Episode 211

The Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode #211 with Lisa Louise Cooke

Lisa and Barry by Beth Forester

Photo Credit: Beth Forester

In this episode, host and producer Lisa Louise Cooke talks with Barry Moreno, Historian at Ellis Island. Hear about the life cycle of this busy U.S. immigration station (1892-1954) and Barry’s research into thousands of Ellis Island employees who worked there.

 

More Episode Highlights

Archive Lady Melissa Barker tells us about the National Archives Citizen Archivist program and Lisa profiles a volunteer effort coordinated by the British Library to geo-tag thousands of old maps that are already online.

A giant genealogy lost-and-found! Two listeners write in about rescuing old artifacts and returning them to those who might be interested.

Military Minutes contributor Michael Strauss talks about Official Military Personnel Files for 20th-century US servicemen and women?files that were unfortunately partially destroyed. Hear what he learned about his grandfather.

Genealogy News

National Archives Citizen Archivist Project, reported by The Archive Lady, Melissa Barker

The British Library Georeferencing Project

Flickr Commons collection of digitized maps from the British Library Collections?mostly 19th century maps from books published in Europe.

Use Google Earth for genealogy! Check out these resources:

FREE Google Earth for Genealogy video

The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, by Lisa Louise Cooke. This book has 7 full chapters on Google Earth! Available in print.

Google Earth for Genealogy Video Training by Lisa Louise Cooke. Available now as a digital download.

 

The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

Available in the Genealogy Gems Store

 

New Video for Premium Members

“Share Your Life Stories More Meaningfully” Premium Video

Every life is fascinating when it’s well shared! Learn from the author of Story of My Life: A Workbook for Preserving Your Legacy what stories you have that are worth telling–and several inspiring reasons to write them. Review different kinds of memories, why some memories are more vivid that others, and how to flesh them out. Learn tips for researching gaps in your memories, how to turn a memory into a good story, what to leave out and several ways to share your stories.

Genealogy Gems App Bonus Content

If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is a preview of the new Premium video class, “Share Your Own Life Stories More Meaningfully” by Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users

Mailbox: Roland’s Heirloom Rescue

Mailbox: New Listener Photo Rescue Project

What can you do with a collection of unidentified photos?

Return them to a loving home. In this case, it was a local historical society. Linda wisely kept the collection together because often there’s power in what some of the photos may tell you about others.

Get them digitized and online so those who want them can find them. The historical society put images on Find A Grave memorials and Iowa GenWeb. They even plan to display them for locals to look at personally and try to identify!

Historical and genealogical societies can also share mystery photos on their websites (or their local library’s website if they don’t have their own) or on their blogs, Facebook pages or even in their regular newsletters. These are great conversation pieces, especially when you can later report that you have solved the mystery! (Click here for more tips aimed at supporting genealogy societies.)

Photo mystery SOLVED: Savvy tips to identify old photos

Rootsmagic

Visit www.RootsMagic.com

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search historical records on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. RootsMagic is now fully integrated with Ancestry.com: you can sync your RootsMagic trees with your Ancestry.com trees and search records on the site.

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at https://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

MILITARY MINUTES: OFFICIAL MILITARY PERSONNEL FILES

The military service files for your ancestors who served during the twentieth century or later are located at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, MO as part of the National Archives. The files are called the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) and are available for each of the military branches; namely; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.

Researchers should be keenly aware of the devastating fire that occurred on July 12, 1973 at the research facility that destroyed or damaged between 16-18 million service files from the United States Army and the Air Force. Remember that the Air Force wasn’t officially organized until September 14, 1947. Before this date Air Force records were part of the United States Army Air Corps, then part of the U.S. Army.

National Archives at St. Louis. Overview of the holdings, media articles and PowerPoint presentations (download as PDFs)

The 1973 Fire at the National Personnel Record Center in St. Louis, MO

Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) Non-Archival Holdings

Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) Archival Holdings

Archival Research Room at the National Personnel Record Center (Request an Appointment, Availability of Records, Copy Fees, Hours of Operation, Hiring a Researcher)

Request Military Service Records (Online request for Veterans, Standard Form 180, or For Burials and Emergency Requests)

Mail Order Request for Record from the National Personnel Record Center (SF 180)

Zerbe H. Howard

Start creating fabulous, irresistible videos about your family history with Animoto.com. You don’t need special video-editing skills: just drag and drop your photos and videos, pick a layout and music, add a little text and voila! You’ve got an awesome video! Try this out for yourself at Animoto.com.

