It’s not every day that a new record group becomes available that will help you learn more about your family history. But yesterday, April 2, 2012 was one of those special days! Who will you be looking for? Do you plan on volunteering to help with indexing?
National Archives Releases 1940 Census
Washington, D.C. . . Ever wondered where your family lived before WWII; whether they owned their home; if they ever attended high school or college; if they were born in the United States, and if not, where? Unlocking family mysteries and filling in the blanks about family lore became much easier today with the release of the 1940 census by the National Archives and Records Administration. By law the information on individuals in the decennial censuses, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is locked away for 72 years.
In a 9 A.M. ceremony in the William G. McGowan Theater, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero declared the 1940 census officially open. This is the 16th decennial census, marking the 150th anniversary of the census. Performing the first search, Mr. Ferriero said, “It is very exciting for families across America to have access to this wealth of material about the 1930s. Many of us will be discovering relatives and older family members that we didn’t know we had, picking up threads of information that we thought were lost, and opening a window into the past that until now has been obscured We now have access to a street-level view of a country in the grips of a depression and on the brink of global war.”
Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau added: “Releasing census records is an odd event for us; we spend all our lives keeping the data we collect confidential. However, once every 10 years, we work with the National Archives and Records Administration to release 72-year old census records that illuminate our past. We know how valuable these records are to genealogists and think of their release as another way to serve the American public.”
For the first time, the National Archives is releasing an official decennial census online. The 3.9 million images constitute the largest collection of digital information ever released by the National Archives. The free official website http://1940census.archives.gov/, hosted by Archives.com, includes a database of Americans living within the existing 48 states and 6 territories on April 2, 1940.
“There is a great synergy between the National Archives and Archives.com stemming from our passion to bring history online,” said John Spottiswood, Vice President, Business Development, Archives.com. He continued, “It has been a tremendous opportunity to work with the National Archives to bring the 1940 census to millions of people, the most anticipated record collection in a decade. In a short period, we’ve built a robust website that allows people to browse, share, print, and download census images. We encourage all to visit 1940census.archives.gov to get started on their family history!”
The census database released today includes an index searchable at the enumeration district level. An enumeration district is an area that a census taker could cover in two weeks in an urban area and one month in a rural area.
To make the search for information easier, the National Archives has joined a consortium of groups to create a name-based index. Leading this effort, FamilySearch is recruiting as many as 300,000 volunteers to enter names into a central database.
Questions asked in the 1940 census, which reflect the dislocation of the Great Depression of the 1930s, will yield important information not only for family historians and genealogists, but also for demographers and social and economic historians. We learn not only if a family owned or rented their home, but the value of their home or their monthly rent. We can find lists of persons living in the home at the time of the census, their names, ages and relationship to the head of household. For the first time the census asked where a family was living five years earlier: on April 1, 1935. This information might offer clues to migration patterns caused by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. For the first time in the census, a question relating to wages and salary was asked. Persons 14 years old and over were asked questions regarding their employment status: Were they working for pay or profit in private or nonemergency government work during the week of March 24–March 30, 1940? Were they seeking work? How many hours did they work during the last week of March? How many weeks did they work in 1939? What was their occupation and in what industry?
The GEDCOM digital file format is essential to genealogy. My expert guest from FamilySearch explains what a GEDCOM is, how to use it, and the most recent changes. He’ll also answer some of the most common GEDCOM questions.
If you’ve been watching my videos for a while, then you probably know that I really recommend that you have a complete copy of your family tree on your own computer. But what if you’ve been building your family tree totally online up to this point?
The good news is that you can export your family tree as a GEDCOM file. But what exactly is a GEDCOM file?
Gordon Clarke, the GEDCOM Developer Relations Manager at the free genealogy website FamilySearch.org joins me to answer that question and provide the latest information about the GEDCOM.
What is a GEDCOM?
(00:54) Lisa: What is a GEDCOM?
(01:14) Gordon: GEDCOM is actually an acronym for:
GEnealogical Data COMmunication.
It’s a type of file with specific rules that allows digital family history products to exchange information. It’s been around so long that all the software companies can read and export it.
