Finding Family History in WWII Newspapers: Narrowing the Results

Newspapers can fill in the gaps to the long-lost stories of your ancestors. These tips will help you narrow your search in digitized WWII newspapers for experiences directly relating to the war and to the lives of your ancestors.

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In this previous post, I provided step-by-step tips for locating WWII-era newspapers. Those tips helped you locate the actual newspapers. In this post, I’ve got 7 tips for to help you focus on narrowing down a large list of results in search of war-related family stories.

Tip 1: Try Various Name Combinations in WWII Newpapers

If you are keyword searching in digitized newspapers, remember to try different name combinations. A man may be identified by just his first initial and last name. During the 1940s, a woman might be referred to as “Mrs. Ted Johnson” instead of Barbara Johnson.

Tip 2: Search for Addresses

You might find a family identified as “the Johnson’s of 132 Cherry Lane,” so try using street addresses in your searches, remembering that “Lane” might be spelled out or abbreviated. You may also find the family listed by their town or township. An example of this might be “the Johnson’s of Brown township,” or “the Johnson’s of Conover.”

Tip 3: Expand Your Search to Events and Organizations

Use any search terms you already know about for your family in World War II: a military unit, a battle or local service organization, or a war effort project that the folks back home may have helped out with. Do family stories mention rationing, air raid drills, bomb shelters, blackout rules, or one of the women getting a job at a certain factory? All these make excellent search terms.

Tip 4: Take Time to Browse

Browsing the pages will give you a sense of how the war affected everyday life at home. You may find recipes that make the most of ration allowances and reminders about blackout rules and curfews. You may even find tips on how to conserve gasoline or how to be fashionable without silk stockings!

Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It's easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues).

Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It’s easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues.)

Tip 5: Be Aware of Newspaper Stoppages

If your family lived in an area that came under attack or was occupied, the local newspapers may have stopped printing. In that case, search other papers to see if they reported what was going on in your ancestor’s town.

Tip 6: Keep an Eye on the Homefront

For relatives who served in the military, watch for updates in local papers about how they were faring on the fronts during the war. Watch for casualty lists of the wounded, dead, and missing. Here’s something cool: newspapers also printed maps showing the progress of the war on the various fronts.

Tip 7: History Provides Hints

If you’re looking for reports about soldiers’ bodies returning home and funeral services, it will help to know that according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the War Department didn’t start bringing back remains until the fall of 1947 because of the huge logistical challenges involved. Over 93,000 American soldiers who died in World War II are buried overseas in one of the American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries.

Making the Most of Newspapers for Family History

How to Find Your Family History in NewspapersFind more tips like these in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for my foolproof research process, along with everything you need for success: worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources (and websites worth paying a few bucks for), a massive amount of location-specific websites (U.S. and international)–and a case study that puts it all to the test!

The Royal Irish Constabulary Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

New and updated genealogical collections for the Royal Irish Constabulary are just the tip of the iceberg this week. Scroll down for more cool finds for New South Wales, Scotland, U.S. marriages, and an update to the Freedmen’s Bureau collections at FamilySearch.

dig these new record collections

Ireland – Royal Irish Constabulary Records

You can now search the Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Service Records 1816-1922 at Findmypast for over 486,000 records that uncover the details of your ancestor’s career with the R.I.C.

Each search result includes an image of the original document and a transcript. The nature of the information recorded will vary significantly depending on the subject and type of the original document. The following is a list of what types of records can be found in this collection:

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Auxiliary division general registers: These are nominal rolls that recorded member’s service number, rank, dispersed date, and company name. The registers also include division journals that recorded dates of appointment, promotions, and medical details.

Clerical staff: record of service and salaries: These lists of clerical staff include birth date, age at appointment, rank, department and salary.

Constabulary Force Funds: These correspondence registers are of members who paid into the fund with notes on whether they had been pensioned, died or received any rewards from the fund.

Constabulary lists: These are lists of chief constables created during the first year of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Disbandment registers: These registers are of serving members who were with the force in 1922 when it disbanded after the creation of the Free Irish State. They also noted the number of years the constable served and their recommended pension.