Watch the video below for an example of a family history video made with Animoto:

 

MyHeritage.com is the place to make connections with relatives overseas, particularly with those who may still live in your ancestral homeland. Click here to see what MyHeritage can do for you: it’s free to get started.

 

INTERVIEW: BARRY MORENO, ELLIS ISLAND HISTORIAN

Photo Credit: Beth Forester

Barry Moreno is a leading authority on the history of Ellis Island, the famous receiving station for millions of immigrants to the United States from 1892-1954. He has worked in the Museum Services Division at Ellis Island for more than a decade. He is the author of several books, including Children of Ellis Island, Ellis Island’s Famous Immigrants (including Bob Hope, Bela Lugosi, and Max Factor) and Encyclopedia of Ellis Island (which includes information on displaced persons).

      

Ellis Island: Historical highlights

Prior to 1890, immigration was handled by the states (primarily New York, as most passed through the Port of New York).

1920-1921: New regulations cut down immigration dramatically. Each country had quotas that could not be exceeded. New regulations were passed requiring immigrants to

  • have a passport from their home country
  • have medical examinations
  • pay a tax to the American Consulate in their home country.

During the last 30 years, Ellis Island mostly handled immigrants who were “in trouble.”

Starting in the 1930s some immigrants arrived by air (Colonial Airways from Canada). After WWII, Air France started service, and German and Italian airlines came in the 1950s.

Ellis Island was closed in 1954 by President Eisenhower. Immigrants who were still detained when it closed were sent to jails.

After 1954, Ellis Island was still used by the Coast Guard for training and by the Public Health Services department.

Barry’s research on workers at Ellis Island:

Most employees were men. Interestingly, blue collar men tended to die before age 60, and better educated ones lived much longer.

Female employees were typically widows, unmarried or had husbands who did not support them. “Char woman” was a common role held by Irish, Swedish and German women. Char means “chores” (cleaning women). They worked often for about $400/ year with no pension, and lived to old ages.

A nursery was opened at Ellis Island; many Christian missionaries worked there. Ludmila Foxlee (1885-1971) was one of them, a social worker with the YWCA. Click here to read more immigrant aid workers at Ellis Island.

Three more great resources for discovering the stories of your immigrant ancestors:

What was it like to land on Ellis Island? Read this article and watch (for free) an award-winning, official documentary)

If your search at the Ellis Island website doesn’t retrieve your ancestors, head on over to Stephen P. Morse’s One Step Pages. There you will find dozens of links to search resources, including the Ellis Island Gold Form for arrivals between 1892 and 1924.  Even the folks at Ellis Island refer researchers to Morse’s site. Listen to Lisa’s interview with Stephen Morse in Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #153.

In Lias’s free Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast (episodes 29-31), genealogist Steve Danko covers immigration and naturalization records in depth and even offers up some little-known tips about deciphering some of the cryptic notes researchers often find on passenger lists.

 

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer
Sunny Morton, Editor
Diahan Southard, Contributor: Your DNA Guide
Michael Strauss, Contributor: Military Minutes
Hannah Fullerton, Production Assistant
Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

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How Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning Impact Genealogy

Artificial Intelligence and Genealogy
Elevenses with Lisa Episode 32

In this episode we tackle a few small geeky tech questions about artificial intelligence, better known as AI, that may have a pretty big impact on your genealogy life. Questions like:

  • Is artificial intelligence the same thing as machine learning?
    And if not how are they related?
  • And am I using AI, maybe without even being aware of it?
  • And what impact is AI really having on our lives? Is it all good, or are there some pitfalls we need to know about?

We’re going to approach these with a focus on family history, but pretty quickly I think we’ll discover it’s a much more far-reaching subject. And that means this episode is for everyone.

Free Webinar AI Machine learning and Genealogy

Watch the free video below.

While I’ve done my own homework on this subject and written about it in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, I’m smart enough to call in an expert in the field. So, my special guest is Benjamin Lee. He is the developer of the Newspaper Navigator, the new free tool that uses artificial intelligence to help you find and extract images from the free historical newspaper collection at The Library of Congress’ Chronicling America. I covered Newspaper Navigator extensively in Elevenses with Lisa episode 26.

Ben  is a 2020 Innovator-in-Residence at the Library of Congress, as well as a third year Ph.D. Student in the Paul G. Allen School for Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where he studies human-AI interaction with his advisor, Professor Daniel Weld.

