Here’s news we love to hear: the publication of a huge collection of historical U.S. city directories that has been two years in the making!
MyHeritage Announces US City Directories Collection
TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah —
MyHeritage, the leading global service for discovering your past and empowering your future, announced today the publication of a huge collection of historical U.S. city directories that has been two years in the making.
The collection was produced by MyHeritage from 25,000 public U.S. city directories published between 1860 and 1960. It comprises 545 million aggregated records that have been automatically consolidated from 1.3 billion records. This addition grows the total size of MyHeritage’s historical record database to 11.9 billion records.
MyHeritage teams applied innovative technologies to produce this collection and make it as useful and easy-to-use as possible.
Machine-Learning and OCR Technology
The city directories in this collection were published by cities and towns all over the U.S., and each directory is formatted differently. To overcome the formatting differences and unify the structures, MyHeritage corrected errors in the Optical Character Recognition of the scanned directory pages, and then employed several advanced technologies, including Record Extraction, Name Entity Recognition, and Conditional Random Fields to parse the data. By training a machine learning model how to parse raw free-text records into names, occupations, and addresses, the company produced a searchable, structured index of valuable historical information.
As an important resource for family history research, city directories can provide fascinating new discoveries for anyone exploring their family history in mid-19th to mid-20th century America. The records contain valuable insights on everyday American life spanning the time period from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement.
Cities in the United States have been producing and distributing directories since the 1700s, providing an up-to-date resource to help residents find and contact local individuals and businesses.
What You Can Find in City Directories
The city directories provide a wealth of information regarding family life during those years, listing names, residences, occupations, and relationships between individuals.
Thanks to their exceptional level of detail, city directories can also provide a viable alternative to U.S. census records during non-census years, and can fill in the gaps in situations where census records were lost or destroyed. In 1921, a fire at the U.S. Department of Commerce destroyed most of the records from the 1890 census. Despite the loss of the records in the fire, much of the data can be reconstructed using the 1890 city directories on MyHeritage, which consist of directory books from 344 cities across the country, including 88 of the 100 most populated cities during that year.
“We are harnessing new technologies to make family history research more accessible than ever before,” said Tal Erlichman, Director of Product Management at MyHeritage. “The use of machine learning to process the city directory records highlights the major strides MyHeritage is making in digitizing global historical records.”
MyHeritage automatically consolidated multiple entries for the same individual into one robust record that includes data from all the years an individual lived at the same address. This makes it easy to track changing life circumstances over the years. Users may be able to see more easily when their ancestors changed professions or got married, divorced, or were widowed — and MyHeritage automatically inferred approximate dates for such life events. Inferred dates contribute to improved matching between family trees and historical records on MyHeritage.
MyHeritage is currently indexing thousands of additional U.S. city directories that will be added to the collection in the coming months. This addition will include directories dating back to the late 18th century, as well as a large and unique set of directories from the late 20th century.
The online collection of U.S. city directories is now available on SuperSearch™, MyHeritage’s search engine for historical records. Searching the collection is free. A subscription is required to view the full records and to access Record Matches.
How to Search the Collection
Click here to go to MyHeritage. Under Research in the menu click Collection Catalog and then click Directories in the side menu.
Searching the U.S. City Directories is free, but a subscription is required to view the records.
Users with a Data or Complete subscription can view the full records including the high-resolution scans of the original directories, confirm Record Matches, extract information from the record straight to their family trees, and view Related Records for the person appearing in a historical record they are currently viewing.
Ready to start tracing your Irish genealogy? Don’t get into a fog and loose your way. Beginning Irish genealogy is a snap when you follow these step-by-step tips from expert Donna Moughty.
At the recent RootsTech 2017 conference in Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity to sit down and film a conversation with Irish genealogy expert, Donna Moughty. We discussed some of the key elements of Irish research such as developing a research plan, tracking down the necessary information in U.S. records, and the dramatic way in which Irish genealogical records research has changed in the last few years. You can watch that video below:
But this wasn’t my first conversation with Donna. Last Spring, she was a guest on Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode #134. That podcast episode is available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members. But, in honor of all those celebrating their Irish roots this month, here are some tips from the episode.
Tips for Beginning Irish Genealogy from Donna Moughty
1. Start with yourself and work systematically back, making sure you’ve made all the right connections. Common Irish names can easily send you off on the wrong track.
2. It’s all about location in Ireland. Not just the county but name of parish, or if possible, the townland they came from. If that information exists, it’s likely to be in the country to which they immigrated.
