For the month of April, Fold3 is offering free 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.
Beware: Personal Opinions are coming your way in this article!
In my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox I emphasize how to use Google to determine what is already available and free online before investing your limited time and money in offline family history searching. Smart genealogists allocate their resources wisely, getting the most bang for their buck. And collaboration between individual genealogists allows us to accomplish even more.
It looks like the U.S. Federal Government could learn a thing or two from savvy genealogists. The Washington Times is reporting that Congress’s auditor has discovered that our tax payer money given to the federal government isn’t being spent very wisely. (Imagine that!) Agencies fail to collaborate and share information, creating redundancy and overspending.
One example from the article: the Commerce Department “has been charging other government agencies millions of dollars for reports that the other agencies could just as easily have gotten online, for free – often with a Google search.”
This news makes it even harder to swallow the news that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is suffering reduced hours of service due to budgetary issues.
The Bottom Line:
Google Twice, Pay Once (and only if you have to!)
After a long day of genealogical research, what could be more satisfying than curling up with a good book about genealogical research?! Nathan Dylan Goodwin’s new book The Sterling Affair promises a satisfying return journey into the life of forensic genealogist Morton Farrier.
(This article includes affiliate links. If you decide to pick up a copy of this book, using our links for which we will be compensated by the book seller helps support our ability to bring author Q&A’s like this to your screen. Thank you!)
Click here to purchase your copy of The Sterling Affair
The Sterling Affair by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Goodwin sets the scene of his new book as follows:
“When an unannounced stranger comes calling at Morton Farrier’s front door, he finds himself faced with the most intriguing and confounding case of his career to-date as a forensic genealogist. He agrees to accept the contract to identify a man who had been secretly living under the name of his new client’s long-deceased brother.
Morton must use his range of resources and research skills to help him deconstruct this mysterious man’s life, ultimately leading him back into the murky world of 1950s international affairs of state.”
A Conversation with Author Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Don’t worry, we won’t be spoiling the exciting read you have ahead of you. Today I will be chatting with Nathan about his life as an author, his writing process, and how the main character, Morton Farrier, almost didn’t make it past the first book!
Lisa Louise Cooke: The Sterling Affair is your eighth novel in the Morton Farrier genealogical crime mystery series. When you first began writing the series did you imagine an eighth book? And today can you imagine even more?
Nathan: I literally had no concept that there would be so many books in the series! At first, it was written as a one-off, then I started to have ideas for two or three more.
I think when I wrote book three, The Orange Lilies, I knew that the series had plenty more scope, especially as DNA-testing was just beginning for genealogists, opening up a whole new world of potential storylines! As to the future of the series, I’m currently plotting books nine and ten. I don’t see an end to the series just yet!
Click the book image to order your copy.
Lisa Louise Cooke: I heard you speak at THE Genealogy Show conference in Birmingham England in 2019. In that presentation you told the audience that you almost killed off Morton at the end of the first book. I imagine you’re glad now that he survived. What exactly happened back then?
Nathan: Killing Morton would have been the most stupid thing I could have done!
I started writing Hiding the Past (the first book in the series) as part of my studies for a Master’s Degree in creative writing and I think I’d been reading a novel at the time, which went along the lines of ‘if you’re reading this then I’m dead’. I thought this angle might work for the first draft of my story but thankfully, as the book progressed, I was able to see several plotlines, which could continue into further stories.
I knew from the outset that I wanted the main character, Morton Farrier, to have been adopted and be totally unaware of his biological family, so there was plenty of scope there to continue that subplot in future books.
Lisa Louise Cooke: How has the advent of DNA testing changed the course of your writing?
Nathan: DNA-testing has completely changed the course of my writing—in a good way, I like to think! There are now so many more possibilities for Morton to solve his cases in different ways.
Morton took an Ancestry DNA test back in 2014 when it had not yet even become possible in the UK. He did what I had to do, which was to order one in the US and have a friend ship it over, then post it back to the US for testing and analysis!
From that point onwards, DNA has played an ever-increasing role in helping Morton to solve his cases. In the most recent book, The Sterling Affair, Morton uses a variety of real tools and websites which are familiar to genealogists.