General registers: Records of constables’ service history are contained in these general registers. The entries include the individual’s birth date, native county, religion, previous occupation, date of appointment, and promotions, as well as any rewards or punishments received and the date of pension or discharge.

Nominal returns, arranged by counties: Nominal returns are lists of all serving members of the Royal Irish Constabulary organised by county that recorded the individual’s number, rank, name, religion, date of appointment, marital status, and station location.

Officers’ registers: These registers are lists of Officers that include transfers and dates, favorable and unfavorable records, dates of promotions and details of previous military service.

Pensions and gratuities: Pension records reveal the constable’s rate of pay and the amount of pension calculated.

Recruits index: Lists of new recruits, their dates of appointment and arrival, and their company can be found in the recruits index.

Also at Findmypast, Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary History & Directories has had a significant addition of over 43,000 records. You will be able to explore a variety of publications between the years of 1840 and 1921. These records will provide insight into the administration and daily operations of the police force.

Each record includes a PDF image of the original publication. The collection includes training manuals, codes of conduct, salary scales, circulars and staff lists that cover promotions, deployments, and rules & regulations.

Ireland – Valuation Books

At FamilySearch, the Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856 are now available to search. These records are the original notebooks that were used when the property valuations were conducted between the years of 1831-1856. They are arranged by county, then alphabetically by parish or townland.

Land valuation records may contain the following information:

  • Land occupier’s name
  • Location, description, and monetary valuation of each land plot surveyed

New South Wales – Passenger Lists

The New South Wales Passenger Lists is a collection at Findmypast that contains over 8.5 million records. The collection includes records of both assisted and unassisted passengers. The assisted passenger lists cover 1828 to 1896 and the unassisted passenger lists span the years 1826 to 1900. Assisted passengers refers to those who received monetary assistance from another party or agency/government for their passage.

Each result will provide a transcript and image of the original record. The information included on the transcript will vary depending on whether your ancestor was an assisted or unassisted passenger, although most will include your ancestors name, passage type, birth year, nationality, departure port, arrival port and the dates of their travels.

Scotland – Parish Records

The Scotland Non-Old Parish Registers Vital Records 1647-1875 found at Findmypast is a collection of registers created by churches outside of the established church. It contains over 12,000 transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths.

Non-old parish registers are different from the Church of Scotland’s old parish records.

Though these are only transcripts and do not include a digital image of the original, you may find the following information on the records included in this collection:

With each result you will be provided with a transcript of the details found in the original source material. The detail in each transcript can vary depending on the event type and the amount of information that was recorded at the time of the event. Here are some of the facts you may find in the records:

  • Name
  • Birth year, date, and place
  • Event year
  • Event type – birth, marriage, or death
  • Register name
  • Parish and county

United States – Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has updated their magnificent collection of United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872. Records found in this collection include census returns, registers, and lists of freedmen. They also include letters and endorsements, account books, applications for rations, and much more. Many of the records will hold valuable genealogical data.

For a complete list and coverage table of the full collection, click here.

United States – Marriages – Oregon and Utah

Ancestry.com has recently updated two marriage collections. The Oregon, County Marriages, 1851-1975 and the Weber and Piute Counties, Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1940 have some new records. Marriage records will often provide many helpful genealogical details. Depending on the year, you may find:

  • Name of the groom and bride
  • Date and place of the event
  • Birth dates and places of bride and groom
  • Names of parents of both bride and groom
  • How many previous marriages and marital status
  • Place of residence of bride and groom

United States – Washington – Newspapers

Washington State historic newspapers added to their digital collection of newspapers this week. With nearly 50,000 digitized pages from historical newspapers based in Centralia, Eatonville, Tacoma, and Spokane newest titles include the Centralia Daily Hub (1914-16), The Eatonville Dispatch (1916-61) and Den Danske Kronike (1916-17), a Danish-English publication based in Spokane.

The Centralia and Eatonville papers were added this month and Den Danske Kronike was added last summer, along with the Tacoma Evening Telegraph (1886-87).

