For the month of April, Fold3 is offeringfree access to its Confederate Civil War collections of more than 19 million records. Many of these are from the National Archives’ War Department Collection of Confederate Records: Confederate Compiled Service Records, Confederate citizens’ files and Confederate Casualty Reports. Whether you’re looking for specific Confederate Civil War soldiers or you’re just interested in history, these records are fascinating!
For example, there are compiled service records for “Galvanized Yankees,” or Confederate prisoners-of-war who obtained a release by enlisting in the Union army. Many of these files have the soldier’s declaration of “Volunteer Enlistment” and an oath of allegiance to the United States. You have to wonder what each man was thinking and feeling as he signed these papers. How did his Union enlistment go? How did his family and community react? If he survived the war, how was his life afterward affected by that choice? There are stories behind every record–and Civil War records are some of the most compelling.
You’ll also find other interesting records in this collection, many created post-war: the Confederate Amnesty Papers, Confederate Navy Subject File, papers relating to the Civil War Subversion Investigations, and files of the Southern Claims Commission.
As a daughter of an adoptee, this season I am grateful I can use DNA for adoption research. Seats at my genetic holiday table are gradually filling, even if some place cards are just penciled in.
At this time of year when many of us are spending more time with family than we otherwise might, we often reflect on the empty seats at our table. We think of those who weren’t able to travel to the family gathering, and back to those who have passed on. For some, however, a long empty seat has been filled this year, thanks to the assistance of a DNA test.
Earlier this year we related the story of Mary McPherson and her cousin Dolores Washington-Fleming who discovered a common connection through Peter Edward Williams. Mary is a descendant of his wife and Dolores through his slave.
Mary and Dolores welcomed this new connection and shared information about their common ancestor. As they reunited for the first time, perhaps they talked about what life might have been like in the 1850s in the south, and how their ancestors would’ve never guessed that the two of them would be gathered around the same table.
DNA for Adoption Research
As word spreads of the power of DNA testing to reveal the secrets of the past, many adoptees are flocking to genetic genealogy testing companies with the intention of filling the empty seats at their holiday tables. The New York Times reported a touching story of Khrys Vaughan who felt her identity crumble when she found out she was adopted. Turning to DNA testing, she was able to connect with cousins and feel a biological connection she didn’t know she had been missing. Even though she still has many open seats at her table, she felt that filling even one meant that she was no longer biologically adrift, but could now look at someone and say, “This is my family.”
A similar story broke recently out of California. Just days old, Jen Chervin was found outside a hospital in Yuba City, CA. That was 40 years ago. But this year, Jen used the power of the genetic genealogy database in combination with some serious genealogy work to find her parents. While neither is in a position to openly embrace her as a daughter at this time in their lives, Jen now has a name card to place at seats of honor around her holiday table, all thanks to a simple saliva test.
This has been a landmark year in my own family. In one seeming miracle after another, I have added the names of maternal grandparents and great grandparents to my family tree as DNA testing has helped my mom fill in some of the missing pieces in her life. We have had a true Texas welcome from some of her paternal second cousins, and an outpouring of kindness from a maternal second cousin. While our place cards for mother and father are only tentatively penciled in, I know as I look around our genetic holiday table that I am excited about the new faces I see and I can’t wait to learn more.
How to Get Started Using DNA for Adoption Research
If you want to get started filling seats at your table, there is no time like the present to give yourself (or someone else) the gift of DNA testing! (Remember, before you get started, make sure you’re emotionally ready for the unexpected. You never know what “surprises” you’re going to unwrap when you start genetic testing.)
My quick reference guides will guide you through the process and act as a reference tool along the way. It will tell you that the first rule in DNA testing is to test the oldest generation. So parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles should be first on your list. If you are that oldest generation, then pat yourself on the back and get swabbing!
The savvy shopper begins with the AncestryDNA test for all interested parties, and the YDNA 37 marker test from Family Tree DNA for all males. Then sit back and wait for the results to roll in! As they do, check back here at Genealogy Gems for tips on how to use that data to fill seats at your holiday table next year.
More Inspiring Gems About DNA for Adoption Research
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If you have British roots, you’ll want to check out the new collection available on Findmypast.com: a half million criminal records dating from 1770-1934!
This sounds like a pretty gripping collection, whether you’ve got British roots or not. It contains records like mug shots, court documents, appeals letters and registers from prison ships (which were used when mainland prisons were crowded). According to Findmypast.com, the records “provide a wide variety of color, detail and fascinating social history, chronicling the fate of criminals ranging from fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves and murderers and their victims.” The 500,000 records you can search now are only a fifth of the full collection of 2.5 million that will be online soon.