Lisa Louise Cooke: When you start a book like The Sterling Affair, do you already have it well mapped out, or are there surprises even for you along the way as to the path it will take?
Nathan: I usually spend at least three months conducting research for the books. This involves reading, visiting record offices, libraries, churches, etc. Basically, anything which Morton does in the book, I do first.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin
At the point when I actually start writing I probably have about 60% of the storyline mapped out. It’s a big cliché to say so, but for me the characters really do come to life and do things which I hadn’t anticipated. For the first few books I found it a little unnerving to be starting to write something that I didn’t know pretty well 100% what was going to happen, but now I trust myself and I know I’ll get to the end if I let the characters lead the way!
Lisa Louise Cooke: Where do you get your inspiration for the story lines in your books?
Nathan: My ideas come from a variety of sources, but never by actively searching for the next story; I just seem to stumble on a nugget of an idea, which I think could make for an interesting genealogical crime mystery and make a note of it! It can be a news story involving history or genealogy in some way, something I’ve picked up from a family history publication, or a Facebook group where people share their own genealogical mysteries.
Increasingly, the books have more real-life characters, plotlines and locations. For example, The Spyglass File, which is set on the frontline of Kent during the Battle of Britain, was loosely based on my grandmother’s story, whereby she gave birth to an illegitimate child in 1943, whom she put up for adoption whilst my grandfather was a POW in Thailand.
Nathan’s Grandmother – Photo courtesy of Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
The Sterling Affair is based on nefarious goings-on during the 1950s and involves real undercover MI6 operations and real spies. The idea for this story came from the National Archives newsletter, which mentioned the release of some previously closed MI6 records. This got me thinking about someone trying to conceal their real identity and Morton having to use his skills to work out who he might be!
Lisa Louise Cooke: For those new to your books, they will see that this is the eighth novel in the series and wonder if it’s too late to join in. Can the book be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel?
Nathan: I always say that the books can be read as a stand-alone, but you would be missing out on Morton’s backstory. However, with The Sterling Affair there is not too much given away about his own past, so, of all of the stories, this is the most readable out of sequence!
Lisa Louise Cooke: When you’re not writing about Morton Farrier, what is your favorite way to spend free time?
Nathan: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘free time’!? Obviously, I spend a lot of time on genealogy. I’ve been researching my own family for thirty years now and I feel very fortunate to be able to combine my two loves of writing and genealogy. Aside from that, I enjoy reading, running, skiing, theatre and spending time with my family, friends and dog.
Lisa Louise Cooke: You’re a man of many talents. Do you have other “wishlist” projects you yearn to do in addition to writing?
Nathan: I enjoy photography and would like to develop that at some point in the future and I really would like to take a watercolour painting class at some point. I just need some of that free time you mentioned!
A man of many talents – Photography by Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Lisa Louise Cooke: I’ll be at RootsTech again this year. Will we see you there?
Nathan: I shall have a booth at RootsTech SLC this year signing books and also at THE Genealogy Show in Birmingham once again. So people can come and say hello and let me know what they think of my stories. I love chatting with my readers!
Hear More from Nathan Dylan Goodwin
Read and hear more from genealogical author Nathan Dylan Goodwin in the following exclusive Genealogy Gems content:
- Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 180 features an Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin author of The Lost Ancestor.
- Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 179 features a discussion of The Lost Ancestor by Nathan Dylan Goodwin.
- Interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin: Genealogy Gems Book Club – In this article from 2015 Nathan discusses the second book in the Morton Farrier series, The Lost Ancestor.
- Listen to the full-length Genealogy Gems Book Club interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin, as he discusses The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist) in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 125 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.)
- Listen to our interview with Nathan Dylan Goodwin about his The Wicked Trade and The Suffragette’s Secret in Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 159 (exclusive for Genealogy Gems Premium Members.
Catch up on the Morton Farrier
Learn more about the entire book series featuring Morton Farrier here in this Genealogy Gems Book Club article.
Traveling ancestors created records when they left the country of their origin and when they arrived at their new residence. We often talk about immigration, with an I, but have you researched your ancestors emigration records with an E?
When our ancestors traveled from one place to another, they became two types of migrants. First, they were Emigrants with an E, and then, they were Immigrants with an I. Emigration with an E means someone exiting a country and immigration with an I means someone coming into it. Let’s learn more about emigration…with an E.