You will be able to search this newspaper collection for free from the Washington State Library website.

New and Updated Genealogical Records for Ireland, Scotland, Korea, and More!

We are digging deep into these new and updated genealogical records this week. We begin with several genealogical records for Ireland and Scotland, then new additions in Argentina. To end our list, a couple of fun finds in Minnesota and the state of Washington!

dig these new record collections

Ireland – Valuation Office Books

New collections have been added to Findmypast and the first is titled Ireland Valuation Office Books. With just under 2 million records, this collection contains several types of manuscript records including field books, house books, quarto books, rent books, survey books, and more.

Each record includes both a transcript and an image of the original document. The amount and type of information will vary depending on the date and nature of the document. Some book types, such as tenure books, include notations about the property as well as notes on the cost of rent and additional observations. House books include descriptions of the property. Quarto books include observations about the tenement.

Ireland – Will Registers

Also new at Findmypast, Ireland, Original Will Registers, 1858-1920 is a collection with over 181,000 records. These records are derived from district courts and held by the National Archives of Ireland. Wills from Northern Ireland are included, up until 1917. Each of the records contain a transcript and an image of the original source document.

Each transcript will provide you with a name, whether the person is heir, executor, or deceased, name of the deceased, and whether the document is a will, grant of probate, or an administration. From the images, you can determine dates, address of the parish, names of other heirs, and other various details.

The images provide much more detail about your ancestor’s will. Most entries have your ancestor’s death date, death place and who inherited the deceased person’s property, and processions. The will can provide the names of many other relations and explain their family connections.

Some wills are more than one page, so you will need to use the arrow on the right side of the image to continue reading the document.

Ireland – Church Records

Lastly, Findmypast has added the new collection titled Ireland, Catholic Qualification and Convert Rolls, 1701-1845. You can search lists of over 50,000 Irish Catholics who swore loyalty to the crown or converted to Protestantism. As a note of interest, Catholics were restricted from owning property or having businesses during the Penal Laws of the 18th century. Because of this, many chose to either convert to the Church of Ireland or swear loyalty to the crown so they qualified for certain rights.

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Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original entry. The amount of information varies, but you should be able to find a name, an address, occupation, date of conversion or qualification, date of enrollment or court hearing, and the court.

Glasgow – Electoral Registers

Ancestry has made available over 100 years of electoral registers from the Mithcell Library’s family history collection. These voter rolls have been digitized and can be found in the collection titled Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, Electoral Registers, 1857-1962.

Electoral registers may provide a name and place of residence, a description of property, and qualifications to vote. Registers were compiled at a local level, with names appearing alphabetically within the wards or districts. Many of the registers in this database have been indexed electronically, which allows you to search them by name, but if you’re searching for a somewhat common name it will be helpful to know the area in which your ancestor lived to narrow your results.

Remember: Parliamentary Division boundaries may have changed over time. If you are looking for a particular parish or place, try searching using the key word field rather than browsing the image sets listed by Division.

Korea – Various Records

Though these two new Korean database collections hold few records in number and they are browse-only at this time at FamilySearch, they are a wonderful step in the right direction. Korean records of genealogical value are not always easily found online. These new Korean collections include:

Korea, Local History, 655-1935 – A small collection of local histories and town records from Korea. The records are written in Korean using Chinese hanja characters. This collection will be published as images become available, so check back from time to time to see what’s new.

Korea, School Records, 1958 – Only 149 images are digitized at this time. We will be watching this closely and update you as new records become available.

In the meantime, see what other collections FamilySearch has for Korea by clicking here.

Argentina – Cordoba –  Church Records

FamilySearch has also eargentina_record_examplexpanded their Argentina Catholic Church Records in their collection titled Argentina, Cordoba, Catholic Church Records, 1557-1974. This collection nearly doubled with newly digitized and indexed records.

These records are in Spanish. This collection of church records includes baptism, confirmation, marriage, divorce, and death records for parishes in the Córdoba Province.

Catholic Church parish registers are a major record available to identify individuals, parents, and spouses before 1930. After this date, civil authorities began registering vital statistics, which by law included people of all religions.

