New U.S. Vital Records Online: Freedmen’s Bureau, Statewide Databases and More

Millions of U.S. vital records have recently been published online! These include updates to the U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index; nationwide obituary, funeral home, and cemetery databases; Freedmen’s Bureau field office records; a new African American Center for Family History; and updates to vital records collections for CA, ID, LA, MI, NV, PA, SC, St. Croix, and WA. 

U.S. Vital Records new and updated

Scan this list of nationwide, regional, and statewide collections of vital records: which should you search for your U.S. ancestors? Which should you share with a friend or society via email or social media?

U.S. Vital Records: Nationwide Databases

Ancestry.com has updated three nationwide databases of vital events for the United States:

  • Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Click here to learn more about this important collection, which takes the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) a step further by providing additional information on millions of names.
  • U.S. Obituary Collection, 1930-2017. “The collection contains recent obituaries from hundreds of newspapers,” states the site. “We scour the Internet regularly to find new obituaries and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”
  • U.S. Cemetery and Funeral Home Collection, 1847-2017. “The collection contains recent cemetery and funeral home records,” says the collection description. “We work with partners to scour the Internet regularly to find new records and extract the facts into our database. Where available we include the original URL link to the source information. As the internet is a changing medium, links may stop working over time.”

Across the South and African American Heritage

Ancestry.com subscribers may now also search a new database, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Records of Field Offices, 1863-1878. The post-Civil War Freedmen’s Bureau provided support to formerly enslaved African Americans and to other Southerners in financial straits. This database includes records from field offices that served Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, and the cities of New Orleans and Washington, D.C. It also includes records from the Adjutant General’s office relating to the Bureau’s work in Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina. Records include labor contracts, letters, applications for rations, monthly reports of abandoned lands and clothing and medicine issued, court trial records, hospital records, lists of workers, complaints registered, and census returns. A related collection, U.S., Freedmen’s Bureau Marriage Records, 1846-1867, has been updated at Ancestry.com.

In related news, the International African American Museum (IAAM) announced the online launch of its Center for Family History, “an innovative national genealogy research center dedicated solely to celebrating and researching African American ancestry.” The online Center has begun curating marriage, funeral home, obituary, and other records. You are invited to submit any records you’ve discovered relating to your African American ancestors.

California and Nevada marriage records

Over 4.3 million new records have been added to Findmypast’s collection of U.S. marriage records for the states of California and Nevada. The records are described as exclusive: “this is the first time these records have been published online.”

Idaho marriage records

Ancestry.com has updated its collection of Idaho, Marriage Records, 1863-1966. “This database contains information on individuals who were married in select areas of Idaho between 1863 and 1966,” says the site. “Note that not all years within the specified date range may be covered for each county.” Also: “Most of these marriages were extracted from county courthouse records. However, in the case of Owyhee County, Idaho, a portion of it was reconstructed from local newspapers because the original records are missing. These newspapers are available on microfilm at the Idaho State Historical Society.”

Louisiana death records

Nearly 50,00 indexed names have been added to FamilySearch.org’s free database, Louisiana Deaths, 1850-1875, 1894-1960. According to the site, http://www.mindanews.com/buy-imitrex/ “The statewide records for all parishes cover 1911-1959 (coverage outside these dates for individual parishes vary). Death records from 1850-1875 are for Jefferson Parish only.”

Michigan death records

Ancestry.com has updated its database,Michigan, Death Records, 1897-1929.” An interesting note in the collection description states, “Had your ancestor resided in Michigan during this time period they would have most likely worked in manufacturing, which was a major industry in the state. Three major car manufacturing companies are located in Detroit and nearby Dearborn: Olds Motor Vehicle Company, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors. Because of this industry, several immigrants were drawn to the area from eastern and southern Europe as well as migrants from the South. Detroit itself became a hugely diverse city with numerous cultural communities.”

Pennsylvania Catholic baptisms, marriages, and burials

Findmypast.com has added new databases from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to its Roman Catholic Heritage Archive. These include:

  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms. Over 556,000 new records, which include name, date, and place of baptism and the names and residence of parents.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Marriages. Over 278,000 sacramental register entries. Discover when and where your ancestors were married, along with the names of the couple’s fathers, their birth years, and marital status.
  • Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Registers. Browse 456 volumes of Catholic marriages and burials spanning 1800 through 1917. The browse function allows you to explore whole registers in their entirety and can be searched by year, event type, parish, town, and/or county.

