April 29, 2017

Fire, Flood or Earthquake? 5 Tips for Researching Disasters in Your Family History

We have five strategies for researching disasters for family history. They come in response to a listener email about her own “disaster-prone family.” Use these tips to learn about natural or man-made disasters, epidemics, travel accidents, and more that affected your ancestors, and very possibly more about your ancestors role in these events.

View of Eastland taken from Fire Tug in river, showing the hull resting on it’s side on the river bottom. Wikimedia Commons image; click to view with full citation.

It might seem a little sad to search out disasters, epidemics, and accidents in the lives of your ancestors, but it certainly helps us see things in a different light. Genealogy Gems Editor Sunny Morton has shared recently how enthralling it has been for her to dig deeper into her ancestor’s experience of living through the Johnstown Flood. She used many of the tools I write about extensively in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (Google Books, Google Earth Pro, and even YouTube) to add an amazing amount of meat to the bones of the story.

I also recently received an inspiring letter from Natalie, a Genealogy Gems Premium Member about how researching disasters in her family history turned her into a passionate genealogist. Here’s what she said:

“Dear Lisa and Company,

I just subscribed to your Premium podcast and must say that listening to Premium Podcast episode 143 affirmed that I made an excellent decision!

I also had family members who were in the Johnstown Flood, since that’s where my family initially immigrated. My parents and I were born there and [I] have heard of stories of the Great Flood of 1889 since I can remember. There was a long-standing family story about my 2nd great-aunt, Julia Pfeiffer Rohr, being pulled out of the floodwaters by her hair.

Ironically or not, my ancestors relocated to Chicago a few years after the Johnstown Flood, only to have my maternal grandmother’s sister (who was a few months away from her 19th birthday) killed while aboard the Eastland [steamship in 1915]. Not sure why some families are ‘disaster prone’ through the generations, but ours seems to be one of those.

I learned about the Eastland Disaster as an adult when my mother’s half-sister in Chicago wrote and shared a family history with me. As a Twin Cities journalist, I published an article (click here and go to page 5) in one of the community newspapers about the disaster.

Still, at the time, I found next to nothing on the Eastland, which was both frustrating and puzzling. [Since then,] I’ve done a ton of research on the event and have written larger pieces, including a to-be published book. I didn’t intend to become an expert on a shipping disaster, but that’s what happened. Also, this marked my entrance into the amazing world of family history.”

5 Tips for Researching Disasters in Family History

Learn more about the disasters your own family experienced with these 5 tips that I shared with Natalie in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast episode 145. Although these tips are for researching the Eastland disaster specifically, you can absolutely put them to work for you!

1. Start with Google. The world’s leading search engine, Google.com can lead to rich resources you may never find in a local library or archive. In the case of the Eastland disaster, a Google search immediately brought up a website dedicated to the event. The casualty list had everyone’s name, age, gender, marital status, ethnicity, and the cemetery in which they were buried.

2. Next, we go to Google Books, where Google takes you deeper and more specifically into historical books. Using the Eastland disaster as our criteria, the first result was a published final report by the American Red Cross’ disaster relief committee on what happened, and how the affected families were helped. Several published histories of the disaster were also listed there. These can be purchased, or you can find copies of them through inter-library loan at your local library. If you just want to see which books in the search results can be read for free, click the Tools button under the search box, and a new menu bar will pop up. Click Any books, then choose Free Google eBooks, like so:

Watch my free video tutorial on finding free e-books on Google. This video is one in a series of tech tip videos available for free at my YouTube channel. Click the Subscribe button while you’re there and you will be notified each time a new genealogy video is published.

3. Keep checking back! New things come online every moment of every day. In 2015, historical video footage about the Eastland disaster was discovered and identified in an online archive (see my blog post about that). But of course it’s impossible to rerun the same searches every day looking for new and updated material. The answer: set up a Google Alert for your search query. That way Google will do the searching for you, and you will receive an email only when Google finds new and updated items that match your search terms. Read my article on How to Set-up Google Alerts for step by step instructions on how to set up your own Google Alerts. Then read How to get the Most out of your Google Alerts for Genealogy.

4. Search YouTube separately. YouTube has several video clips of the Eastland disaster. The Chicago Tribune has wrapped that historical video clip into a short video documentary that includes additional photos their researchers discovered. You’ll also find an animation from the Eastland Disaster Historical Society that recreates what happened and how. Read chapter 14 in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition which is devoted to using YouTube for your genealogy research.

5. Explore Gendisasters.com. This site compiles information on all kinds of tragedies from the past: tornadoes, fires, floods, and buggy-related disasters are just a small sampling of what they cover. You can search by type of disaster, but if you’re not quite sure how it might be filed (like was it a drowning or a ship disaster?), then search by year or place. I looked for Eastland disaster first under ship disasters, and I saw that events are listed alphabetically by place, specifically by city in most cases. There isn’t a way to jump easily to “Chicago,” so I had to scroll through several pages, but I did find it under Chicago, IL Steamer Eastland Disaster, July 1915. Since I already knew the city and date, I could have gotten to it faster by searching under those tabs, but I sure saw just how many events are cataloged at Gendisasters.com. It’s amazing!

Avoid Disaster with the Right Tools

Google Drive and other tipsLastly, some of the disasters you are researching may have a website dedicated to it. The Eastland disaster webpage has several interesting pictures of the ship and the disaster itself. There’s a nice long narrative about the tragedy and some transcribed newspaper articles, as well.