United States – Washington – Marriage Records

Updated at Ancestry, Washington, Marriage Records, 1854-2013 contains both images and indexes extracted from various records of marriages in Washington.

Marriage records offer the basic facts such as bride, groom, date, and place. These images of marriage certificates may also include additional information such as:

  • addresses
  • ages
  • race
  • birthplaces
  • occupations
  • marital status (single, divorced)
  • whether a first marriage
  • fathers’ names and birthplaces
  • mothers’ names, maiden names, and birthplaces

This database does not contain an image for every document included in the index.

United States – Washington – Naturalizations

  • Certificates of Arrival
  • Declarations on Intent
  • Petitions for Naturalization
  • Oaths of Allegiance
  • Certificates of Naturalization

This database does not contain an image for every document included in the index.

Details contained on naturalization records varies based on the year. However, you may be able to find the following valuable information:

  • name
  • birth date
  • country of origin
  • arrival date
  • place of arrival
  • spouse
  • children
  • document type
  • county

United States – Minnesota – Obituaries

FamilySearch expanded two large collections this week and one of those is the Minnesota, Obituaries, 1865-2006. Even though only about 73,000 records have been indexed, there are over 132,000 digital images in the browse-only section.

These obituaries include an index and images of newspaper obituary files filmed by FamilySearch at the historical societies in Minnesota. Indexed records and additional images will be added to this collection as they become available, so be sure to check back frequently.

Many of these digitized records are referred to as obituary cards, which means that the information has been abstracted from the original source. These cards usually contain the following information:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Age
  • Death date
  • Names of parents, spouse, children, siblings or other relatives
  • Name of newspaper, date and place of publication
  • Birth date and place
  • Other details such as military service

We hope you enjoy the many new and updated genealogical record collections this week and that you make some new discoveries for your family tree. Don’t forget to share this post with your genealogy friends and help them in their research journey as well!

English Parish Boundaries: A Little-Known Online Tool

Did you know that FamilySearch has an interactive map to help you find English parish boundaries in 1851?

Daniel Poffenberger, who works at the British desk at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showed me this map gem. He says this map was about 7 years in the making!

English parish map from FamilySearch.org.

English parish boundaries: map on FamilySearch.org.

Before you click through to the map, you should know:

  • Use the main Search interface to search by a specific location.
  • Click on layers to indicate whether you want the map to show you boundaries to parishes, counties, civil registration districts, dioceses and more.
  • Click and drag the map itself to explore it.
  • Wales is also included here but the Welsh data doesn’t appear to be entirely complete (try it anyway–it might have what you need).
  • The map isn’t yet permanently operational. It does go down sometimes, possibly because they’re still working on it.  It doesn’t print easily. It’s suggested that if you want to print, you hit “Ctrl-Print Screen” and then paste it into Word or another program that accepts images.

Click here to see the FamilySearch England & Wales 1851 Parish map.

Genealogy Video

Want to learn more about using maps? Premium members can check out my video, 5 Ways to Enhance Your Genealogy Research with Old Maps.” Not a Premium member yet? Click here to learn more.

“I Lost My Photos on My Phone!!” Here’s What You Need to Do

Using your mobile device for genealogy is a great idea, but with that convenience takes some additional know-how. Back-up your mobile device images in a few simple steps and you’ll never say, “I lost my photos on my phone!”

Back-up Your Mobile Device Easily

“I lost my photos on my phone!!”

This is NOT what you want to hear from a dear friend who is also a genealogist. So my heart sank when Genealogy Gems Contributor Amie Tennant’s email dropped into my inbox.

Amie wrote:

“I spent 6 hours researching at a cemetery and archives in a far away location. You won’t believe this, but when I got home I realized my smartphone wasn’t working. I had taken all the tombstone images with it, all the document copies were made with it, all my notes were on it. And I hadn’t even had time to back it up.”

That’s the problem, unless you back up as you go, you can’t be sure that just an hour later it won’t all be gone. These days you’re more likely to snap photos of records with your phone than a camera. But with that convenience comes the need for a new game plan to keep those precious images safe.

