New York State Death Index Online for the First Time!

The New York State Death Index (1880-1956) is online for the first time! Also: letters of complaints to the city of Sydney, Australia; marriage records for Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Washington; and the newspaper of a historically black North Carolina university. Coming soon: a major new online archive for Ontario, Canada.

Featured: New York State Death Index

For the first time, the New York State Death Index (1880-1956) has been made available online–and it’s free! The nonprofit advocacy group Reclaim the Records won its case that this index should be made available as free public records. According to the organization’s announcement, the index isn’t completely statewide: New York City death records were maintained separately, and Yonkers, Buffalo and Albany are not included until 1914 or 1915. The index for 1880 and 1881 is sparse, as record-keeping wasn’t good yet, and the index for 1943 is difficult to read. And it’s unclear whether those who died at some state institutions were included. The link above takes you to each year’s index on Internet Archive.

Australia: Complaints to the City of Sydney

Over 56,000 letters written by residents to the City of Sydney in the latter part of the 1800s have been digitized and added to the City of Sydney Archive online. A city historian quoted at the Daily Telegraph.com said people’s complaints “range from the mundane to the bizarre,” such as “foul smells, night time noise, stray farm animals and smoke billowing from homes and blacksmiths’ forges.” This same online city archive also hosts a collection of historical photographs, a full run of Sands directories, postal directories, and other resources for researching your house history. Find this collection by clicking Archives Investigator and then “Letters Received by Council, 1843-1899.”

Canada: New Ontario collections planned

Findmypast and the Ontario Genealogical Society have announced a new partnership that will bring millions of Ontario records online. According to a Findmypast announcement, “The first phase will be launched later this year with the online publication of over six million fascinating Ontario records, including:

  • The Ontario Name Index (TONI) – over 3.7 million records – a mega-index of names with the goal of including every name found in any publication relating to Ontario, ranging from registers of birth, marriage & death to obituaries, memorial inscriptions, newspaper articles and more.
  • The Ontario Genealogical Society Provincial Index (OGSPI) – over 2.6 million records – containing data from censuses, birth, marriage and death registers, references in books, land records, passenger lists, military records and a host of other references.
  • Oddfellows Life Insurance Applications (1875-1929) – over 240,000 names released online for the very first time, containing a collection of just over 59,000 life insurance applications to the Odd-Fellows’ Relief Association of Canada. The applications contain answers to up to thirty-one questions about sex, age, occupation, height, weight, ethnic origins, marital status, family structure, and past and present health conditions.
  • Ontario Genealogical Society Bulletin/Families and NewsLeaf – new images from official society publications and journals will become available to search through Findmypast’s Periodical Source Index (PERSI) – the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world.”

Stay tuned to the Genealogy Gems blog for an announcement when the collections are available.

US: North Carolina university newspaper

Several issues of the student newspaper for Johnson C. Smith University are now online at DigitalNC. “Johnson C Smith University, a historically black university in Charlotte, NC was founded in 1867 as the Biddle Memorial Institute,” explains a Digital North Carolina blog post. “The name was changed to Johnson C Smith University in 1923 after a benefactress’ husband, shortly before the available run of papers were published.” Online editions span 1926 – 1930.

Marriage record example from “Nebraska Marriage Records, 1855-1906” on Ancestry.com. Click to view.

US: Marriage records: NE, WA, IN, IA

Ancestry.com has published a new index of Nebraska, Marriage Records, 1855-1908 with over 1.4 million records. It includes indexed images of records that generally include the couple’s names, birthdates, birthplaces, parents’ names and date and place of the wedding. Also new on Ancestry.com is Washington, State Marriage Indexes, 1969-2014, described as “a statewide index to over 3.9 million marriages that were performed in Washington between 1969 and 2014.” It includes only the names of the couple, date of the wedding, and county.

