Using the US Public Records Index for Genealogy

The US Public Records Index can be useful for genealogy–if you understand what it is and how to use it properly. Here’s an example and some tips.

Not long Russ sent in this tip recommending the US Public Records Index for genealogy:

“I was listening to Genealogy Gems Podcast 181 [in which] you were talking about where do we search while we are waiting for the 1950 Census….I recently discovered a wonderful resource, on Ancestry.com, that I have used along with city directories. The name of the record group doesn’t sound interesting but it can be a Gem for you: the US Public Record Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1 and 2. Volume 1 is far more interesting with more data. A search will return a name AND birth date, along with more than one address, zip code and sometimes phone numbers.”

Here’s a sample search result:

US Public records index

Russ kindly sent me Ancestry’s description of its online database for Volume 1, which says that original data comes from public records spanning all 50 states, such as voter registration lists, public record filings, historical residential records and other household database listings.

Collection Profile

What: U.S. Public Records Index

Where: Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage

Years Spanned: 1950-2009

Source Type: Lacking original source citations. “Hints to go on and follow up with further research into verifiable sources.”

Then he shared the following example of using the US Public Records Index to find recent relatives that he can’t look up yet in the 1950 census:

“I had a hint for a cousin in a yearbook. I know that she recently lived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I didn’t know where she went to college and I know her birthday. The name is not unique, not also not common. At the same time, I had the hint for the Public Record Index. You know those things we can’t use in a proof argument, but there [she] was in Philadelphia. The yearbook had her picture and only her name, not spelled the way I know it, but the Public Record Index puts her in Philadelphia at the right time and place.

I have seen 2 or 3 addresses for folks in the 1980s and 1990s in these indexes. Not all addresses have dates, but some do. I have one cousin with 5 addresses since 1983 and he won’t be in a census until the 1960 Census Records are released.”

Russ blogs about his family history at worthy2be.wordpress.com/. Thanks for the tip!

The U.S. Public Records Index pops up in my search results sometimes, too. Both volume 1 and volume 2 are searchable on Ancestry.com, as Russ says, in separate databases. Each has over 400,000 records in it. There’s also a free partial version of this database for 1970-2009 at FamilySearch.org and yet a third version at MyHeritage, with 816 million records, with nearly the same time frame. The FamilySearch database says its data comes from “telephone directories, property tax assessments, credit applications, and other records available to the public.”

More on the US Public Records Index

Here are a few tips worth mentioning about the US Public Records Index. Some of these points come from the FamilySearch wiki:

  1. Not everyone who lived in the U.S. appears in the index, and you’re more likely to find birth information for those born between 1900 and 1990. What you’ll find is primarily where someone lived, and often when they lived there.
  2. It’s rarely possible to positively identify a relative in this index since there’s limited information and it spans the entire country for up to a half-century, and you can’t follow up on the record it comes from because the index doesn’t say where individual records come from. So as Russ says, this is a great resource to use in combination with other records. It’s a similar concept to the way you might consult family trees that lack sources: hints to go on and follow up with further research into verifiable sources.
  3. When you find more recent listings, you can sometimes find telephone numbers for living distant relatives. If the thought of cold-calling distant relatives seems a little intimidating, listen to my Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast, episodes 14-15, for tips–and to get your courage up!

1950s family historyMore Gems on Researching Recent Relatives

 

Improve Google Search Results with these Powerful Techniques

Google search expert Lisa Louise Cooke advises a genealogist on three ways to improve Google search results. See how these little improvements can make a big difference in your own Google searches!

This Genealogist Wants to Improve Google Search Results

Gene from Phoenix recently watched a free webinar in which I talked about improving Google search results for genealogy and then sent me this follow-up email:

“Lisa, I enjoyed the free webinar, Thank you!

I tried your suggestions for searching Google but still can’t get what I want.