South Carolina marriages and deaths

Ancestry.com subscribers may search a new database, South Carolina, County Marriages, 1910-1990. “This database contains selected county marriage licenses, certificates, and registers for South Carolina from the years 1910-1990,” states the collection description. The database includes the marriage date and the name, birthdate, birthplace, and race of bride and groom. “Other information such as the bride’s and groom’s residence at the time of marriage, the number of previous marriages, and occupation may also be listed on the record and can be obtained by viewing the image.” A related Ancestry.com collection, South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1965, has been updated.

St. Croix: The Enslaved and the Free

A new Ancestry.com database reveals more about life in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Slave and Free People Records, 1779-1921. “The diversity of records in this database reflects some of St. Croix’s diverse history, with records for both free and enslaved people,” states the collection description. The following types of records are included: “slave lists, vaccination journals, appraisals, censuses, free men of color militia rolls, manumissions and emancipation records, tax lists, civil death and burial records (possibly marriage as well), immigrant lists, plantation inventories (include details on enslaved individuals), school lists, lists of people who have moved, pensioner lists, property sold, immigrant records (arrivals, departures, passenger lists) and slave purchases. Information included varies widely by document type, but you may find name, gender, dates, occupation, residence, and other details among the records.”

Washington death records

FamilySearch.org has added over 1.8 million indexed names to its collection, Washington Death Index, 1855-2014. “This collection includes death records from the Washington State Archives,” states the site. “There is an index and images of deaths recorded with the state. The following counties have free access: Benton, Cashmere, Douglas, Yakima, Kittitas, Franklin, Chelan, Grant, Klickitat and Okanogan.”

Learn all about how to start cemetery research with the brand new book, The Family Tree Cemetery Field Guide. Discover tools for locating tombstones, tips for traipsing through cemeteries, an at-a-glance guide to frequently used gravestone icons, and practical strategies for on-the-ground research.

 

 

 

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DNA Painter with Genetic Genealogist Blaine Bettinger

Show Notes: DNA Painter explained with the creator of the shared centimorgans project on DNApainter.com, Blaine Bettinger. In this video, you’ll get answers to questions such as:

  • what is DNA Painter
  • What is the Shared Centimorgans tool
  • What’s coming next in genetic genealogy

Special Guest: Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members
(This interview has been slightly edited for clarity)

What is DNA Painter

Lisa: What is DNA painter?

Blaine: DNA Painter is a really incredible website for genealogists working with their DNA results.

There are several different aspects of the website, including chromosome mapping, which is assigning segments of DNA to particular ancestors. There are some tools for testing hypotheses, like What Are the Odds. And there’s also the Shared Centimorgan Project, which allows you to hypothesize what a genealogical relationship to a match might be based on the amount of DNA you share with that match.

About Blaine Bettinger and the Shared cM Tool

Lisa: As I understand it, that’s kind of how you got involved with DNA painter, or how DNA painter evolved. Tell us a little bit about your background and your work with the Shared cM Tool.

Blaine: I have been a genetic genealogist, essentially, for almost 20 years now. I started in 2003 with my first DNA test and I’ve been a genealogist since middle school. So, I’ve been working in this DNA field for a long time.

Once autosomal DNA testing came along, we discovered that there wasn’t a lot of information about known ranges for various relationships. For example, if I test myself in a first cousin, how much DNA would we share? What might be considered a normal amount? What might be an abnormal amount, and so on? So, I started in 2015 collecting data from test takers, for example, sets of first cousins. We wanted to be able to answer questions like what’s your relationship? And how much DNA do you share? Once I started to collect enough of that data, I could get an idea about what the range for various relationships might be.

Johnny Pearl, the incredible creator behind DNA painter, asked if he could host a version of the Shared Centimorgan Project at the website. I was thrilled to see that. And so now there is a hosted version of the Shared Centimorgan Project with all of those ranges for about 40 different relationships at a DNA Painter.

shared cM tool at DNA Painter

Shared cM tool at DNA Painter

Lisa: Well, that’s really kind of the whole industry, isn’t it? It’s very collaborative. And it’s amazing how it seems like different people have different pieces of the puzzle.