Researching disasters for family history can be exciting and enjoyable. The world wide web is truly like a time machine. See what other ways you can use Google for genealogy in my book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. Effective Google searches, Google Earth, Google Alerts, and Google Translate are just the tip of the iceberg! You will become a Google guru in no time.

3 Free German Genealogy Websites: Maps of Germany and Poland

Finding German hometowns can be challenging. Guest blogger Camille Andrus, a professional genealogist specializing in German research and Project Manager at Legacy Tree Genealogists shares 3 free German genealogy websites to put your ancestors on the map in the former German empire and modern-day Poland. 

Map of German Reich 1871–1918. from kgberger, Creative Commons license, Wikipedia.com; 

Anyone tracing German ancestors quickly finds themselves puzzling over maps in a region that has experienced a lot of change. Camille Andrus of Legacy Tree Genealogists recommends these 3 free German genealogy websites to help you navigate the former German empire–from Pomerania to Prussia to Poland. Here are her picks and her explanations for using them.

1. www.MeyersGaz.org

“For years, novice genealogists who found themselves embarking on the road of German genealogy were discouraged when needing to decipher an entry for their town in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs (commonly known simply as Meyers or Meyer’s Gazetteer of the German Empire) due to the old German font in which the book was printed and the plethora of abbreviations that were used. To address this obstacle, the website www.MeyersGaz.org was created.

This online database not only explains the text and various abbreviations in the town entry that are found in the original printed version of Meyers, but also pinpoints the location of the town on both historic and modern maps, indicates the Catholic and Protestant parishes to which residents of the town would have belonged, and notes the distance from the town to all parishes within a 20-miles radius.

The database also allows users to search for a town using wildcards. This is especially useful when the exact spelling of a town is not known. For example, if the record on which you found the new town name indicated that the person came from Gross Gard…. where the second part of the word was smudged or illegible, you could simply put “Gross Gard*” into the database. In this case, the only two options would be Gross Garde in Pommern and Gross Gardienen in East Prussia. If you have a common town name such as Mülheim, you can filter the search results by province.”

Screenshot from MeyersGaz.org.

Note: Genealogy Gems Premium website members can hear more about MeyersGaz on Premium Podcast episode 143.

2. Kartenmeister

Kartenmeister is a database for towns which are found east of the Oder and Neisse rivers in the former German Empire provinces of East Prussia, West Prussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. This area is now part of modern Poland. The database allows users to search for towns using either their German or Polish name.

Again, using Gross Gardienen as our example town, we learn that the Polish name for the town is now Gardyny and is located in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. Like MeyersGaz.org, collaboration between users is encouraged. Individuals can enter their email address into a mailing list according to the town they are interested in and specify surnames they are researching in that town.”

3. Lost Shoebox

Map of Poland from Lost Shoebox shows where to find online records for each province.

“This website is an index to 17 websites focused on research in Poland. The list of websites corresponds with a map of Poland divided into its various modern provinces. Each number (representing a website) is listed on the map in each province for which it has records. Some websites are listed for nearly every province, while others show up for only one or two. The 17 websites featured on Lost Shoebox include either direct access to digital images, indexes to vital records, or lists of microfilms or other archival holdings.

If we were searching for records for Gross Gardienen or other nearby towns, we know from Kartenmeister that we would need to look in the Warminsko-Mazurskie province. The map shows the numbers 3, 10, and 14.” A corresponding key sends users to the appropriate websites.

“The third website on the list for the province brings us to the website for the Polish State Archive in Olsztyn. There are a plethora of digital images for both Evangelical church records and civil registration records available on this website.”

Camille Andrus is a Project Manager for Legacy Tree Genealogists, a worldwide genealogy research firm with extensive expertise in breaking through genealogy brick walls. Her expertise includes Germany, Austria, German-speakers from Czech Republic and Switzerland and the Midwest region of the U.S., where many Germans settled.

Click here to learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team Exclusive Offer for Genealogy Gems fans: Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code GEMS100, valid through April 14th, 2017.

 

The Touching Stories our Heirlooms Hold

Some of us are using heirloom research for genealogy. A new exhibit traces the history of interesting heirlooms using genealogical research strategies. Be inspired by these examples and tips to research heirlooms and more fully discover their stories.

A new exhibit called Heirloom Genealogy: Tracing your Family Treasures has opened at The Star of the Republic Museum in Texas. You better believe it caught our interest! We know our readers are looking for unique and different ways to continue their genealogy journeys. We wanted to find out more about how family historians are using heirloom research for genealogy. Curator Shawn Carlson was kind enough to answer some questions about it and share the touching stories the heirlooms held.

Shawn Carlson, Curator of Collections and Exhibits, Star of the Republic Museum

Q: What an unusual exhibit idea! How did you think of it?

A: I had been researching artifacts at the museum for several years by tracing the genealogy of the families who donated the artifacts. The best exhibit text usually comes from real stories about artifacts—and doing the genealogy was where I found the stories. When I started thinking about this latest exhibit, I thought maybe there was a way that I could use the genealogical research I already had, and that’s when I came up with  the idea of “heirloom genealogy.”

Q: Who was involved in the research and how long did it take?

A: I did all of the research. Some of it had previously been done, but some was new. I usually spend the summer researching for an exhibit, and then write the text and begin production in the fall for a March opening during the Texas Independence Day celebration at Washington-on-the-Brazos.

Q: Can you share a couple of examples and images of artifacts and the documents that told their stories?

