Volunteer Gem: He Indexed Milwaukee Journal Obituaries Himself!

my ancestor in the newspaper newsRecently we received this inspiring story from Brian Zalewski, a longtime Genealogy Gems podcast listener. He found a valuable genealogy resource and made it easier for others to access. Thank you, Brian!

“Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking for death listings in the archive of The Milwaukee Journal on Google News. These entries are usually so small (or too bad of quality) that they don’t get picked up by the character-recognition software….This means you can’t search for [ancestors’ names in them via OCR]. Also, depending on the date of the paper, the death may be recorded in a normal obituary, a full article (like my great-great grandfather, fortunately), a tiny single-line burial permit, or a small death notice.

“I decided to start recording all of the deaths I can find. I try to note the date, individual’s name, paper, type of record, age, and address. So far, I’ve recorded over 1000 entries (some duplicates due to similar entries on multiple days), mainly from the years of 1884, 1885 and 1910.

“The benefit of doing this is two-fold. This data will be recorded and searchable for everyone, and I will probably find information on my family somewhere. Also, who knows how long Google will keep the archives online. These papers are available elsewhere on microfilm, etc, but I’ll do what I can when I can.

“I have also spent some time adding a few helpful features. Within the details of a death entry, you can automatically search for the individual in a few burial index sites. Currently, this includes the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries burial index, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves. The search, while helpful, is not perfect. I can only search using the information included in the entry. Sometimes this does not work if the name is spelled differently in both places, though you can always tweak the search variables once you’re at the indexing site. If I happened to find a matching entry from one of those sites, that URL is now linked directly from the entry. The entry will also be flagged with the little headstone icon.

“Currently, it’s not a massive database, but it’s constantly growing. Hopefully it will be helpful to somebody with research in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.” Click here to search his database of Milwaukee Journal obituaries.

Want to learn more about searching for obituaries in newspapers? Click to read the blog posts below:

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

 

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do the collections below include your ancestor? Don’t forget: tomorrow is Lisa Louise Cooke’s FREE live streaming class on using Google Tools to Solve Family Mysteries–use them to find more records like these! (Details below.)

This week: Irish newspapers, London electoral registers, Ohio naturalizations and Virginia vital records (through 2014!).

IRISH NEWSPAPERS. Subscribers at FindMyPast can now access over a million new Irish newspaper articles. These eight papers have updates: Cork Examiner, 1841-1896, Derry Journal, 1825-1950; Freeman’s Journal, 1820-1900; Roscommon Journal and Western Impartial Reporter, 1828-1864; Saunder’s News-Letter, 1773-1864; Ulster Gazette, 1844-1871; Waterford Chronicle, 1827-1870 and Waterford Mail, 1824-1870.

LONDON ELECTORAL RECORDS. Nearly 3 million indexed records have been added to the free England, London Electoral Registers, 1847–1913 database at FamilySearch.org. The overall collection contains more than 660,000 digital images of electoral registers filmed at the London Metropolitan Archives.

OHIO NATURALIZATIONS. Over 80,000 indexed names have been added to the US, Ohio, Southern District Naturalization Index, 1852–1991. This database covers a prime migration route: north of the Ohio River (records include courts at Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Steubenville). The index points toward records that can traditionally be tough to find because people could naturalize at any court.

VIRGINIA VITAL RECORDS. Ancestry subscribers can now access these new databases: Virginia, Divorce Records, 1918-2014, Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014, Virginia, Marriage Records, 1936-2014 and Virginia, Birth Records, 1864-2014. These records–available through 2014–come from the Virginia Department of Health.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Here’s a tip: Harness Google’s power to search for specific record sets in which your family may appear. Watch Lisa’s free live streaming class TOMORROW, June 6, “Google Tools and Procedures for Solving Family History Mysteries.Click here for details. Can’t watch tomorrow? You can still register to watch the class in the SCGJ archive through July 5.

The 1910 Census in Puerto Rico: A Surprising Lesson on Using Census Records for Genealogy

Puerto Rico census screenshot

Sample census detail image from Ancestry.com.

Imagine taking a standard U.S. census form, translating it into Spanish, administering it to a newly-American population whose racial identity is highly politicized, translating the results back into English and trying to make sense of them 100 years later.

That’s what happens when you’re looking at 1910 census in Puerto Rico.

I stumbled on this story when my dad, a FamilySearch indexer, called my attention to a current project to index previously-missed parts of the 1910 census. A lot of the missing data was for Puerto Rico. The forms are in Spanish. My dad asked my help translating some of what he was reading, since I speak some Spanish. He was concerned that the computer was interpreting some of the abbreviations in English when they were likely Spanish abbreviations. I looked into it and what I found reminded me of these lessons:

Puerto Rico 1910 1920 census instructions

From “The US Census and the Contested Rules of Racial Classification in Early Twentieth-Century Puerto Rico,” by Mara Loveman, in Caribbean Studies, 35:2 (July-Dec 2007), 3-36. Click image to go to the paper.