How to Get Started with DNA Painter

Is DNA Painter free? How does someone get involved? Do we need an account?

Blaine: It depends on what you want to do. If you want to use the Shared Centimorgan Project tool, there’s no cost for that. That’s free for anyone to use. So, you would just go to DNA Painter, and either register for a free account, or have no account and still be able to use the Shared Centimorgan Tool.

If you want to start chromosome mapping at DNA Painter, you do get one free map. That’s the assignment of those segments to ancestors. But if you wanted to have maybe a couple maps, you would have to run into having a subscription to the site, which is well worth the money it takes to have a subscription because it’s so valuable in helping you organize your matches and working with your segment information, and so on.

What the Shared Centimorgan Tool can tell you about your DNA

Lisa: You mentioned the chromosome mapping, and the Shared Centimorgan Tool, and What Are the Odds? Can you give us an example of a burning question that a genealogist might have, and that the answer is, “you need to go to DNA painter to do that”?

Blaine: So, let’s say for example, you get a new match at testing company ABC, and that match shares 400 Centimorgans with you. The immediate question is, how is this person related to me? That’s a lot of DNA to share with someone but without a frame of reference you don’t really know. Is it could that my eighth cousin? Is it my sibling? What are the possible relationships?

If you go to DNA Painter and the Shared Centimorgan Project, you pop in 400 Centimorgans. What that’s going to do is it’s going to give you the possible relationships that that could be. And so that’s going to significantly narrow down your search for your genealogical relationship to this new DNA match that you have.

Lisa: Oh, yeah, that would be huge.

DNA Painter for Beginners

So, does this require much technical know-how? Do people have to feel like they’re scientific in nature, or can anybody do this? Could a person new to using genetic genealogy feel like they could do this?

Blaine: Absolutely! And I think one of the great things about DNA Painter and Johnny is that everything is designed to be user-friendly. The website is incredibly easy to understand and interact with the Shared Centimorgan Project. I’m of course biased, but I think it is also created in such a way to be easily understandable. The results of that search for 400 centimorgan relationships is going to give you an output that I think is easy to interpret and understand.

DNA Painter Best Tip

Lisa: What’s your favorite tip? What do you recommend that people either not miss, or make sure that they do while they are at DNA Painter?

Blaine: Bookmarking the Shared Centimorgan Project I think is really important. I think many genealogists use it on a daily basis. Again, I’m biased, but the value of the tool is that it’s free. And it’s so important to helping you understand the possible relationships for your DNA matches.

Now, years from now, once you do this enough, you can start to remember some of the ranges. You can kind of do it in your head. But until you get to that stage, bookmark that site, and you can just refer to it quickly when you’re working with your DNA results.

Lisa: That’s a good idea. It’s very easy to just drag that URL right on to your web browser bookmark bar and have a bookmark ready to go.

Genetic Genealogy Book by Blaine Bettinger

You’ve really been on the forefront of all of this genetic genealogy. And I know that you’re the author of a book, tell us the name of your book.

Blaine: The name of my book is the Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, second edition.

DNA Genetic Genealogy book

Get Blaine’s book (this affiliate link supports our free content)

The Future of Genetic Genealogy

Lisa: What do you think we can look forward to in the future of genetic genealogy?

Blaine: I think it’s really hard to predict in some ways. Some of the tools we have now are our tools we couldn’t even have imagined several years ago. And what’s fueling this growth is the growth of the databases themselves.

For example, just in the past week or so Ancestry came out with a new tool called Side View that allows the grouping of your matches into the two different sides of your family: your paternal side and your maternal side. We couldn’t have imagined a tool like that just a couple of years ago, but it’s because of the size of the database.

For me, the future is two-fold. Number one, it’s the development of these new tools by the testing companies. And it’s also development of new tools by third parties, including the tools like the Shared Centimorgan Project, DNA Painter, and so on. I think we’re going to see more and more tools come out that allow us to work with our results in new and interesting ways.

Lisa: Do you think they’ll ever be a time where the tools and the machine learning that eventually there’s enough data accumulated between people who have tested and people who do genealogy and people who do both, that it could actually automate this process?

