“I Found 130 Letters by My Ancestor!” Why Use Google Books for Genealogy

Betty has at least 130 good reasons to use Google Books for genealogy! She used this powerful Google tool to find her ancestor’s name in a book–which led to a treasure trove of his original letters in an archive. Here’s what happened–and how to try this with your own family history research. 

You’ve heard me say that Google Books is the tool I turn to every day. Now, you may be thinking, “But my ancestors wouldn’t be in history books!” Resist the temptation to make assumptions about sources, and about your ancestors. With over 25 million books, Google Books is more likely to have something pertinent to your genealogy research than you think. And as I often tell my audiences, those books can include source citations, providing a trail to even more treasures.

Why to Use Google Books for Genealogy: Success Story!

At the National Genealogical Society conference this past spring, Betty attended my class and then stopped by the Genealogy Gems booth to share her story. I recorded it, and here’s a transcription:

Betty: I was stuck on my Duncan Mackenzie ancestor, so I put his name in Google Books, because when you’re stuck, that’s what you do!

Lisa: Yes, I do!

Betty: So, up popped this history of Mississippi, it was sort of a specific history, and it said Duncan Mackenzie had written a letter to his brother-in-law in North Carolina from Covington County, Mississippi. And of course I already had my tax records and my census records that placed him in Covington County. This was in the 1840s. I thought, this just couldn’t be him! Why would any of my relatives be in a book? [Sound familiar?]

So, finally, weeks later, it occurred to me to go back and look at the footnotes in the book, and I found that the letters could be found in the Duncan McLarin papers at Duke University. So, I didn’t even think to even borrow the microfilm. I just told my husband, “next time you go East for work, we need to go by Duke University.” So I set up a time, and I went, and it WAS my great-great-grandfather who wrote those letters! I have now transcribed 130 letters from that collection. They let me scan them all, and I’ve been back again to scan the rest of the legal papers.

Lisa: So, an online search into Google Books not only help you find something online, but it led you to the offline gems!

Betty: And it just changed my life! Because I spend all my time on these letters. It’s distracted me from other lines! [LOL! I get that!]

How to Use Google Books for Genealogy

Are you ready to put Google Books to work in your own research and discover some genealogy gems of your own? Here, I re-create Betty’s search for you, so you can see how to get started:

1. Go to Google Books (books.google.com). Enter search terms that would pertain to your ancestor, like a name and a place.

2. Browse the search results. The first three that show up here all look promising. Click on the first one.

3. Review the text that comes up in the text screen. As you can see here, Duncan McKenzie of Covington County is mentioned–and the source note at the bottom of the page tells you that the original letter cited in the book is at Duke University.

Learn More about Using Google Books for Genealogy

Learn more by watching my free Google Books video series at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel. Click the video below to watch the first one. (And be sure to subscribe while you’re there, because there are more videos to come!)

Then, watch the video below for a quick preview of my full one hour video class (and downloadable handout) called Google Books: The Tool You Need Every Day!, available to all Genealogy Gems Premium Members.

WWI History App in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

A WWI history app for genealogy leads our top picks for this week! History buffs are going to love Remembering WWI, an app that makes your WWI family history come alive. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical collections, Swedish church records, Canadian marriage records, Pennsylvania naturalizations, and more.

WWI History for Genealogy

The National Archives has launched Remembering WWI, a free app for iPad and Android. It is especially geared for young people, but with an ability to explore, collaborate, and engage with NARA’s extensive collection of WWI photographs, it’s for any history buff. The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary, in April 2017, of the U.S. entry into World War.

It is now available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

What is even more interesting about this app is how it invites people nationwide to contribute their own stories. You can create your own collections and build and share new narratives around the people, events, and themes you are researching.

Sweden – Norrbotten & Kopparberg – Church Records

Swedish and Italian genealogy records

Church Records in Swedish Collections at FamilySearch

Also this week at FamilySearch, Sweden, Norrbotten Church Records, 1612-1923; index 1658-1860 has been updated. You will note the large year span in this collections coverage. Because of this, records will vary. Generally speaking, you will find church records include births, marriages, and deaths and also images to clerical surveys, registers of birth, marriage, death, move-in and move-out lists, confirmations, and church accounts.

Church records are particularly helpful when searching pre-civil registration time frames or when there has been loss or damage to the civil records you need.

In particular, these collections contain household examination records. A household examination record is filled with genealogical data and some other unusual statistics. Information may include:

  • The name of the farm, village, or rote (registration area).
  • Names of household members including any pigor (female workers) or drängar (male workers)
  • Birthplace
  • Birth date or age
  • A score for catechism knowledge
  • Dates of partaking communion
  • Dates of participation with the Household Examination
  • Moving information
  • Death date
  • Marriage date
  • Disciplinary notes
  • Vaccination against smallpox
  • Reference to military conscription

Sweden, Kopparberg Church Records, 1604-1900; index 1628-1860 was also updated.

