Millions of global records now at FamilySearch.org

Millions of records from around the world are new at FamilySearch this week, and are completely free! These new collections include Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, and South Africa. PERSI also got a big update this week at Findmypast, as well as new and updated records for Canada, England, and Ireland.

new genealogy records at Familysesrch

New collections free at FamilySearch

Australia. The new South Australia, Immigrants Ship Papers, 1849-1940 collection includes immigrants’ ships papers, containing a record of births and deaths aboard, 1849-1867 and 1873-1885. Indexed records in this collection include passenger lists arriving and departing from South Australia. (Original records in the State Records of South Australia, Adelaide.) Get started with Australian genealogy research with these tips from an expert at Legacy Tree Genealogists!

Denmark. FamilySearch has been adding census records for Denmark recently, and the latest new collection is the 1921 Denmark Census. This collection includes over 430,000 images, and these census collections were all provided by MyHeritage and previously from the National Archives of Denmark.

Finland. Church Census and Pre-Confirmation Books, 1657-1915: This collection contains church census books and pre-confirmation books kept by the Lutheran Church in Finland. These records come from a database at MyHeritage, citing Kansallisarkisto (National Archives of Finland), Helsinki.

France. Explore over half a million indexed records for Saône-et-Loire, Census, 1856, a complete indexing of the population censuses.

Italy. The Salerno, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1806-1949 collection includes civil registration (stato civile) records of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Salerno (Archivio di Stato di Salerno). Almost 6 million images are in this collection, and availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality.

South Africa. Lastly, this collection of Pietermaritzburg Estate Files 1846-1950 is also new at FamilySearch. Records include death notices, vital records, wills, distribution accounts, and succession duty accounts.

Need help using FamilySearch? The Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough provides the guidance you need to discover your ancestors and make the most of the free site’s valuable resources. Learn how to maximize all of FamilySearch.org’s research tools–including hard-to-find features–to extend your family tree in America and the old country.

PERSI update at Findmypast

The Periodical Source Index (also known as PERSI) has had another large update at Findmypast. Almost 11,000 new articles and 30,000 new images have been added, covering Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Toronto, and Yorkshire. PERSI is an excellent resource for discovering articles, photos, and other material you probably won’t find using conventional online search methods.

Click here to learn more about PERSI for genealogy research. Genealogy Gems Premium Members can also check out Premium Podcast episode #135 for more tips on PERSI (sign-in required). Not a Premium Member? Click here to get started!

Canada – New & Updated Collections

From Libraries and Archives Canada: Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files. “As of today, 502,740 of the 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database…Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order.”

Ancestry.com updated two of their collections for Canada this week: Ontario, The Ottawa Journal (Birth, Marriage, and Death Notices) 1885-1980 and the Canada Obituary Collection, 1898-2017. Both of these collections come from microfilmed copies of the newspapers.

England Registrations

Recently announced on Twitter: “The General Register Office for England and Wales (GRO) is piloting a service from 12 October 2017 to provide portable document format (PDF) copies of digitized historical birth and death records. The pilot will run for a minimum of 3 months to enable GRO to assess the demand for this service over a prolonged period.” England and Wales records which are available as PDFs in this extended pilot include births (1837 –1916) and deaths (1837 –1957).

Ireland: Historical Newspaper

A new historical newspaper title was added to the British Newspaper Archive this week for Northern Ireland. The Coleraine Chronicle 1844-1910 was published by Alpha Newspaper Group in Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The collection features nearly 3,500 issues and over 26,000 pages.

genealogy giants quick reference guide cheat sheetGet the most out of your genealogy records websites subscriptions!

Use the jammed-packed Genealogy Giants cheat sheet by Sunny Morton to quickly and easily compare all of the most important features of the four biggest international genealogy records membership websites: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com, and MyHeritage.com. Then consult it every time your research budget, needs or goals change. Tables, bulleted lists, and graphics make this guide as easy to use as it is informative. Available in print or digital download.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting the free Genealogy Gems podcast and blog!

