12 Things You Can Find in Obituaries

Paul McClellan obituariesRecently I decided to learn more about my great-uncle Paul McClellan, my grandfather’s brother. After World War II, Paul left his Idaho hometown for Pennsylvania. Surviving relatives know hardly anything of his life or family.

The census only takes me through 1940 and he lived through the 1970s. Pennsylvania vital records are pretty tight-lipped. So almost immediately, I found myself looking for obituaries.

Our online community tree at FamilySearch told me when and where he died. I emailed the local history and genealogy contact at the public library in that town. I heard back within a day and had this obituary within a week.

I’ve seen a lot of detailed obituaries. But perhaps because I’m so thirsty for information on Paul, the level of detail in this obituary made me especially happy. I see his:

  1. Age
  2. Street address
  3. Hospital where he died and length of stay there
  4. Birthplace and age
  5. Parents’ names, including mother’s maiden name
  6. Employer and retirement date
  7. Membership in local civic organizations
  8. WWII Army veteran status
  9. Surviving widow’s name, including maiden name
  10. Names, spouses and residences of surviving siblings
  11. Name of funeral home and officiator of funeral
  12. Cemetery name

Wow! Some of these details confirmed that I had the right guy: his age, birth data, relatives’ names. Others open new avenues of research for me. I’ve already started following leads to the civic organizations, funeral home and cemetery.

You know, what is NOT said in this obituary may also prove important as I continue my research on Paul. First, there are no surviving children or grandchildren listed. This disappoints me as I was told he did have children by at least one previous marriage. If he did have children, the informant (his widow?) either didn’t know about them or didn’t choose to mention them. Second, the informant did know a lot about Paul’s kin. Maybe Paul and his wife didn’t totally lose touch with the folks back home–it just seems so years later.

Have you worked much with obituaries? Do you know how to find them? Learn more in Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, available in print or as an e-book. There’s an entire chapter on online digitized newspaper collections, and one on online resources for finding newspapers (either online or offline). Yet another chapter is devoted to African American newspapers. This book will teach you to find all those elusive obituaries–and plenty more mentions of your family in old newspapers.

Historical Maps of New York City and More Now Free Online

Map of New York City, 1857. Click for full citation information.

Thousands of historical maps of New York City, the mid-Atlantic states and even the Austro-Hungarian empire (yes, really!) are now online–and they’re free.

The New York Public Library has published more than 20,000 historical maps dating from 1660-1922. They are free for public use, downloading, manipulating and publishing!  A lot of the maps are from New York City neighborhoods, like the one shown here.

The author of a news item about the collection said this: “We can’t imagine too many people wanting to remix Gangs of New York-era property charts, but it’s hard to object to getting more geographic knowledge at no charge.” Well, we genealogists may not “remix” these old property maps, but we can certainly see the value in them!

Do you use maps in your research? Have you tried overlaying a historical map showing an ancestor’s home with a modern one on Google Earth? Learn more about using Google Earth in your genealogy research in this FREE video. 

And if this post is interesting to you, you should also read this blog post about interactive historical maps of major cities (like New York City).

 

Noisy New York City, Jamaican Slave Revolt and Other Digital Archive Projects

Digital archives are getting so much better! They’re not just about reproducing historical documents anymore. Multimedia add-ons–from searchable statistics to animated timelines–fill in the gaps not explained by the map keys.

Atlas historical geography of US

Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, http://dsl.richmond.edu/historicalatlas/.

Recently, Slate.com writer Rebecca posted on some of her favorite digital archives. Four of the five are of interest to genealogists! Read the article to learn more about them:

Historic_Maps_Video

Want to learn more about using maps in your research? Watch my FREE class on Google Earth for Genealogy. Genealogy Gems Premium members can also watch my NEW video class online, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps. (Not a Premium member? Learn more here.)

Time to Explore New Online Genealogical Records

You’re going to want to make some time in your schedule this week to explore these new genealogy records that just might help you discover a new branch of your family tree! This week we highlight a wide variety of intriguing records including historical maps, oral histories, workhouse records, and historical newspapers. (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 helping us bring these free articles to you!)

Bird’s-Eye View Maps Are Now Online

Maps are often things of beauty, and many of the maps at the DSpace online repository are no exception. Like many libraries, the State Library of Massachusetts has a large collection of bird’s-eye view maps. These maps have now been digitized and are available online.
 
Though the collection focuses on Massachusetts, the maps are not limited to just that state. A search of “New York” retrieves this Bird’s-eye view of the city of New York from 1853:
new york map 1853
 
This online collection currently includes 120 maps and most of the maps date from the late 1800s up to the early 1900s.
 
