Back in “the day,” American consumers window-shopped by mail with the Sears catalog. From 1888-1993, the Sears catalog stocked millions of American households and fed the Christmas lists of men, women and children.
Sears Catalog Fall 1960, Cover. Digital image from Ancestry.com. Historic Catalogs of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Sears Roebuck Catalogs 1896–1993. Vol.102–228 K. Chicago, Illinois: Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Wouldn’t pages from the Sears catalog make a lively addition to your family history posts, pins, pages and conversations? Ancestry.com thinks so, too! They’ve digitized the catalogs and they’re keyword-searchable here. (Just a word of advice: browse a certain issue or search for a specific product. A keyword search for “bicycle” brings up over 5000 results through the OCR technology used to find matches.)
According to this brief history, the Sears catalog first launched as a mailer for watches and jewelry in 1888. “The time was right for mail order merchandise,” says the article. “Fueled by the Homestead Act of 1862, America’s westward expansion followed the growth of the railroads. The postal system aided the mail order business by permitting the classification of mail order publications as aids in the dissemination of knowledge entitling these catalogs the postage rate of one cent per pound. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1896 also made distribution of the catalog economical.”
Here’s one more blast from the American consumer past: Sears kit houses. Have you heard of these? You used to be able to order pre-fabricated homes from Sears. You could customize one of many standard sets of plans, and all the materials would be pre-cut and delivered to your home, “some assembly required,” so to speak. Learn more about Sears kit houses and see images of several designs (1908-1940) here. Did your family ever live in a kit house? Tell us about it on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page!
New at Ancestry.com are Boston Catholic records, thanks to a partnership with the New England Historical Genealogical Society. Also new this week are big updates for the Big Apple with lots of new and updated collections for New York. Additional new collections for the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are highlighted this week.
Boston Catholic Records Now at Ancestry.com
Ancestry and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) have collaborated to make Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston Records now available on Ancestry.com. This unique collection includes approximately 10 million names from Massachusetts Catholic records from the late 1700s to the early 1900s.
“The detailed documents in this collection are a critical resource for researchers, historians, and genealogists, especially when secular records are spotty or lost,” said Brenton Simons, President and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society. The records within the bound volumes contain several sacraments of the Catholic Church, including baptism, confirmation, holy communion, marriage, holy orders, and the anointing of the sick.
Big Updates for New York
You can search a free index of New York City marriages, 1908-1929, at Internet Archive, thanks to a “Reclaim the Records” initiative. This is an index to an important set of records originally kept by the New York City Clerk’s Office: “the 1908-1929 application, affidavit, and license for a marriage, a…three-page document that is generally dated a few weeks before the actual marriage took place.” MyHeritage has also just added the New York City Marriage License Index 1908-1929.
You’re likely to spot some famous folks like Humphrey Bogart in this NYC Marriage License Index at MyHeritage!
New York City Marriage Announcements, 1833-1836 are available at Findmypast, with notices from two newspapers: The Sun and the New York Transcript.
Also new at Findmypast is an Image Browse collection of New York State Religious Records 1716-1914. The New York Genealogical and Biographical Society transcribed and published religious records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths from dozens of New York State churches of various denominations.
Back over at MyHeritage is a collection of New York Newspapers, 1806-2007 with nearly 2 million pages from various cities and towns throughout the state.
Lastly, the Troy Irish Genealogy Society has published Transcriptions from the St. Agnes Cemetery Tombstones in Menands, NY. From the description: “The inscriptions are overwhelmingly of Irish immigrants to the Capital District Region. While some inscriptions merely say “Ireland” a large number are more specific and identify the County in Ireland along with the name of the town and the name of the Parish.”
Additional United States Collections
Illinois. The State of Illinois has repaired and digitized 57 maps that the Illinois National Guard used during World War I. According to the description, “the maps feature the guard’s 33rd division, which was the only distinctly Illinois division that saw active service during the war in France.”
North Carolina. The State Archives of North Carolina has announced the launch of the Brimley Collection Online. Named for Herbert Hutchinson Brimley, the first leader of The North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, this collection of photographs from the late 19th and mid-20th century include people both common and renowned, scenes of cities and towns, rural landscapes and farms, agricultural activities and products, industrial concerns, and more.
