn more about DNA at MyHeritage. Watch episode 42 on Genetic Groups at MyHeritage.

9. MyHeritage Photo Tools

Some of the most exciting advances coming from MyHeritage recently have been in the area of family photos. Currently they offer three outstanding tools:

  • Photo Enhancement
  • Photo Colorization
  • Animation

You try them a few times for free. Complete plan subscribers get unlimited usage. You will find the photo enhancement tool in the menu under Family tree > Enhance Photos. It works much the same way as colorizing your photos.  

Use the Comments section under the photo to share information and collaborate with others.

How to colorize a photo at MyHeritage: Under Family Tree in the menu select Colorize Photo. Click the Upload photo button and select a photo from your computer. You can drag and drop it onto the screen. In a few seconds your colorized photo is ready.

After colorizing your photo you can:

  • Share the colorized photo to Facebook
  • Share to Twitter
  • Copy link to clipboard
  • Download the photo

Go back to your photos and click the photo. You can compare the before and after. You can click to view the photo full size and use the zoom tool for an even closer look. Click the edit icon to edit the photo title, date, and place. Click Apply to save the changes. You can also make manual adjustments to the colorization.

Animate photos: You can upload a photo by going to the menu: Photos > Animate Photos.  If you plan on enhancing or colorizing the photo do that first. Then from the photo page click the Animate button for that image. Currently you can animate one face at a time in a group photo. Closeup faces animate better than smaller faces in a bigger photo. Once the animation has processed you in the animation window, you can download the video or select different types of animations.

Photo Tools as Research Tools: Sometimes colorizing and enhancing your photos can help you spot more information in the photograph than was originally visible. You can colorize both photos and documents to improve clarity, readability, and visibility.

Learn more about photos at MyHeritage: Watch Lisa’s video Fabulous Photo Discoveries at MyHeritage

10. Commitment to Privacy

MyHeritage recently published the following announcement about their commitment to privacy:

“Earlier this year, prior to MyHeritage’s acquisition by leading private equity firm Francisco Partners, we issued a press release in which we promised to expand MyHeritage’s strong privacy framework for the benefit of our users.

The current updates to our Privacy Policy fulfill this promise. The highlight of the updates is the unequivocal commitment not to license or sell genetic data to any third party. This is highly unique among the larger genealogy and consumer DNA industry…”

Read the updated Privacy Policy

Resources

These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Click to learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

 

 

MyHeritage App Ranks in Top 100–and Gets A Redesign

MyHeritage app updateThe MyHeritage app is growing in popularity around the world, and it’s got a fresh new update!

A “completely redesigned version of our mobile app for iOS and Android” is now available, says Chief Genealogist Daniel Horowitz. “The enhanced app enables families around the world to build their family tree, instantly discover ancestors and relatives, and preserve and share their legacy, all with a better looking and more intuitive interface.” Download the free app here: iOS and Android.

The mobile app is increasingly popular around the world, says Daniel. “So far more than 4 million people have downloaded the MyHeritage app, and its usage is growing worldwide. Within the last 3 months, the MyHeritage app for Android has ranked in the top 100 apps in its category on Google Play in 40 countries. In addition it is currently ranked in the top 5 apps in its category in Denmark and Norway in both Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

“The Android version was recently selected by Google as a ‘featured app’ in more than 100 countries, making MyHeritage the first company in the family history industry to receive such recognition.” Watch the video below about the redesigned app:

how to start a genealogy blogClick here to see why we partner with MyHeritage here at Genealogy Gems. Want to learn about more various genealogy apps? Go to our home page and, from the category list on the left, select “apps.”

The Royal Irish Constabulary Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

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.

dig these new record collections

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:

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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:

  • Name
  • 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.

How to Find German Villages for Family History

Show Notes & Video: Finding your German ancestor’s village is key to finding the genealogical records you need to go further back in your family tree. In this session you’ll learn:

  • How and why it is important to know the “Heimat” because many records are kept on the local level.
  • How to de garble a village name that is handed down to you (a common problem!) 
  • Records to search for village names.
  • Resources for finding those records. 

My guest presenter is James Beidler. He’s an expert on German genealogy and was gracious enough to share his expertise in the Genealogy Gems booth at Rootstech a few years ago. Visit James Beidler’s website.  Get the book: The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany. (Thank you for using our affiliate link which supports this free content.)

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Researching your ancestors deep into Germany simply doesn’t happen unless you know the name of the village of origin. This presentation goes over the sources to tie your immigrant to a Heimat and then find the village and its records! HIghlighted in this article are the strategies and resources referred to in this video. 

German Methodologies Review:

Your first job is to find every document of the immigrant ancestor or that mentions the immigrant ancestor:

  • Prepare for surname variants
  • “Redundancy” is a virtue (e.g., obit may well have something tombstone does not)
  • Even items such as letters and diaries might give clues!
  • Be prepared for village names to be corrupted
  • Familiarize yourself with German maps / gazetteers
  • Look for “patterns of association” with other individuals
  • Process any piece of information that might distinguish the immigrant (e.g., occupation, names of other family members, etc.)

Utilize “whole family” genealogy

  • If specific records don’t exist for your ancestor, try others in family

Look for published sources

  • 1700s families: Burgert / Jones / Yoder / Hacker
  • 1800s families: Burkett / Germans to America / Emigration indexes

Search International Genealogical Index

Search for:

  • References to individual
  • References to clusters of the surname if it is not common
  • References to shipmates
  • References to “associated persons”

Look for other sources of immigrant information:

  • Heitmatstelle Pfalz immigrant card file
  • Hamburg embarkation lists
  • German phonebooks
  • Google searches

Use the “concentric circles” strategy

  • If a village is found for the above categories of people (surname, shipmates, associated persons) but your immigrant is not found …
  • … work out from that village in “concentric circles” to other surrounding villages

“Things found on the way to something else”

  • Machmer / Magemer / Mahomer example
  • Never turn away luck!

Types of records that might yield a place of origin:

  • Naturalizations
    Declarations of intent (“first papers”) Naturalization petitions (“final papers”)
  • Baptisms of children
  • Marriage Records
  • Church burial records
  • Tombstone
  • Obituaries
  • U.S. Census
  • Family Bibles
  • Family Registers
  • Fraternal societies’ records
  • Enlistment papers
  • Discharge Papers
  • Pension documents
  • Letters from relatives
  • Postmarks on letters

Internet Websites Resources for German Research

The resources listed below can help us answer some of the most common questions we ask as genealogists. Some examples of the questions and Websites that will help:

1. What was the village of origin for my German-speaking immigrant ancestor?

Baden-Wuerttemberg 

Brandenburg: Frankfurt an der Oder 

Bremen Passenger Lists, 1920-39 

Brunswick, 1846-1871 

Mecklenburg (Institute for Migration and Ancestral Research) 

Niedersaechsen

Northern Friesland (search Friesland)

Rhein emigrants 

Schleswig-Holstein 1800s 

Westphalia emigration lists 

2. How can I help untangle the garbled name of a village of origin?

Meyers Gazetteer online 

Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein 1883 

GOV Genealogical Gazetteer (part of Genealogy.net supersite) 

Comprehensive gazetteer of German places east of the Oder and Neisse rivers 

3. How can I get in contact with possible relatives from my ancestor’s village of origin?

Das Telefonbuch (German telephone directory)

German National Tourist Board 

(Also – Google names of villages and find out which local tourist board the village is a part of – e-mail directly to them)

4. How can I find out about German archives?

FamilySearch wikifor guides to Germany and its component states 

Archivschule Marburg Portal D (list of archives) 

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

 

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