October 20, 2017

Is an Archive Really What You Think It Is?

A lot of the best information about our ancestors’ lives is buried in an archive–NOT indexed online! Melissa Barker explains what an archive is and how to find one that might reveal secrets from your family history.

International Archives Day is Friday, June 9! Genealogy Gems contributing archivist Melissa Barker tells us what an archive IS and how to find one.

Recently, I was asked “What is an archive?” I was a bit surprised by this question since it came from a genealogist. I thought all genealogists knew about archives!

What exactly is an archive?

An archive is defined by the Society of American Archivists as: An organization that collects the records of individuals, families, or other organizations. The “organization” they are talking about could be any organization. It doesn’t have to be only a county archive, such as the Houston County, Tennessee Archive, or a state archives, like the California State Library and Archives. Archives include:

  • A historical society that collects and preserves local records is also considered an archive.
  • A genealogical society that accepts donations of family records is an archive.
  • A museum that has exhibits and displays may also have records collections and would be considered an archive.
  • Local public libraries that have genealogy rooms with records in them are archives.

The term “archive” is not solely used to represent a county or state archive. Any organization that accepts, collects and preserves historical and genealogical documents, records, memorabilia and artifacts is considered an archive, even if they don’t have the word “archive” in their title.

There are many different kinds of archives that can be accessed by genealogists. I always say, “There is an archive for everything.” Just because the building doesn’t have the word “archive” on it, don’t discount the fact that there is a “place” where there are historical and genealogical records being preserved or at the very least stored.

Tips for finding and visiting archives

The next time you are doing research on your ancestor in the area where they lived…

Ask around: There is always someone in the local area that knows the local history and knows many of the local families and most importantly; these people usually know where to find the records! This person may even be able to tell you about the family you are researching.

Ask around in the community, call the local library or the local Chamber of Commerce and ask, “Who is the local historian, who is the one knows about the families and history of the area?” I guarantee that you will be given a name. Ask where the records are stored or archived. Contact the local historical and/or genealogical society.

Be prepared to get dusty: There have been many times when I had arrived at the place where I was told the records were located. I was then shown a closet, the attic or basement and I was left to my own research devices to go through boxes and shelves of records. You have to ask the questions and you may even have to do some sleuthing in the local areas your researching in to locate the records.

Don’t leave any stone unturned. The records you are looking for could be sitting in boxes, archived or not, just waiting for you to find them. Remember: It’s not all online, contact or visit and archive today!

The Archive Lady, Melissa Barker shares a short archiving segment in the Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast, available to Genealogy Gems Premium website members. Premium website members have access to the entire Premium Podcast archive of more than 200 episodes AND more than two dozen video classes by internationally-known genealogy educator Lisa Louise Cooke. Genealogy Gems Premium Membership offers so many fun and innovative ways to do genealogy! Click here and start enjoying it today.

Yay! More Digitization of Genealogy Records at the National Archives (US)

national archives partnership familysearch ancestryThe US National Archives has signed agreements with FamilySearch and Ancestry to put more of the Archives’ unique genealogical treasures online. We think that’s worth shouting about!

The National Archives has been working with FamilySearch and Ancestry for years to digitize genealogical treasures from its vaults. Contracts have been signed to continue efforts with both partners to digitize even MORE genealogy records at the National Archives: MORE birth, marriage, death, immigration and military service records! Here are some highlights from the contract:

1. Partners will now “be able to post segments of large collections immediately, rather than waiting for the entire collection to be completed.” This sounds familiar to users of FamilySearch, which regularly dumps un-indexed chunks of digitized content onto its site just to make it available faster.

2. The updated agreement contains provisions to protect “personally identifying information.”

3. Ancestry will have a shorter time period (by 12-24 months) during which they have exclusive rights to publish the images together with the index. After that, the National Archives can put the material on its site and/or share it with other partners.

4. The National Archives “will continue to receive copies of the digital images and metadata for inclusion in its online catalog….The public will be able to access these materials free of charge from National Archives research facilities nationwide [not online]. Ancestry.com makes the digitized materials available via subscription.”

What kind of data is already online from The National Archives?