The site has also recently updated marriage records collections for the states of IndianaIowa and an update to Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013, described as “images of and indexes extracted from various records of marriages in Washington” from the state archive (and, with over 10.5 million records, likely overlaps with the above new collection).

Thanks for helping us spread the word about new genealogy records online! Just share this post with your genealogy buddies and fellow society members. You’re a gem!

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Organize Digital Family Photos: Free Podcast Interview with Denise Levenick

organize digital family photosI love Denise Levenick’s “getting started” strategies for digital photo organization in the free May 2015 Family Tree Magazine podcast. I have thousands of digital photos on my computer–and that’s just from the past few years!

Denise Levenick is the author of The Family Curator blog and the book How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally. Her approach is so practical and forgiving: start where you are. Start small. Take your time. Do a few at a time. Use a consistent and simple file naming and digital file organizing scheme!

Also in this podcast, Editor Diane Haddad chimes into the conversation with 25 keepsake family photo projects. Then host Lisa Louise Cooke wraps up the photo theme with her favorite strategies for navigating the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastAre you ready for some serious hard drive organization? We can help with that! In our free 2-part series, “Organize Your Genealogy Files,” Lisa shares the system she developed about a decade ago to keep her computer hard drive organized. Her system has withstood the test of time: she’s added thousands more files to her genealogy folders as well as folders that organize “the rest of her life.” Click here to go to these episodes of the Family History Made Easy Podcast, episodes 32-33. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch the 2-part Premium video series, “Hard Drive Organization.” You’ll learn similar principles but you can watch Lisa do all that digital organizing right on her computer screen!

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!

Prison Inmate Photos: “The Eyes Are Everything”

Matt from Omaha, Nebraska (U.S.) recently told me about a project his cousin is working on that is so cool the story was picked up by U.S.A. Today.

Prison Memory

While poking around at an 1800s-era Iowa prison about to be torn down, Mark Fullenkamp came across boxes of old glass negatives. Upon closer inspection, he found they were intake photos of the inmates. Some were 150 years old!

Mark first set out to digitize and reverse the negative images of over 11,000 prison inmate photos. Others gradually became involved, like scholars at University of Iowa where he works and even inmates at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. A doctoral candidate who was interviewed by U.S.A. Today says she’s struck by the moment these photos were taken: when their lives were about to change forever. Though many look tough for the camera (and presumably the other inmates), she sees a lot of emotion in their expressions: “The eyes are everything.”

Now Fullekamp’s team is trying to connect names and stories with the photos. It’s not easy, but many of the pictures have inmate numbers on them. Some files have surfaced with inmate numbers and names in them. Others are stepping forward with memories.

Read more about the project on Matt’s blog.

Got a digital photo archiving project of your own? Click here to learn about a free ebook published by the Library of Congress on digital archiving.

Tools to Highlight Your Great Genealogy Finds

Snagit and Skitch can help you highlight screenshots and other digital images you capture for genealogy. Here’s how!

snagit skitch great genealogy finds

genealogy gems podcast mailboxRecently Diane from Alberta, CA sent in this question:

“I am trying to find how to highlight a portion of a document such as a birth certificate. The document has three people listed for the county and prior to adding it to my tree on Ancestry, I would like to highlight my ancestor so he will stand out. Can you offer any suggestions. I tried Evernote without success, also my family tree program.  What am I missing?”

I suggested Diane use Snagit 2019, compatible with Windows and Mac software to highlight her documents. In fact, I use it constantly for a variety of genealogical projects. The full-blown software has loads of cool features!

You can also download the free Snagit Chrome extension here. After you install Snagit, you’ll see it show up on your browser page. Here’s what it looks like on Google Chrome (the blue “s” button):
Snagit icon on browser page

 

 

Snagit Sample Thomas Hall census When you see something on your screen you want to capture, just click on the blue “S” icon. You’ll be asked at the outset to give Snagit access to various cloud storage options so it can store the image for you. Once you allow it access, then you’ll be able to name your file and add your own shapes, arrows and text. Use these to call attention to part of a record; annotate what you learned from it or even mark your ancestor’s face in a group photo.

