Like anyone else who sells a popular product, Ancestry.com is always tweaking little things to improve the user’s experience. They’ve been working on some updates, some of which you may have noticed on the site over the summer and some of which are rolling out gradually over the next couple of weeks:
1. A simple search form with the check-box option to match all terms exactly.
2. Search results shown grouped by category. This is great–no more scrolling through lots of results when you’re looking for specific kinds of records. This sort feature also reminds us to check categories we may be overlooking, like city directories and local histories. These first two-features are opt-in: learn how to do it here and see what it looks like below:
3. A summary box at the top of search results showing what you’ve already attached to your ancestor. The list is sorted alpha-numerically so you can see easily which records have been found and where there might be gaps (see what it looks like below). You can collapse this list if you want to give you more room to see the search results.
4. A filter that removes search results similar to types you already found for that ancestor. For example, if you already have a death record for someone, the filter will remove other death records. “Smart filtering” is an optional feature, so you can still choose to see the full list. Read more about it here and see it here:
Ancestry says they will provide plenty of feedback opportunities for these new features. Don’t be shy: tell them what you like (and what you don’t) and why!
Chronicling America has added four more states to its coverage–and opened the door to 150+ additional years of newspaper coverage.
Chronicling America is the Library of Congress’ online portal for digitized newspapers. Here you can search nearly 11.4 million pages of historical U.S. newspapers for free. There’s more good news: the site has added four new states to its list of contributors. and now allows partners to contribute much older–and newer–content.
Four new state partners were recent awarded funding to contribute content: Alaska, Colorado, Maine and New Jersey. The organizations representing each state will curate, digitize and contribute content they think best represents the historical variety and diversity of their respective states. Watch for newspaper pages from these states to appear beginning in 2017.
The span of digital newspapers coverage at Chronicling America has also expanded. Until now, you could only do full-text searches of papers dating from 1836 to 1922. But in July, a press release announced that the site now accepts content dating back to 1690, when the first U.S. paper appeared, and forward nearly a half-century to 1963.
Previously, digitized papers were cut off at 1922. A press release explains that “…anything published before 1923 is in the public domain. From 1923 to 1963, materials fell into the public domain if their publishers did not renew their copyrights. This means that digitized newspapers published from 1923 to 1963 may be added to Chronicling America if state partners can prove that the newspapers are not under copyright.”
The National Gazette, 23 April 1792. Online at Chronicling America; click to view.
It will take about a year for states to start adding older or newer papers, if they choose. But the Library of Congress has already started. It’s published a new collection of papers from the Federalist era, or the first three U.S. presidencies. This is more of a historical contribution than a genealogical one, because the papers are being chosen for what they tell us about politics of the day. Local news and things like births, marriages and deaths weren’t as commonly reported back then, anyway. But the Library of Congress will also be adding recent newspapers from the Washington, D.C. era in the near future.
In other words, Chronicling America digitized newspaper content continues to grow. Keep checking back for mentions of your ancestors and their stories!
Read the scoop on using newspapers for genealogy in Lisa Louise Cooke’s book How to Find Your Family History in U.S. Newspapers, available in print and in e-book format. You’ll learn what kinds of information you might discover (way more than obituaries!) and where to look for online and offline newspaper sources. Packed with helpful worksheets and directories of online newspaper resources, both free and subscription-based.
Here’s a 10-minute video lecture on Chronicling America: what it is and how to use it:
When family scrapbooks get wet, the result is not pretty. In fact, it can be quite dire for the scrapbook and its precious contents.
“Water can cause the bleeding of inks and dyes in journal entries, digital photographs, and decorative papers, causing them to appear blurry or streaked,” says this article in Scrapbook Retailer. “When exposed to water, some prints and materials will soften and stick to adjacent surfaces. Papers that get wet can become distorted or warped and some may even dissolve completely in water.”
Even more yucky? “Dirty water from sewage leaks, floodwaters from rivers, and colored liquids like fruit juices make the clean-up process more difficult and staining of the album materials more likely.”
Preventing the damage in the first place is of course the best option, but it’s not always an option we’re given. Floods happen. Spills happen. Windows get left open.
So what to do if a scrapbook gets wet? Or a photo album or loose pictures?
First, says the Library of Congress, “Take necessary safety precautions if the water is contaminated with sewage or other hazards or if there is active (wet or furry) mold growth.”
“In general, wet photographs should be air dried or frozen as quickly as possible,” states the Northeast Document Conservation Center website. “Once they are stabilized by either of these methods, there is time to decide what course of action to take.” But don’t delay too long, they say. “Time is of the essence: the longer the period of time between the emergency and salvage, the greater the amount of permanent damage that will occur.”
A few more tips from that same article on the Northeast Document Conservation Center website, written by Gary Albright:
Save prints before plastic-based films, as the latter will last longer.
Allow water to drain off photos first, as needed. Then air dry photographs, face up, laying flat on paper towels. Negatives should be hung to dry.
Separate wet photos from each other and other items (like a scrapbook page) as much as possible.
If photos are stuck together, freeze them as a bunch, wrapped in wax paper. Then thaw them. As they gradually thaw, peel photos off and let them air dry.
Don’t worry if pictures curl up while they are drying. You can flatten them once they’re totally dry.
Unfortunately, some very old photo types will not survive a water bath at all. Others may weather a quick dip but not long-term exposure to dampness. It’s SO important to preserve images digitally! You can scan entire album pages if they fit on your scanner, so you can record captions or the arrangement of pictures on a page. Or use a scanner like Flip-Pal that has stitching software to help stitch together larger images.
In a pinch, snap pictures with your mobile device: close-ups of photographs and captions, and full-page images that at least capture how it’s laid out (even if at a lower resolution). Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research by Lisa Louise Cooke has a chapter on digital imaging apps that can help you digitally preserve family albums and scrapbooks–whether they’ve gotten wet or not.
Lisa Louise Cooke trusts all our computer files–including images, sound files and videos that have taken thousands of hours to create–to Backblaze online backup service, the official backup of Genealogy Gems. For about $5 a month (or $50 for an entire year), you can protect your files, too. It only takes a couple of minutes to give yourself the peace of mind of knowing that, even if disaster strikes, you’ll still be able to recover your digital files quickly and easily. Go to www.Backblaze.com/Lisato get started.