Digital Family History Books at Your Fingertips

Do you sometimes wish you had your own enormous library of family history reference books? Or do you dream of how nice it would be to live near a major research library? Or do you ever wish the family history book in your hand had been better indexed so you could turn exactly to the page you need?

Digital books essentially make these dreams come true by putting books at your virtual fingertips with fully-searchable text (no indexes needed!). And FamilySearch’s digitizing project (a partnership with Allen County Public Library and other major research libraries) now has 100,000 titles scanned, more than 80% of which are online.

If you haven’t used the free Family History Books section at FamilySearch.org, you should go browse it right away. According to a press release, “The majority of the books online are family histories, with a smaller portion made up of cemetery records, local and county histories, genealogy magazines, and how-to-books, gazetteers, and medieval histories and pedigrees.”

Your family may be hidden in one of these books – and they’re now searchable with just a few keystrokes. What keywords should you try? Of course, your ancestor’s surnames, including variant spellings. Also search for other words associated with their lives: the name of their hometown, church, school, employer or industry, ethnic group and even surnames of friends or associates.

You can contribute to FamilySearch’s digital books library, too. If  you are attending the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference next weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana, you are invited to bring your own titles for scanning by FamilySearch and Allen County. They are most interested in autobiographies and biographies containing genealogical material; family histories with genealogical information; indexes to records; local and county histories; and yearbooks.

To contribute a digital book, FamilySearch says: “Permission must be obtained from the author or copyright holder before copyrighted books or photos can be scanned. (Most books that were published before 1923 are in the public domain and do not require permission.) There is no limitation on the size of a book for scanning, but photos should not be larger than 8.5 x 11 inches.”

Find Family History with Online Newspaper Research: More Chronicling America

Have you already searched for your relatives’ names at Chronicling America, the the Library of Congress’ web collection of digitized American newspapers? Well, search again!

Recently the the Library of Congress added more than 600,000 historic newspaper pages to its enormous collection. According to a press release, these pages include “first-time contributions from Iowa, Michigan, and West Virginia. Other new additions include content from Hawaii, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.” The site now has over 6.6 million searchable newspaper pages from over 1100 newspaper titles, published in 30 states and Washington, D.C. between 1836 and 1922.

Newspaper Book CoverWhat are the chances your family will appear on one of those pages? Pretty good, actually. Here’s a list of the kinds of articles they may show up in from my book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers:

  • Advertising: classifieds, companies your ancestor worked for or owned, grocery or dry goods stores ads (for historical context), runaway slaves search and reward, ship departures.
  • Births & deaths: birth announcements, card of thanks printed by the family, obituary and death notices, “Community Pioneer” article upon passing,  funeral notice, reporting of the event that lead to the death, or the funeral.
  • Legal notices and public announcements: auctions, bankruptcies, city council meetings, divorce filings, estate sales, executions and punishments, lawsuits, marriage licenses, probate notices tax seizures, sheriff’s sale lists.
  • Lists: disaster victims, hotel registrations, juror’s and judicial reporting, letters left in the post office, military lists, newly naturalized citizens, passenger lists (immigrants and travelers), unclaimed mail notices.
  • News articles: accidents, fires, etc. featuring your ancestor; front page (for the big picture); industry news (related to occupations); natural disasters in the area; shipping news; social history articles.
  • Community and social events like school graduations, honor rolls, sporting and theater events; social news like anniversaries, church events, clubs, engagements, family reunions, visiting relatives, parties, travel, gossip columns, illnesses, weddings and marriage announcements.

Learn more about researching family history with my book, available in both print and e-book format. And don’t forget to keep checking Chronicling America for stories and clues about your ancestors’ lives.

Q&A: Genealogy Gems Toolbar

Toolbar capture

I recently got a question about the Genealogy Gems Podcast Community Toolbar from podcast listener Cookie:

Q: Hi Lisa, I just loaded your toolbar. I now have Bing on my system and can’t get rid of it….. was it downloaded with your toolbar?  Hope not, I hate Bing and now it’s causing me problems.

A: The toolbar causes Bing to appear (as the default URL address) when you open a new browser tab with no website address specified. Bing is a website, not a download, so the good news is that nothing has been added to your system.

Unfortunately, the company that offers us the free toolbar dictates which search engine is the default on new tabs. I have requested it to be Google but they have a contract with Bing.

Since the toolbar is a free offering from the company (Conduit) they have control over that, much to my disappointment. However, we have kept the toolbar because so many of our podcast listeners use it and have requested it remain available.

If you wish to uninstall the toolbar, here’s how to do it:

  1. Click the down arrow just to the right of the first button on the left side of the tool bar (the button with the picture of my logo family)
  2. Select Uninstall
  3. The next page provides instructions for uninstalling based on which browser you use.

We fully understand that Bing is not everyone’s search engine of choice, and thank you for giving the free toolbar a try. And thank you for being a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener!

Find Canadian Ancestors in Censuses from 1825 to 1921

canada_peg_figure_12111If you have Canadian kin, you’ll be pleased to hear that the 1825 census of Lower Canada is now searchable online, and the 1921 census will soon be available online, too!

The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted nearly half a million people. Heads of household were actually named, with other members of the household counted by category. You can search by household name or geographic location.

The 1921 census counted 8.8 million people in thousands of communities across Canada. According to the Library and Archives Canada Blog, the population questionnaire had 35 questions. The census also collected data on “agriculture; animals, animal products, fruits not on farms; manufacturing and trading establishments; and [a] supplemental questionnaire for persons who were blind and deaf. This represents a total of 565 questions.” The census was released this past June 1 from the national Statistics office to the Library and Archives. That office is processing and scanning the nearly 200,000 images for public use. It hopes to have them posted soon.

Here’s a sample page from the 1921 census population schedule:

Canada Census 1921 image

We think of Canada as a real melting pot today—or salad bowl, as they prefer. That wasn’t always the case. The 1825 census of Lower Canada counted mostly Europeans of French extraction. In 1901,  70% of Canadians claimed either British or French heritage. But in the first two decades of the 1900s, a huge immigration boom occurred that reached well beyond England and France. So the folks who show up on the 1921 census represented a newly multicultural Canada!

Start looking for your Canadian ancestors in the Library and Archives Canada’s popular Census Indexes, which include that 1825 census and a new version of the 1891 census, too. Watch the website for the 1921 census.

If your family arrived in Canada after the 1921 census, check out the website for The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where a million immigrants landed between 1928-1971.

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