A: One of the artifacts I researched was a red-on-white appliqué quilt. It was made in 1805 in Vermont and donated by the quiltmaker’s 3X great-granddaughter who lived in Houston. It should have been easy to figure out the lineage by the inscription on the quilt—but it wasn’t. There were two Cynthia Tuckers and two Pearl Browns in the family and one quilt owner had been married a couple of times and used a nickname. So, it took a bit of sorting out. The research was all done using census data, but it all came back to the inscription on the quilt for final verification.

Another item in our collection is a small buckskin suit that belonged to a little boy named Edward Clark Boylan. He was born in New Orleans in 1840 and died three years later near Galveston, probably from yellow fever. We knew his birth and death dates from his sister’s descendant who donated the suit, but not much else. I found some cryptic notes in our files taken by a previous curator and was able to trace Edward to Captain James Boylan who was captain of the ship Brutus during the Texas Revolution.

I found a passenger list from 1839 with Captain Boylan, his wife, and daughter traveling from Puerto Rico to New York. Mrs. Boylan would have been pregnant with Edward during that voyage:

The year that Edward died, his father was mentioned frequently in the newspapers as he led a flotilla of ships out of Campeche. He was probably not present when little Edward died.

Q: What was an especially interesting story you came across while researching this exhibition?

A: One of the most interesting items we’ve received in recent years is a slave birth record that was part of a family collection:

The donor’s ancestors were early settlers of Washington County. The slave record was interesting because it listed birth dates from 1832 to 1865. Out of curiosity, I tried tracking some of the slaves to see if I could find living descendants. I started with the 1870 census—looking for African-Americans with the surname of the plantation owner and first names that matched the slaves in the birth record. I was able to follow through on one of the names to find a living descendant. She and her family came to visit the museum and see the birth record of their ancestor. While the family was visiting during last year’s Texas Independence Day celebration, the donor of the slave record also visited the museum and the two families were able to meet.

Q: What advice do you have for family historians with heirlooms?

A: Learn about the artifacts you have and match them to their owners. There is plenty of information online that will help you identify and date artifacts. Knowing the date of an artifact helps you determine who had it in the past.

More on Heirloom Research for Genealogy

Connect your heirlooms with their stories and bring the past to life!

Get Denise Levenick’s popular book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records. This book will help you sort, identify, and preserve your own treasured family artifacts and memorabilia. Save 10% with our exclusive Genealogy Gems promocode GEMS17 (good through Dec. 31, 2017).

WPA Records for Genealogy: Historical Record Surveys, Local Histories and More


Have you used WPA records for genealogy? Their Historical Record Surveys and local and oral histories may help you in your family history research. Existing records and locations vary widely. Here are tips to help you in your search.

WPA records for genealogy

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, employees of the Works Progress Administration (WPA, also known as the Works Projects Administration) created new resources for U.S. genealogical research. It’s possible you’ve even consulted some of these without being aware of their WPA origins. After all, the projects and their formats varied. They didn’t always prominently credit the WPA and some were printed long afterward. We’re going to shine the spotlight on WPA-era local histories, oral histories and statewide Historical Record Surveys.

WPA Records for Genealogy: Local Histories

In Annie Barrows’ novel The Truth According to Us, Layla Beck heads to the small fictional town of Macedonia, West Virginia to write a local history as a WPA assignment. Drama ensues, both in Layla’s personal life and as she tries to learn local stories, which everyone reports a little differently. (We featured this book in the Genealogy Gems Book Club.)

Actually, local histories were written as WPA projects. Their scope, topics, and formats varied, depending on the unique background and resources of each region and how active WPA workers were in each state and county. For example, WPA historical materials in Morrison County, Minnesota include “histories on townships, cities, churches, schools, businesses, the military, and miscellaneous county history topics,” which have since been collected and reprinted by the county historical society. Many historical projects included photographs, such as this one for the city of New Orleans.

WPA Records for Genealogy: Oral Histories

WPA workers also captured oral histories of individuals, too. Many were collected in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940, now online at the Library of Congress. According to the collection description, “The documents chronicle vivid life stories of Americans who lived at the turn of the century and include tales of meeting Billy the Kid, surviving the 1871 Chicago fire, pioneer journeys out West, factory work, and the immigrant experience. The documents often describe the informant’s physical appearance, family, education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores.”

From one of the slave narratives mentioned in this article. Click image to read.

Other important WPA oral histories are narratives of former slaves and their families. You can browse an enormous collection of these online at the Library of Congress. These aren’t the ideal eyewitness accounts we wish for, as they were gathered so long after the end of slavery, from many who were young children at the time. Also, many researchers believe interviewees may not have spoken candidly, especially to white interviewers who may have known them personally.

It’s a long shot to find an ancestor mentioned by name in WPA oral histories. In some instances, pseudonyms were even used for names and places. But, you can still learn a lot from others’ descriptions of daily life and unusual events your ancestors may have experienced.

Historical Record Surveys

The Historical Record Surveys created by the WPA are among the most genealogically-valuable of their projects. “Under the auspices of the WPA, workers went to archives, historical societies, public and university libraries, and compiled inventories of manuscript collections,” writes Bryan Mulcahy in an online report. “They went to courthouses, town halls, offices in large cities, and vital statistics offices and inventoried records. Besides compiling indexes, they also transcribed some of the records they found.”

Today, many of their efforts still exist. They include indexes to cemeteries, newspapers, and naturalization records, as well as inventories of courthouse records, church records, and other manuscript collections in various archives or libraries. Of course, some records may have been moved or destroyed since inventories were created, but knowing what records existed around 1940 and what they were called may help you locate surviving collections. Some indexes, such as those of cemetery tombstone inscriptions, may actually be more valuable since they captured information from tombstones that may no longer exist or be legible.