Canada – Ontario – Marriage Registers

The Ontario, County Marriage Registers 1858-1869 at FamilySearch have also been updated. These records contain an index and images of marriages. There are some records that actually date prior to 1858 and after 1869, so be sure to check the collection thoroughly.

These marriage records will generally include the following information:

  • Name of groom
  • Name and maiden name of bride
  • Age of groom and bride at marriage
  • Names of groom’s parents and bride’s parents
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Names of witnesses or possible relatives

United States – New Hampshire – Civil War Service & Pension Records

The New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866 are now available at FamilySearch and have been recently updated. The collection includes both an index and images of Civil War enlistment papers, muster rolls of New Hampshire Regiments, and pension records.

The pension records are arranged by town with indexes arranged by name and town. The enlistment papers are arranged by military unit, volume, and year range. The muster rolls are arranged by unit name and folder number.

Pension papers can often be used as substitute records for vital information such as birth, marriage, and death. Additional information may include birth place, occupation, and a physical description.

United States – Alaska – Vital Records

Though a rather small collection with only just over 80,000 records, the Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959 may be just what you need. These records include both an index and digital images of birth, marriage, death, and divorce records from Alaska covering the years of 1816-1959. This collection is being published as images become available.

United States – Pennsylvania – Petitions for Naturalization

Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931 at FamilySearch continues to grow. Now up to over 300,000 records, the collection will offer naturalization petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania for the years 1795 to 1931. The records corresponds to NARA publication M1522 part of Record Group 21 Records of District Courts of the United States.

Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant’s nation of origin, his or her foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. It is important to note that naturalization changed over time and information will vary greatly.

Google Searches for Genealogy Leads to an Opera’s Worth of Stories

Google searches for genealogy are a main focus of our Google Guru, Lisa Louise Cooke. Read this inspiring story of how one Genealogy Gems reader used Lisa’s Google search tips to find a trove of family stories worthy of an opera.

Google searches for genealogy

Opera house image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

You never know when the amazing technology of the internet and Google will lead to a discovery that will open the doors on your family history. I recently received a letter from Genealogy Gems listener, Kristen. She shared the sad tale of her maternal grandmother’s history. Her grandmother had lost her mother before the age of two. Then, as an only child, her father abandoned her to be raised by a less-than-loving step mother. This young woman grew-up and had children of her own, but all she had in the way of a family history was the memory of her father’s name and a handful of unnamed photographs.

Merton E. Markert

Kristen went on to say, “She never really spoke of her sad childhood, save to say that the stepmother would tell her she had always been unwanted and that her mother was unloved and the marriage was forced.”

Among the handful of mystery photographs of her grandmother as a child, was a brief article from a newspaper. It was a lesson in manners titled Silence is Golden and it was written by Merton Markert, a student of the Modern Classics. A photo of a young woman was attached.

 

Using Clues for Google Searches for Genealogy

Here’s the rest of Kristen’s letter:

I took your advice and Googled Merton Markert Modern Classical Silence Golden. Up came the Lancaster High School Yearbook for 1905, featuring p. 41, the senior class portraits with their course study descriptions and a small personal quote for each. There was that exact photo of her, and the name Merton Markert, Modern Classical with the quote, “Life seems a jest of Fate’s contriving.”

Photo courtesy of Kristin Wat

The whole yearbook had been digitized by Mocavo, and it is the only yearbook for that high school in several years. My great-grandmother [Merton Markert], who had been buried and unspoken for a hundred years, had reached out to me. She wanted me to find her! Lisa, I cannot adequately describe the feelings I experienced at that moment of discovery. You understand how a moment like that feels, I’m sure. The chills, the tears…I felt like I was staring into her eyes, reaching through a century of silence, and finally able to acknowledge her sacrifice and legacy.

On the football team that year was my great-grandfather, and the whole book was ripe with clues that still hold nuanced significance.

From there, I was able to grow a tree on Ancestry.com and get the basics. But that does not tell you who the person is, the struggles, the character, the story. So taking your lead, and thinking like my brother the Sherriff Detective, I got creative. Using all kinds of searches and sniffing and turning over and under, I was able to uncover a veritable opera’s worth of stories within this one branch [of my family tree]. The cast of characters include: A Colonial founder, a secret bastard half-sister, a suicidal mother, a Klondike Gold Stampeder, alcoholics, a rejected Baptist Pastor, a homosexual affair-turned-murder victim,  a bonafide Monuments Man (buried at Arlington), and a chorus of war veterans. And cancer. Lots of it. In fact, breast cancer was the reason for Merton’s death in 1910. That kind of information is vital to my sisters and female cousins.