My ancestor was Moses Fountain (possibly from NY but can only find him in IN)

I put in “Moses Fountain” 1800-1832 -Italy  -Rome  -hotel

When my search comes up the first page is all of the hotel & fountain in Rome, Italy.  There is no genealogy (all my inquiries) until page 2. I cannot -New York as he may have come from there, so I’ll continue to get Albany fountain (like the water fountain.) Thanks for any suggestions you might have.” -Gene in Phoenix, AZ

3 Powerful Techniques that can Improve Google Search Results

Kudos to Gene for jumping onto Google and giving it a go after the webinar. Getting started is the most important part of achieving genealogical success! In order to improve Google search results, Gene needs to make a few adjustments to tell Google more specifically what is wanted:

1. Use the Google search operators correctly

First, Gene will need to fix the numrange search. If you haven’t watched the webinar yet (what are you waiting for?) a numrange search is when you give Google two four-digit numbers and specify that you only want webpages included in your search results that have a four-digit number that falls within that range. And of course years are expressed in four-digit numbers, so this is incredibly useful for genealogists. Gene has a dash between the two numbers (a very logical approach since this is how we are used to expressing a range), but a numrange search requires two periods instead, like this:

Moses Fountain search numrange

2. Add a Google search term to narrow results.

Gene didn’t see genealogical search results until page 2 of the results. An easy way to bring pages related to genealogy to the forefront of the results is to add the word genealogy to your search query:

As you can see above, this improves things quite a bit. Isn’t it amazing what a difference one well-chosen keyword can make to improve Google search results?

Moses Fountain search genealogy

3. Consider carefully which Google search terms to remove

Gene removed some irrelevant search results by placing a minus sign directly in front of the search terms Italy, Rome, and hotel. This tells Google to subtract all pages from search results that contain these words. This is a very powerful tool, particularly when it comes to ancestors who have common surnames. (For instance, if you were researching an ancestor named John Lincoln, your results would be inundated with results for President Abraham Lincoln, simply due to the volume of pages that mention him. If John was not related to this famous president, you could add -Abraham and -president to your search query, and his footprints on your results would be dramatically reduced.) By the way, notice that the minus sign touches the word it is removing. There should be no space between the minus and the word.

But Gene continues to get irrelevant search results relating to a Moses Fountain in Washington Park, Albany, New York. The concern expressed here is that removing New York may inadvertently remove good search results, since this ancestor may have been from New York. Instead of removing New York, why not subtract a more targeted search term, such as Albany or Washington Park? Since it’s also possible that Moses Fountain was from Albany, I’d start by removing Washington Park.

How can you subtract a whole phrase? Put quotation marks around it so that Google understands it is a phrase and not two separate words that are unconnected. Then put a minus sign right in front of it. In Gene’s case, it would look like this:  -“Washington Park.” The resulting search results eliminate the reference to the fountain in Albany:

Improve Google search results even more dramatically

Watch this free 90-minute webinar and learn more about improving your Google searches for genealogy, along with other powerful strategies for reconstructing your family history. While you’re watching, subscribe to the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel to keep up with the many free video tutorials we publish there!

As you can imagine, I only had time to scratch the surface of how to improve your searches in the webinar. My book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox is dedicated to the topic, and I have included several in-depth Google search for genealogy video classes in Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

Wishing you many more genealogy gems!

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New Genealogy Records Online – January 23, 2020

New genealogical records continue to pour on line. This week we’re highlighting the latest from FamilySearch and MyHeritage. We’re crossing our fingers that the records you’ve been waiting for are among them. Happy searching!

new genealogy records

FamilySearch New Records

SALT LAKE CITY, UT—FamilySearch.org added over 8 million newfree, historical records from WWII Draft Registration Cards (1940-1947) and Lincolnshire, England, Parish Registers (1538-1990). The military records are from California, Kansas, Montana, Oregon and Texas.  More indexed records were added from Australia, Finland, France, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sweden, and the United States. 

Australia        

Australia, Convict Tickets of Leave, 1824-1874
Indexed Records: 60,093 
New indexed records collection

Belgium

Belgium, Antwerp, Civil Registration, 1588-1913
Added 68,547 indexed records to an existing collection

Belgium, Hainaut, Civil Registration, 1600-1913
Added 8,767 indexed records to an existing collection

Belgium, Namur, Civil Registration, 1800-1912
Added 53,070 indexed records to an existing collection

Canada

Nova Scotia Church Records, 1720-2001
Added 565  indexed records to an existing collection

England         

England, Lincolnshire, Parish Registers, 1538-1990
Indexed Records: 3,947,025
New indexed records collection

England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898
Added 2, 263 indexed records to an existing collection

England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898
Added 1,369 indexed records to an existing collection

England, Northumberland, Parish Registers, 1538-1950 
Added 557,993 indexed records to an existing collection

England, Oxfordshire Parish Registers 1538-1904
Added 474 indexed records to an existing collection