Arkansas. More than 200 issues of the Commonwealth College Fortnightly are now searchable online. This newspaper ran from 1926 to 1938 and this digital collection provides a complete record of activity at Arkansas’ historic radical labor school.
Australia & New Zealand Databases
You have to love records that include photographs! Ancestry.com has a new collection for Queensland, Australia, World War I Soldier Portraits, 1914-1918. This unique collection comes from portraits taken at the soldier’s camp at Enoggera, Queensland and published in The Queenslander newspaper until the end of the war in 1918.
A newly digitized archive for New South Wales is now available online. Prisoners in Pictures details the stories of nearly 50,000 prisoners incarcerated in New South Wales between 1870 and 1930. The prisoner stories are told through photography, text, an online catalog, and short films with interviews from archivists such as the one below:
In New Zealand, the Victoria University of Wellington has released a database of 12,000 imperial soldiers who fought in the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s. From the description: “The database provides searchable public access to the names, regiments, and dates of service of soldiers who fought in New Zealand. It is the first installment of what will grow into a larger publicly accessible resource.”
This morning I looked out my window and could see a huge plume of smoke. Across the valley a wild fire is raging that began yesterday afternoon. The hot and very dry conditions have fueled the flames, and homes are starting to be evacuated. It’s a grim reminder that disasters do happen and no one is immune.
It is National Preparedness Month in the United States, and for genealogists, that means disaster planning for our home archives and family history files. We don’t like to think about the unthinkable: losing our original photos, documents and years’ worth of research in a fire, flood, hurricane or other disaster. But it’s happened in places as high-and-mighty as federal archives here in the USA: it can certainly happen in our homes. Even a leaky roof, downed tree, bug infestation, basement mildew issue, theft or other “minor” disaster can mean total annihilation of our family archives if it’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.
As I watch the fire and monitor it’s progress on Twitter, I’m thankful that I can rest easy that my precious family history is protected in a number of ways. This month, I’ll share four steps to help you secure the future of your family past, one step for each of the next four weeks. This gives you time to follow through on each piece of advice before you get to the next step. This week’s step:
ASSESS YOUR GENEALOGY ASSETS. What needs protection?
Your top priority, as a genealogist, will likely be original photos, documents, artwork and one-of-a-kind family artifacts like a family Bible. In other words, things that can’t be replaced.
Next, think about things you’d rather not have to replace: records you’ve ordered from repositories; several years’ worth of genealogy notes and files; computerized family trees. Make yourself a list, so in the weeks to follow you can carry out an emergency plan for each item (starting with high-priority items) as your time and budget permit. Next week’s topic: DUPLICATE THE PAST.
This post wraps up our four-week series on disaster planning for genealogists in honor of National Preparedness Month in the United States. In previous weeks, I talked about assessing our collections of family history artifacts and research materials; creating duplicates of one-of-a kind items; and protecting our most valuable items properly.
Last but certainly not least in our preparedness process, we want to share what we have with others and keep our digital files fresh. I’ll cover both of these steps in this post.
SHARE! First, after you’ve copied, scanned or photographed your family archive, spread your digital archive around by sharing it with others. If you leave all your files on the computer in the same building as your originals (your home), one house fire or theft could easily take out both your original and your carefully-made backups. Instead, disseminate your copies to at least two additional physical locations.
For electronic data, I recommend cloud storage like Dropbox, or iCloud. That immediately gets a copy away from your physical home base, but keeps it accessible to you (and others, if you like) from any location, computer or mobile device. Also consider distributing copies to fellow relatives or your genealogy buddies, the first because they should have family information anyway and the second because your genealogy buddies will likely take good care of your files. Just make sure those who receive your files don’t all live in the same general area, or again, the same typhoon may destroy all your copies. And check your CDs and cloud storage periodically to make sure the files are still in good shape.
UPDATE. Finally, every once in a while you’ll need to update your copies. It may sound unthinkable that someday your PDFs or JPGs won’t be readable, or that your computer won’t have a CD drive. But file formats do eventually become obsolete and storage media do decay and corrupt over time. Keep listening to the Genealogy Gems podcast so you’ll be aware when major transitions in technology happen. I’ll tell you how and when to update specific file formats and storage types that are starting to phase out.
I almost forgot–the last and best step in all emergency planning. When you’ve done everything you can to protect your family legacy from disaster, breathe a deep sigh of relief. The peace of mind alone is worth all this effort!