So thank you, my clever inspiration.

Ain’t opera grand?
 

Lisa’s Response to Kristen with Additional Ideas

Thanks for sharing your fascinating story. I completely understand the emotions you felt the moment she was looking back at you on the screen. Those moments are precious and meant to be savored!Using search techniques from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition, I also discovered this same yearbook on the  robust and free Internet Archive website. Perhaps there is more there to be found. And I have an additional idea I thought you might like to try. It’s Ebay.

Ebay currently has a commencement program from 1902, old post cards of the school, and other yearbooks from Lancaster High School. Who knows what could be put up for auction in the future. You could sign up for a free Ebay account, run a search, and then click to Follow the search. You will then be alerted to future auctions that match your criteria. Happy hunting and thanks for being a Genealogy Gem!

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can listen to Premium episode 16 which goes in depth into my Tips for Finding Family History Related Items on eBay.

More on Google Searches for Genealogy

Google is an effective and easy-to-use genealogy tool, you just need to know a few basics. Watch my YouTube video on speaking Google’s language and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our tech tips and more!

A Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey Recipe

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey RecipeIn honor of our Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author Sarah Chrisman, and her book This Victorian Life, we are publishing a number of Victorian inspired delectable recipes and other sumptuous ideas. This Victorian Thanksgiving turkey recipe celebrates how the holiday came into its own during the Victorian era, complete with a rich, moist roast turkey at the center of the table.

Thanksgiving became a national holiday in the U.S. in 1863, during the Civil War. Over the next few decades, festive cooks dressed up the Thanksgiving turkey with whatever flavors were available to them in season, such as chestnuts, sausage, dried cranberries or other fruits and even oysters!

This recipe for roast turkey with chestnut stuffing is edited slightly from the Fannie Farmer 1896 Cookbook, which you can read on Google Books (click here for more Google Books search tips). We’ve tweaked the wording slightly, separated the instructions into numbered steps and added the modern ingredient list to make it an easier read for the modern cook.

Victorian Thanksgiving Turkey with Chestnut Stuffing and Gravy

fannie-farmer-1896-cookbookRoast Turkey

Ingredients:
10-pound turkey
Salt
1/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups boiling water, divided
Parsley or celery tips (for garnish)

1. Dress, clean, stuff and truss a ten-pound turkey. (See quick how-to video tutorial below.) Place on its side on rack in a dripping-pan.

2. Rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with 1/3 cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with flour.
3. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan, and add boiling water.
4. Continue basting every 15 minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about 3 hours. For basting, use 1/2 cup butter buy medication in turkey melted in 1/2 cup boiling water, and after this is used, baste with fat in pan.
5. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper [aluminum foil] to prevent burning.
6. Remove strings and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.

Chestnut Stuffing

chestnutsIngredients:
3 cups French chestnuts
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 cup cream
1 cup cracker crumbs

1. Shell and blanch chestnuts.
2. Cook in boiling salted water until soft.
3. Drain and mash, using a potato ricer [masher].
4. Add 1/2 the butter, salt, pepper and cream.
5. Melt remaining butter, mix with cracker crumbs, then combine mixtures.

Gravy

Ingredients:
Turkey drippings
6 Tbsp flour
3 cups turkey stock
salt and pepper to taste
optional: finely-chopped giblets or 3/4 cup cooked and mashed chestnuts

1. Pour off liquid in pan in which turkey has been roasted.
2. From liquid, skim off 6 Tbsp fat. Return to pan and brown with flour.
3. Gradually add stock, in which the giblets, neck and tips of wings have been cooked, or use liquor [liquid] left in pan.
4. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper; and strain.
5. For giblet gravy, add to the above giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) finely chopped. For chestnut gravy, add chestnuts to 2 cups thin turkey gravy.

this-victorian-lifeWatch this blog (or follow us on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page, Pinterest or Instagram) in the coming weeks! Genealogy Gems Book Club featured author, Sarah Chrisman (This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in 19th-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technologies) will be serving up a series of her favorite mouthwatering Victorian-era recipes in celebration of her coming Book Club interviews on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast and Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast in December.

Destination Yorkshire, England with a Stop in New Jersey

This week’s round-up of new and updated genealogical records will begin in the United States with records from Minnesota and New Jersey. Our final destination is Yorkshire, England with the incredible new and updated collections at Findmypast. Baptisms, marriages, banns, and more!
dig these new record collections

United States – New Jersey – Church Records

Ancestry has a new record collection entitled “New Jersey, Episcopal Diocese of Newark Church Records, 1809-1816, 1825-1970.” In this group of records, you will find parish registers from Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Newark. Each register provides a record of the baptisms, marriages, and burials performed at that church. The records are indexed and are easily searchable. Sometimes, these registers include a list of families, persons confirmed, communicants, and details on offerings received by the church. However, these lists of families, communicants, et cetera are not yet indexed.