A blank WPA Historical Records Survey church records inventory form. Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida. Click this image to find it online at Florida Memory.

One great example is the Historical Records Survey for the state of Oregon, described as “the most comprehensive documentary project of Oregon history and related records of its time.” It includes historical essays, document transcriptions, interviews, research notes, photographs, pamphlets and more. According to its collection description, “The territorial and pioneer periods of the mid-to-late nineteenth century receive the greatest attention, with an emphasis on the growth of state government and infrastructure, business and agriculture, transportation, education, biography, and relations between social groups. Native Americans figure prominently in this collection.”

Finding WPA Records for Genealogy Online

Some WPA projects were carried out on a federal level and others by state agencies. They were never centrally published or collected. Today, surviving original files and published volumes are scattered across the country. Some can be found in the National Archives, many in state libraries or societies, and many more available at local repositories.

A Google search such as historical records surveys and the name of the state and/or county is a great way to start your search for WPA records for genealogy research. Some results will lead right to the kinds of resources you want, such as this guide to WPA records in archives in the Pacific Northwest. Others, such as this one for the Iowa Historical Records Survey published in The American Archivist, are mostly a history of the effort. However, they do contain several useful bibliographic citations to records that were created. Add the name of the county to your search and you may find more targeted results, such as this library catalog entry for the inventory of the Jasper County archives. Click here to learn more about Google searches for genealogy records you want to find.

Remember, though, that many WPA publications and collections aren’t identified as such. Don’t fixate on needing to find WPA listed in the title. Just concentrate your efforts on finding the local and oral histories, photos, historical record indexes and inventories, and other resources that may be out there. When you find one created during the Great Depression, you’ll know it may have been done by the WPA.

Love what you’re reading and want to learn more? Go deeper into genealogy “gems” like these in Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcasts. Lisa produces a free internationally-renowned monthly podcast that’s had over 2.5 million downloads! Additionally, Genealogy Gems Premium website members also have access to her full archive of monthly Premium podcast epidodes: check out a full description of these here including Episode 2 on WPA records for genealogy.

Inherited Genealogy Files: Adding Source Citations to an Inherited Family Tree

Adding Source Citations is our third post in the Inherited Genealogy Files series, and in this post, we answer a listener’s question.

 

We recently received this letter from a Genealogy Gems Podcast listener, Cristy. She says:

Thank you for your tip about starting from the present and working backwards. I was having a hard time knowing where to start. I had inherited a tree passed from my mom and my great-grandmother, that when combined with the information my husband’s aunt gave me [I had a] tree with almost 1200 names. But the information from my great-grandmother and my aunt does not have any sources and all of my mom’s sources got lost in our various moves over the years. She only had her old school database that just had the facts and no sources.

I determined that a genealogy book my mom used as a source for one of our lines [had been] copied [from] an older genealogy line that has been proven incorrect. So, my goal has been to re-find my mom’s sources and document everything. I didn’t know where to start. I have now made a second tree in my database keeping the original as a place to start and only putting what I have proved using actual sources and attaching the documentation as I go. Your episode on the Genealogical Proof Standard was really helpful. It will be a big help as I clean up my tree.

Finding Source Citations for Your Inherited Family Tree

Let’s first give a brief definition of source citation.

Source Citation: the information that tells your reader where you obtained a particular piece of genealogical data.

For example, a family tree should include a source citation for the birth date and place, the death date and place, and the marriage date and place…and that’s just the start.

Finding source citations is really easy if you are using FamilySearch. Let’s say I used a death record I found online at FamilySearch as the proof of my ancestors death date. What is so wonderful about using FamilySearch.org for finding records is that it includes a source citation for you to copy and paste. Take a look.

Adding source citations from FamilySearch

You can highlight the source citation text and copy it into your genealogy software. A bonus is knowing that FamilySearch is free and easy to use.

Adding Source Citations for Genealogy to RootsMagic Software

As I mentioned above, you can take the source citation you found on FamilySearch and copy and paste it into your genealogy software. RootsMagic is the genealogy software we here at The Genealogy Gems Podcast use (and we are proud that they sponsor our free Genealogy Gems Podcast.) It is an easy-to-use and effective software for both PC and Mac users. (To learn more about using RootsMagic, read here.)

Using RootsMagic, let’s add a source citation to an event in a family tree:

Adding source citations to RootsMagic

In this example above, we have double clicked on Clarence’s name and opened up the Edit Person window. We would like to add a source citation for Clarence Bowser’s death date and place. In the line for death, we click on the box in the source citation column. The source citation column is indicated by that little icon that looks like a record.

At the pop-up window, we click Add new source and from the options, choose Free Form and click OK.

Adding source citations to database

Now, let’s assume you copied the following source citation from a record you found at FamilySearch.org:

“Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VKBM-BKN : accessed 8 December 2014), Clarence W Bowser, 09 Nov 1958.

The first part of the citation is the title of the collection and the location you found it. “Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VKBM-BKN. That front half of the citation is going to go in the Footnote area of the next pop-up window. The remainder of the citation you copied is going to go in the Page field. Then click, OK.

correctly adding source citations

Notice, the entire footnote at the right of the screen looks like the one you copied from FamilySearch. You may wonder why on earth we separated the citation. Because, RootsMagic is going to remember you have a source citation from Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007. The next time you find an ancestor’s death record in this index, you will not need to click Add new source. Rather, you will click Cite existing source, and choose the Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007.

