Show Notes: Are you trying to work on a genealogy brick wall, and you think the records you need might be at the National Archives? In this video, I’m going to show you a new way that you can get answers and hopefully get the records quickly.
The National Archives is a great place to do that, but as I’ve mentioned before in this video, their website can be a bit daunting. However, I’ve got some good news. They have updated the website, and tucked away in that update is a special area where you can ask questions and get answers from many different sources including the staff at the National Archives.
It’s called History Hub. This updated platform is a place where the staff will actually answer your questions. You’ll also get responses from other archivists, librarians, museum curators, genealogists, and history enthusiasts. We all have areas of expertise and a wide array of experience, and the new History Hub makes it easier to help each other.
Before you can ask a question or help answer a question, you’ll need to register for a free History Hub account. To do so, click the Create your History Hub account now link on the home page. Type in the account name you want, enter your email address and a password and click the box to agree to the terms of service.
Be aware that accounts that have not been used for over 1 year are automatically deactivated. So, you can email them at email@example.com and they will reactivate your account.
Searching History Hub
Searching for answers at the History Hub is pretty simple and easy to do. You can enter your question in the “Ask” field on the History Hub homepage, or within a specific community. And we’ll talk about communities in just a second.
Let’s first ask a question. There’s a very good chance that someone else has already asked a very similar question to the one you have and there may already be a lot of contributions that will have the information you need.
Go to History.gov and type your question or some keywords into the Ask box. Don’t click the Ask button just yet. Give it a second to show you any potential answers that are already on History Hub. They will appear as a list below the Ask box.
Again, those answers will build up over time, so if when you ask your question you don’t see a similar answer, that’s OK. Go ahead and click the Ask button now and you’ll be taken to a page called Ask a Question in Researchers Help where you can write up your question. Include any relevant information you already know, such as names, dates, and places, and also mention specifically where you’ve already looked. That’s going to help them help you.
You can also add Tags to your question so that if someone searches for a tag, your request will also pop up. And be sure to check the box at the bottom so that you’ll be notified when someone replies to your post.
There are a couple of things to understand and keep in mind. First, all questions are public. So don’t post your phone number or other personal information about you or other living people.
Second, all questions are reviewed and moderated to make sure they comply with History Hub’s Terms and Conditions which again you can read when you sign up for your account. They only moderate and answer questions on weekdays during regular business hours, so patience is a virtue here.
In addition to the Ask a Question box, you’ll find a search bar at the top of the page. This search field searches the entire History Hub website. It’s very similar to the Ask a Question search bar in that once you enter your search terms, you’ll want to wait and let it populate possible answers that are already on the website. It will show you Forums, blogs and communities where your terms are being discussed.
You’ll also find a link to Advanced Search in the bottom right corner of that prepopulated list. This gives you a place to filter down in several creative ways which is very handy if you’re looking for information on a pretty broad topic or one that has had a lot of activity on History Hub.
History Hub search example
They even give you an RSS feed for your specific query. So, if you use an RSS reader to follow blogs and podcasts, you could add this link to it to sort of bookmark this search and keep up to date on the activity on this topic. If you don’t use a Feed Reader currently, but that sounds interesting to you, check out a feed reader like https://feedburner.google.com/ or just google Feed Reader.
Browsing History Hub
Even if you don’t have a specific question, History Hub is worth browsing. There are a couple of ways to do that.
Top Questions where you can look through the most popular questions and topics. This also includes threads from related forums. Use the filters underneath the title of this section to focus even more.
Activity Stream which features the most recent conversations.
Explore Communities. History Hub currently hosts 19 communities, including “Researchers Help,” Military Records, Genealogy, and more. To see them all, click on Communities at the top of any page on the History Hub website.
At History Hub you can not only ask questions, you can also answer them. Since all of us have expertise in our own areas of genealogy, History Hub encourages everyone to share their knowledge and experience with other users who are new to archival and genealogical research. So, you can help out a fellow genealogist by clicking Reply at the bottom of their post and sharing what you know about the topic.
Notifications, Updates, and Subscriptions
As I mentioned before, this site is building up content over time. So, you’re probably going to want to follow topics, and History Hub offers a couple of ways to do that.
Forum Updates & Notifications
If you’re interested in following a particular topic, such as Census Records, or Army and Air Force Records, you can get updates by email and on the platform for all new questions and answers in that specific forum. To do that, click on any community’s Question and Answer Forum tab, then click the Turn Forum notifications on link in the sidebar of that Forum’s homepage.
Subscribe to Community Updates
You can also receive daily or weekly email updates within a specific community, including new blog posts and questions. To do that on any Community Overview page, click “Email digest options” in the right column sidebar.