Say for example that you have a particular family tree program you’ve been working in but there are some features in another application that you like to try out. You want to try it out with a computer file that the program can read. All of the popular genealogy programs allows you to write a GEDCOM file and then you can read it in and review your information and add to it. That is what a GEDCOM is for.
It’s a specific file type that was works with most family history applications. It’s a text-based file, though it has special constraints to it. It was designed to be easily adaptable and compatible with importing and exporting. So, as long as the developers of both products adhere to GEDCOM specifications, you shouldn’t have a trouble downloading from one and uploading to the other.
Lisa: It sounds like each genealogy software database and website probably have their own proprietary file type, right? So, this is one everybody sort of agrees on that can extract the genealogy data set right. Is that right?
Gordon: Right, and there are differences between the proprietary program and GEDCOM. There are some products out there that only support GEDCOM. So that’s their proprietary format.
Why Use a GEDCOM?
(03:45) Lisa: So why should we use one a GEDCOM. When would we find ourselves wishing we had this universal file?
Gordon: Family history is more of a record keeping whether it’s photos and stories and genealogical data. People like to keep it and have control over it. So, GEDCOM is I like the word “personal”. You can personally control it. It’s just a .GED file, so any operating system can handle copying and emailing it. So, for personal control, preservation and sharing of genealogical data. It’s the most universally accepted format.
I would think for your backup purposes because it’s so universal, make sure that the program that you’re using has the ability to save your data in GEDCOM. Then you can decide whether you put it in your thumb drive or removable drive or you put it up in the cloud, you can decide how to preserve it. Think of it more as your personal file over this important information.
(05:31) Lisa: I like that idea. I’m probably not alone in that I once had somebody give me a little floppy disk and it had the whole family tree that this person had been working on. Unfortunately, it was a proprietary file, and it was a program that no longer exists. I’m helpless to be able to use it. So, a GEDCOME can really solve that issue.
Do All Family Tree Programs Support GEDCOM?
(06:00) You kind of touched on this, but I just want to just double check. Can all family tree programs and websites export the GEDCOM? Are you familiar with anything that don’t?
Gordon: I would say all of the popular programs and websites make it possible to import GEDCOM, and most of them allow for exports. There are some exceptions to that rule. If you’re going to spend your time using a program, look to see if it’s GEDCOM compatible.
To help even more so standardize the industry, the software providers commit to implementing the newest version of GEDCOM. Much of that is backward compatible. We presented those that have or will be planning to implement the newest version of GEDCOM at Rootstech. You can search at Rootstech for “GEDCOM” and see the videos of what’s been rolled out and what’s coming.
Who Owns and Controls GEDCOM?
(07:41) Lisa: Is there one particular group or authority or somebody who’s in charge of deciding what the GEDCOM is and how it works? Or is that a role that FamilySearch is playing?
Gordon: It is a role that Family Search has been playing. FamilySearch is the software development, education marketing, support arm of the department called The Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. So sometimes because of marketing reasons, people think that we’re different. Family Search is totally run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
From a historical standpoint, the original specification was created and released in 1984. All subsequent versions have been copyrighted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Now, in the last three years, as a like a product manager, I took on the responsibility for working on the new version, version 7 of GEDCOM. But it’s always been an effort of FamilySearch as the outreach arm for the Family History Department.
What we did differently in this last version is we solicited all the key players and software companies. It was much more of a collaborative effort to go through the changes, things to keep, things to just get rid of. It took about two years working with many people. Now the version is what is called a public GitHub repository. As we worked toward version 7, it was to prepare it for a starting point. The decision process is still a steering committee sponsored by FamilySearch, but the input and the communication on changes is open to all software developers. You can learn about all that because it’s hosted at GEDCOM.io. So GEDCOME.info is kind of like the general public, and GEDCOM.io is more for technical software developers.
(10:38) Lisa: What are some of the features of GEDCOM 7? What are some of the things that you consider when you’re continuing to develop the GEDCOM?