Adding source citation for death record

At the next screen, the Footnote field will already be filled out for you. All you need to do is fill in the Page field with the back-half of the new source.

Adding source citation for other record

More on Adding Source Citations for Genealogy

Evernote for Genealogy Quick Reference GuideIn addition to keeping your source citations on a genealogy software program, you may wish to clip the citation and add it to Evernote. Lisa Louise Cooke explains just how to do this in her article titled, “Cite Your Sources from FamilySearch with the Evernote Web Clipper.”

You can get loads more tips and tricks in our helpful Evernote for Windows for Genealogists quick reference guide (also available for Mac users). Also, get a quick overview about this amazing product from this video clip on our YouTube Channel.

WWI History App in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

A WWI history app for genealogy leads our top picks for this week! History buffs are going to love Remembering WWI, an app that makes your WWI family history come alive. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical collections, Swedish church records, Canadian marriage records, Pennsylvania naturalizations, and more.

WWI History for Genealogy

The National Archives has launched Remembering WWI, a free app for iPad and Android. It is especially geared for young people, but with an ability to explore, collaborate, and engage with NARA’s extensive collection of WWI photographs, it’s for any history buff. The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary, in April 2017, of the U.S. entry into World War.

It is now available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

What is even more interesting about this app is how it invites people nationwide to contribute their own stories. You can create your own collections and build and share new narratives around the people, events, and themes you are researching.

Sweden – Norrbotten & Kopparberg – Church Records

Swedish and Italian genealogy records

Church Records in Swedish Collections at FamilySearch

Also this week at FamilySearch, Sweden, Norrbotten Church Records, 1612-1923; index 1658-1860 has been updated. You will note the large year span in this collections coverage. Because of this, records will vary. Generally speaking, you will find church records include births, marriages, and deaths and also images to clerical surveys, registers of birth, marriage, death, move-in and move-out lists, confirmations, and church accounts.

Church records are particularly helpful when searching pre-civil registration time frames or when there has been loss or damage to the civil records you need.

In particular, these collections contain household examination records. A household examination record is filled with genealogical data and some other unusual statistics. Information may include:

  • The name of the farm, village, or rote (registration area).
  • Names of household members including any pigor (female workers) or drängar (male workers)
  • Birthplace
  • Birth date or age
  • A score for catechism knowledge
  • Dates of partaking communion
  • Dates of participation with the Household Examination
  • Moving information
  • Death date
  • Marriage date
  • Disciplinary notes
  • Vaccination against smallpox
  • Reference to military conscription

Sweden, Kopparberg Church Records, 1604-1900; index 1628-1860 was also updated.

Canada – Ontario – Marriage Registers

The Ontario, County Marriage Registers 1858-1869 at FamilySearch have also been updated. These records contain an index and images of marriages. There are some records that actually date prior to 1858 and after 1869, so be sure to check the collection thoroughly.

These marriage records will generally include the following information:

  • Name of groom
  • Name and maiden name of bride
  • Age of groom and bride at marriage
  • Names of groom’s parents and bride’s parents
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Names of witnesses or possible relatives

United States – New Hampshire – Civil War Service & Pension Records

The New Hampshire, Civil War Service and Pension Records, 1861-1866 are now available at FamilySearch and have been recently updated. The collection includes both an index and images of Civil War enlistment papers, muster rolls of New Hampshire Regiments, and pension records.

The pension records are arranged by town with indexes arranged by name and town. The enlistment papers are arranged by military unit, volume, and year range. The muster rolls are arranged by unit name and folder number.

Pension papers can often be used as substitute records for vital information such as birth, marriage, and death. Additional information may include birth place, occupation, and a physical description.

United States – Alaska – Vital Records

Though a rather small collection with only just over 80,000 records, the Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959 may be just what you need. These records include both an index and digital images of birth, marriage, death, and divorce records from Alaska covering the years of 1816-1959. This collection is being published as images become available.

United States – Pennsylvania – Petitions for Naturalization

Pennsylvania, Eastern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1795-1931 at FamilySearch continues to grow. Now up to over 300,000 records, the collection will offer naturalization petitions for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern district of Pennsylvania for the years 1795 to 1931. The records corresponds to NARA publication M1522 part of Record Group 21 Records of District Courts of the United States.

Naturalization papers are an important source of information about an immigrant’s nation of origin, his or her foreign and “Americanized” names, residence, and date of arrival. It is important to note that naturalization changed over time and information will vary greatly.

More on Researching WWI for Genealogy

A Family Tree University independent study course, US Military Recordswill help you root out your ancestor’s involvement in the American war conflicts. Military files can often reveal genealogical data you need to further your family history. This course will teach you what to look for and how to locate the records you seek.

What You’ll Learn:

  • Definitions and terminology used in military records
  • Service records
  • Pension records
  • Bounty land records
  • Draft records

Alaska Genealogy and an Important Milestone

Alaska genealogy researchers celebrate an important milestone. It’s the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase. This special commemoration includes a photography exhibit, musical program, and much more. Keep reading to learn more about resources for Alaska genealogy.

The National Archives is celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of the Alaska Purchase with a special Hidden Treasure Alaska panoramic photography exhibit at the National Archives at College Park. It will also include a presentation by the exhibit curator, a musical program at the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, and a loan to Polar Bear Garden exhibit at the Anchorage Museum. The National Archives programs and exhibit are free and open to the public.

