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!

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries has been Updated

The Newberry Library’s online Atlas of Historical County Boundaries is finally fully updated and interactive! Read the good news here–and my preference for using the powerful geographic data that drives the Atlas.

The Atlas of Historical County Boundaries at The Newberry Library’s website has been undergoing upgrades for quite some time. Genealogists who rely on this fantastic online resource to research  old county boundaries in the U.S. have been able to access the basic data that drives the map (dates and geographic boundary changes). But they haven’t been able to use the popular interactive map. Great news: the Atlas is finally fully interactive again.

Changing Boundaries Reflected in the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Understanding changes in county boundaries over time is key to doing genealogy research in the United States. Boundaries have changed repeatedly–and some dramatically. County governments typically keep important genealogical sources: vital records, court records, land records and more. We need to know which county would have housed our ancestors’ records during specific time periods so we can find the records we want.

What’s New at the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

According to the Newberry Library’s press release, users can now:

  • view a base layer map that allows an overlay of boundaries on top of cities, towns and other geographic features;
  • zoom in and out of maps and expand the view to full screen;
  • select a date of interest from a drop-down box with all border change dates for that state; and
  • view information about border changes in a hover box that changes as users hover over different counties.

Here’s what the new interface looks like:

Google Earth Pro vs. the Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

It’s great to see improved functionality on the Atlas site. But after reviewing the update, I still think the experience of using data from the site is superior in the free Google Earth Pro (GEP) program. To use the entire data set in Google Earth Pro, simply download the KMZ data file onto your computer,and when you click to open the file, your computer will detect the KMZ format and know to automatically open Google Earth Pro (as long as you already have GEP installed on your computer.)

download files at Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

 

Using the file in GEP allows you to use the data in conjunction with the rest of your genealogical information (such as placemarks indiciating places lived & schools attended, historic  map overlays, embedded old family photos and home movies, etc.). This provides a more integrated genealogical research experience. Learn more by clicking here to watch a free video I’ve made about using Google Earth for genealogy.

 

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

 

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Might these collections include your ancestors? This week: Civil War stereographs, Dublin workhouse registers, Illinois naturalizations, a Jersey digital archive and Oregon motor registrations and offenses. Don’t miss our Google tip at the end!

CIVIL WAR STEREOGRAPHS. “The Library of Congress has acquired 540 rare and historic Civil War stereographs from the Robin G. Stanford Collection,” says a press release. “The first 77 images are now online, including 12 stereographs of President Lincoln’s funeral procession through several cities and 65 images by Southern photographers showing South Carolina in 1860-61. The images can be viewed in this gallery within the Library’s Prints and Photographs Online Catalog. More images will be added each month, until all are online.”

DUBLIN WORKHOUSE REGISTERS. More than 1.5 million Dublin workhouse registers, 1840-1919 are now searchable for FindMyPast subscribers. Records include both images and transcripts, and may contain names, marital status, occupation, religion, age, birth year, admission year, name of workhouse and (on images) details about family, condition upon admitttance and date left workhouse or died.

ILLINOIS NATURALIZATIONS. Over a half million digitized images are searchable for free at US, Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906–1994 at FamilySearch.

JERSEY HERITAGE DIGITAL ARCHIVE. Over 300,000 items are now searchable at the subscription website Jersey Heritage Archives & Collections OnlineFeatured collections include registration cards of 30,000+ Channel Islanders who were there during the WWII German occupation. You’ll also find Jersey parish records dating to 1842 and (under Superintendent Registrar) parish registers from 1540-1842 and post-1842 civil marriage records.

OREGON MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATIONS AND CONVICTIONS for 1911-1946 are now searchable by Ancestry subscribers. Registrations include license number, name and address of the vehicle owner (including county in parentheses), make of car, motor number, model or year of manufacture and type of body. Records of convictions name the offender, date, offense, license number, court, county and the amount of any fines.

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 Tip of the week: Whenever you look at any record of an ancestor, ask what additional documents, images, video footage or historical material this record points you toward. For example, you might learn from an above record that Grandpa drove a 1935 Auburn Speedster or that a relative suffered from the German occupation on Jersey. Google searches on these niche topics can lead you to a Speedster photograph or historical materials (including footage) on the occupation, like this interview with a survivor of the German occupation. Learn how to search for gems like these in Lisa’s totally-revised, updated 2nd edition of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox.

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