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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).

 

Got Criminal Ancestors? How to Investigate Their Crimes

Lydia thinks her great-grandfather was murdered–perhaps even by her grandfather! Here’s some advice for her and everyone researching “cold cases” for criminal ancestors on your family tree.

Cold Case investigate your ancestor criminals

I heard recently from Lydia with these intriguing questions:

My great great grandpa William John Gabriel Nelson disappeared one day, never coming home from work. It was family lore that he had been “shanghai’d.” But even as a child the story didn’t add up. [Through a] few other mentions of the account throughout the years, and recently reconnecting with cousins through Ancestry.com/DNA and your advice to just email DNA matches, I have a growing reason to believe my great-grandfather was murdered. An even bigger fear is that my grandfather may have been the one to do it.
 

All parties involved with this are now dead, so follow-up is impossible with them. But I’m wondering about contacting the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) or the library to determine if indeed there was a cold case, missing persons report or John Doe. Since this happened in the mid 1940’s, would I contact the LAPD or is this now a job for a historian?

As a citizen, Lydia can certainly contact the LAPD here. It might take a bit of persistence to get to the right person or resource. I would start by asking for how you can find out the status of a cold case from the year in question.

Here are 4 ways to follow up on your own criminal ancestors’ cold cases:

1. Look for cold case files online.

As I often say, all good searches start online because they will help you prepare to go offline. In other words, not everything is online, but searching online first will give you a lay of the land, revealing what is available, who to contact, and where to go in person. Start with a Google search such as LAPD cold cases.  The search results include several good leads:

cold case search

With a case like Lydia’s that is over 70 years old, I wouldn’t expect to pull it up in an online database (though you never know!) But I do see several sites here that provide phone numbers to gain access to those who can lead you in the right direction.

2. Search Google for clues.

Google Drive and other tipsUse Google’s powerful search technology to look for online mentions of the names, places, and dates of your particular case.

In Lydia’s case, she might begin with keywords relating to her great-grandfather’s disappearance, with his name, year, and the place he was last seen. Including descriptive keywords such as disappear, mystery, vanished or murder might also yield helpful results.

Learn more about effective search techniques in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition.

3. Check old newspapers.

Newspapers in your ancestor’s hometown (or further afield) may have mentioned the incident. With a common name like William (or Bill) Nelson, you may need to weed out the overabundance of unwanted results you get. Let me show you how I did this in GenealogyBank, a popular genealogical newspaper website:
genealogybank initial search
The initial results of searching GenealogyBank (above) for the terms William Nelson and Los Angeles brought up over 1,000 search results! (The red arrow points to the tally.) Since I don’t like wasting valuable research time on irrelevant results (who’s with me?!), I refined the search. I specified Nelson as a last name, William as a first name, Los Angeles as a keyword, and I added a date range: the decade during which he disappeared. Next, I limited my search to Los Angeles-area newspapers, shown below:
genealogybank refine search
This search narrows results down to under 200: a robust number, but at least manageable to look through for relevant material.
I want to be able to use these same search parameters in the future, so I click Save My Search. The search now appears in My Folder for future reference.
newspaper research at GenealogyBank

4. Look for criminal records.

If you knew (or suspected) that a relative was prosecuted for a crime, it’s time to start looking for records relating to the criminal case. There may be several kinds:

  • In cases of suspicious death (where there was a body, unlike Lydia’s case), look for any surviving coroner’s records.
  • If a trial may have occurred, research the jurisdiction to find out what court would have handled it, and then look for files relating to the case.
  • If an ancestor may have served time, look for prison records. Genealogy Gems Premium podcast episode 29 is devoted to the topic of prison records.

 

Get inspired!

Read this article about a woman who was researching not one but two mysterious deaths on her family tree.

 

Want to help investigators lay to rest their own cold cases?

Click here to read about the Unclaimed Persons Project and how you can help.

Unclaimed Persons Project

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

We dig these gems new genealogy records online

Every Friday, we blog about new genealogy records online. Do any of the collections below relate to your family history? Please share this post with any genealogy buddies or societies that might be interested. At the end of this post is a search tip for researching records in other languages.

ARGENTINA BAPTISMS. Ancestry has updated its database of Argentina, Select Baptisms, 1645-1930 (in Spanish), which is also searchable on FamilySearch. It’s a partial but growing index; click here to see current coverage on FamilySearch. Baptismal records are generally for newborn babies, with the date and place of event, parents’ names, and newborn death information.

ENGLAND AND WALES CRIMINAL RECORDS. Nearly 2 million records have been added to Findmypast’s databases of “crime and punishment.” Datasets include England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935, with details of felons in England and Wales, 1770-1935; the Home Office: Newgate Prison Calendar 1782-1853, taken from printed lists of prisoners to be tried at Newgate, in London, a prison for debtors and felons; Quarterly Returns of Prisoners 1824-1876 with 639,600 records of sworn lists of convicts held on board prison hulks, in prisons and criminal lunatic asylums; The Home Office: Criminal Entry Books 1782-1871, letters sent out from the Home Office, and a sort of “most wanted” list: the Metropolitan Police: Criminal Record Office: habitual criminals’ registers and miscellaneous papers kept by the police and circulated among the force on a regular basis.

IRELAND PARISH RECORDS. We blogged earlier this week about this new collection and it’s been a super popular post! The National Library of Ireland has posted digitized images of all its parish records, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s. Click on the blog post link to learn more about it.

KANSAS CENSUS RECORDS. Kansas, City and County Census Records, 1919-1961 is now available to Ancestry subscribers. Partially indexed, the images are of population schedules for city- and county-level enumerations. These include household, livestock and agricultural details by head of household; beginning in 1953, all household members are named.

POLAND GHETTO ID CARD REGISTRATIONS. A new FREE database on Ancestry is Poland, Łódż Ghetto ID Card Registrations, 1939-1944 (USHMM) (in German), an index to Jewish records from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Records include extracts from vital records, ID cards, work registration documents and protocol forms.

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064Some of the record sets mentioned above–and many others–were written in languages you might not speak. For best results, use the version of the name that would be common in that language, along with keywords in that language, before trying searches in your own language. Google Translate does translate common keywords and some common English names (John, Alexander, Mary, Andrew) to other languages, but isn’t guaranteed to show you an equivalent every time (especially if one doesn’t exist). You can also Google “name translator” plus the name of the language you wish to know; several online tools exist. And MyHeritage has advanced translation tools that do the work for you when you’re searching!

Resource:

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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