The Musical Program

The musical program will be held on Thursday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. at William G. McGowan Theater, Washington, DC. On March 30, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, signed the Alaska Treaty of Cession that purchased Russian America. To commemorate the life and contributions of Seward, the State of Alaska is sponsoring a performance of the Alaska chamber group, Wild Shore New Music. Wild Shore will perform the work of living composers who have found inspiration through their experiences with the natural beauty and indigenous cultures of Alaska. Reservations are recommended and can be made online.

The Exhibit

The Hidden Treasure exhibit will be at the National Archives at College Park, MD, on the lower level. Hidden Treasure dramatically captures the beauty of Alaska, as captured on film by U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographers from 1910-1932. These extraordinary images of more than 6,000 panoramic photographs from the collection were used, but then stored and remained unseen for decades. Thanks to the research, work, and photographic skill of National Archives expert Richard Schneider, these images can now be seen by the public in their original panoramic format for the first time. These images capture work-life in the Alaskan wilderness, surveying techniques, towns, and geological formations, such as the Columbia Glacier. See Richard Schneider’s related Prologue Magazine story: The Alaskan Frontier in PanoramaHow the National Archives Preserved Early 20th-Century Photographs.

Schneider will discuss these historic panoramic photographs of the Alaska Territory in his presentation on Wednesday, April 12th at 2 p.m. EST. You may see it live streamed at the William G. McGowan Theater &  YouTube.

Polar Bear Garden

Beginning March 3rd through September 17, 2017, The Polar Bear Garden exhibit will be on display at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Archival and contemporary photographs combined with nesting dolls, cartoons, feature-length films, and Cold War propaganda will take viewers on a journey between Alaska and Russia since the purchase. It will further explore stereotypes, language, storytelling, boundaries, and crossings. The exhibit highlights are on rare loan from the National Archives and include the original cancelled check and President Andrew Johnson’s Ratification of the Treaty.  More information about the Polar Bear Garden can be found online.

Alaska Genealogy

Your Alaskan heritage will likely include stories of great strength and perseverance. To begin your Alaska genealogy research, you may wish to review the FamilySearch Wiki article titled Alaska, United States Genealogy. In it, you will learn important tips like the fact that Alaska is not divided into counties, as nearly all the other states are. Instead, Alaska is divided into boroughs.

There is also a free guide on the wiki titled Step-by-Step Alaska Research, 1880-Present that you may particularly helpful. Among other things, it will help you located birth, marriage, and death records; wills and probates; and naturalization and immigration records.

Alaska genealogy marriage record

Marriage record found online at FamilySearch.org in collection titled “Alaska, Vital Records, 1816-1959”

Additionally, the Alaska State Archives have resources available. They hold many records that contain information on individuals such as:

Lastly, check out the Alaska Genealogy online guide provided by the Alaska State Library. This basic guide of Alaska related genealogy resources is not intended to be comprehensive, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Sources for several of the boroughs may be available in other Alaska libraries or through interlibrary loan at your local library. They include:

More Resources for Alaska Genealogy Research

Alaska genealogy guideThe Alaska State Research Guide Digital Download by Family Tree Magazine is a digital download you will want to have for your genealogy library. Trace your Alaska ancestors with the advice and resources in this four-page download. It includes:

  • a how-to article detailing Alaska history and records, with helpful advice on tracking your family there
  • the best websites, books and other resources for Alaska research, handpicked by our editors and experts
  • listings of key libraries, archives and organizations that hold the records you need
  • descriptions of the top historic sites for learning about your ancestors’ lives and times, including visitor information
  • timeline of key events in the state’s history
  • full-color map to put your research in geographical context

Happy hunting…or should I say mushing!

Tackling Your Inherited Genealogy Files: Merging Duplicates

Merging duplicate records in your family tree is important. Perhaps you have inherited a giant genealogy file (GEDCOM) from a relative. What now? Follow along in our series on Inherited Genealogy Files as we talk about how to merge the duplicates in your family tree.

merging duplicate in your tree

Have you cleaned up your family tree lately? Whether you have inherited a genealogy file from a relative or have been an avid researcher yourself, clean-up is necessary from time to time, especially as your database grows.

Merging Duplicates from an Inherited Genealogy File with RootsMagic

When you sit down to do your genealogy research, the last thing you want to worry about are duplicate names. Duplicates can be distracting and confusing.

You may have inherited a genealogy file or files in the form of GEDCOMs. (Read more on what and how to use a GEDCOM file here.) While inheriting this family history is great, it can also be a lot of work to clean-up, confirm the data, and add source citations where needed.

If you use RootsMagic or other similar software, it can be quick and easy to clean up duplicate names in your database. Start by running a duplicate search by clicking on Tools, selecting Merge, and then clicking Duplicate search merge.

You can search for duplicates by surname or given name. You might consider running a duplicate search for sounds alike, as well. This is particularly important if you have merged two databases in which you and the other contributor may have used different surname spellings.

When you are ready, click Search for duplicates at the bottom of the box. The system will tell you how many duplicates it finds and allow you to compare them one-by-one.

If you find a duplicate, the primary person will be on the left and the matching record on the right. Whichever record/person is most correct, use the Swap button to move that record to the primary position on the left.

If you feel these are a match, click Merge duplicate into primary at the bottom left corner. You have now merged these two individuals. It should be noted that you do not actually lose any of the data of the duplicate person. If I find Dean Howard Lockwood in my index and double click on his name, a pop-up window appears and I see he now has two birth and death entries, however. To fix this, click on the duplicate fact to highlight it, then click Delete fact at the top.