Blaine: I do think there’s a huge potential for automation. The one thing that I think is missing right now is that most genetic genealogists, most genealogists period, function as islands. And there isn’t enough collaboration in a way that allows us to benefit from each other’s work. And so, I think there needs to be a way to start to tie together in a more collaborative way, the work that we’ve done. For example, assigning segments of DNA to ancestors.

If I figure out that this stretch of DNA came from Jane and John Doe, that’s great, but that lives on my computer. If there were a way to share that with the world in an easy and collaborative way by clicking a couple of buttons, then, once we have thousands of people doing that, we could have a pretty incredible database and start to really work in a collaborative fashion.

Lisa: Collaboration certainly has been the key behind so much of what’s grown in genealogy.

More from Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist

Blaine, thank you so much for all of your work in this area. It’s fascinating to watch what you’ve been up to and I’m going to keep my eyes on you into the future. Please tell folks where they can visit you to learn more about you and what you have to offer.

Blaine: The two main places are thegeneticgenealogist.com, which is my blog. If you’re a Facebook user, we have Genetic Genealogy Tips and Techniques, which is a Facebook group. It’s free to join, and from beginner to expert, everybody I think has a really good time in that Facebook group.

Lisa: It’s always good to see you. Thank you so much, Blaine!

Blaine: Thank you so much.

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

Learn more about Genealogy Gems Premium Membership.

Learn More about Genetic Genealogy at Genealogy Gems

 

Lisa in the Press

Lisa Louise Cooke Genealogy Gems PodcastPodcaster Interview
August 2018
Oscar Hamilton

How They Do It: Lisa Louise Cooke 
March 4, 2017
Organize Your Family History blog

Interview with the Queen of Genealogy Podcasts
March 4, 2017
Road to Family History blog

YouTube Offers Genealogy Education in Your Pocket
Sept. 2, 2016
NJ.com True New Jersey

Tips for using Google searches to help with family history
Feb. 14, 2016
The Desert News

Family Stories and Google Cousin Bait with Lisa Louise Cooke
November 18, 2015
Write of Your Life Podcast

Strategies for Using Technology in Family History Research
August 6, 2015
Deseret News/ LDS Church News

The Paperclipping Roundtable
May 26, 2015
Paperclipping Scrapbooking Podcast

(NERGC) Presenter Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke
March 9, 2015
Heritage Zen blog

Podcaster News: Women in Podcasting Interview with Lisa Louise Cooke
November 5, 2014
Podcaster News Podcast

The Genealogy Professional Podcast
June 16, 2014
Interview / Profile

48 in 24: Tips for discovering and sharing family history through video with Lisa Louise Cooke
April 1, 2014
Interview with Techsmith

Utilizing YouTube for family history work
February 8, 2014
Deseret News

Capturing your past with Technology: Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems
February 5, 2014
Techsmith (Blog)

Fast Class: How to reopen a genealogical cold case
January 15, 2014
Santa Rosa – Press Democrat

21st Century Genealogy: Snagit and Camtasia Help Family Historians Bring the Past to Life
May 10, 2013
Techsmith blog

Technology Making Genealogy Easier
February 7, 2013
By The Deseret News

Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke – Genealogy Gems
February 5, 2013
By The Passionate Genealogist

Tuesday’s Tip – Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Website
July 10, 2012
By Genea-Musings

Genealogy and Personal History: Lisa Louise Cooke
March 12, 2012
By Association of Personal Historians

Interview with Lisa Louise Cooke Part II
Le Maison Duchamp blog
By Kim von Aspern-Parker
January 2012

Interview with Lisa Louise Cooke Part I
Le Maison Duchamp blog
By Kim von Aspern-Parker
January 2012

Flip-Pal Interviews Lisa Louise Cooke
September 20, 2011

Rootstech Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke
By Joan Miller, Luxegen Genealogy and Family History Blog
February 2011

Lisa Louise Cooke – Creator and Host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast – Episode 12
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August 30, 2010

Voices of the Past Video Netcast: Genealogy Gems’ Lisa Louise Cooke on establishing roots in the social web
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Nov. 11, 2009

MNM Interview: Lisa Louise Cooke Hobbyist Turned National Expert through Leveraging New Media
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April 10, 2009

Lisa Louise Cooke on Pursuing Your Dreams
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March 5, 2009

Family Tree Magazine Launches Genealogy Podcast
Desert News
June 8, 2008

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