FamilySearch and Ancestry already host digital images of millions of National Archives documents: U.S. federal censuses. Passenger lists. Border crossings. Naturalization records. Compiled military service records. Freedman’s Bank and Freedmen’s Bureau records (the latter are currently being indexed). Federal taxation records. And the list goes on! According to the press release, before these partnerships began, “many of these records were only available by request in original form in the research rooms of the National Archives.”

Click here to search all the National Archives content on Ancestry (more than 170 million images; subscription required to view).

Just in case you’re wondering (and I was wondering), The National Archives isn’t playing favorites with their partnerships. This list shows that a National Archives partnership is pending with Findmypast. They’re already working with Fold3. I wasn’t surprised to see the John F. Kennedy Library on their list, but I wouldn’t have guessed the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland!

Click to read more National Archives gems on our website:

Celebrate the U.S. Constitution with National Archives Resources

National Archives Digitizing Projects: Colonial, WWII, Jewish and More

National Archives Regional Facilities Closing or Consolidating

 

Celebrate Constitution Day with The National Archives on YouTube

anniversary of the US Constitution DayToday is Constitution Day: the 228th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The National Archives is celebrating with free programs and a special Family Day. 

Most of us won’t be able to attend in person, but the National Archives will be webcasting several of its free public programs live on the National Archives YouTube Channel. These include:

Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding DocumentThursday, September 17, 12 pm. “Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) tells dramatic, little-known stories behind six of the Constitution’s most indispensable provisions and explains why some of today’s issues are the direct result of how the courts, Congress, and the executive branch have minimized or ignored them. A book signing will follow the program.”

The Young Madisons: Why a New Generation Is Standing Up for the Constitution. Thursday, September 17, 7 pm. “A rising generation of civic leaders, shaped by the digital revolution, is reaffirming its commitment to the rights-based principles of the U.S. Constitution. The ninth annual State of the Constitution Lecture at the National Archives…focuses on the voices of young leaders in the spheres of policy, governance, and citizen engagement who are shaping America’s future as a constitutional democracy.”

The Constitution: An Introduction. Wednesday, September 30, 12 pm. “Practically every aspect of American life is shaped by the Constitution….Yet most of us know surprisingly little about the Constitution itself. In his book The Constitution, professor Michael S. Paulsen, one of the nation’s leading scholars of constitutional interpretation, has written a lively introduction to the supreme law of the United States, covering the Constitution’s history and meaning in clear, accessible terms, and provides us with the tools to think critically and independently about constitutional issues.”

More on the U.S. Constitution from the National Archives:

Will you be in town that day? Here’s what you should know:

  • The original U.S. Constitution is on permanent display in the National Archives. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. due to a morning naturalization ceremony (which is not open to the public).
  • Programs will be held in the William G. McGowan Theater, unless otherwise noted. Attendees should use the Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue at 7th Street, NW. Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.
  • FAMILY DAY: Between 1-4 pm in the Boeing Learning center there will be special hands-on activities for families and children.
  • Advance registration is required for the free program “The Young Madisons.”

More Resources

Genealogy Gems Book Club Genealogy Family HistoryGenealogy Gems Book Club. We have lots of great reading picks for family history lovers, both for pleasure reading or more serious how-to genealogy books.

Digitizing Colonial America: Help is on the Way for Your Colonial Genealogy

Top 25 Tips for Finding Your Colonial Ancestors on-demand webinar by D. Joshua Taylor

thanks youre a gemSometimes we recommend resources available through ShopFamilyTree, Amazon and other affiliates. If you decide to purchase these, thank you for using our links which supports the free Genealogy Gems blog and podcast! 

 

 

 

Want to Help Index De-Classified CIA Records?

classifiedBy now, many of us have tried our hand at volunteer indexing and transcribing projects. We can index censuses, civil and church vital records, gravestone images, and more with FamilySearch, BillionGraves, Ancestry’s World Archives Project and even with individual archives like The Congregational Library.

What about de-classified CIA records and other government documents? Love letters between President Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson? These are among the indexing projects currently on the National Archives (US) Citizen Archivist dashboard.