Cemetery Research for Genealogy: 4 Steps for Finding Your Ancestors’ Graves

Cemetery research is a crucial family history skill. Tombstones are monuments to our ancestors lives and may have key genealogical clues engraved in the stone. Follow these four steps to finding your ancestors’ burial places and the records that complement them.

Many of my ancestors are buried just two miles from my house in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion, Virginia. I drive by the cemetery each day, as I take my daughters to school. I never pass by without glancing up at the hallowed ground which holds the remains of those who came before me. The sun perfectly illuminates their resting place each morning and a majestic tree stands at the very top of the hill–a living monument to the lives they led in the town where I now raise my own family.

It is an emotional experience to stand in the place where an ancestor’s remains have been laid to rest.

Each time I visit the grave of my grandma, I have a vision of a family standing around a casket on a bitter cold day in March. It was a just few days before the official start of spring, but it was the dead of winter to me. That ground is sacred to me, now.

Each time I visit, I am transported back in time to that day. A wound is re-opened for a moment, but the moment is fleeting because I quickly remember her life, not her death.

I remember the stories she told, the service her hands rendered to her family and, most importantly, the love that transcends time and even the icy grip of death. Death truly loses its “sting” as we stand before a monument of stone and see beyond to the life it represents. Scenes like this one have played out at each grave.

I am reminded of this quote from Fear Nothing, a Dean Koontz book, whenever I visit the cemetery:

“The trunks of six giant oaks rise like columns supporting a ceiling formed by their interlocking crowns. In the quiet space below, is laid out an aisle similar to those in any library. The gravestones are like rows of books bearing the names of those whose names have been blotted from the pages of life; who have been forgotten elsewhere but are remembered here.”

I have often gone to my ancestors’ resting places to take pictures of headstones and search for relatives I may have missed in the past. It seems like each time I visit, I notice something new.

This library of marble holds many clues that have helped me break down brick walls in my family history research. These clues have been there, etched in stone, for decades. It wasn’t until I recognized how to read the clues that I began to understand the importance of cemeteries in family history research. 

These resting places have become much more to me than merely a place to go and offer a bouquet of flowers. There are answers waiting to be discovered. The key to getting the answers is knowing which questions to ask.

In my experience, the best genealogists are not the ones with the best cameras, the best software, or the best gadgets–they are the ones with the best questions.

asking questions good questions

Curiosity is the most important tool to the successful genealogist.  The next time you find yourself in a library of marble, take a few moments to let your curiosity run wild. Ask yourself: 

  • “Who are the people surrounding my family members?
  • What are their stories?
  • What do the etchings on their headstones mean?”

That curiosity will lead to the most remarkable discoveries and you will see for yourself how a piece of marble truly can break down a brick wall.  

Below I’ve outlined the steps for finding family cemeteries and which questions you should be asking when you get there. Get inspired by my own examples of breaking down brick walls, and implement these methods I used for your own success!

Cemetery research step #1: Identify the cemetery

The first step in cemetery research is to identify the name of the cemetery where an ancestor was buried.

The best places to start looking are death certificates, funeral home records and obituaries. Each one of these records should contain the name of the cemetery where a family member was buried.

We sometimes fail to look beyond the names and dates on death certificates. If we get in the habit of taking the time to absorb all of the information on these important documents, we will find genealogical treasure.

Sometimes, the death certificate will not give us the name of the cemetery.

This was the case with my great-grandmother, Mollie Weimer Overbay. I was frustrated to see that the death certificate only indicated that she was buried, as opposed to cremated or removed to another location. While the certificate did not provide me with the name of a cemetery, it did offer the name of the funeral director: W.B. Seaver.

cemetery research for genealogy

Luckily, I was able to follow this lead to the local funeral home. Within their records, I discovered that she was buried in Round Hill Cemetery, along with many of my other ancestors.

cemetery research for genealogy

Cemetery research step #2: Locate the cemetery

Once you have located the name of the cemetery, several resources can guide you to its location.