England, Oxfordshire Parish Registers 1538-1904
Added 1,471  indexed records to an existing collection

England, Yorkshire Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1613-1887
Added 2,074 indexed records to an existing collection

England, Yorkshire Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1613-1887
Added 815 indexed records to an existing collection

 

Finland          

Finland, Tax Lists, 1809-1915
Indexed Records: 24,525
Added indexed records to an existing collection

France           

France, Vienne, Census, 1896  
Indexed Records: 6,635
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Netherlands  

Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Vital Records
Indexed Records: 6,684 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru               

Peru, Catholic Church Records, 1603-1992  
Indexed Records: 34 
Added indexed records to an existing collection

 

Poland           

Poland, Lublin Roman Catholic Church Books, 1784-1964
Indexed Records: 6,522
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Sweden         

Sweden, Stockholm City Archives, Index to Church Records, 1546-1927
Indexed Records: 98,780
Added indexed records to an existing collection

California

California, World War II Draft Registration Cards,1940-1945  
Indexed Records: 2,083,701
Digital Images: 2,112,990
New indexed records and images collection

Hawaii

Hawaii, Grantor and Grantee Index, 1845-1909
Indexed Records: 229,833
Added indexed records to an existing collection

Kansas

Kansas, World War II Draft Registration Cards,1940-1945
Indexed Records: 429,561
New indexed records collection

Montana

Montana, World War II Draft Registration Cards,1940-1945  
Indexed Records: 144,392 
New indexed records collection

Oregon

Oregon, World War II Draft Registration Cards,1940-1945
Indexed Records: 295,077 
New indexed records collection

Texas

Texas, World War II Draft Registration Cards,1940-1947
Indexed Records: 1,794,395
Digital Images: 1,819,299
New indexed records and images collection

MyHeritage New Records

Here’s the latest from the folks at MyHeritage:

Historical Books – Index of Authors and People Mentioned, 1811–2003

Description: An index of persons mentioned in various English-language public domain books as well as the names of authors of these publications. This collection of 494 million records is an index of persons mentioned in various English-language public domain books as well as the names of authors of these publications. The number of digitized books is over 3 million. The following searchable information can be found in most records in the index: the title and the year of publication, name of the author(s), birth and death year of the author(s), the names of all the individuals mentioned in the publication, the publisher, and the subject(s) of the publication.

Number of Records: 494,096,291 records in 3,024,213 books

 

Authors of Scholarly Articles

Description: Names of authors of millions of scholarly articles. This collection of 272 million records includes the names of authors of millions of scholarly articles. Authors’ names are collected from over 50,000 journals and open-access repositories from all over the world. Records typically include the given name and surname of authors and co-authors, the article’s title and date, the name of the journal, and the name of its publisher. For some of the articles, a link is provided to view the article online.

Number of Records: 272,046,994 records

VITAL RECORDS

Texas Marriages and Divorces

Description: An index of marriage license applications from all counties in the state of Texas for the years 1966 to 2016. This collection was updated and now contains 26 million records.

Number of Records: 26,591,435 records

 

France, Military Death Index, 1914–1961

Description: An index of death records of individuals who died fighting in the French armed forces, members of foreign armed forces who died fighting in France, and civilians who were killed in France.

This free collection of 5 million records is an index of death records of individuals who died fighting in the French armed forces, members of foreign armed forces who died fighting in France, and civilians who were killed in France. The majority of the records pertain to the First World War, although there are also records from the Second World War, the Franco-Prussian War, and various other conflicts that occurred in France or that involved the French armed forces. Records may contain the following searchable information: first and last name of the individual, date and place of birth, date and place of death, burial place, and the first and last names of the individual’s parents and spouse.

The following information may also be found in most records: rank and regiment, company, conflict, military decorations, additional notes on locations, and the individual’s family situation.

Number of Records: 5,332,260 records

Germany, Hesse Marriage Index, 1849–1931

Description: An index of marriage records from several communities that are within the state of Hesse in Germany.

This collection of 4.77 million records includes marriage records from several communities within the state of Hesse in Germany. Marriages were usually recorded in the bride’s place of residence. When the information is available a record will include the groom’s given name and surname, age or birthdate, birthplace, residence, occupation, marriage date, and information about the groom’s parents. A record will also include the bride’s given name and surname or maiden name, age or birthdate, birthplace, residence, occupation, and information about the bride’s parents.