Gordon: The process that we worked on was, I think to eliminate ambiguity, there could be different software providers that would interpret the file specifications a little bit differently. We wanted to clean up the specifications so that there would be much more, not 100%, but a much better compatibility between the people that were reading it and writing it. So, we worked very tediously on eliminating the ambiguity.
I would think that the biggest thing is, it’s become more of a storage format of photos, and records and data. Let me read something, “FamilySearch GEDCOM version 7 incorporates the added ability to include photos, and other files when users download a FamilySearch GEDCOM 7 file from a supportive family tree product.”
Your local photos can be bundled in a special file that we called GEDZIP. It’s a GEDCOM file that is a zip package. That means that anybody that unzips that package will get the GEDCOM file and all the external files associated with it and have everything be readable. It’s a packaging technique to put everything together, which really adds to this idea of a personal preservation and sharing. Now you can package everything together and preserve it and share everything that’s important to you with others.
In addition to this zipped packaging capability, notes have been expanded for more versatile use and styling of text. When you add notes, whether it’s a relationship or a location, you can actually stylize those notes now and use bold and italic.
Many tools and sample files were created to help with self-testing. It’s based upon the Apache license, which is more of a technical slant on things, but to software developers, that means it’s an open software license. There’s a public GitHub repository that you go to github.com/familysearch so that you can request and watch ongoing changes in a more of a public environment, though Family Search is still the stewards and has the final say on decisions.
So that’s what’s new. It’s more open to the public. It’s been cleaned up with some important new features.
But backward compatibility for 90% of the GEDCOMs that are out there (and the last one was 5.5.1) is still possible. But it won’t go back to 3.0, 2.0. That’s where that’s where some of the incompatibilities are, is because people are using versions that are 20 years old. And things have changed a lot in the last 25 years. We have a clean, fresh start, and a new community working on continuous improvements. But there won’t be changes because the standards shouldn’t change much. This new version 7 is going to be pretty much the same for a while everybody gets on board.
Do GEDCOMs Include Image Files of Attached Records?
(15:21) Lisa: You mentioned photographs. Would that include image files? Would that include if we downloaded an image of a genealogical record which might be a .JPEG file? Would those come along with the GEDCOM?
Gordon: Yes, absolutely. All the elements of GEDCOM have definition of how to use them. And what’s called the multimedia link, the multimedia link means you can link to local files, JPEGs, PDFs, you know, whatever they are. And if you don’t want to put it all together, you can link to files that are in the cloud, and it will remember where they are. If you package them together in a GEDZIP file, and then you unpackage it, you’ll be able to access the local image files and the local records there.
So, this idea of putting it all together, I mean, bandwidth is much better than it used to be. But still, for people that have hundreds of thousands of images. This is not the best format for that. So they can work out a strategy taking into account the cloud service they use, and which photos they will keep locally on their computer. So, they can keep track of everything, both in the cloud and on their local drive. And that can all be referenced in this new version of GEDCOM.
Is There Data Loss When Exporting a GEDCOM?
(16:59) Lisa: Excellent.
So one of the questions I’ve heard from people is that they are concerned about loss data loss. If they’re importing or exporting, maybe going back and forth, is there a chance that you’re going to lose things or even introduce an error of some type?
Gordon: This is kind of the issue of the work on version 7. One of the biggest issues is not only new features, but to get a new standard to kind of clean the slate. If you get stuff into the new GEDCOM version 7 the likelihood of data losses is greatly reduced. So, we’re encouraging the adoption and use of GEDCOM 7 because it’s less likely to cause any data loss or errors.
Family Search and industry experts have worked for two years to remove ambiguities, simplify the definitions and samples in order to eliminate the possibility of data loss and errors when transferring between programs. In the long run, not only does it include more media, but the whole goal is to improve the consistency, the compatibility and minimize or even eliminate data loss. So, what you will start being seeing is the question “is GEDCOM 7 compatible?” Because GEDCOM 7, when we were working on something that was 20 years old, is going to be more compatible in the future. We have a body to watch out for it. Your data will migrate to the new version without data loss. But looking at down the road, staying with the version 7 or higher will assure a sure better preservation of what you have.
Learn More About GEDCOM at Rootstech
(19:17) Lisa: I think you mentioned or alluded to that there were some announcements at Rootstech 2022.