Damage reports are surfacing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Today we discuss how two Texas library collections have fared, and disaster recovery strategies for genealogy researchers. I’ve got a fantastic get-started video tip for those trying to rescue documents, photos, and other family heirlooms–and the two steps everyone should take to protect their priceless genealogical collections.
Port Aransas, Texas
My heart goes out to those who have been in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recently. Knowing I live in Texas, many of you have asked how my family is doing. I’m happy to report that the storms didn’t reach those of us here north of Dallas. However, our daughter Hannah and her husband, while thankfully safe after evacuating from their home on the Texas shore, suffered the loss of their car and other possessions, and Hannah’s workplace was destroyed. They are now part of the relief and recovery efforts, and look forward to when they will be able to return to their home, which is currently uninhabitable. We feel very blessed that they are safe and sound, and our prayers go out to all who suffered losses.
Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Libraries
Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, Houston, TX. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.
As lives are secured and order begins to be restored in devastated areas, I’ve wondered how various genealogy libraries and archives have fared. Genealogy Gems listener Chris emailed me with an alert that the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas has suffered some damage. “So sad for genies!” she writes. Indeed! The Clayton is one of the top public library genealogy research centers in the United States.
Not wanting to disturb their recovery efforts with a phone inquiry, I’ve turned to Google searching and social media for a status report. The Houston Public Library Foundation states that the Clayton is among one of 10 library locations that are “unable to open due to various building damages.” The Clayton Library Friends Facebook page offers more specifics–and this hopeful report:
“Yes, there was some flooding at Clayton Library and according to Susan Kaufman, Manager, Clayton Library is closed this week. Clayton Library staff will be deployed to other libraries that are open.
Clayton Library did suffer some water damage but it was not really that bad. They just need to decide how best to proceed since they were planning on doing renovations soon anyway.”
CityofHouston.news tells us what Clayton staff may be doing at other library branches: “The services and resources that are available at your library system include free access to WiFi and computers, one-on-one assistance with filling out applications and forms, and access to the expertise of library archivists who can assist you in preserving and saving precious family memorabilia such as books, letters and photographs that may have been damaged in the storm.”
Chris’ email encourages us to support the recovery effort for Houston’s libraries through the Houston Public Library Foundation: here’s the link she sent to their donation portal.
Port Arthur Public Library, Port Arthur, Texas. Image from library website.
Down on the coast, another library system wasn’t so fortunate. The Port Arthur Library will remain closed for months, reports the Port Arthur News. “The Port Arthur Public Library was one of many buildings hit hard by Harvey,” states an article by L.V. Salinas. “It sustained flood damage and the subsequent mold issue inundated buildings often face afterward. It also sustained substantial damage and loss of property of its books, computer equipment, archives and more.”
Crews are working to clean up and preserve what they can. High priority is being given to their historical and genealogical resources: “One of the costlier processes was the freeze-drying of irreplaceable items like genealogy records, microfilm, Port Arthur historical photos and collections. The intent, as performed by companies contracted by the city, was to prevent any further damage from taking place, kill the bacteria that’s present and preserve the items long enough for a transference of information by experts.”
The Port Arthur History Collection is proudly described on the library website; it includes a collection of historic photos that were lovingly organized by volunteers and placed in archival-quality storage. “It’s one of our highest buy testosterone medication priorities,” states a library official in the article. “It’s time sensitive, and it has to happen now….We have to preserve it now.”
Disaster Recovery for Genealogy Researchers
As genealogists, we to have our personal and precious libraries and archives. We build trees in software–some of us spending hundreds or thousands of hours on them. We may have files, books, and other research materials. Many of us are family archivists: the stewards of priceless original family documents, photos, and other artifacts. Here’s some level-headed counsel for after a disaster strikes–and here’s what the rest of us should be doing now, before another disaster.
After a Disaster: Take It One Step at a Time
If you’ve been affected by a recent disaster, I’d like to share this fantastic, level-headed advice from Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections (Galveston, Texas was hit by a hurricane in 1900–the “deadliest natural disaster in American history”):
I love her compassionate advice:
“Walking into [your home after a disaster] is very overwhelming. Try to take a deep breath and think about the things that matter most to you and what your priorities are. Take it one piece at a time: after you’ve finished that one, move on to the next.” -Rennee Tallent, Galveston Historical Foundation’s Manager of Historic Collections
Start your recovery efforts with whatever matters most to you, Renee says. But she reminds us that certain items are more vulnerable to destruction than others, so try to also focus on things made out of paper and photographs, then cloth, then wood. Leave your china, silver, and glassware until these other items have been stabilized.
Before Disaster Strikes: Digitize and Back It Up!