Back-up Your Mobile Device Images: The Plan

I put together an immediate email to Amie with a restoration and preservation game plan. If, like Amie, you are using your smartphone and mobile devices more and more, you’ll want to put this plan into place too.

First, I advised Amie to visit her phone store (for example, The Apple Store if you have an iPhone) and see if they could retrieve the lost photos and data. You never know unless you ask!

Back-up Your Mobile Device Photos

Image of Amie’s 4th great-grandfather she was able to retrieve.

Next, it’s important to consider automatic back-up options. Automatic back-ups are great, which is why I love BackBlaze. But BackBlaze is back up for your computer. The BackBlaze app on your phone only gives you access to those computer files, and doesn’t back up your phone.

One option is to back-up manually as you go. In other words, as soon as you snap that image of a record, save it to a Cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox. You could even activate Cloud back-up so that it happens automatically, though with the size of image files, you would likely need a paid subscription service to allow for adequate storage space. However, if you are going to continue to use your phone as a genealogy tool, it may be well worth the investment. Let’s look more closely at these two options:

Free Manual Option: If cost is an issue, you can save your photos to a free Dropbox account at the time you take the photo, and then move to more permanent storage on your computer at a later time.

1. Take the photograph

2. Tap the photo in my iPhone’s Photos app

3. Tap Edit and do a quick edit to clean it up (improve contrast, rotate so that it is right side up, crop to get as close-up as possible)

4. Tap Done to close the editor

5. Tap the Share icon and tap Save to Dropbox

6. Select the folder in Dropbox where I want to save the image and tap Save

However, it would definitely be faster and simpler to have your phone automatically backing up to the Cloud.

Low Cost Automatic Option: If your phone is going to be one of your genealogy tools, then automatic cloud back-up may be worth the low cost of around a dollar a month.

Personally, I am not a fan of iCloud even though I have an iPhone. I just don’t find it very user friendly to work with. Setting up your photos and videos to automatically back up to your Google Photos library via Google Drive is another option. Again, since photos and videos do take up a lot of space you’ll likely need to invest in a low cost monthly storage plan.  Click here to learn more, or Google search Google Drive Plan Cost (or substitue the name of the service you are considering) for current plans.

Bottom line: There are several Cloud services available for our smartphones and mobile devices, so there’s sure to be one that’s right for you. Where ever your images find their final resting place, make sure it has Cloud back-up.

Amie’s Response to the Plan

I quickly sent the plan to Amie. She responded by saying:

“Thank you, Lisa! It was devastating. You were right, a nice man at the phone store was able to restore them! But, I don’t ever want to have this happen again. When I set up my new phone, a Samsung Android, I noticed a setting that said something like “automatic save to Google drive” and it would sync your images. So I clicked it “on” but now I can’t find where I did that! Any ideas?”

Troubleshooting Backing-up Your Mobile Device

When people shoot me a question, my usual response is “Just Google it!” I Googled Automatic backup of android phone and got several great hits on the results list.

One article on Android Fact.com was particularly helpful. (Read the full article here.) Remember, it can get pretty expensive to be instantly uploading images with your cell phone carrier. I suggest clicking Wi-Fi Only to ensure that uploading only takes place when you are connected to Wi-Fi.

I regularly emphasize backing up important documents that live on your computer. But let’s face it: If you have a smartphone, it would be oh, so sad to have to say “I lost my photos on my phone!” So don’t wait—back up your smartphone or mobile device today.

Another Tip for Using Smartphones for Genealogy

mobile genealogy bookHere’s a another mobile computing tip my book Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research.

Smartphones and other mobile devices offer a plethora of editing tools. It is well worth the investment of a few extra seconds to clean up and maximize images as you go. This is particularly true of records that need to be clear for future reference or printing.

Try applying a filter to your images for maximum readability. I like the Noir filter in my iPhone’s Photos app editor.

More Gems on Using Mobile Devices for Genealogy

How to Use Your Mobile Device for Genealogy: Free Video!

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Mobile Device

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