Three helpful websites are listed below. Which you choose may depend on personal preference or familiarity but also on which site seems to have more records for the locales of most interest to you.

1. One of my favorite online resources is Find A Grave.

This website allows you to search for cemeteries all over the world. 

At the home page, click on the Cemeteries tab (#1, below).

Then enter the name or location of the cemetery (#2). In the screenshot below, you can see part of the Google Maps interface that shows you the exact location of the cemetery, should you want to visit in person:

cemetery research for genealogy

Find A Grave also has pictures of many of the headstones located within cemeteries.

2. cemetery research for genealogyBillion Graves allows users to collect photos of headstones by using an iPhone/Android camera app.

The app, available on Google Play and the App Store (for iPhone and iPad), tags the photos with the GPS location and, essentially, maps the cemetery as headstones are added.

Search for cemetery locations using the Billion Graves app or on the website by selecting the “Cemetery Search” option and then entering the name of the cemetery or a known address (to see it on Google Maps):

cemetery research for genealogy

3. Interment.net can also be helpful.

From the home page, scroll down just a little until you see “Browse Cemetery Records by Region.” This can be especially helpful if you’re looking for all records within a specific county or other region. However, it’s not quite as useful if you’re trying to locate all cemeteries within a certain radius of a location, regardless of local boundaries.

cemetery research for genealogy

In addition to these resources, it is essential to contact the local library, genealogical society, and/or historical society where your ancestors are buried. These organizations are well-known for maintaining detailed listings of local cemeteries within their collections.

For instance, within Smyth County (where I live) there is a four-volume set of books that contains the work of two local historians, Mack and Kenny Sturgill. They spent several years mapping local cemeteries and collecting the names on all of the headstones.

Although these books were completed in the 1990s, the information is still valuable to genealogists. Detailed driving directions were given to help future researchers locate cemeteries that would otherwise be difficult to locate. Many of them are on private property and even in the middle of cow pastures or wooded areas.

Furthermore, some of the headstones that were legible in the 1990s have now become difficult to decipher due to weathering or have altogether disappeared. It is likely that the counties in which you are conducting cemetery research offer similar resources.

Cemetery research step #3: Prepare for a visit

Once you have found the cemetery you want to visit, you will want to take the following items along with you to make the most of your visit:

  • a camera
  • pair of gloves
  • grass clippers
  • notebook and pen
  • long pants
  • sturdy shoes

You may also want to use a damp cloth to bring out the carvings on headstones. A side note: if you are like me and have an aversion to snakes, you will either choose to go on cemetery expeditions during the winter, or you will invest in a pair of snake chaps.

Get more help! The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide (above) contains detailed step-by-steps for using FindAGrave and BillionsGraves, plus guides for understanding tombstone epitaphs and symbol meanings.

Disclosure: Genealogy Gems is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Thank you for supporting our free podcast by using our link.

Cemetery research step #4: Visit and search for clues

cemetery research for genealogy

This headstone shows something unusual: the couple’s ham radio call signs (the codes engraved just below their names).

The headstones found in cemeteries can reveal much about your family. You will find more than birth and death dates. If you look closely, you will discover symbols related to military service and religious beliefs, maiden names of the women in your family, and you may even find family members that you never knew about. Many times, you will find children buried in the family plot. Look around to see who is buried near your ancestors. It is likely that you will find connections to other family members when you are visiting the cemetery. These connections may lead you to break down long-standing brick walls within your family history.

In my own experience, there have been several instances in which cemetery research has helped shed light on a family mystery. I had grown up hearing that there were members of our family who had fought in the Civil War. Who were these men? What experiences did they have during the war?  Where had they fought?

