Originally published 2009
Republished January 14, 2014
Download the Show Notes for this Episode
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 14: How to Contact Long Lost Relatives
Connecting with someone who knows about our ancestors can really boost our research results—and even create new relationships among living kin. But it’s not always easy to send that first email or make that first call.
In today’s episode we talk about the skill of “genealogical cold calling.” We’ll chat with my cousin, Carolyn Ender, who has conducted hundreds of telephone interviews. She has a knack for quickly connecting with folks she doesn’t know over the telephone in ways that put them at ease and bring to light the information that she’s looking for.
But first, we do some follow up with an email from a listener about family trees. Then, I share a little story that puts into practice what we’ve learned so far in this podcast series.
This week the entire Genealogy Gems team is heading to Dallas to present a two day event at the Dallas Public Library. With Lisa, Sunny and Diahan so busy, I’ve decided to take the reins this week and bring you a roundup of my favorite genealogy records of 2017! This compilation includes collections that are new, updated, and just plain fun! I’ve really enjoyed digging back into these and finding new genealogy gems. And I’d love to know: what exciting and helpful collections have you been using this year? Please share in the comments below!
The Catholic Heritage Collection at Findmypast
In February of 2017, Findmypast announced the new Catholic Heritage Archive. Roman Catholic Church genealogical records go back centuries and are meticulously preserved, but difficult to obtain for the general public. Findmypast partnered with British and American Archdioceses to bring up to 100 million Catholic Church records online. Millions are available to search online now, and more will continue to be added.
English Roman Catholic Records
Irish Roman Catholic Records
Scottish Roman Catholic Records
United States & Canada Roman Catholic Records
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps at the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress has put online nearly 25,000 additional Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps–and more are coming! Over the next three years, more will be added monthly until all 50 states are covered from the 1880s through the 1960s. This is definitely a collection to keep an eye on!
Sanborn maps show detailed information about neighborhoods, buildings, roads and more for thousands of towns in the U.S. and beyond. A sizable collection of pre-1900 Sanborn maps are already online at the Library of Congress (use the above link). Watch the short video below to learn more about them. The full length class is available to Genealogy Gems Premium Members.
Click here to learn more about how to use this outstanding online collection.
WWI Centennial – Free Records at FamilySearch
2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, and there was a wealth of records and historical resources featured online. I’m highlighting the collection of millions of WWI records available for free at FamilySearch.org, because who doesn’t love free?!
United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918
California, San Francisco, World War I Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits, 1918
Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917–1920
Maine, World War I Draft Registration Index, 1917–1919
North Carolina, World War I Service Cards, 1917–1919
Texas, World War I Records, 1917–1920
United States Index to Naturalizations of World War I Soldiers, 1918
United States, YMCA World War I Service Cards, 1917–1919
Italian Civil Records at FamilySearch
Back in March, FamilySearch added to their unique collection of Italian genealogy records. Five specific locales in Italy have Civil Registration records online. Civil registrations include such things as births, marriages, and deaths. They can also include marriage banns and ten-year indexes. Of course, availability of records will depend on the time period and the location. In some cases, this collection goes back as far as the 15th century!
Italy, Viterbo, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1870-1943
Italy, Mantova, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1496-1906
Italy, Grosseto, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1851-1907
Italy, Rieti, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1840-1945
Italy, Enna, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1866-1944
Learn more about Italian genealogy: In the video below, Lisa sits down with Mary Tedesco of Genealogy Roadshow (on PBS in the US) and talks about doing the TV show, and her tips for conducting Italian genealogy research. This is just one of the many genealogy videos on our Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel.
New England Vital Records
Millions of New England vital records became available online in May of this year, dating back as far as the 17th century. Collections are highlighted below:
Connecticut. More than 755,000 indexed names added to FamilySearch.org’s free collection, Connecticut Marriages, 1640-1939.
Maine. FamilySearch.org added nearly a half million indexed names to its collection of Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921.
Massachusetts: New images have been added to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s collection for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, 1789-1900: Immaculate Conception (Salem), St. Mary (Salem), and Sacred Heart (Roslindale).
Rhode Island. FamilySearch added over a half million new indexed names and 30,000 digital images to its free collection, Rhode Island – Vital records. These are described as “Certificates and registers of births, 1846-1898, 1901-1903, marriages 1901-1903 and deaths, 1901-1953 acquired from the State Archives in Providence.”
British Emigration Records at Findmypast
We often talk about immigration, with an I, but have you researched your ancestors emigration records with an E? The 1600s saw a boom in British emigration, and Findmypast has curated several fascinating collections:
Early emigration from Britain 1636-1815 is a collection from Findmypast containing over 21,000 records that allow you to learn if your ancestors left Britain for North America or the West Indies. The collection includes 10 pieces from The National Archives including colonial papers, general entry books, passenger registers, and weekly immigration returns.