3. If the information exists, it’s probably not in one location. You might find it in bits and pieces in a lot of records. All records are not online, especially Roman Catholic church records in the U.S. When requesting those, write to the parish, send money, and tell them you’re looking for the locality in Ireland. The parish secretary will fill out a form, which may not have room for the locale on the form so you may not get that information unless you ask for it.
4. Scour the documents! Some Catholic priests would not marry a couple without proof of baptism, so there may be information in the marriage buy medication for gonorrhea record about the location of the parish of baptism.
5. Research everyone in the family including parents, siblings, and children. If that doesn’t pan out, start all over again with the witnesses and the sponsors from the baptismal records. Who are they? Where are they from? They were likely a family member or close friend who came from the same area in Ireland.
6. Many of us had Irish immigrants who came during the famine era or after (1840s-). They used chain migration. One relative came and worked and earned the money to bring someone else. The later the person arrived, the more information we’re likely to find on that individual. Watch later censuses for someone living in the household who was born in Ireland, maybe a cousin or niece, because they likely came from the same place. If they came after 1892, we’ll find a lot more information in the passenger list, including the place they were born, and if they naturalized after 1906, we’ll have all the information we need.
7. Once you get back to Ireland and if you know the maiden and married surnames of a couple, look in Irish records to see where those two surnames show up in the same geographic location. This overlapping of names is a good indicator that you are researching in the right place. You can research surnames using Griffith’s Valuation 1847-1864, which is an Irish tax list (search it here on Ancestry.com). The majority of the people who were occupiers of land (tenants on someone’s estate) are named here.
Bust your Irish genealogy brick walls
Genealogists with Irish roots face a number of research obstacles that only seem to produce more questions. The fire at Four Courts in 1922, as well as the government’s destruction of early census records, has left a major void for Irish family historians. Contrary to popular belief, however, not all records were destroyed. Although difficult, tracing your ancestry in Ireland is not impossible. In this hour-long webinar, Irish genealogy expert Donna Moughty will answer the most common questions faced by researchers conducting Irish research. Click here to order the instant video download now!
Exploring our family health history is just another reason to look forward to the future of DNA testing. As science advances and we find out more regarding the specific genetic code responsible for various nefarious outcomes in our health, we learn there is more in play than just our genetics.
I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a family who has been plagued with sudden deaths, ten in recent generations. Without warning, their hearts were stopping and no one knew why. That is until Daniel Wiggins died suddenly at the age of 29 and his family sought out a molecular autopsy. Becoming more accessible to researchers as the cost of running these tests drop, molecular autopsies allow a scientific team to analyze the DNA of the deceased, looking for genetic clues to the cause of death. In this case, the genetic sleuthing was able to turn up the perpetrator: a mutation that alters the electrical signals in the heart, causing it to stop. [Read more about this here.]
While this case was clear-cut and the gene was acting seemingly alone without an accomplice, researchers of this disorder say it only happens in 20% of cases. Which means, this devious genetic criminal has other methods we still haven’t tracked.
But for Daniel’s family, they can pursue genetic testing to determine if this specific culprit is lurking in their own genes. If found, they can take precautionary measures, like having a defibrillator installed.
Doing Our Part
Similarly, a family from Pennsylvania used their family reunion as a format for gathering family history and genetic information in order to arm its members with an action plan against a plague of cancer that is sweeping through their family. [See an article on this family here.]
Several members of the Shaffer-Peterson family have discovered a genetic test can alert them to possible pancreatic or skin cancer. Again, a gene affecting a very small number of melanoma patients was identified as the perpetrator of the Shaffer-Peterson family and has been given a 67% crime rate. This means that the chance of developing cancer if you have this particular gene is elevated by 67%.
Thankfully, melanoma is a particularly curable kind of cancer when caught early. This family has done their part in informing the family as a whole. And, they now have a sort of insurance plan that may protect the lives of their loved ones.
For both the Shaffer-Petersons and the family of Daniel Wiggins, genetic tests produce actionable results to those testing positive. There is something they can do to positively impact their health once they are aware of the presence or absence of these genes in themselves.
Environment or DNA?
Not all diseases or conditions can be attributed to our DNA. This past fall, after talking with my mother about kids and schedules, she added almost in passing, “Oh, by the way, they found another spot on my back, I am going to have it removed next week.” This is the third melanoma spot she has had removed in the past 5 years.
While my mom’s melanoma is less likely to be the result of a genetic abnormality and more likely linked to spending hours lifeguarding at the local pool, the fact she had melanoma was the sole reason I went to the dermatologist. My spot wasn’t cancer. I was just getting older. But, I am glad I went and I feel like knowing my health history has made me more aware of the measures I can take to improve it.