The answers to these questions came as the result of a visit to the cemetery.  I had gone to Round Hill Cemetery to photograph the headstones of my Weimer ancestors. As I worked my way down the row, I encountered an unfamiliar name—William Henry Wymer. At the top of his headstone, there was a Southern Cross of Honor—a symbol used to denote a soldier who fought during the Civil War. Below his name was the following inscription: “Co. A, 6 VA RES, C.S.A:”

cemetery research for genealogy

When I went home that afternoon, I began to search for more details. With some census research, I learned that he was the uncle of my great-grandmother, Mollie Weimer Overbay. Upon confirming his relationship to our family, I began searching for a pension application for his wife, Rhoda:

cemetery research for genealogy

The application had been submitted in 1926 and told the story of William’s life. Among other things, I learned the answers to my questions about his service during the Civil War. His wife indicated that he enlisted during the last year of the war and was present during a well-known battle in our county—the Battle of Saltville. I am sure that my great-grandmother had grown up listening to tales of this battle and William’s experience during the war. The details of the story had been lost but were now re-discovered thanks to a trip to the cemetery.

Subtle clues like this one await you as you search out your own ancestors. The next time you make a trip to one of these libraries of marble, take a few moments to look closely at the clues that surround you. They may not be obvious, but they are there, waiting for your curiosity to uncover them. So, bring your cameras, your gloves, and your grass clippers to the cemetery on your next visit—but don’t forget to bring your questions and your ability to perceive the minute details, as you stand beneath the towering trees, among the rows of marble, waiting to offer up their long-held secrets.

More cemetery research tips

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems.

 

The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries

When I’m not at the podcast microphone, you can usually find me on a plane. And on one of those recent flights I had the privilege travelling along side a few of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.

Toni Frissell [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The History of the Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen was the common name given to a group of African-American military pilots who fought in World War II. Before the 1940’s, African-Americans had not been admitted to the U.S. Army Air Corps flight training program. In 1940, this changed with the formation of a segregated unit to train black pilots and ground crews at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

The 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground crew of the Tuskegee Airmen are credited with over 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses for their service. The Tuskegee Airmen continued flying and fighting until the end of the war in 1945.

Meeting A Tuskegee Airman

After the flight, I collected my luggage and found a spot on the curb outside to wait for my husband to pick me up. It was then I noticed I was standing next to one of the Tuskegee group who was sitting quietly alone waiting for his ride. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his service. A warm, friendly grin greeted me from under the Tuskegee baseball cap and we easily fell into conversation.

Faces of U.S. Military Veterans WWII
He explained that a handful of retired Airmen were returning home from a national conference held each year. I also learned, to my great surprise after looking at the patch on his suit coat, that I was speaking with Brigadier General James T. Boddie! Tim (as he likes to be called) is a retired deputy director for operations J-3 of the National Military Command Center and Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C.

Boddie was born in Baltimore in 1931 and graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1949, just behind the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. Later in his career (starting in 1961,) Tim served as the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program commandant of cadets at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama. He also taught military aspects of world political geography and international relations to senior cadets.

When I asked him what some of his most cherished memories were, he didn’t hesitate. Although he has a long and decorated history of service, he fondly reminisced about the young men he has met and assisted along the way. “Our country needs good men now more than ever,” he stated emphatically. He said that he has made it his mission since retiring in 1983 to mentor servicemen in their military careers. He pulled out his smartphone and happily whisked through a series of photographs he had taken with young up-and-coming cadets.

Great! He likes pictures, I thought. There was no flinching when I asked the 85-year-old to take a selfie with me. “Absolutely!” he said enthusiastically as he set down his own smartphone.

Boddie’s face radiated with pride and patriotism, wisdom and strength. This brought my thoughts to the United States heroes who bravely faced peril and sacrificed their lives for our country. Wouldn’t it be stunning to be able to see the faces of our ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the wars that followed? Well, it’s not as unlikely as you might think.

