Recently my Premium Podcast included a letter from Pat, who was looking for advice on how to return lost or orphaned heirlooms to a family. Ancestry.com had a few family trees posted. Pat didn’t know “whom to contact to get the materials to the most interested, closest family members.” This was my advice–and here’s the inspirational report back.
I would first focus on the tree where the tree owner is most closely related to the folks mentioned in the memorabilia. I would probably make copies (depending on what the items are) and offer to all. If I didn’t get a confirmed answer from the first choice in a reasonable time I would offer to my second choice. I would ask the recipient to allow me to pass their contact info on to any others who get around to responding after the fact since it’s everyone’s “family”.
“I finally took up the challenge, determined to find a family and offer up the material I had recovered. This material contained old (labeled!) photos, school records, dance cards and letters home to Mom and Dad and seemed potentially quite precious.
It proved difficult to determine which family seemed to have the closest connection, so I decided to offer the material to the person whose Ancestry.com tree contained the most (valid) sources. Fortunately, the tree owner was quick to respond, eager to receive the materials I had to offer. I sent them off and the tree owner is delighted as she is the granddaughter to the original party and believes herself to be the only living descendant of that person!
It feels just right to get those materials back “home”! I encourage other listeners to do the same. It produces a great sense of genealogical balance. So many others have done blessedly wonderful things for me in my research, making it easy to pay it forward just a little bit.
Thank you for the encouragement and the advice. I have loved both podcasts for a number of years now–you are consistently wonderful!”
Thanks, Pat, both for the compliment and for the inspiring message! I love hearing these kinds of stories.
HeritageQuest Online is now even more worth the trip to your local library to access for free, now that its new interface is powered by Ancestry.
For the past few months, library patrons have been getting used to a new version of HeritageQuest Online. This online genealogy resource, available only at libraries or through their websites, “has a new interface powered by Ancestry, enriching the search experience and streamlining the research process,” as described by a company press release a few months ago.
“The intuitive interface provides a fresh user experience that will be familiar to Ancestry.com users,” states the release. “A new Image Viewer offers basic and advanced capabilities without any plug-in, making it easy to share images with family and friends. Image resolution…is significantly improved with the addition of greyscale and color. The Research Aids resources for learning opportunities for novice, intermediate, and advanced searchers.”
Other bloggers have commented on the improved user interface, but what caught my eye was a more detailed, mouthwatering description of all the census extras and other new HeritageQuest Online content (from its site):
“Now available for searching is the entire U.S. Federal Census collection from Ancestry.com including supplements (e.g., 1940 Enumeration District Maps) and several schedules (e.g., non-population schedules) previously not included for searching.
20,000 city directories have been added to the existing city directories in the Book collection, increasing the size of the Books collection to more than 45,000 titles.
Expanded content in the Revolutionary War Collection. The entirety of the NARA Series M804 is now included here, providing access not only to the previously available “Selected Records” (Series M805) but now also to the “Non-Selected” records of each file.”
Finally, four of the six HeritageQuest Online data collections (Census, Books, Revolutionary War, and Freedman’s Bank) have “brand new search pages with limits, exact matching options, and additional fields for searching.”
Here’s our weekly roundup of cool new genealogy records online. Should you search any of these: an 1831 England census substitute; parish records for Hertfordshire; images of French forts in North America; Michigan death records; outgoing passenger lists for the US and War of 1812 pension records?
ENGLAND 1831 CENSUS SUBSTITUTE. There’s a new 1831 census substitute database at Findmypast! England, Pollbooks and Directories 1830-1837 allows you to discover where your ancestors lived, how they earned a living and how they voted. This collection of assorted documents also plugs the important gap left by the lack of a complete 1831 census.”
ENGLAND PARISH REGISTERS. Findmypast now has a browsable collection of parish records for Hertfordshire. The collection spans 1538-1988: that’s 450 years and 1.9 million pages of baptisms, marriages and burials.
NEW FRANCE. Library & Archives Canada has published a new Flickr photo collection with images of North American forts built or captured by the French during the era of New France. It’s free to explore and the history is fascinating!
MICHIGAN DEATHS. A new collection of Michigan Death Records, 1857-1960 is available to Ancestry.com subscribers. Death registers and certificates contain varying amounts of genealogical information.
US TRAVELERS ABROAD. Ancestry.com has a new database of departing passengers and crew from various U.S. locations (1916-1962) by ship and air. These include military transports. “Details requested on the forms varied, but they typically include the name of the vessel, departure date, ports of departure and destination, shipmaster, full name, age, gender, physical description, military rank (if any), occupation, birthplace, citizen of what country, and residence.” Later documents may include visa or passport information.
WAR OF 1812 PENSIONS (US). Images of pension records for US soldiers with surnames beginning A-M have been posted on Fold3, where they are available to view for FREE. This is part of the ongoing Preserve the Pensions project led by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. Click here to learn more and contribute to funding for this crowd-sourced effort.
Looking for a specific type of record about your ancestor? Want to find more new genealogy records online yourself? Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Google to search for specific records.
Want to record your personal history but never seem to have the time? Turn Facebook posts into a book with this nifty service. It’s journaling for the twenty-first century!
As a teenager, I was an avid journal writer. Now, it’s just one more thing I feel guilty about not doing regularly. But I have recently found an easy and effective solution: My Social Book.
Many of us already use Facebook to share the kinds of events we want to record, such as a grandchild’s kindergarten graduation, a weekend getaway, or a dinner out with friends. My Social Book will turn your Facebook posts into a book–complete with pictures and comments from your friends and family.
My Social Book.com slurps your Facebook statuses, comments, and photos and prints them as a lovely keepsake journal. In this context, slurping refers to an app or website “sucking” your content onto a new site with your permission. It is a wonderful tool.