Cleaning Up Duplicate Places

You may not have considered cleaning up the duplicate places that exist in your file. For example, perhaps Great-aunt Susie liked to use the old format for place names. [i.e. , Ross County, Ohio] Notice the comma before the county name Ross. This was the way in which genealogists used to indicate Ross was the name of the county. Now, we use the more recent accepted format and change that to: Ross county, Ohio, United States. You can quickly merge these two places into one by clicking Lists at the top left, and choosing Place List.

Now, choose the place you would like to fix and double click it. In the pop-up window that appears, simply type in the place name as you desire it to appear in your database.

In the example above, we have changed , , Kentucky to Kentucky, United States and clicked OK. But wait, there’s one more step! You may notice your list now shows duplicates of Kentucky, United States or some variation. To fix that problem, click on the merge button at the top of the Place List pop-up window. A new window will pop-up and you can choose all the places you wish to merge together. Then, click Merge selected places.

More on RootsMagic Software

RootsMagic is the genealogy software used and recommended by Lisa Louise Cooke and The Genealogy Gems Podcast. You can purchase this amazing software from the Products We Love tab in our store or by clicking on the RootsMagic 7 image link. When you use our affiliate links, you are helping to support the free Genealogy Gems Podcast. Thank you!

Google Searches for Genealogy Leads to an Opera’s Worth of Stories

Google searches for genealogy are a main focus of our Google Guru, Lisa Louise Cooke. Read this inspiring story of how one Genealogy Gems reader used Lisa’s Google search tips to find a trove of family stories worthy of an opera.

Google searches for genealogy

Opera house image courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

You never know when the amazing technology of the internet and Google will lead to a discovery that will open the doors on your family history. I recently received a letter from Genealogy Gems listener, Kristen. She shared the sad tale of her maternal grandmother’s history. Her grandmother had lost her mother before the age of two. Then, as an only child, her father abandoned her to be raised by a less-than-loving step mother. This young woman grew-up and had children of her own, but all she had in the way of a family history was the memory of her father’s name and a handful of unnamed photographs.

Kristen went on to say, “She never really spoke of her sad childhood, save to say that the stepmother would tell her she had always been unwanted and that her mother was unloved and the marriage was forced.”

Among the handful of mystery photographs of her grandmother as a child, was a brief article from a newspaper. It was a lesson in manners titled Silence is Golden and it was written by Merton Markert, a student of the Modern Classics. A photo of a young woman was attached.

Using Clues for Google Searches for Genealogy

Here’s the rest of Kristen’s letter:

I took your advice and Googled Merton Markert Modern Classical Silence Golden. Up came the Lancaster High School Yearbook for 1905, featuring p. 41, the senior class portraits with their course study descriptions and a small personal quote for each. There was that exact photo of her, and the name Merton Markert, Modern Classical with the quote, “Life seems a jest of Fate’s contriving.”

The whole yearbook had been digitized by Mocavo, and it is the only yearbook for that high school in several years. My great-grandmother [Merton Markert], who had been buried and unspoken for a hundred years, had reached out to me. She wanted me to find her! Lisa, I cannot adequately describe the feelings I experienced at that moment of discovery. You understand how a moment like that feels, I’m sure. The chills, the tears…I felt like I was staring into her eyes, reaching through a century of silence, and finally able to acknowledge her sacrifice and legacy.

On the football team that year was my great-grandfather, and the whole book was ripe with clues that still hold nuanced significance.

From there, I was able to grow a tree on Ancestry.com and get the basics. But that does not tell you who the person is, the struggles, the character, the story. So taking your lead, and thinking like my brother the Sherriff Detective, I got creative. Using all kinds of searches and sniffing and turning over and under, I was able to uncover a veritable opera’s worth of stories within this one branch [of my family tree]. The cast of characters include: A Colonial founder, a secret bastard half-sister, a suicidal mother, a Klondike Gold Stampeder, alcoholics, a rejected Baptist Pastor, a homosexual affair-turned-murder victim,  a bonafide Monuments Man (buried at Arlington), and a chorus of war veterans. And cancer. Lots of it. In fact, breast cancer was the reason for Merton’s death in 1910. That kind of information is vital to my sisters and female cousins.

So thank you, my clever inspiration.
Ain’t opera grand?

Lisa’s Response to Kristen with Additional Ideas

Thanks for sharing your fascinating story. I completely understand the emotions you felt the moment she was looking back at you on the screen. Those moments are precious and meant to be savored!
Using search techniques from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, Second Edition, I also discovered this same yearbook on the  robust and free Internet Archive website. Perhaps there is more there to be found. And I have an additional idea I thought you might like to try. It’s Ebay.

Ebay currently has a commencement program from 1902, old post cards of the school, and other yearbooks from Lancaster High School. Who knows what could be put up for auction in the future. You could sign up for a free Ebay account, run a search, and then click to Follow the search. You will then be alerted to future auctions that match your criteria. Happy hunting and thanks for being a Genealogy Gem!

Genealogy Gems Premium Members can listen to Premium episode 16 which goes in depth into my Tips for Finding Family History Related Items on eBay.

More on Google Searches for Genealogy

Google is an effective and easy-to-use genealogy tool, you just need to know a few basics. Watch my YouTube video on speaking Google’s language and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our tech tips and more!

Featured Success Story From our Reader Celebrating our 200th Episode

The Genealogy Gems Podcast recently celebrated our 200th episode and 10th anniversary! Can you believe it? We couldn’t have made it without you, our Gems listeners and readers…thank you! We asked you to share with us how Genealogy Gems has helped you along your personal family history journey and to share your triumphs. Today we are proud to feature the inspiring success stories of a true Genealogy Gem, Robin!