The American Revolutionary War

I didn’t think it was possible to find pictures of the faces of American Revolutionary War heroes, but it is! The pictures are exceptionally rare because few of them lived long enough to have their faces captured on film.Revolutionary War Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

A Utah journalist named Joe Bauman spent three years collecting images of the faces of these veterans. To view his collection of these great men, click here.

The last known Patriots of the American Revolutionary War were John Gray, who died in 1868 and Daniel Frederick Bakeman, who died in 1869. [1]

See more riveting faces of Revolutionary War veterans in Maureen Taylor’s books The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation and The Last Muster, Volume 2: Faces of the American Revolution

   

The War of 1812

Sometimes considered the “second war for independence,” the War of 1812 was in part due to the desire for Americans to expand west.

The fighting that originally started between the U.S. and Britain, soon included the American Native tribes. The defeat of the British at the Battle of Tippacanoe convinced many Indians in the Northwest Territory (including the celebrated Shawnee chief Tecumseh) that they needed British support to prevent American settlers from pushing them further out of their lands.

The valiant faces of the this war can be more readily found, perhaps even in your own family history. Many wonderful images can be found by simply Googling War of 1812 Veteran, and then clicking the Images results tab.

Hiram Cronk was the last surviving veteran of the War of 1812 at the time of his death in 1905. He died at the age of 105.[2]

The American Civil War

Did you know that children of American Civil War veterans still live among us? Two such “children” share their fathers’ stories in an article titled “Children of the Civil War Veterans Still Walk Among Us, 150 Years After the War.”

Not only will you find inspiration in the children’s stories, but the stories of many Civil War Veterans who lived to tell their remarkable tales. You can see faces of Civil War veterans in many places online, but the collection of Portraits of Named Civil War Enlisted Men at the Library of Congress is especially moving.

The last known surviving Union Army soldier was Albert Henry Woolson. He died in August 1956. [3] 

Spanish American War

The Spanish American War of 1898 led to the U.S. control of Cuba (who later became an independent nation), Guam, the Philippine Islands, and Puerto Rico. The war only lasted a short 10 weeks.

Whether your ancestors were fighting for the Spanish side or the American side, there are lots of fantastic pictures of our fighting heroes. Check out the 917 pictures of the Spanish American War at GettyImages.com.

Spanish American War

World War I

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

Frank Buckles, August 1917.

The handsome Frank Buckles born in Bethany, Missouri was the last surviving veteran of WWI, dying at 110 years of age. You can see his name among a list of last surviving WWI veterans by country here.

WWI, also known as the Great War, ravaged the European continent for nearly three years before the United States joined their allies to fight in the war. Many of our young men and women lost their lives to serve and protect in the first of two World Wars.

You can enjoy hours of viewing images at the Library of Congress’ digital collection titled World War I in Pictures: An Overview of Prints & Photographs Division Collection.

Remembering Faces of U.S. Military Veterans

I hope my story of meeting Brigadier General James T. Boddie has inspired you to look for the faces of your family’s military veterans. Even if you never find a photograph of your veteran hero, it is important to learn their stories of bravery and sacrifice, both on and off the battlefield.

Do you have a special veteran hero in your family history? We would love to hear about them in the comments below. While you are at it, if you have a picture of your veteran, please post it to our Genealogy Gems Facebook page. We love to hear from you. Thanks for reading, friends!

More Gems on Finding Your Military Veterans

Find Your WWII AncestorsFacebook_Logo

Be a Hero! 4 Ways to Rescue Military Memories and Artifacts

 

Use Forensic Genealogy Tools: Technology Sheds New Light On History

forensic genealogy toolsThe forensic investigator pulls up to the crime scene and snaps a fresh set of rubber gloves. She props open the trunk of the car and carefully, slowly, sweeps a tube of florescent light back and forth inside the trunk, watching with an eagle eye for the glimmer of something that shouldn’t be there.