Britain, early emigration to Barbados centers on your British ancestors who left for a settlement in Barbados between 1678 and 1715. With over 20,000 assorted documents, this collection includes baptisms, burials, censuses, landowner lists, and more.
Britain, Royal African Company, 1694-1743 is a collection of over 55,000 records to uncover the details of those on board the Royal African Company’s ships to and from Africa as well as the names of those who lived and died at company forts. These Findmypast records came from The National Archives T 70 series, Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa and Successors.
Click here to learn more about researching and working with emigration records.
…and just for fun…
Sydney, Australia – 19th Century Complaint Letters
When I saw this collection, I was totally tickled! I would love to find an ancestor’s complaint letter, as a window into their daily life and surrounding neighbors.
Over 56,000 letters written by residents to the City of Sydney in the latter part of the 1800s have been digitized and added to the City of Sydney Archive online. A city historian quoted at the Daily Telegraph.com said people’s complaints “range from the mundane to the bizarre,” such as “foul smells, night time noise, stray farm animals and smoke billowing from homes and blacksmiths’ forges.” This same online city archive also hosts a collection of historical photographs, a full run of Sands directories, postal directories, and other resources for researching your house history. Find this collection by clicking Archives Investigator and then “Letters Received by Council, 1843-1899.”
If you want to see what other records we’ve covered, there’s any easy way to narrow down to your specific ancestors! Visit our home page at www.GenealogyGems.com, and select a category from the drop-down menu on the left:
You can choose categories like Canadian, German, Irish, African-American, Australian, and more. You’ll receive of list of every article where that topic was featured or included. This is a super easy way to find new records collections for any area you’re currently researching. You can also choose other categories like newspapers, technology, organization, etc. for helpful how-tos, research strategies, and updates. And you can always use the search bar in the top right corner of our website if you don’t see your topic listed.
There’s a treasure trove of genealogy gems on our website!
It’s snowing like crazy in some parts of the U.S. this week and it’s blown up a blizzard of great new and updated genealogical record collections! Take a look at this week’s round-up for Bishop’s Transcripts in England, Veteran Memorials in New Zealand, and records for Peru, United States, and Canada.
England – Devon – Bishop’s Transcripts
England, Devon Bishop’s Transcripts, 1558-1887 is a collection found at FamilySearch. Though a rather small collection, these Bishop’s transcripts contain an index from the county of Devon and cover the years of 1558-1887. Availability of records will vary by year and locality.
Starting in 1598, parish priests were to make a copy of their parish register and send it to the archdeacon or bishop each year. Many priests stopped producing bishop’s transcripts with the beginning of civil registration in 1837, but they did not fully disappear until after 1870.
As bishop’s transcripts generally contain more or less the same information as parish registers, they are particularly valuable when parish records have been damaged, destroyed, or lost. However, because bishop’s transcripts are copies of the original records, they are more likely to contain errors than parish registers might be.
This collection refers to baptism, marriage, and burial records. Baptism record entries are the most common in the index, followed by burial records, with marriage records being the smallest portion.
England – Worcestershire – Probate Records
The Worcestershire Probate Index 1660-1858 at Findmypast contains over 51,000 records taken from four types of probate documents. Each record includes a transcript only, however the transcript may include some or all of the following information:
- First and last name(s)
- Document type
England – Buckinghamshire – Marriages
The Findmypast collection titled Buckinghamshire Marriages contains over 49,000 records. The collection consists of transcripts covering 26 parishes within the English county of Buckinghamshire. These transcripts will cover the years between 1538 and 1838. Here is the list of parishes and years covered within this collection:
- Amersham 1561-1812
- Aston Clinton 1560-1812
- Bradenham 1627-1810
- Chalfont St Giles 1584-1812
- Chalfont St Peter 1538-1812
- Cheddington 1552-1812
- Chenies 1593-1836
- Chesham 1637-1838
- Cholesbury 1576-1810
- Edlesborough 1568-1812
- Fingest 1607-1812
- Hawridge 1600-1812
- Hedgerley 1540-1811
- High Wycombe 1600-1812
- Hormead 1575-1813
- Instone 1665-1812
- Iver 1605-1812
- Ivinghoe 1559-1812
- Masworth 1591-1812
- Mentmore 1575-1812
- Pitstone 1576-1812
- Slapton 1653-1812
- Soulbury 1575-1812
- Stoke Poges 1563-1812
- Turville 1582-1812
- Wendover 1576-1812
New Zealand – Church Records, Veteran Memorials, and Civil Service Examinations
Three new databases for New Zealand are available at Findmypast. The first, New Zealand Officiating Ministers 1882 is an index containing over 600 records and covering 13 religious denominations. Each record includes a transcript that will reveal the officiator’s official title and the church they served.