Celebrating The Genealogy Gems Podcast 200th Episode

My name is Robin and I am from Nevada and I just love Lisa’s amazing podcast and website.

Lisa and her team are an amazing source of information for a hobby genealogist. A daily inspiration for me as I listen to the podcast. They have given me the courage to step outside my comfort zone and to keep contacting distance relatives in my search for photos or family history.

I have utilized so many of the Gems here on the website. Here are a few of my favorite Gems that have helped me with my searches.

  • Diahan Southard (a Gem all on her own)
  • Genealogy for Beginners (I devoured this page)
  • Google Earth
  • Google Toolbox (My favorite tool to use! Love, love, love!)
  • How to get started in Evernote
  • Organize your Genealogy Files
  • How to interview your relatives
  • All of the podcasts
  • Learning about Animoto and using it to make a video of all my cousins

I enjoy listening to Lisa read the letters from other people on the podcast so much and have wanted to send in an email, but I kind of felt a little awkward talking about myself and about what I had accomplished these past couple years. So, when Lisa invited everyone to write in for the Genealogy Gems 200th podcast episode, I thought to myself, what the heck, go for it.

My First Success Story: Keep It Safe

I wanted to share with your readers a couple of my stories. I am not a trained genealogist, but I really enjoy the search on Ancestry, Newspapers, and USGenweb, and many others. I came across the Gems website when I was researching Scrivener and how to incorporate it into my research. I read one of the reviews and they mentioned Genealogy Gems. Well, let me say, I have been hooked ever since then!

My mother, sadly, passed away last April of Alzheimer’s. She got me interested in genealogy as a teenager and I became hooked. I’m in my 40s now and recently got back into researching about four years ago. When my Mom was first diagnosed, she came to me and handed me a box of her papers and asked, “Can you keep them safe for me?” I shoved them to the back of a closet–my only thought was to keep them safe.

A couple years ago, I remembered the box I had in safe keeping and pulled it out. The box contained newspaper clippings my grandmother kept of family members of her mother which later helped me to confirm my great-grandfather’s parents names. Also contained in the box were several funeral books with family names, and birth and death certificates. It’s almost as if she knew I would come back to doing genealogy. It’s been an amazing adventure and I am so very thankful to my mom for giving me this wonderful gift of adventure.

My Second Success Story: Making a Lost Family Connection

In the last couple years, I have solved an old family mystery of my missing (paternal) great-grandfather after WWI. He had been presumed dead in the war, but I found he actually got out and married another woman.

I was able to track his daughter down and had a great conversation with her before she passed away eight months later within a week of my own father’s passing. His daughter was able to verify that he was indeed our lost great-grandfather. My dad and Uncle were shocked when I told them! I knew my dad enjoyed my calls to update him on my newest finds and solving the mystery when he showed up at my door out-of-the-blue with a box containing his baby book and other items as a kid. I have to say, that was one of the best days I ever spent with my dad. We sat and poured over the items and drank coffee spiked with a little Carolan’s liquor. He was going through chemo and radiation at the time and wasn’t allowed to drink. He claimed his doctor gave him special permission for a little in his coffee!

My Last Success Story: Participating in a Denmark Museum Exhibit

Mors Museum. Picture provided by Robin.

My most exciting moment was in November of 2015. I had emailed a library in Nykobing, Mors, Denmark for info in reference to the Morso Stove Factory. My husband’s ancestor worked there in the early 1900s.  My email was forwarded to the local Museum Mors director to answer my inquiries. I had included a photograph of my husband’s great-great-grandfather who worked at the stove factory. The director replied with my answer and asked if I would like to contribute to the new exhibit coming up in March of 2016, “The Emigrants ” with any photos, documents, family stories. Of course, I said yes, totally delighted and grinning from ear to ear!

As I considered what items to send to the Mors Museum director, I remembered that earlier in the year, I had contact with a fellow ancestry member named Dan (distant cousin of my husband) regarding a family book he referenced as a source. He sent me a copy via Google drive. The author, a lady name Connie, put this family book together and spent several years gathering information and typing it up on a typewriter, yikes. It’s over 250 pages of pure information on my husband’s ancestors. I tracked down Connie and spoke to her for the first time. I think she was shocked and honored that her book on her (former) husband’s family was going to be a part of a museum exhibit.

I then contacted Dan and he had some materials to contribute as well since he was the grandson of the youngest ancestor that immigrated to America.

Mors Museum Exhibit. Picture provided by Robin.

I had so much fun being a part of this and putting all the materials together to send by Google Drive to the curator. I have included several pictures from the museum exhibit. I believe the exhibit ends in October of this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend, but they were so kind to share the photos with me.

I have to say, even though this was a hard year, due to my parents passing, I think they both left me a gift to help me get thru this difficult time.  It’s been an amazing adventure and I have grown and learned so much from my family history.

I really want to say thank you so much to Lisa and the Genealogy Gems team, because I couldn’t have done half of the research I’ve done this past year without their guidance. Thanks for letting me share my story, too!

Congrats on the 200th podcast episode and I hope you all have a wonderful celebration.

Happy searching and many blessings,

Robin

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Genealogy Gems - Family History Podcast and WebsiteRobin utilized our Genealogy Gems Premium Membership to help her navigate genealogy records, learn about DNA, organize with Evernote, and much, much more. Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member today and get exclusive access to incredible content to help you further your research – all for one low annual price! Click here to learn more.