Always read the record itself and seek to understand it. Don’t just rely on the index! The published images of this census on Ancestry interpret “B” in the race column as “Black,” but a little research (thank you, Google Scholar!) reveals that the census takers entered the race in Spanish–so “B” was for “blanco” (read about it in this academic paper).

When you see someone’s race change over the course of a lifetime, consider the historical context. Puerto Rican census data from the early 1900s “show a population becoming significantly whiter from one census to the next” because of “changes in how race was classified on census returns,” says the same paper. Not only were there changes in the official instructions, but the enumerators increasingly didn’t follow them. In fact, on several thousand census entries in 1910 and even more in 1920, “individuals’ racial classifications were manually crossed out, and a different ‘race’ was written in. These post-enumeration edits, it turns out, were done by a select group of Puerto Ricans hired to supervise and ‘correct’ the work of fellow Puerto Rican enumerators.”

google toolbox bookThis little historical trivia is not so trivial if you’re wondering why your ancestor may be identified by a different race than you expected. Learn more about finding academic papers like the one quoted here in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louise Cooke. Her book shows you how to search Google Scholar for gems like this that make your family history more clear!

 

The Bombing of London in WWII: Check Out this Interactive Map of The Blitz

An interactive map lets you explore The Blitz: the intensive Bombing of London by the Germans in 1940-1941.

bombing of London the blitz 4

View from St. Paul’s cathedral after the Blitz. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view.

We see the images often in WWII-era movies. Londoners hunched in tube station tunnels during air raids. Children evacuating the city by the thousand. The Blitz was a period of intensive bombing of London by the Germans that began in September 1940 and continued through the following June. Now we can explore exactly where and when all those bombs fell at a new interactive website, Bomb Sight.

bomb sight screen capture“With Bomb Sight you can discover what it was like in London, during WW2 Luftwaffe Blitz bombing raids, exploring maps, images and memories,” explains the site. “The Bomb Sight web map and mobile app reveal WW2 bomb census maps between 7/10/1940 and 06/06/1941, previously available only by viewing them in the Reading Room of The National Archives.”

As you can see from this screenshot, the site is map-based. All those red dots you see are bombings. (Can you imagine bombs falling that thickly in your own neighborhood?) Different icons reveal the type of bomb. Click on them to learn more about that event. You can even view historical images of that neighborhood and read stories and memories relating to that area. You can ask to map to show you only the first night of the blitz, a weekly look or an aggregate (all-inclusive) view, like the one shown here.

Though you can search visually, you can also enter a street or postcode to look at a specific area. Zoom in or out; explore different map layers for different types of information.

These maps were created from 559 map sheet originals that were declassified in 1971 but are very fragile today. So this site represents a fantastic new free resource that hasn’t been widely accessible to the public. It’s stunning to look closely at a neighborhood and see how densely the bombs fell. It’s also stunning to pan out to the widest view and see SO many dots. So many bombs. So much destruction.

Immerse Yourself in The Blitz: Everyone Brave is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is Forgiven cover image

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by British novelist Chris Cleave  is a story about love and war during some of the longest sustained bombing campaigns of World War II. It immerses readers in the harrowing experiences of The Blitz, as civilians frantically piled their children onto trains headed for rural parts unknown, then spent the next several months running for underground shelters whenever the bombs came. You’ll read about children who gradually snuck back into the city, only to find themselves homeless and orphaned. You’ll careen along with female ambulance drivers who dodged explosions and ruins during air raids as they raced toward smoking ruins. But amidst all this devastation are stories of love, romantic and otherwise, and stories of bravery, amidst moments of fear and panic. This Genealogy Gems Book Club pick was an instant New York Times best-seller, and for good reason! Click here to pick up your e-book or print copy.

More Great Map Resources

Was This My Ancestor’s Neighborhood? Using Google Earth for Genealogy

Best Websites for Finding Historical Maps video (available to Premium website members)

5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps (available to Premium website members). Below you can watch a free clip from this video on using Sanborn fire insurance maps (and yes, there are fire insurance maps for London: they date to 1792).

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipAbout Genealogy Gems Premium Website Membership
The video class you just caught a peek of is one of the perks of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. For one low annual fee, members can watch more than 2 dozen Premium member-only videos on genealogy research strategies, organization, technology tools (like Google, Google Earth, Evernote, Dropbox and cloud computing) and more. And we keep adding new videos regularly! Premium website members also have access to our monthly Premium podcast and all archived episodes. Click here to learn more!

thank you for sharingThanks for sharing this post with others who will want to learn more about the bombing of London during World War II. Just email the URL or post this article on your favorite social media channel.

 

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