Keep an eye on this collection, particularly if you’re genealogical research takes your family tree into Massachusetts because the word is that there will be many more added in the near future. 

You can search and browse the collection in the State of Massachusetts’ DSpace online repository here.  

 

Ohio World War II Oral Histories Digital Collection

World War II ended in 1945 making a man who enlisted at the age of 18 that year, 92 years old today. A new digital archive at Bowling Green State University is striving to digitize old cassette tapes and video tapes that contain interviews with over 100 veterans from Ohio. 

According to the website,  the exhibit “provides full digital access to the History 303 World War II oral histories (MS-0871). The oral histories were collected from 2000-2004 for a “History of World War II” (History 303) course taught by Drs. Walter E. Grunden and Kathren Brown in the BGSU Department of History, who assigned students the project of recording an interview with an individual who directly experienced the war, whether as a military veteran, Holocaust survivor, refugee, or non-combatant on the home front.”

WWII Ohio oral histories

BGSU’s World War II veteran oral histories include both men and women. who served.

The project is part of a $6,700 grant the university received from the Ohio History Connection. A helpful finding aid is available for the collection here at the BGSU website

You can search and view the interview here. If you’re like me, you’ll find these interviews with many of the Greatest Generation compelling to watch even if you don’t have relatives from Ohio.

 

Findmypast: New and exclusive Donegal Workhouse records

Findmypast has added over 400,000 Donegal, Ireland records to their growing collection of Irish Workhouse records.

The Donegal Workhouses Registers and Minute Books have been digitized and published online for the first time by Findmypast in partnership with the Donegal County Council. 

The records consist of both transcripts and images of original admission and discharge registers as well as board of guardians’ minute books spanning the years 1840 to 1922.

The collection covers the unions of:

  • Ballyshannon
  • Donegal
  • Dunfanaghy
  • Glentis
  • Inishowen
  • Letterkenny
  • Milford
  • and Stranorlar.

As well as registers and minute books, users can also expect to find:

  • accounts
  • death registers
  • dispensary notices
  • letters
  • notices
  • notifications
  • petitions
  • relief registers
  • supplier contracts
  • Union receipts, and more.

From Findmypast: “High levels of poverty in 19th century Ireland meant that hundreds of thousands of Irish people passed through the workhouses. Irish workhouses were generally built to accommodate around 800 inmates although it soon became clear that more space was needed and programme of building took place throughout the 1840s and 50s.

former workhouse taken in Dunfanaghy, Donegal

Former workhousein Dunfanaghy, Donegal Flickr user nz_willowherb [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Life inside was grim. At first, there was no so-called outdoor relief, as would have been common in England. Outdoor relief was when the poor could simply use the workhouse facilities as needed by undertaking a day’s work. Indoor relief was initially the only option and required the poor to prove they were destitute before they were admitted.”

This new collection is part of an existing archive of Irish Workhouse records which now includes over 3.1 million records covering Dublin, Clare, Sligo and Waterford.

British & Irish Newspaper Update

Findmypast has added 137,896 new pages to The Archive. These have been added to 18 existing publications spanning 128 years from 1871 to 1999.

The historical newspapers with new additions include:

  • Staffordshire Sentinel: 1906-1910, 1918-1919
  • Newcastle Evening Chronicle: 1894, 1913, 1919
  • The People: 1946-1949
  • Newcastle Chronicle: 1875-1896, 1899-1900
  • Surrey Advertiser: 1909
  • Limerick Chronicle: 1825
  • Aberdeen Press and Journal: 1983-1984
  • Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle: 1873-1911, 1925-1933, 1958-1969
  • Pinner Observer: 1999
  • Harrow Leader: 1998-1999
  • Ealing Leader: 1998-1999
  • Hayes & Harlington Gazette: 1998-1999
  • Acton Gazette: 1871-1880, 1885, 1888-1892, 1894-1903, 1910-1917, 1921-1939
  • Amersham Advertiser: 1998
  • Hammersmith & Shepherds Bush Gazette: 1991
  • Dumfries and Galloway Standard: 1874, 1884
  • Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough: 1901-1902
  • Hamilton Advertiser: 1889-1892, 1894, 1897, 1901, 1903-1904, 1906-1908

New Free Historical Records at FamilySearch

Search these new records and images by clicking on the collection links below. The number shown in parenthesis is the number of indexed records added. 