Baptismal records typically include, the name of the child, parents’ names, baptism date, and the officiator. In many cases the birth date and place are noted as well.

Marriage records include the marriage date, the couple’s names, residences, and the name of the officiator.

Lastly, burial records list the name of the deceased, date of death, date and place of the funeral, and officiating minister. Some funeral records may even include the cause of death and date and place of burial.

United States – New Jersey – State Census

Genealogists are usually well acquainted with the federal censuses taken each decade. Here in the United States, the first was taken in 1790. Many researchers may not know, however, that some states were taking state censuses every ten years on the five’s. For example, New Jersey has a census from 1855.

FamilySearch.org offers free access to all their database collections, including the New Jersey State Census of 1855. Most towns included in the census will only include the names of head-of-households, but the returns for Pequanac Township in Morris County also list the names of the wife and children in each household.

Missing areas in this census include, Burlington, Cape May, Mercer, Middlesex, Ocean, and Salem counties and unfortunately, other areas may be incomplete.

United States – Minnesota – School Records

FamilySearch has also made the Minnesota, Clay County, School Census Records, 1909-1962 available online. School records are a great resource for finding missing children in your family tree.

These records include digital images, but be aware! Some of the records contain many errors with some years incorrectly identified, particularly the 1960’s. Records will typically include the name of the student, the age of the student, and their parents’ or legal guardians’ names.

United States – Military

muster roll genealogy record Yorkshire

Page from Roll 1 1798 Aug-1806 Dec

U.S. Muster Rolls of the Marine Corps, 1798-1937 can now be searched from FamilySearch. These digital images were taken from microfilm rolls at the National Archives. The records are arranged chronologically by month, then by post, station or ship, and are part of Record Group 127 Records of the U.S. Marine Corps. Not all of these muster rolls are complete and some have not yet been indexed. Be sure to check back regularly as more of the records are indexed.

In the meantime, if you do find your targeted ancestor, the following information may be listed:

  • Name of officer or enlisted man
  • Rank and unit in which served
  • Date of enlistment
  • Date of re-enlistment
  • Name of ship
  • Notes regarding promotions, transfers, physical description, etc.

In some cases, muster rolls also contain the following:

  • Injuries or illness and type of treatment
  • Date of death or discharge
  • Date of desertion
  • Date of apprehension
  • Date of court martial
  • Sentence of court-martial

England: Yorkshire Genealogy Records – Baptisms

Findmypast has just added four new collections for Yorkshire England. The Yorkshire Baptism records collection has over 79,000 new records. These new additions cover Church of England parishes across Rotherham, the Roman Catholic parishes of Doncaster, St Peter in Chains, Knaresborough, St Mary, Rotherham, St Bede, Sheffield, St Marie Cathedral, Sheffield, St Vincent and Staveley, and St Joseph. Each record includes a transcript and an image of the original document.

By using the parish location and the parents names, you may be able to continue your search in the next collection.

England: Yorkshire Genealogy Records – Marriages

With over 28,000 new records added to this Findmypast collection, you may finally be able to locate great-grandpa’s marriage record in the Yorkshire Marriages. The record collection actually has over 2.4 million records spanning near 400 years. Because of the time span covering several centuries, information contained on the records may vary. You may find any of the following pieces of information:

  • Name
  • Birth year
  • Marriage date and place
  • Residence
  • Occupation
  • Marital Status
  • Spouse’s name, residence, and occupation
  • Father’s name and Spouse’s father’s name
  • Name of witnesses

England: Yorkshire Genealogy Records – Banns

Findmypast’s collection of Yorkshire Banns has some new additions. Each of the nearly 600,000 records contain both a transcript and an image of the original document. Some information will vary, but may include a name, place of banns, date of banns, marriage year, residence, and the name of their spouse.

These banns cover a very lengthy time span with records as early as the 1600’s through the 1930’s. In this case, a bann of marriage is the public announcement in a Christian parish church of an upcoming marriage. Banns were read on three consecutive Sundays in the church of both the bride and the groom.

England: Yorkshire Genealogy Records – Burials

share celebrate balloonsLastly, Findmypast has been adding to their over 4 million Yorkshire Burials. The records found in this collection record the details of Roman Catholics buried across five parishes in Doncaster, Knaresborough, Rotherham, Sheffield and Staveley. Information found in this collection may include name, age at death, birth year, burial date, and burial place. Each record will contain at least a transcript and some offer a digital image as well.

Thank you for sharing these new genealogy records online with fellow genies and society members! We appreciate you helping us spread the good news.

Didn’t find the records you’ve been pining for? Click here for a Google-based strategy on searching online for genealogy records.

 

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