Tracking Your Family Health History
For most people, molecular autopsies and DNA health tests are not easily available. Not yet. For those that are, there are hundreds of questions surrounding the kinds of genetic tests and the implications for both health and legal issues.
One thing is certain. In these cases, the common thread is family history. We need to know not only the dates and places of our ancestors lives and deaths, but also the stories behind them. Whenever possible, we need to track our health history, so we can identify any trends that our DNA might be trying to tell us.
If you want to start tracking your own health history there are plenty of free and subscription online tools to get you started. In particular, TapGenes was the winner of the 2016 Innovator Showdown at RootsTech. This online and app tool is designed specifically for your family health management.
You can also create your own alternate family tree. In this unique way, you can visually look at age-at-death, diseases, or other factors pertaining to your health. Read our article titled, “How and Why to Create an Alternate Family Tree.”
Learn More About Genetics and Genealogy
Gedmatch: A Next Step for Your Autosomal DNA Test
Gedmatch is a third‐party tool for use by genetic genealogists seeking to advance their knowledge of their autosomal DNA test. This guide will navigate through the myriad of options and point out only the best tools for your genetic genealogy research.
Organzing Your DNA Matches
With over 2.5 million people in the possession of a DNA test, and most with match lists in the thousands, many are wondering how to keep track of all this data and apply it to their family history. This guide provides the foundation for managing DNA matches and correspondence, and for working with forms, spreadsheets, and 3rd party tools.
Next Steps: Working With Your Autosomal DNA Matches
This guide outlines what to do next to maximize the power of DNA testing in genealogy. With this guide in hand, genealogists will be prepared to take their DNA testing experience to the next level and make new discoveries about their ancestors and heritage.
The Family Tree DNA ethnicity report has been updated, and this means more details about ethnic and geographic origins for both autosomal and mtDNA DNA testers.
Family Tree DNA recently announced a round of updates to myOrigins, its mapping tool for ethnic and geographic ancestry. New are more detailed breakdowns of their population clusters and in-depth descriptions of them. (Visit Family Tree DNA’s website here.)
It is so exciting to see new or updated reports from our genetic genealogy testing companies! It is a good reminder of two things: First, that the results we currently have, especially in the arena of our ethnicity results, will continually be improving. Second, that once you test with any company, these improvements are added to your account and your results are updated automatically.
Family Tree DNA is the only company offering a complete look at your mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the one that traces your direct maternal line. They recently updated the deep ancestral assignments for these mtDNA tests. The updates were based on scientific advances in the world of mtDNA and can sometimes give you a more specific idea of where your ancestral line came from.
In addition to the mtDNA updates, FTDNA has also updated their MyOrigins results as part of your autosomal DNA test. Previously your MyOrigins results broke up the world into 18 different pieces and you were told your affiliation with each. Now with 6 new populations added, there are a total of 24. The changes include splitting three categories into smaller parts, like they are now reporting Finland separate from Siberia, as well as adding three new categories in South America, West Middle East, and Oceania.
Your MyOrigins results will now also include trace amounts, which are those percentages that are very low and therefore do not carry a high confidence. But many genetic genealogists wanted to see any area that may have been detected, and so FTDNA responded.
How to Review Your Family Tree DNA Ethnicity Report
1. Log in to your Family Tree DNA account. From your dashboard, select myOrigins.
2. On the myOrigins page, click View all to see your full ethnic percentages, as defined by Family Tree DNA. You can also click View myOrigins map to see your results mapped out. (The map looks like the one at the beginning of this post.)
3. When you click to view all your ethnicity results, you’ll see a more detailed breakdown of your population groups. Click View all population descriptions to read more about each one.
The Impact of Updated Family Tree DNA Ethnicity Reports
On the whole, are these updated results going to significantly impact your family history research if you have tested at Family Tree DNA? Likely not. The greater impact is just in the idea that these things can be improved, updated, and changed, which means our experience will continue to improve, and more people are likely to test. More people in the database means more possible cousins. More possible cousins means more genealogy breakthroughs, and a more complete picture of our heritage, and that is what we are really all after.
Learn More About DNA Testing for Genealogy
Click here to see individual guides for topics I talked about above, such as testing at Family Tree DNA, testing your autosomal or mitochondrial DNA and getting started (in which I explain ethnicity results). Or click here for the ultimate Genetic Genealogy Jumbo Pack: ALL 10 of my guides PLUS my video class, “Getting Started with Genetic Genealogy.”