It’s a familiar scenario – well, that is, if you watch Court TV or CSI or one of the other of myriad of television shows featuring forensics. If you’re like me, you’re fascinated by this type of investigation. Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists: they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

So it will be be no surprise that this recent news item grabbed my attention:

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Image from the National Library of Wales website. Click to view.

Poetry and pictures drawn in the margins of a medieval manuscript–and then erased–have been rediscovered using modern imaging techniques. The Black Book of Carmarthen is the oldest known surviving Welsh language manuscript. Written in 1250, it’s now “throwing up ghosts from the past after new research and imaging work revealed eerie faces and lines of verse which had previously been erased from history,” according to a National Library of Wales blog post.

“A combination of ultraviolet light and photo editing software” were used to better see ancient doodles that had been erased from the margins. The process revealed “images, and snatches of poetry which are previously unrecorded in the canon of Welsh verse.”

We’ve featured several types of forensic analysis as applied to genealogy over the years. In fact, forensic genealogy principles inspired my popular presentation, How to Reopen and Work a Genealogical Cold Case (if you’re a Premium Member of this website you can sign in right now and watch it under Premium Videos).

Criminal investigators are not all that different from genealogists:
they are  looking for dead people and trying to find out what happened to dead people.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episodes 89 and 90 features Dr. Robert Leonard, a forensic linguist featured on an episode of Forensic Files on TV. It was such a riveting interview that I brought him back for Premium episode 48 where his brother Dr. George Leonard joined us. And way back in the pioneer days of this podcast (2008) Episode 18 featured “Vehicular Forensics.”

vehicular forensics genealogyIt was my genealogical take on using alternative light sources on not the trunks of cars, but rather their faded license plates as they appear in old photos. That episode has been “retired” but will soon be Gems ebook remastered and available for listening (stay tuned to the free Genealogy Gems email newsletter for the publication announcement.) In the meantime you can read about it in depth in my very first book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.

Have you looked to see what lurks on the pages and photos of your ancestors? Email me and we may share it in an upcoming blog post or episode.

Digital Family History Book Collection Hits 200k!

plant_growing_out_of_book_800_wht_9084

A milestone 200,000 digital family history books are now online at the multi-library Family History Books collection at FamilySearch.org. The growing collection, which began in 2007, includes “family histories, county and local histories, genealogy magazines and how-to books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees,” according to the landing page.

Last time I looked for books here, I found one on my Homer ancestors. This time around, I found another gem: a book of children’s stories written about these ancestors! Digitally-archived volumes like county and local histories, published  family histories and others are so valuable because they are immediately accessible and because they are keyword-searchable. Try these keyword search strategies:

  • Look for only a surname (in case the first name is written different ways or a different relative is mentioned).
  • Search for the name of a neighborhood, street, church, school, business, type of work or other keywords that pertain to your family.
  • Use the Advanced Search feature to focus your search for a keyword in a title, type of publication (periodical, etc).

Once you’re reading a book, you can click on the info icon (a circle with an “i” in it on the upper right) to see more information about the book, including source citation and copyright information.

While the number of volumes online skyrockets, the online Viewer for reading them is only gradually improving. Here’s a TIP from FamilySearch staffer Dennis Meldrum: “Safari does not work well with the Viewer.” Neither do mobile devices like the iPhone or iPad. “The Viewer works best with IE or Firefox. It also works with Chrome, but the Adobe Tools do not work. We are aware of the limitations of the Viewer and are working to replace it by the end of the year.”

evernote_libraryWant to keep track of which genealogy books are on your shelf and which you’ve found online? Create an Evernote genealogy library! Click here to learn how to do that with books on your shelf, and then add additional titles with the links in Evernote. Sharpen your Evernote skills for genealogy by becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium member. This gives you a full year’s access to our Ultimate Evernote for Genealogy Education, with five (so far) full-length video classes for beginner to expert and five mini-sessions, too.

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