Gordon: Yes, go to the sessions and type in “GEDCOM” and you will get three opportunities. One is a session called GEDCOM 7 Launched and Rolling Strong. Another session will be FamilySearch GEDCOM 7 What’s Next? And the answer is teamwork.
There’s two pre-recorded videos about the What’s New in GEDCOM 7 and then how the industry’s going to join together in working on it in the future. In in one of the sessions, the first one, there actually is a slide that shows all the companies that have committed to it. But all the majority of the companies have said, both in the cloud and desktop and laptop, and some have said when they’re going to release it. And one company I think, is announcing their release at Rootstech of the new GEDCOM version 7.
Future Updates and Changes to GEDCOM
(20:44) Lisa: That’s great to see. Anything I didn’t ask you or that you think people should really be aware of as they move forwarding and keeping up to date with GEDCOM 7?
Gordon: Again, with a standard, we don’t want to change too much too fast, because they wanted to get solid as a new transfer format.
I think the big areas that we’re working on for future versions is related quite a bit to internationalization. There are probably 20 different calendaring systems that are different than what we do in the U.S. To be able to respect those different calendars and to understand the translation between calendars is a big part of internationalizing GEDCOM.
The other part related to that is that there are some places in the world where how they define relationships between people is not typical to either the US or Western Europe. And so we are working on major upgrades and encourage people to come join with us. With naming conventions we may think given name, surname, but in reality, there’s other relationships that get into the name. If we even go to Africa their name is the first name may go back 10 generations, so their name is a memorization of all those names. So, improving on names is an important effort, the structure and relationships.
Another improvement is places. We think hierarchal and certain jurisdictions, but over time, and in different areas of the world, how you organize places is different. We need to address that in the GEDCOM specification.
Sources and Citations need to be upgraded for the genealogical community. And so, we certainly invite not only software developers, but genealogists to join our effort to improve sources and citations.
One thing I’m really excited about is that we have a team that’s been working a year, and they’re probably working on it another year or two, on what we call hypothesis. This is so that you can share information without claiming it as a conclusion, and keep it separate from a conclusion. This encourages collaboration. So instead of arguing about I’m right, you’re wrong, we call it a hypothesis. Then we can have a discussion until there’s enough sources to prove it. This Hypothesis module I think is going to be really exciting. But that won’t be for a couple years or so until we actually release it.
Lisa: I think that’s a terrific idea because so often we are just battling with ourselves over what we think the answer is, and we want to track it while we’re doing it.
I’m curious: sometimes we go to a website, and you have to pick what language you speak. Perhaps if you’re searching for videos on YouTube you might say English. Is this something being considered? Is the goal no matter what that it’s only one type of file that serves every country or was there a consideration that you could select your country and then the GEDCOM would support your calendar and your geographic areas. I’m sure that was a discussion.
Gordon: Oh, absolutely. And, but what you’re talking about, just to be clear, is the specification to give all of the options and more to the software developer. The software developer can decide the language of the interface, and many of them are already doing this. So the actual presentation, if it’s Norwegian, or Danish, or whatever, it’s different according to the language that you place. What we’re looking according to your language of choice is that the orientations are names, relationships, and places jurisdictions, will be easy for the software developer to switch to by just changing that.
When we look at an international – how people look at information – it may be a different lens that they look through. So having the ability to give the software developers out of our future specs, to switch their interface, and switch around because they might be working in one part of the country because of their heritage, and then they might work in another and to be switched between it and to still have the data be the same, regardless of what national lens they’re looking through.
Lisa: It’s amazing that one little package contains so much and so much flexibility. That’s really terrific.
The Team Working on GEDCOM 7
(26:52) Gordon: I won’t drop names but in my immediate steering committee, that we meet with weekly, not only do I have three representations from within FamilySearch, but from the community, I like to call them doctors, they are doctors, they have their PhDs in computer science. Some are genealogists, they have their peers, one is even a linguistic professor. Another is an actual legal professional. It’s been wonderful to work with such experts, really, that are reasonable, and want to make things easy for the software developer. So, it’s quite a dilemma, instead of just making it right in the specification, but we’ve got to make it right and make it easier for the software developers to implement it. So that’s my thanks to all the people I’ve been able to work with.