As far as doing something similar in Evernote: Evernote only allows you to highlight typed text, not portions of an image. However, you can download Skitch and drag and drop the document from Evernote into Skitch. Then you can highlight an image to your hearts content. When you’re done you can Save to Evernote in the menu (SKITCH > SAVE TO EVERNOTE).

Share BoldThanks to Diane for a great question! I hope you’ll all share this post: Snagit is free and makes it so easy to take notes on your digital images, for your own use or to share with others!

Resources

How to Add Text to a Web Clipping in Evernote

Should Evernote Be My Digital Archive?

Annotating and Transcribing Documents in Evernote (What Evernote Can and Can’t Do for Family History)

“We’re Cousins?!” DNA for Genealogy Reveals Surprising Relationship

Two cousins recently chatted after learning that they share DNA. The first asked whether the second is white. “No,” she answered. The response: “Are you sure?”  

In our modern society, families are defined in a myriad of different ways. Using DNA for genealogy is certainly contributing to these

A family and its female slave house servants in Brazil, c.1860. Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view full source citation.

changing definitions, as families find themselves genetically linked across social and cultural boundaries to kin they never expected.

Such is the case for a Bartow, Florida resident who submitted a DNA test out of curiosity and found more than she expected. Through a combination of DNA testing and social media, Mary McPherson, who is white, met one of her cousins, Dolores Washington-Fleming, who is black.

Peter Williams entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

Peter Williams’ entry in 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule, St Bartholomews Parish, Colleton, South Carolina. Image from Ancestry.com.

According to an article on The Ledger, the two women share a great-great-grandfather, Peter Edward Williams, who was born in South Carolina two centuries ago. Peter was a slaveholder. The 1850 census slave schedule shows that he held a female slave who was a few years younger than she was. Dolores believes that’s her grandmother’s grandmother.

The two finally met this past May for the first time and enjoyed this new definition of family. I think what I like most is what Dolores’ son said about the situation: “My mom and I are fascinated by history, and this is history. We represent what the times were like back then.” It still boggles my mind just a little that we are able to use the DNA of living people today to resurrect the past, and bring depth and meaning to the present, and possibly even prepare us for the future.

I find myself in a similar situation to Dolores and Mary. My mom was adopted, and even though we have had DNA testing completed for several years, we didn’t have any close matches, and honestly, we weren’t looking. Though she did have a passing interest in her health history, my mom did not feel the need to seek out her biological family. But then over the last few months various pieces of her puzzle have started to fall into place. This is much because of a key DNA match that popped up in March.

With that one match and subsequent correspondence, our interest in my mom’s biological family has skyrocketed. Why? I think it is because our DNA match, sisters from Texas, have shown us genuine kindness and interest. They have truly shown us what it means to be family. Even though we are unexpected, even though we aren’t sure yet how exactly we are connected, they have embraced us without reservation without hesitation.

To me, this is what family is. They accept you in whatever condition you come in and do their best to make you feel like you belong. Now, that kind of welcome isn’t felt by everyone who meets their genetic cousins, and people should carefully consider whether they’re ready for unforeseen results or unanticipated reactions from DNA matches before they get started.

But what about you? If you’ve started down the genetics path, how has DNA testing expanded or strengthened your definition of family?

Learn more about DNA testing for genealogy–how to get started or how to make sense of testing you’ve already had–with my quick guides available at the Genealogy Gems store, and then contact me at YourDNAGuide.com to arrange your own personal DNA consultation.

Resources for DNA for Genealogy

DNA Quick Guides for Genealogy (Bundle them for savings!): Getting Started, Autosomal DNA, Y Chromosome DNA, Mitochondrial DNA, Understanding Ancestry, Understanding Family Tree DNA

New AncestryDNA Common Matches Tool: Love It!

Confused by Your AncestryDNA Matches?

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