Here’s How to Turn Facebook Posts into a Book
First, go to My Social Book.com and click “Start your book now.” Next, you will be able to edit your content by date and by posts. (If you want to leave out that silly post you made about your recent ailment, you can do that!)
Choose from 16 different book cover colors and choose a soft or hard cover. When you are done, click “See inside” for a look at several of the personalized pages in your book. The final cost depends on the number of pages you included and your cover choice. My soft cover book with 108 pages cost $51.90. There is a small shipping and handling fee. (Tip: Google MySocialBook Coupon for free shipping and discounted prices on your first purchase.)
I was delighted with the book I ordered. I plan on ordering one each year. It was fun to read back over the year, see the pictures, and read the comments of my friends and loved ones. I think it will make a wonderful reading addition to the coffee table!
As a little side note, a friend of my mine passed away last year. I had forgotten how often she posted comments on my Facebook posts. It was a nice little reminder of her and I thought how neat it is to have the comments of our loved ones recorded in this way.
Don’t let another year go by without capturing your own personal history back from Facebook! My Social Book is a great answer to making time to keep a journal again.
Can you imagine the excitement of stumbling into family history memorabilia that included a voice from long ago on a Voice-O-Graph record? Sometimes the challenge is not finding a family history treasure, but instead it is “unlocking” its precious contents. Here’s one Gem’s story and her request for help. Being a podcaster came in very handy in answering this email!
Voice-O-Graph Brings Her Father’s Voice Back
From our Genealogy Gems reader and podcast listener:
One of the things I love about Genealogy Gems is your appreciation of ephemera. I’m giddy when I find newspaper articles and documents for my family. I recently took everything out of my parents’ “picture closet” and found a treasure trove of documents and photos, such as the will my father wrote and sent to his parents when he entered the army air corps in WWII, the telegram my aunt sent when she eloped, and my grandfather’s WWI registration papers. I even found the scrap of paper on which my father wrote my mother’s phone number when he asked her on their first date, “Laura Lee HE5882”.
One of the items I found is a January 1944 “Voice-O-Graph” my father recorded and sent to my grandmother. It’s in the original envelope, too. I’m interested in having the recording digitized. The reason I seek guidance is that all of the websites for audio transfer services have pretty lurid landing pages. Even if it’s not possible to get a decent dub of the old record, I’d at least like to feel confident that I’d get the 78 back in one piece.
Any ideas? Thank you!
Digitizing a Voice-O-Graph Record
Entrusting your precious Voice-O-Graph record with an unknown website service could be pretty unnerving. Anytime you ship something, there’s always a rish of damage or loss. Before sending away your precious heirloom, try these do-it-yourself methods to create a digital recording.
If you have several records to digitize, I usually suggest looking at purchasing your own turntable that can record to digital. I have one that looks like an old time radio. Here’s one that is on the lower cost end.
In Lisa’s case, it sounds like she has just one record to digitize. If she has a turntable that can play 78s, she can first try playing the records and recording the sound through her computer’s microphone, a handheld recorder, or a smartphone using a free app like Evernote that can record audio.
The next option would be to purchase a converter like this one. You plug your turntable into it, and then plug an external hard drive into the converter, and play and record.
By the way, if your voice-o-graph is a bit warped, this article offers help.
When I discovered an old reel-to-reel recording in my own family, I took it to our church sound system technician. They had new digital equipment, as well as also older equipment. They were able to easily record a digital version for me.
Lisa did eventually get the record digitized. Take a listen for yourself:
As you can hear, Lisa’s father’s recording has a lot of background noise. His voice is far off in the distance and could use some enhancement. But the first challenge was to get the record digitized.
Enhancing the Quality of the Voice-O-Graph Recording
Once you have created an mp3 recording, you can then try to improve the quality of the sound with a free software program called Audacity. Sound improvement is a series of fixes and edits that you apply to the audio file. It’s a gentle process of balancing the bringing forward of the voice while keeping noise tolerable. It’s definitely an art, and not a science. Initial improvements you can easily make include:
Removing “Clicks” – These appear as tall spikes on the audio track in Audacity. Carefully highlight them and delete.
Applying Noise Reduction – Apply noise reduction sparingly, and focus on the elements of the recording that are the most important to you. Noise reduction can add a sort of warped quality to the sound if applied too heavily. Apply just enough to remove unwanted noise that is getting in the way of the voice, while keeping distortion tolerable. You’ll hear a bit of this in my edited version of Lisa’s audio file below. The recording had deteriorated so much that a lot of what is said is lost. I opted to tolerate heavier nose reduction in order to make much more of the voice understandable.
Amplifying the Audio– Apply amplification to the entire track, and then go back and reduce amplification in the areas that do not include the voice. This can be a tedious process, but as you will hear in my version of the audio below, it can pay off.
The Man Behind the Voice
“My father (Capt. C. William Beringhaus) was in the 15th Air Force, 99th Bomb Group flying B-17s. This recording was made in Salt Lake City in January, 1944 just after he completed aviation cadet training in Lubbock, Texas. He was sent to Salt Lake as part of a pilot’s pool before being sent to Sioux City, Iowa for training in the B17.
Capt. C. William Beringhaus
In the recording it sounds like he says that he is in town and is making the recording because “Woody” made one. I believe Woody might have been Capt. Morris S. Wood, the bombardier. “
Do You have a Voice-O-Graph Recording?
While I have picked up a few Voice-o-Graph records complete with mailing envelopes at antique stores over the years, I’m not fortunate enough to have found one in my own family (at least not yet!).
Do you have a Voice-O-Graph recording in your family? Leave a Comment below and tell us about it. Where did you find it? Who’s voice is on the recording? And have you digitized it yet?