Topping the list of new and updated genealogy records this week are United States military records. Ancestry.com has a new collection of U.S. Navy Muster Rolls and an updated collection of historical postcards. Enjoy a special interview with military expert Michael Strauss on how he solved an old postcard mystery! Also new this week are WWI U.S. records at FamilySearch for Michigan and Utah, which you can access for free online.
“These records were created to document enlisted Navy personnel assigned to each and every discrete Navy command (known as “activities” in Navy terminology), such as ships, aviation squadrons, air stations, bases, stations, training centers and schools, flag staffs, and Marine Corps units.
“Arranged by two-year chronological subseries (1949-1950, 1951-1952, 1953-1954, 1955-1956, and 1957-1958), followed by single-year subseries (1959-1971). Each subseries is arranged by “activity number,” a unique number assigned to each ship, unit, and command within the Navy. Each activity’s muster rolls are arranged in chronological order by quarter, typically with enlisted personnel arranged by rate and thereunder alphabetically by surname.
“Beginning in the spring of 1956, officers precede enlisted personnel, with officers arranged either alphabetically by surname or hierarchically by rank. Personnel diaries, which precede each quarter’s muster rolls, are arranged chronologically by date.”
Ancestry.com also recently updated their collection of U.S. Historical Postcards, 1893-1960. You might be wondering how historical postcards would be valuable to your genealogy research. The collection description sheds some light on what you can use this database for:
“This database contains over 115,000 historical postcards with photos of places in the United States. Each postcard caption has been indexed and may be searched by keyword or location. The database also includes the city, county, state, and postcard era (estimated year range) for most postcards.
This database is primarily useful for obtaining a photograph or picture of a specific place in time. If you do not already have pictures of the places your ancestors lived, historical postcards are a good alternative to personal photos.”
In the video below: A captivating story unfolds of old postcards from WWI that are snatched from oblivion by Michael Strauss, who is the Genealogy Gems Podcast Military Minutes man. Michael shares the story of how he found the historic postcards on eBay, and the research process he followed to identify their author. These are strategies that you can use in many areas of your family history research!
You can explore even more new WWI records for genealogy thanks to FamilySearch’s newest additions to their free records.
These records may help you find out more about your ancestors who served in the military during WWI. Depending on the collection and record, you might find:
name of Veteran;
place and date of birth;
occupation before and after the war;
birthplace and date;
names of children and their birth dates;
parents’ names and addresses;
first camp entered and date;
rank, company, and regiment;
transfers and promotions;
battles engaged in;
discharged date and reason, and additional information.
If you don’t find the person you’re looking for, FamilySearch has these helpful suggestions for next steps:
Look for variant spellings of the names. You should also look for alias names, nicknames and abbreviated names.
Look for an index. Local genealogical and historical societies often have indexes to local records.
Search the records of nearby localities (or military units, counties, parishes, etc.).
More Military Records with Michael Strauss
Michael Strauss is our resident Military Minutes man for The Genealogy Gems Podcast. He first debuted on the show on episode #207, where he talked about draft registrations. Click here to listen to the episode and download an exclusive free 4-page handout! For more expert military research tips and insight, browse Michael’s many articles on our website by clicking here.
About the Author: Lacey Cooke has been working with Genealogy Gems since the company’s inception in 2007. Now, as the full-time manager of Genealogy Gems, she creates the free weekly newsletter, writes blogs, coordinates live events, and collaborates on new product development. No stranger to working with dead people, Lacey holds a degree in Forensic Anthropology, and is passionate about criminal justice and investigative techniques. She is the proud dog mom of Renly the corgi.
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
Explore these African and African American genealogy records in celebration of your family history and Black History Month! Also this week: see new records online for Southern Claims Commission, GA, NY and VA as well as African heritage sites, Liberia and South...
Are you tracing the family history of someone who lived in the U.S. during the 20th century? Check out a wonderful free database in the United States called the Social Security Death Index, or the SSDI. Keep reading for 5 FREE online sources for the SSDI,7 tips for searching the SSDI and what you can do with SSDI info.
In 1935 the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt, and consequently more than thirty million Americans were registered by 1937. Today, the Death Master File from the Social Security Administration contains over 89 million records of deaths that have been reported to the Social Security Administration and they are publicly available online.
Most of the information included in the index dates from 1962, although some data is from as early as 1937. This is because the Social Security Administration began to use a computer database for processing requests for benefits in 1962. Many of the earlier records back to 1937 have not been added.
The SSDI does not have a death record for everyone; and occasionally you may find an error here and there if something was reported inaccurately, but overall it’s a terrific resource! It’s especially great for many people who were missed in the 1890 census or whose birth predated vital records registration in their home state. Remember they just needed to live past 1937 and to have worked to have been included. So they could have been born sometime in the later 1800s.