If a disaster strikes, most of us won’t have the time to grab all our genealogy research files, photographs, and other precious heirlooms. But many of these items are one-of-a-kind–unless we make them two-or-more-of-a-kind!
As family archivists, we can best preserve our past by:
Digitizing it. Make high-quality digital scans of original documents and photos. Take digital pictures of three-dimensional heirlooms such as clothing, handicrafts, even quilts.
Backing up your digital files. Should a disaster occur–whether storm, theft, or fire–your computer may suffer the same fate as any original documents and heirlooms in your home. So I recommend investing in an automated, cloud-based backup service for your computer.
For a few dollars a month, a cloud-based backup service will continually back up your computer files to a remote server. In the event of any loss (including a computer crash), you can download them again. Having a digitized version of those original Civil War letters or photos isn’t quite the same as the real thing–but it’s so much better than having them disappear entirely. And if you’re like me, your computer doesn’t just house your photos and research files. It may have hundreds or even thousands of work files, personal files, music, or video files and more.
I use Backblaze for my personal computer and to back up thousands of Genealogy Gems audio, video, and other files. Backblaze is made for everyday consumers: it’s affordable and easy to use. Do your research yourself and choose the best cloud-based backup for you (click here to read the 8 features you should be watching for).
Our Service “Happiness” Manager, Lacey, experienced first hand the benefits of having her computer backed up:
Right after our Genealogy Gems seminar in Dallas in early August, I came home, sat down to work, and discovered my laptop had died. I tried everything I could find to get it going again (thanks to Google search results) but it couldn’t be revived. Thankfully, I had both Backblaze and Dropbox installed on my computer, and I didn’t lose any files at all. I was able to get everything back! Even my Google account saved all of my settings and bookmarks for my Chrome browser, so when I got my new computer, just about everything was restored as though nothing had happened. I was SO RELIEVED! Planning ahead really paid off!
(If you decide to go with my favorite, Backblaze, thanks for clicking here to purchase it. The modest commission we receive supports the free information I provide on this website and the Genealogy Gems podcast.)
My sincere wishes for the safety of your families–and your family history.
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!
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.
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!
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 34: Do Your Genealogy at the Public Library, Part 1
Did you know there is a gem of a genealogical resource right in your own backyard? Well, at least in your own neighborhood—and also in just about every neighborhood where your ancestors lived. The public library is one of the most underestimated sources of genealogical information around! It’s free. It has better hours than most government-run agencies. There are staff with research skills, knowledge of their locale and knowledge about their collections. I have invited Patricia Van Skaik, Manager of the History and Genealogy Department of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County to join us here on the podcast. In this episode she’s going to give us the inside scoop on the unique genealogical resources that are tucked away in public libraries just waiting to be discovered.
What’s at the library?
Each library has unique materials for its locale. Examples include:
Partnerships with local societies and clubs, and organizations (access to databases)
Unique library expertise
TIP: Check with the public libraries in each location where your ancestors lived TIP: Genealogy holdings vary, and often have to do with what local constituents want.
TIP: Get involved and make requests at your local library if you want more genealogy resources.
How to prepare for your visit
Determine your questions ahead of time and gather the appropriate ancestor information to take with you.
See if they have a genealogy area on the website. There are lots of things on the library website that are not in the catalogue (special exhibits, digitized images, and databases) Don’t just jump straight to the catalogue.
Search the online catalog and identify the books and resources you want
Look for the geographic area, not the person’s surname (town, county, geographical area)
Use the Advanced search – “you don’t have to be an advanced researcher to use the advanced search!”
Don’t use the word “genealogy” in your search. It’s pretty useless.
4 more tips from Lisa and Patricia
Email in advance – ask some questions ahead of time:
Is the website up to date?
Reconfirm hours of operation
What’s the best time to come for more service?
Is wi-fi available?
Do you need change for copy machines?
Are there any special collections you should know about?
Do they offer orientations?
Plan a group visit: Some libraries will make special accommodations for a group visit. Ask if they will provide a tour geared to genealogy. And they may have a meeting room where you can have lunch or meet. It’s a small investment in time and money to make sure that you’re going to get the most of the time you’re going to spend there.
Get their expertise! Librarians don’t just know the collection, but they also know research strategy, collection contents, all the questions that have come before, and local area resources.
Phrase your questions for success: Pose questions in terms of a query. For example: “I’m trying to find evidence of someone’s death during this time frame. What materials do you have that may help?” (Don’t just ask specifically for obituaries or government death records—they may not have one but they may have other resources you’re not thinking of.)
Tune in next week to Episode 35 to learn more about researching at the public library, like tips for advance searching those online card catalogs, thinking like a librarian, unique collections at librarians and the types of questions you can ask your public library staff.