Starting in 1874, the state mandated that new local civil registry offices be responsible for creating civil registers of birth, marriage, and death records in the former Prussian provinces, among them many communities in Hesse.

Number of Records: 4,770,560 records

Germany, Hesse Birth Index, 1874–1911

Description: An index of birth records from several communities that are within the state of Hesse in Germany.

This collection of 3.78 million records includes birth records from several communities within the state of Hesse in Germany. When the information is available a record will include the child’s given name, the date of a birth, and sex. Information about the mother includes given name, maiden name, last name, address, and spouse. Information is also provided about the informant. An informant was often the father of the child or a midwife.

Number of Records: 3,784,938 records

NEWSPAPERS

This is the next installment in our U.S. newspaper collections. We have added 14.6 million pages from nine states: Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Montana, Minnesota, Illinois, and Tennessee. The newspapers in this update range in date from the late 19th/early 20th century to 2009.

Newspapers are an important resource for genealogy and family history research as they contain obituaries and other vital record substitutes such as birth, marriage, and death notices. Additionally, society pages and stories of local interest contain rich information on activities and events in the community and often provide details about the persons involved.

Before vital records were recorded by city, county, or state governments, local newspapers often published articles listing or detailing these events. Obituaries contain vital and biographical information on the deceased as well as his or her family and relatives.

Society pages began as a way to entice readers with gossip and news about the wealthy and famous but soon evolved to cover the goings-on of “average” citizens. An incredible array of information can be discovered in these society pages or sections from seemingly mundane notices and reports on events such as parties, job changes, hospital stays, and social visits by friends or relatives. These pages are a source of historical events that are unlikely to exist in any other record.

Coverage and completeness in this collection varies by title.

Florida Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of over 8 million newspaper pages from 25 newspaper titles published in various cities and towns in the state of Florida.
Time frame: 1901 to 2009.
Number of Records: 8,084,846 pages in 25 newspaper titles

Illinois Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Illinois.
Time frame:  1840 until 2009.
Number of Records: 83,452 pages in 14 newspaper titles

Kansas Newspapers

Description: This collection of 1.4 million newspaper pages is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Kansas.
Time frame: 1869 to 2009.
Number of Records: 1,473,037 pages in 39 newspaper titles

Minnesota Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Minnesota.
Time frame: 1902 until 2009.
Number of Records: 92,171 pages in 26 newspaper titles

Montana Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Montana.
Time frame: 1890 until 2009.
Number of Records: 155,210 pages in 94 newspaper titles

Oklahoma Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Oklahoma.
Time frame: 1927 to 2009.
Number of Records: 521,793 pages in 14 newspaper titles

Tennessee Newspapers

Description: This collection is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Tennessee.
Time frame: 1870 until 2009.
Number of Records: 66,994 pages in 8 newspaper titles

Texas Newspapers

Description: This collection of 1.2 million records is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Texas.
Time frame: 1848 to 2009.
Number of Records: 1,254,230 pages in 33 newspaper titles

Wisconsin Newspapers

Description: This collection of 2.8 million newspaper pages is a compendium of newspapers published in various cities and towns in the state of Wisconsin.
Time frame: 1884 to 2009.
Number of Records: 2,887,946 pages in 3 newspaper titles

Searching all of these collections in MyHeritage SuperSearch™ is free, but a Data or Complete subscription is required to view the full records, save them to your family tree, and fully access Record Matches. Our Record Matching technology will automatically find relevant historical records revealing new information about any ancestors who appear in these records.

 

 

 

 

Episode 205

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode #205
with Lisa Louise Cooke

Genealogy Gems Podcast 205

This episode breaks two huge pieces of genealogy news and shares two great conversations:

FamilySearch ends microfilm lending:  how you can get the records you need;

RootsMagic adds Ancestry.com compatibility: sync your Ancestry.com tree to your master RootsMagic file and search Ancestry.com from within the software;

Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady, talks about visiting archives to explore original manuscript record treasures;

Nicole Dyer shares a fun family history activity idea to do with kids?do you have a family gathering coming up that could use this inspiration?

A SURPRISE IN MY MAILBOX!

NEWS

Navigating the end of FamilySearch Microfilm Lending

RootsMagic Adds Ancestry.com Sync and Search

NEW PREMIUM VIDEO!