5 FREE Online Sources for the SSDI
Several genealogy websites provide free access to the SSDI, including (click to go right to the SSDI at these sites):
On the Search page, enter your relative’s name and other details you’re asked for. Hopefully you will get back results that includes your relative!
7 Tips for Searching the SSDI
If your relative doesn’t show up in the SSDI, even though you know they worked after 1937 and you know they have passed away, try these search tips:
1. Does the website you are using to search the SSDI have the most current version available? Look in the database description on the site to see how recently it was updated. Try searching at other sites.
2. Make sure that you tried alternate spellings for their name. You never know how it might have been typed into the SSDI database.
3. Many SSDI indexes allow you to use wildcards in your search. So for example you could type in “Pat*” which would pull up any name that has the first three letters as PAT such as Patrick, Patricia, etc.
4. Try using less information in your search. Maybe one of the details you’ve been including is different in the SSDI database. For example it may ask for state and you enter California because that’s where grandpa died, when they were looking for Oklahoma because that’s where he first applied for his social security card. By leaving off the state you’ll get more results. Or leave off the birth year because even though you know it’s correct, it may have been recorded incorrectly in the SSDI and therefore it’s preventing your ancestor from appearing in the search results.
5. Leave out the middle name because middle names are not usually included in the database. However, if you don’t have luck with their given name, try searching the middle name as their given name. In the case of my grandfather his given name was Robert but he went by the initial J.B. But in the SSDI his name is spelled out as JAY BEE!
6. Remember that married women will most likely be listed under their married surname, not their maiden name. But if you strike out with the married name, go ahead and give the maiden a try. She may have applied for her card when single, and never bothered to update the Administration’s records. Or if she was married more than once, check all her married names for the same reason.
7. Don’t include the zip code if there is a search field for it because zip codes did not appear in earlier records.
While most folks will appear in the SSDI, there are those who just won’t. But knowing where information is not located can be as important down the road in your research as knowing where it IS located, so I recommend making a note in your database that you did search the SSDI with no result. This will save you from duplicating the effort down the road because you forgot that you looked there.
What You Can Do with SSDI Information
Now, here comes the most exciting part of the SSDI: what you can do with that information. First, it usually includes a death date (at least the month and year) and sometimes a state and last known residence. Use this information to look for death records, obituaries, cemetery and funeral records. And use that Social Security Number to order a copy of your relative’s application for that number: the SS-5. Click here to read more about the SS-5 and how to order it.
Everyone is spending a lot more time at home and online. That means it’s the perfect time to dig into Ancestry.com and talk about strategies that you can use to get the most out of it.
Today’s show comes from my Elevenses with Lisa YouTube Live show. Many podcast listeners have told me they hadn’t really thought about sitting down to watch YouTube videos. And my video viewers say the same thing about listening to audio podcasts. However, when they venture out, they find they really appreciate what each has to offer.
Podcasts let you exercise, work around the house and generally be pretty active even while you’re listening and learning. The live YouTube show is a chance to take a mid-week break, enjoy a cup of tea, watch the show and even chat with other genealogists in the show Chat. The video replays are great in the evening when there’s nothing to watch on TV.
They work together. You can watch the video first and enjoy the show’s community. Then you can listen again later to pick up what you may have missed or sit down to your computer to give the techniques a try.
My goal is that you’re going to learn something new that’s going to help you achieve greater success in your genealogy! Click the player below to listen to the podcast:
Ancestry Search Strategies and Tips
Watch the video and read the full show notes here.
Genealogy Gems Premium Members can download the show notes PDF from the Resources section on that page.
Become a Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning Member
Premium Members have exclusive access to video classes and downloadable handouts, the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast. and Elevenses with Lisa downloadable show notes PDF. Become a member here.
Profile America: On a Roll – The History of Toilet Paper
Sunday, August 23rd. Often unmentionable and little regarded, a 130 year old American invention enjoyed—if that’s the word—considerable attention earlier this year.
In 1890, toilet paper on a dispensing roll was patented by the founders of today’s Scott Brand of paper products.
Toilet paper itself dates back about 1,500 years to China, but didn’t develop until the mid-19th Century. Some perforated and medicated versions were available in America before the Scott product, but weren’t successful.
In spite of demand-driven shortages, America is on a roll when it comes to stocking this species of sanitary paper.
Nationwide, there are 132 establishments producing sanitary paper products. These operations employ over 17,000 people in the $13-billion enterprise.
We adopted Howie in 2005, and soon after in early 2007 I started this podcast. Howie took his place at my feet, and he’s been there for every recording. He’s been my silent podcasting partner and he will be missed beyond words.