“We have millions of pages of digitized records available in our online catalog,” says the Citizen Archivist website. “Transcription is an important way for us to improve search results and increase accessibility to our historical records. Your contributions make a big impact.” Other current projects include Confederate government papers, interviews relating to the September 11 terrorist attacks and letters to President Eisenhower about integrating schools.

These are all historically vital important records for the U.S. that may also shed light on our ancestors’ lives. My grandfather worked on classified government projects and I’m hoping to find his name in formerly “top secret” papers someday! Why not give it a try–index a batch of records through the National Archives Citizen Archivist project?

how to start a genealogy blogLearn more about inspiring genealogy volunteers on our blog! On the lower left side of the Genealogy Gems home page, click the category “Volunteer.” See what others do to help–and perhaps you’ll get inspired yourself!

 

 

Free App, E-Book Celebrate Constitution Day

holding_us_flag_stick_figure_pc_400_wht_2690Today the United States celebrates Constitution Day! On this date in 1787–225 years ago–delegates finalized and signed the historic document that became the U.S. Constitution.

In celebration, the National Archives Center for Legislative Archives has launched a free mobile app, e-book and even companion tools for teachers: lesson plans and teaching activities.

“Congress Creates the Bill of Rights” is described at the National Archives website, where you can download the e-book and teaching resources. The e-book is also available in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. The app is available for download on iPad at the App Store.

A press release describes the app as “an interactive learning tool for tablets that lets the user experience the proposals, debates, and revisions that shaped the Bill of Rights in the First Congress. Its menu-based organization presents a historic overview, a one-stop source that includes the evolving language of each proposed amendment as it was shaped in the House and the Senate, a close-up look at essential documents, a ‘time-lapse’ display of the creation of the First Amendment, and more.

Congress Creates the Bill of Rights eBook presents a historic narrative focusing on James Madison’s leadership role in creating the Bill of Rights and effectively completing the Constitution. Starting with the crises facing the nation in the 1780s, the narrative traces the call for constitutional amendments from the state ratification conventions, and takes the reader inside Congress as the House and the Senate worked to formulate a set of amendments to send to the states.”

Did you have ancestors who were at the Constitutional Convention? Contribute what you know at the Signers of the U.S. Constitution Project at Geni.com. The goal of this project is to build “single, documented profiles” of those who signed.

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook and Old Documents

my-prairie-cookbook-memories-and-frontier-food-from-my-little-house-to-yours-paperback-book_357Did you ever watch or read the “Little House on the Prairie” series? It certainly fired my childhood imagination and my lifelong love for history. The stories are based on a series of written-for-kids-but-loved-by-everyone books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family helped settle the western American frontier in the late 1800s.

Now “Little House” is coming back to life in the form of a cookbook by Melissa Gilbert, who played young Laura Ingalls in the NBC television series (1974-1983). Melissa has published My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours.

In My Prairie Cookbook, Melissa dishes up comforting family recipes and childhood favorites. There are prairie breakfasts, picnic lunches and treats inspired by Nellie’s restaurant (from the Little House series). Eighty delicious dishes—crispy fried chicken, pot roasts, corn bread, apple pie, and more—let you eat like the Ingalls family! The book is garnished with Melissa’s “Little House” memories and memorabilia, including behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes, and scrapbook images.

Laura’s Early Years in Google Earth

Often when I’m teaching about how to use Google Earth for genealogy, and in particular, how to create what I call “Family History Tour,” I use Laura’s early life as an my example. Almost everyone is familiar with the story: she was born in Wisconsin, and moved to states like Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota during her lifetime. Seeing it come together in a virtual tour brings a new tech element to a beloved historical story.

LIW how toYou can download a quick Google Earth Family History Tour of her early years by right-clicking this link and downloading the KMZ file to your computer. Click the file, and it will launch Google Earth and save the tour to your “Temporary Places” at the bottom of the Places panel on the left side of the screen. Click the arrow to open the folder (image right)

Inside the folder double click the “movie camera” icon at the top of the list to play the tour.

The tour will navigate from the Little House in the Big Woods of Pepin, Wisconsin, (with a stop to read the History of Pepin ebook right from the map if you so desire), to Rutland, Montgomery, Kansas as the family was documented in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, and Laura was just 3 years old.