He graduated from Harvard College in 2017 and has served as the inaugural Digital Humanities Associate Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,  as well as a Visiting Fellow in Harvard’s History Department. And currently he’s a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Thank you so much to Ben Lee for a really interesting discussion and for making Newspaper Navigator available to researchers. I am really looking forward to hearing from him about his future updates and improvements.

Artificial Intelligence and Genealogy

Covering technology and its application to genealogy is always a bit of a double-edged sword. It can be exciting and helpful, and also problematic in its invasiveness.

Tools like family tree hints, the Newspaper Navigator and Google Lens (learn more about that in Elevenses with Lisa episode 27) all have a lot to offer our genealogy research. But on a personal level, you may be concerned about the long reaching effects of artificial intelligence on the future, and most importantly your descendants. In today’s deeply concerning cancel culture and online censorship, AI can seriously impact our privacy, security and even our freedom.

As I did my research for this episode I discovered a few things. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is having the same kind of massive and disrupting impact that DNA has had on genealogy, with almost none of the same publicity. (For background on DNA data usage, listen to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 217. That episode covers the use of DNA in criminal cases and how our data potentially has wide-reaching appeal to many other entities and industries.)

A quick search of artificial intelligence ancestry.com in Google Patents reveals that work continues on ways to apply AI to DNA and genealogy. (See image below)

Patents for AI machine learning and DNA

Patent search result: a pending patent involving AI and DNA by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

AI now makes our genealogical research and family tree data just as valuable to others outside of genealogy.

This begs the question, who else might be interested in our family tree research and data?

Who Is Interested in Your Genealogy Data

One answer to this question is academic researchers. During my research on this subject The Record Linking Lab at Brigham Young University surfaced as just one example. It’s run by a BYU Economics Professor who published a research paper on their work called Combining Family History and Machine Learning to Link Historical Records. The paper was co-authored with a Notre Dame Economics and Women’s Studies professor.

In this example, their goals are driven by economic, social, and political issues rather than genealogy. Their published paper does offer an eye-opening look at the value that those outside the genealogy community place on all of the personal data we’re collecting and the genealogical records we are linking. Our work is about our ancestors, and therefore it is about ourselves. Even if living people are not named on our tree, they are named in the records we are linking to it. We are making it all publicly available.

In the past, historical records like birth and death, military and the census have been available to these researchers, but on an individual basis. This made them difficult to work with. Academic (and industry) researchers couldn’t easily follow these records for individual people, families, and generations of families through time in order to draw meaningful conclusions. But for the first-time machine learning is being applied to online genealogy research data making it possible to link these records to living and deceased individuals and their families.  

It’s a lot to think about, but it’s important because it is our family history data.  We need to understand how our data is being used inside and outside the genealogy sandbox.

Answers to Your Live Chat Questions About AI

One of the advantages of tuning into the live broadcast of each Elevenses with Lisa show is participating in the Live Chat and asking your questions.

Elevenses with Lisa Q&A on AI and Genealogy

www.GenealogyGems.com/Elevenses

From Linda J: ​What about all the “people search” sites (not genealogy) that have all, or a lot of, our personal date?
Lisa’s Answer: My understanding is that much of the information provided on many of the “people search” websites comes from public information. So while the information is much easier to access these days, it’s been publicly available for years. That information isn’t as accessible to projects like the one discussed in this episode because those websites don’t make their Application Programming Interface (known as API) publicly available like FamilySearch does.

From Doug H: Wouldn’t that potentially find errors in our trees?
Lisa’s Answer: Yes.

From Sheryl T: ​Do these academic researchers have access to the living people on the trees? Or are those protected from them as it is to the public?
Lisa’s Answer: They have access to all information attached to people marked as “Living Person.” Therefore, if the attached record names them, their identity would then be known. Click a hint on your tree at Ancestry for example, and the found records clearly spell out the name of the person they believe is your “Living” person.

From Nancy M: ​How long do the show notes stay available? am looking for Google Books two weeks ago and last week’s Allen Co Library.
Lisa’s Answer: The show notes remain available until the episode is archived in Premium Membership. You can find all of the currently available free Elevenses with Lisa episodes on our website in the menu under VIDEOS click Elevenses with Lisa.

Nannie A: I heard a rumor that Ancestry .com has been sold. Do you know if that’s true?
Lisa’s Answer: Yes, they were sold again this year. Read:
Private equity firm Blackstone Group Inc. buying Ancestry.com for $4.7 billion
Private equity wants to own your DNA by CBS News.

Resources

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