Australia: Australia, South Australia, Prison Records, 1838-1912 (81,971) New indexed records collection

Belgium: Belgium, Namur, Civil Registration, 1800-1912 (402) Added indexed records to existing collection

Canada: Nova Scotia Births, 1864-1877 (183,455) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Canada: Nova Scotia Marriages, 1864-1918 (18,885) Added indexed records to an existing collection

England: England, Herefordshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1583-1898 (594,707) New indexed records collection

Germany: Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, Halberstadt, Civil Registration, 1874-1982 (12,060) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Lesotho: Lesotho, Evangelical Church Records, 1828-2005 (302) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Liberia: Liberia, Marriage Records, 1912-2015 (2,475) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Luxembourg: Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1796-1941  (73,901) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Peru: Peru, Cemetery Records, 1912-2013 (42,164) New indexed records collection

Scotland: Scotland Presbyterian & Protestant Church Records, 1736-1990  (109,064) New indexed records collection

United States: Arkansas Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929 (33,779) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Arkansas, Church Records, 1922-1977 (306) New indexed records collection

United States: California, Church Records, 1864-1985 1,941 New indexed records collection

United States: California, Santa Clara County, San Jose, Oak Hill Cemetery Headstone Inscriptions, 1838-1985 (61,966) New indexed record collection

United States: Colorado, Church Records, 1692-1942 (35,030) New indexed records collection

United States: Connecticut, Vital Records, Prior to 1850 (8) Added indexed records to existing collection

United States: Massachusetts, City of Boston Voter Registers, 1857-1920 (32,996) New indexed records collection

United States: Michigan, Civil War Centennial Observance Commission, Committee on Civil War Grave Registration, Burial Records (15,951) New indexed records collection

United States: Minnesota, County Deaths, 1850-2001 (8,672) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Nebraska, Box Butte County, Funeral Home Records, 1919-1976 (3,491) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: Nebraska, Church Records, 1875-1899 (151) New indexed records collection

United States: Pennsylvania, Berks County, Reading, Charles Evans Cemetery and Crematory Burial Records, 1887-1979 (106,043) New indexed records collection

United States: Texas, Bexar County, San Antonio Cemetery Records, 1893-2007 (4,981) Added indexed records to an existing collection

United States: United States Deceased Physician File (AMA), 1864-1968 (78,215) Added indexed records to an existing collection

Share Your Story

Did you find an ancestor or bust a brick wall using our list of new online genealogical records? Please leave a comment below and share your story and inspire others. And while you’re at it, please share this article using our social buttons (at the top of this article) with your genealogy friends. We thank you, and they will too!

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Share World War I Family History

flagTo commemorate the centennial of the First World War, and to mark the last full month of the exhibition Myth and Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture, the Wolfsonian at Florida International University (FIU) created a special Tumblr for sharing family stories, WWI memorabilia, and genealogy research tips called #GreatWarStories.

I first crossed paths with FIU’s Digital Outreach Strategist Jeffery K. Guin in 2009 when he interviewed me for his Voices of the Past website and show. Jeff was an early innovator in the world of online history, and he’s now brought those talents to the Wolfsonian, a museum, library and research center in Miami that uses its collection to illustrate the persuasive power of art and design.

The Wolfsonian team of historical sleuths is inviting the public at large to help them unearth the forgotten impact of the Great War by posting family facts, anecdotes, documents, and photographs. They were inspired by their current art exhibition Myth and Machine: The First World War in Visual Culture which focuses on artists’ responses to the war. They hope that #GreatWarStories project at Tumblr will be a “living, breathing digital collection of personal WWI stories, photos, documents and letters compiled in remembrance of the transformational war on the occasion of its centennial.”

Great war

Jeff asked me to join in on this buy add medication online history crowd-sourcing effort, and it was easy to comply. Several years ago  in going through the last of my Grandmother’s boxes, I found a booklet she had crafted herself called The World War.As a high school student, and daughter of German immigrant parents she set about gathering and clipping images from magazines and newspapers, depicting this turning point in history. I’ve been anxious to share it in some fashion, and this was my opportunity. Here is the result:

Do you have a piece of World War I history hiding in our closet? Why not join in this experiment in storytelling, sharing and curating, and share World War I family history?

Here are some ways you can contribute:

  • Sharing the story of your family’s WWI-related history through photos, documents, or anecdotes (possibilities include guest blogging, video/podcast interview, or photo essay)
  • Using your expertise and unique perspective as a launching pad for discussing the war’s impact in a different or surprising way
  • Alerting the museum to related resources or materials that would dovetail with the mission of the project

To see the living, digital collection, visit http://greatwarstories.tumblr.comIf you would like to participate, send an email to greatwarstories@thewolf.fiu.edu and the Wolfsonian team will be in touch to discuss storytelling ideas.

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