Genealogical records come in all shapes and sizes and this week’s records round up even includes round records! Keep reading because you never know what you’ll find.
Photographs at Indiana Album
I love this website simply for the tag line Historic Photographs from the attic to the Web! We all have a bit of other families’ genealogy in our attics, closets and scrapbooks, and Indiana Album is a nonprofit organization that want to make it accessible. They encourage Hoosiers (and of course descendants of Hoosiers) to loan them their photos and documents. The group then digitizes, catalogs and shares them in a database on their website. Head here to search for the names, places and other keywords relating to your family. I’m finding gems like the one below.
Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project
Here’s a free online collection that is adding tons of new melodic content!
I’m amazed how often I run across music references in my genealogical research, particularly when reviewing the diaries, letters and other records of my late 19th century and early 20th century relatives.
When I was in my twenties I wrote my Grandfather often and asked him questions like “Do you remember any favorite songs from when you were a young man?” His answer included:
As you can see from the linked titles above (click them to listen for yourself), I found every single one of them at the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project. This is a phenomenal free online collection of digitized recordings made accessible to everyone.
The good news is that the project, which currently boasts over 200,000 recordings, just received funding to preserve another 250,000 sides of 78 rpm records. That means they need records. So, check your basement, closets and attic and consider donating your 78s to the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project for digitization and physical preservation. You can donate your 78rpm Records to the Internet Archive’s Great 78 Project here.
No Wonder (That I Love You) Gene Austin, 1925
UK & Iceland Records at Findmypast
There are over 6.4 million new records and newspaper articles available to search and explore this Findmypast Friday including over 264,000 new and exclusive parish records that have been digitised and made available online for the first time in association with the Lancashire Archives.
Over 31,000 additional records are now available to search amongst out collection of Lancashire Baptisms. The new additions cover the parishes of:
Edge Hill, St Nathaniel -1869 to 1918
Liverpool, St John – 1785 to 1898
Liverpool, St Silas, Pembroke Place – 1841 to 1918
Liverpool, St Stephen the Martyr – 1851 to 1918
Newburgh, Christ Church – 1860 to 1917
Seaforth, St Thomas – 1839 to 1918
Stoneycroft, St Paul – 1916 to 1918
Toxteth Park, St Bede – 1882 to 1918
These records include both transcripts and images of the original documents. Each result will reveal when and where your ancestor’s baptism took place, the names of their parent’s and father’s occupation.
A whopping 5.7 million new records are now available to search within our collection of United States Obituary Notices.
These records, obtained from the tributes.com and currentobituary.com websites will enable you to discover your ancestor’s name, birth and death years as well as the original obituary text. Additional information such as images and details about the records can be found on the source’s website.
Explore the records of investors in The Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, also called the Scottish Darien Company. It was funded by investments from people across Scotland. These transcripts will provide you with information on those who invested money and their representatives.
The Darien scheme was an unsuccessful attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to establish a colony called “Caledonia” in Panama in the late 1690s. Opposed by commercial interests from England, the company of Scotland raised subscriptions for the scheme in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and London. English investors soon raised their share but withdrew their money after King William and the English Parliament turned against the venture. However, by August 1696 the Scottish investors raised £400,000 themselves.
As the scheme was backed by approximately 20% of all the money circulating in the country at the time, its failure left the entire Lowlands in substantial financial ruin and was an important factor in weakening Scottish resistance to the Act of Union. In July 1699, the colony was abandoned due to inadequate provisions, the unfamiliar hot and humid climate had caused fever to spread, and many settlers died. Of the 1,200 settlers, only 300 survived.
A bumper crop of new and updated titles have been added to the collection this week, with 163,404 new pages added. We have seven brand new titles added this week, covering both England and Scotland. We have three new London publications joining us – the Harrow Midweek, the Middlesex Gazette and the Middlesex Independent – as well as one Scottish title (the Northern Ensign & Weekly Gazette) and one new Essex title (the Essex Guardian). We are also delighted to welcome two specialist sporting titles – namely, the Volunteer Record & Shooting News, which ‘warmly supports the interests of the shooting man,’ and the Fishing Gazette, a publication which covers all types of fishing across the world.