Lisa Louise Cooke shows you how to use the free Google Earth Pro software to create your own historic map collection customized for your genealogy and family history research. By the end of this class you’ll have a permanent collection of hundreds of gorgeous historic and vintage maps from around the world, organized and ready to use for family history.

Click here to watch a free preview of this full-length video class. Genealogy Gems Premium website members can watch the whole thing: click here to learn more.

The 4th Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference

This episode today is brought to you by the 4rd Annual Northwest Genealogy Conference, hosted by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society, north of Seattle in Arlington, WA. Centering on the theme, “Where Does Your Story Begin?” it’s four days PACKED full of genealogy.

There will be well-known and respected keynote speakers, including our friend and genetic genealogist Diahan Southard, speaking on DNA; Kenyatta Berry of Genealogy Roadshow fame, speaking on Caribbean research and using slave schedules in research; and Daniel Earl speaking on Putting History in Your Family History.

Starting off with the Free Day Wednesday afternoon, Speaker Peggy Lauritzen will address beginner’s issues in her Genealogy 101 presentation, which is also a good refresher for the more seasoned genealogists.  There will be such great genealogical information for all levels, AND it’ll be lot of fun!

Between classes take a chance to meet a distant cousin with the “Cousin Wall”. Participate in the genealogy-related scavenger hunt, the Wednesday evening meet and greet and the Friday dress-as-your-ancestor day, and much, much more!

Go to www.NwGC.org for details and to register. Check it out now — registrations are limited, so it’s good to get in early. It’s August 16-19, 2017. It’ll be a great show: don’t miss it!

INTERVIEW: MELISSA BARKER, THE ARCHIVE LADY

Melissa Barker is a Certified Archives Records Manager, the Houston http://www.honeytraveler.com/buy-antibiotics/ County, Tennessee Archivist and author of the popular blog A Genealogist in the Archives and bi-weekly advice column The Archive Lady. She has been researching her own family history for the past 27 years.

Preserve your own family archive

Items in danger include original items in attics, basements, etc.

What to preserve first? The most precious and original items you have!

Restoration tips:

  • Clean documents and photos with archival sponges. Lay the item perfectly flat. Gently place a finger or hand to hold it steady. Work with the sponge from the center outward, in small sections.
  • Keep two-dimensional items as flat as possible.
  • Encase fragile items in Mylar sleeves (buy from archival supply companies).

Image courtesy of Melissa Barker and Houston County, TN Archives.

Visiting an archive:

  • Call ahead! Don’t trust the operational hours from the website. Ask about parking ? it’s often very limited. Ask ahead about access to archival items of interest.
  • Archive etiquette: Follow the rules. Be courteous when working with staff.
  • Museums, societies, archives, and libraries may all have collections in back rooms you can’t see?but you can ask for them.
  • Vertical Files – in folders in cabinets
  • Manuscript Collections – underused in genealogy! Ask for finding aid.
  • Loose Records – the working papers of a court case, for example
  • Unprocessed Records – not yet incorporated into the official collection

Tips for using your mobile devices in archives:

  • Ask for procedures for taking photos with your own device. There may be rules against this or a use fee.
  • Capture the source information by photographs: cover page, page number, folder, box number, manuscript collection name, etc.

BONUS CONTENT for Genealogy Gems App Users

Get the app here

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus audio content for this episode comes from Melissa Barker, the Archive Lady,  with more about finding and using original manuscript records in your genealogy research. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users.

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com, too: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/lisa.

 

INTERVIEW: NICOLE DYER

Nicole has been researching her ancestors and delighting in their stories for the past 15 years. Nicole volunteers at the Tucson Family History Center teaching a family history story time group for young children.

Read Nicole’s blog post here

Lisa suggested the free program Jing for video screen capturing: https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html

(Full disclosure: this podcast blog contains affiliate links. We will be compensated if you make a purchase through our link. Isn’t that an awesome way to help keep the free podcast free?!)

Visit Animoto here and start a free trial

Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB: A FAMILY HISTORY MURDER MYSTERY!

Get the book here.

Journalist Helene Stapinski’s new family history memoir:

Murder in Matera: A True Story of Passion, Family, and Forgiveness in Southern Italy

A story of poverty and power, love, tragic decisions, and a courageous and desperate woman’s leap for a new life across the ocean

Murder in Matera continues to unravel a past Helene explored in her fantastic first family history memoir, Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.

Find a whole list of fabulous family history-inspired reading at the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer

Lacey Cooke, Service “Happiness” Manager

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