I live in a country that doesn’t have much in the way of historical emigration records, but other countries do. I have to remember these emigration records when I start looking overseas for my relatives who were crossing the pond to live here.
EXAMPLES OF EMIGRATION RECORDS
Swedish parishes kept emigration records which are now on Ancestry dating back to 1783. According to the database description, this record set is pretty complete, representing about 75% of those who actually left the country. These rich records can provide place of origin, destination, and the date and place of departure.
For a time, the U.K. also kept outward passenger lists of those leaving the U.K. ports for destinations outside of Europe. The lists include British citizens and those traveling through the U.K. These passenger lists no longer survive for the years before 1890, but they are on Ancestry for the years of 1890-1960. Of course, while writing this post I just had to take a moment to do a bit of searching myself, and that lead to this genealogy gem: my husband’s grandfather, and his parents embarking at Liverpool in 1912!
I also spotted this interesting item in the database description. Quoted from the U.K. National Archives website:
“Between 1890 and 1920, among the highest tonnage of ships were leaving British ports bound for North America. Many passengers were emigrants from Britain, Ireland, and Europe. European emigrants bound for America entered the United Kingdom because traveling steerage was less expensive from a British port than from a port in Europe. The shipping companies imposed restrictions on passengers registering; passengers had to have British residency of six weeks to qualify. Many passengers too impatient to qualify for residency changed their names to avoid detection.”
A name change would certainly present a challenge, but it’s very good to know to be on a look out for that situation. This is another example of why it is so important to read the description of the databases you search.
MORE EMIGRATION RECORD COLLECTIONS
A quick search of Ancestry’s card catalog shows emigration collections for Prussia, Switzerland, a few parts of Germany, Jewish refugees from several nations in Europe, and an interesting collection of Dutch emigrants who came to North America with the help of the Canadian and Dutch governments.
Another excellent resource is the FamilySearch Wiki. You can search for the name of the country and the word emigration (with an e) to find out more about your targeted area. I typed in Hungary emigration and found the following information.
Did your emigrant (or immigrant) ancestor generate records in the country he or she left from as well as the country he or she entered? Remember to check!
MORE GEMS ON IMMIGRATION
Are you a Mac genealogist? Check out these family history software for Mac recommendations sent in by Genealogy Gems listeners.
Recently we’ve been talking about the importance of keeping your master family tree in family tree software on your computer, especially in the wake of Ancestry’s announcement that they’re retiring Family Tree Maker software. Lisa has given lots of suggestions, including RootsMagic 7 for Mac, but YOU have also sent in these comments for Mac-compatible family history software.
1. MacFamilyTree 5
“On your list of software to replace Family Tree Maker for the Mac, you should take a look at MacFamilyTree 5
. The support is fast and fabulous. The graphics on screen and in print look up-to-date and easy to read.
As someone who has been using The Master Genealogist, I had to start looking for a replacement before the FTM users. My only complaint with MacFamilyTree is that you can’t attach sources to particular items of information as I can in TMG, but you can’t in any of the other genealogy software either. I miss being able to indicate that a source for the birth had the full date but only the state for the place, for example. So I haven’t given up on TMG yet because I don’t want to lose information as I migrate my data.” -Diana
2. Reunion 11
“I have received and read your website for some time, and have found many helpful ideas and comments. Your last edition (Family Tree Maker discontinued) was indeed interesting, and verified how on top of things you are—thank you.
You suggested alternatives to Family Tree Maker…RootsMagic, MyHeritage, and Backblaze. (Editor’s note: Backblaze is Cloud backup for your computer, not genealogy software). While all three programs are available with versions that will work on Macs, in all fairness to Mac users, I suggest that you include (at least mention) that a great alternative for Mac is: Reunion 11 by Leister Productions. I have used this software since their beginning, and find it world-class for the Macintosh. They also have a method for moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion.” -Bill
More Family History Software for Mac
Thanks to Mac Users Diana and Bill for their recommendations. Here’s a great article from Family Tree Magazine outlining more options for genealogy software for the Mac.
More Inspiration from Genealogy Gems Like You
We love hearing from Genealogy Gems listeners and readers! Check out these posts from my “Mailbox.”