Further to these new arrivals, we have also updated sixteen of our existing titles. Updates this week cover the length and the breadth of the United Kingdom and Ireland, with updates incorporating publications from Aberdeen to Jersey, from Kingston to County Down, from Bristol to Kensington, from Crawley to Strabane.
Navy Officer Letters at Fold3
Fold3 just announced “We have added a new collection of naval records to our archives! The Navy Officers’ Letters 1802-1884 is a collection of letters to the Secretary of the Navy from officers assigned to naval ships, stations, and Navy bureaus.
The letters contain routine personnel matters such as duty assignments, leave or furloughs, desertions, resignations, court-martials, and other administrative issues. The collection is organized by year and then alphabetically by sender. The letters offer a glimpse into military history and provide valuable genealogical records for ancestors that served in the Navy.”
British Newspaper Archive
This week the British Newspaper Archive added 137,896 new pages spanning 128 years from 1871 to 1999 to eighteen of their existing collections. These include extensive updates to the Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle, which cover the years 1873 to 1969 and includes nearly 35,000 pages.
Merging duplicate records in your family tree is important. Perhaps you have inherited a giant genealogy file (GEDCOM) from a relative. What now? Follow along in our series on Inherited Genealogy Files as we talk about how to merge the duplicates in your family tree.
Have you cleaned up your family tree lately? Whether you have inherited a genealogy file from a relative or have been an avid researcher yourself, clean-up is necessary from time to time, especially as your database grows.
Merging Duplicates from an Inherited Genealogy File with RootsMagic
When you sit down to do your genealogy research, the last thing you want to worry about are duplicate names. Duplicates can be distracting and confusing.
You may have inherited a genealogy file or files in the form of GEDCOMs. (Read more on what and how to use a GEDCOM file here.) While inheriting this family history is great, it can also be a lot of work to clean-up, confirm the data, and add source citations where needed.
If you use RootsMagic or other similar software, it can be quick and easy to clean up duplicate names in your database. Start by running a duplicate search by clicking on Tools, selecting Merge, and then clicking Duplicate search merge.
You can search for duplicates by surname or given name. You might consider running a duplicate search for sounds alike, as well. This is particularly important if you have merged two databases in which you and the other contributor may have used different surname spellings.
When you are ready, click Search for duplicates at the bottom of the box. The system will tell you how many duplicates it finds and allow you to compare them one-by-one.
If you find a duplicate, the primary person will be on the left and the matching record on the right. Whichever record/person is most correct, use the Swap button to move that record to the primary position on the left.
If you feel these are a match, click Merge duplicate into primary at the bottom left corner. You have now merged these two individuals. It should be noted that you do not actually lose any of the data of the duplicate person. If I find Dean Howard Lockwood in my index and double click on his name, a pop-up window appears and I see he now has two birth and death entries, however. To fix this, click on the duplicate fact to highlight it, then click Delete fact at the top.
Cleaning Up Duplicate Places
You may not have considered cleaning up the duplicate places that exist in your file. For example, perhaps Great-aunt Susie liked to use the old format for place names. [i.e. , Ross County, Ohio] Notice the comma before the county name Ross. This was the way in which genealogists used to indicate Ross was the name of the county. Now, we use the more recent accepted format and change that to: Ross county, Ohio, United States. You can quickly merge these two places into one by clicking Lists at the top left, and choosing Place List.
Now, choose the place you would like to fix and double click it. In the pop-up window that appears, simply type in the place name as you desire it to appear in your database.
In the example above, we have changed , , Kentucky to Kentucky, United States and clicked OK. But wait, there’s one more step! You may notice your list now shows duplicates of Kentucky, United States or some variation. To fix that problem, click on the merge button at the top of the Place List pop-up window. A new window will pop-up and you can choose all the places you wish to merge together. Then, click Merge selected places.
More on RootsMagic Software
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