The company calls this the largest collection of historical criminal records from England and Wales to be published online and is done in association with the National Archives (UK). Findmypast.com members can click here to access the criminal collection directly (make sure the box for “Institutes and Organizations” is checked).
Here’s a little more background on connections between British convicts and the U.S. and Australia….
During colonial times, Britain often punished criminals by forcing them to emigrate. The most famous destination was Australia: the first British settlement on that continent in 1787 was actually a penal colony. Australia celebrates that fact about its heritage today: learn more about the “First Fleet’s” arrival here.
In the newly-published and FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185, Lisa celebrates family history writing with inspiring stories, her unique spin on the “marketing value” of family history blogs and a chance to win a FREE year of Premium membership!
This month, all of us here at Genealogy Gems are celebrating reaching a milestone 1000 blog posts on our website! In a special segment, several Genealogy Gems listeners and readers share THEIR adventures and successes with family history blogging–and Lisa shares some spot-on “why blog?” comments from a marketing perspective.
Continuing our celebration of family history writing–in all its forms–we welcome George Ella Lyon, the poet laureate of Kentucky, to talk to us about a poetry initiative she started that’s all about family identity. Her “Where I’m From” writing prompt has reached around the world–and now we bring it to you!
Listen to that segment, write your own poem and call in to read it on Lisa’s voicemail ((925) 272-4021) by the end of this year. You could win a 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription! Be sure to leave your name, phone number, and email address (your phone and email will be kept private and NOT played on the show). One lucky winner will be randomly selected on December 31, 2015.
Also in the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 185, you’ll find fabulous new online resources–millions of marriage records and some great new materials coming from the U.S. National Archives. Diahan Southard joins the show with a segment on understanding your DNA ethnicity results. So tune in and check us out! You can listen click here to listen from your web browser or mobile device. OR enjoy the perks and convenience of using the exclusive Genealogy Gems app, available for iPhone/iPad and Android.
Want to encourage a friend or relative to write a “Where I’m From” poem of their own? Want to help a genie buddy or your society members get inspired to blog? Why not share this free podcast with them? Thank you! You are a gem!
An interactive map lets you explore The Blitz: the intensive Bombing of London by the Germans in 1940-1941.
View from St. Paul’s cathedral after the Blitz. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.
We see the images often in WWII-era movies. Londoners hunched in tube station tunnels during air raids. Children evacuating the city by the thousand. The Blitz was a period of intensive bombing of London by the Germans that began in September 1940 and continued through the following June. Now we can explore exactly where and when all those bombs fell at a new interactive website, Bomb Sight.
“With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WW2 Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories,” explains the site. “The Bomb Sight web map and mobile app reveal WW2 bomb census maps between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.”
As you can see from this screenshot, the site is map-based. All those red dots you see are bombings. (Can you imagine bombs falling that thickly in your own neighborhood?) Different icons reveal the type of bomb. Click on them to learn more about that event. You can even view historical images of that neighborhood and read stories and memories relating to that area. You can ask to map to show you only the first night of the blitz, a weekly look or an aggregate (all-inclusive) view, like the one shown here.
Though you can search visually, you can also enter a street or postcode to look at a specific area. Zoom in or out; explore different map layers for different types of information.
These maps were created from 559 map sheet originals that were declassified in 1971 but are very fragile today. So this site represents a fantastic new free resource that hasn’t been widely accessible to the public. It’s stunning to look closely at a neighborhood and see how densely the bombs fell. It’s also stunning to pan out to the widest view and see SO many dots. So many bombs. So much destruction.
Immerse Yourself in The Blitz: Everyone Brave is Forgiven
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by British novelist Chris Cleave is a story about love and war during some of the longest sustained bombing campaigns of World War II. It immerses readers in the harrowing experiences of The Blitz, as civilians frantically piled their children onto trains headed for rural parts unknown, then spent the next several months running for underground shelters whenever the bombs came. You’ll read about children who gradually snuck back into the city, only to find themselves homeless and orphaned. You’ll careen along with female ambulance drivers who dodged explosions and ruins during air raids as they raced toward smoking ruins. But amidst all this devastation are stories of love, romantic and otherwise, and stories of bravery, amidst moments of fear and panic. This Genealogy Gems Book Club pick was an instant New York Times best-seller, and for good reason! Click here to pick up your e-book or print copy.
About Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership
The video class you just caught a peek of is one of the perks of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. For one low annual fee, members can watch more than 2 dozen Premium member-only videos on genealogy research strategies, organization, technology tools (like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and cloud computing) and more. And we keep adding new videos regularly! Premium website members also have access to our monthly Premium podcast and all archived episodes. Click here to learn more!
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