The second collection titled, New Zealand Waikaraka Cemetery Memorial 1902-1940 will help you find out if you have military ancestors who were memorialized as veterans who fought for the Empire and died at the Auckland Veterans’ Home between 1902 and 1940. Each record includes a transcript that will list their birth year, death year, age at death and force or regiment.
Lastly, the final collection at Findmypast is the New Zealand Civil Service Examinations 1906-1907. More than 700 records are available to explore and uncover the details of those who sat for the annual examinations for admission to, or promotion in, the Civil Service in mid-December 1906 and mid-January 1907. This collection is of transcripts only, but may contain the following information:
- First and last name(s)
- Examination location
Peru – Puno – Civil Registration
Also at FamilySearch this week, Peru, Puno, Civil Registration, 1890-2005 has been updated. This collection includes births, marriages, deaths, and indexes. Some of these records have been indexed and are available for search. It should be noted that these records are written in Spanish.
Civil registration record for a birth in Peru via FamilySearch.org.
Within these records you may find any of the following helpful information:
- Date and place of registration
- Name and gender of child
- Date, time, and place of birth
- Religious affiliation
- Parents’ names, ages, origin, and residence
- Presenter’s name, age, civil status, occupation, origin, and residence
- Witnesses’ name, age, civil status, and residence
- Sometimes, grandparents’ names
Marriage records may include the following:
- Date and place of registration
- Names of the bride and groom
- Date and place of marriage
- Groom’s age, civil status, nationality, race and occupation
- Names of groom’s parents, origin, and residence
- Bride’s age, civil status, nationality, race, and occupation
- Names of bride’s parents, origin, and residence
- Bride and groom’s religious affiliation
- Names, residence, and ages of witnesses
Death records may include:
- Time, date, and place of registration
- Name, gender, and age of the deceased
- Cause of death
- Date, place, and time of death
- Civil status, and occupation of deceased
- Nationality, origin, and residence of deceased
- Parents’ names of deceased if a minor
- Presenter’s name, age , and occupation
- Presenter’s origin, nationality, and residence
- Names of witnesses
United States – California – Cemetery Transcriptions
California Cemetery Transcriptions, 1850-1960 is a small collection at FamilySearch, but keep an eye on it as it will likely be added too. The collection consists of abstracts from cemeteries for 1850-1960 in the following counties:
You can do a search for your targeted ancestor, or you can browse through the collection. To browse through any of the FamilySearch collections, you can read our article here and follow the step-by-step instructions.
Cemetery abstracts are actually quite useful to genealogists, especially if there has been a loss of death records in the targeted area.
Cemetery abstracts may contain the following information:
- Name of Cemetery
- Location (Town, County, State)
- Full name of deceased
- Lot number
- Date of Death
- Place of Death
- Names of Parents, Husband or Wife
- Other Important Facts
- Place of Birth
- Date of Birth
WWII Veterans – Interviews
We have found a free collection of oral histories and interviews of WWII veterans from around the world. Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation
is an online video archive of in-depth interviews put together by the Flying Heritage Collection. The project, which took 15 years to complete, went live Wednesday on the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. All 335 video interviews — some of which are two hours long — will be available on the Flying Heritage Collection’s website at www.flyingheritage.com/chronicles
Another free collection includes eyewitness accounts by U.S. military personnel and family members in Pearl Harbor at the time of Japan’s 1941 attack. You can now access this site online. The Pearl Harbor Archive (http://1941.mapping.jp/
), also carries photos of U.S. warships ablaze and sinking. The interactive website material was gathered by Katrina Luksovsky, 49, an American living on Ford Island in the center of the harbor. The website was created by Hidenori Watanabe, 42, an associate professor of network design at Tokyo Metropolitan University.
The website works similar to Google Earth and is really quite remarkable. If you are a WWII buff, this is right up your alley!
The Canadian Museum of History and Library and Archives Canada
collaborate on new exhibition gallery. This gallery is named Treasures from LAC
and will showcase some of Canada’s most historically significant documents, making them more accessible to Canadians and enhancing public understanding of Canada’s history and heritage. Many of the documents showcased in the gallery will be referenced in the Canadian History Hall, a new permanent exhibition opening July 1, 2017 at the Canadian Museum of History. The LAC documents will complement the Hall and add greatly to the visitor experience.
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