This short tour, filled with street views, videos, genealogical documents and even digital history books provides a taste of what you can accomplish with your own family. To learn more click here to watch my free introductory Google Earth for Genealogy video class.

Explore Little House in the Big Archives

Next week, The National Archives will host a program about the new cookbook with Melissa Gilbert. Why have a cookbook featured at the National Archives? Because its inspiration–the Ingalls family–was a real part of U.S. history and the National Archives houses many documents about their lives

 

How to Find Enumeration District Maps

enumeration district maps

1940 Census Enumeration District Map, Oklahoma, Wagoner County, http://research.archives.gov/description/5836456

Looking for enumeration district maps for the U.S. Federal Census? You’re not alone! Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listener Michelle in Denver, Colorado, wrote in with this question:

“Where can I find individual enumeration district maps? I don’t need a state-wide map showing the divisions between enumeration districts, but a map showing the numbered households within a single enumeration district.”

My answer: How to find Enumeration District Maps

First, here’s a little back story from the National Archives (U.S.) website:

“An enumeration district, as used by the Bureau of the Census, was an area that could be covered by a single enumerator (census taker) in one census period. Enumeration districts varied in size from several city blocks in densely populated urban areas to an entire county in sparsely populated rural areas.

Enumeration district maps show the boundaries and the numbers of the census enumeration districts, which were established to help administer and control data collection. Wards, precincts, incorporated areas, urban unincorporated areas, townships, census supervisors` districts, and congressional districts may also appear on some maps. The content of enumeration district maps vary greatly. The base maps were obtained locally and include postal route maps, General Land Office maps, soil survey maps, and maps produced by city, county, and state government offices as well as commercial printers. Census officials then drew the enumeration district boundaries and numbers on these base maps.” (Check out the full article here.)

Enumeration district maps are not available in all years and all locations. 1940 is the most accessible. These are available on the National Archives (U.S.) website. (Scroll down to item 3 for instructions on getting to these through the Online Public Access search.) You’ll see that only the enumeration district numbers and street names are marked on the maps. Individual homes are not.

What about enumeration district maps before 1940? Consult Cartographic Records of the Census Bureau for maps in the National Archives. For censuses before 1900, the government used voting districts as enumeration districts. Find voting district maps in the Library of Congress book, Ward Maps of the United States : A Selective Checklist of Pre-1900 Maps in the Library of Congress.  (The links here lead to WorldCat search results for these titles. WorldCat will tell you about libraries that have these books.) If you just want to find the enumeration district number of an address you already know, go to the Unified Census ED Finder at Steve Morse’s One-Step genealogy website.

Here are a couple more thoughts:

  • In cities,  there are often two columns of numbers in the census population enumeration (typically on the far left of the page). There’s house number and the number representing the order in which the enumerator visited the house (which has nothing to do with the house number). If you can’t find a relative in once census, pull the address from one census and use it in the Steve Morse database above to pull up the enumeration district for your missing decade.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for GenealogyDepending on the year you are researching, try to locate a Sanborn fire insurance map for the area.  Sanborn maps do include drawings of individual homes and include their house number. Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 47 is all about Sanborn fire maps. On the show notes page I even include a list of links to many Sanborn map collections, organized by state.

(Image right: Sanborn
Fire Insurance Map)

 

Abe Lincoln and Elvis Presley Have This in Common: Mystery Photos!

Daguerrotype of a Photograph of Abraham Lincoln, used for the $5 Bill. Original taken on February 9, 1864. Photographer unidentified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Mystery photos are one of a family history researcher’s biggest frustrations. We find them in old albums, between the pages of books or in loose files. It can heartbreaking to wonder whether we’re looking at the face of an ancestor–and to know we may never know for sure.

Well, we’re not alone. Two news stories ran recently about old mystery photos theorized to be two icons of American history: President Abraham Lincoln and singer Elvis Presley!

(Image Right: Daguerrotype of a Photograph of Abraham Lincoln, used for the $5 Bill. Original taken on February 9, 1864. Photographer unidentified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)

Mystery Photos: Abraham Lincoln Funeral

The Washington Post recently posted a story about the possibility that some unidentified photos at the National Archives (U.S.) show rare images of Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession in New York City.

The article gives some great back story how Lincoln’s 2-week+ funeral procession. His body traveled by rail and horse-drawn hearse for 1600 miles from Washington, D.C. back home to Springfield, Illinois. Along the way, there were stops for elaborate funeral processions in several cities. Millions of mourners turned out. The article quotes the man who put together this theory – a retired government accountant who loves historic photos.

Mystery Photo: A Young Elvis Presley?

The Blaze recently reported on an Elvis sighting: well, at least a photo sighting of Elvis. The image in question shows a young teenage boy. There are lots of questions about whether this is really The King before fame changed his life – and American pop music – forever.

These remind me of a genealogy blog post by Lisa Frank. She shares how listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast led to the discovery of an online video that may belong to her family story. Read her post Could It Be My Ancestor? and chime in with your opinion.

What surprising, poignant or fascinating mystery photos have you found in your family history research? Share them on the Genealogy Gems Facebook page and tell us about them! I look forward to seeing them!

National Archives Facilities Closing

National Archives, Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons Image by Edbrown05.

National Archives, Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons Image by Edbrown05.

National Archives (US) facilities are closing or restructuring in three locations. But steps are being taken to maintain access (local or online) to the treasure trove of research materials at these facilities.

A recent press release states, “As part of ongoing budget adjustments, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced the permanent closure of three National Archives facilities.  This year, the National Archives facility in Anchorage, AK, will close and two facilities in the Philadelphia, PA, area will be consolidated to a single site.  Within the next two years, two Archives’ facilities in Fort Worth, TX, also will be consolidated to a single site.  These closures and consolidations will result in estimated annual cost savings of approximately $1.3 million.”

“The National Archives budget is devoted primarily to personnel and facilities, both of which are essential to our mission,” the Archivist stated.  “I recognize these cuts will be painful; however, we are committed to continuing to provide the best service to our customers and best working conditions for our staff nationwide.”

Here’s the scoop on each of the affected locations:

National Archives – Anchorage, AK, facility closing:

The National Archives’ facility in Anchorage, AK, will close permanently in FY 2014. The employees who work there will be offered positions at other National Archives facilities, with the National Archives paying relocation expenses. The less than 12,000 cubic feet of archival records in Alaska will be moved to the National Archives at Seattle, WA, where the National Archives will digitize these records so that they remain available to Alaskans through the internet. In addition, we will move approximately 7,500 cubic feet of records center holdings to Seattle, WA.

National Archives – Philadelphia, PA, facility consolidation:

The National Archives currently maintains two facilities in Philadelphia—a records center and archives at Townsend Road, and a small “storefront” archival facility at 900 Market Street in the city center.  These facilities are in the same commuting area, and archival records are currently moved between the two for research use. The Market Street facility will close in FY 2014, and those employees will move to Townsend Road or telework locations. The less than 5,000 cubic feet of archival records stored at Market Street will be moved to Townsend Road, where the majority of the archival records already are stored. The Townsend Road facility’s research room will be modified to better provide appropriate access to researchers, and community outreach programs will continue.

National Archives – Fort Worth, TX, facility consolidation:

The National Archives currently maintains two facilities in Fort Worth: a combined records center and archives at John Burgess Drive, and a smaller “storefront” facility at Montgomery Plaza. The National Archives will permanently close the Montgomery Plaza facility in FY 2016. All employees at the Montgomery Plaza location will move to John Burgess or telework locations. No original records are stored at Montgomery Plaza, and researchers will have continued access to archival records through the research room at John Burgess Drive.

What’s at National Archives facilities for family history researchers? Learn more here.

 

Family History Episode 9 – Using Census Records

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastOriginally published Fall 2008

Republished Dec. 3, 2013

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 9: Using Census Records

In this episode we start off by talking about a group of records critical to family history research in my home country: U.S. Federal Census Records. You’ll learn not only what to find in the regular schedules, but about the enumerators, the instructions they followed, and special sections like the economic census.

Then in our second segment we go straight to the source: Bill Maury, Chief of History Staff at the U.S. Census Bureau. I’ll be talking to him about the History section of the Census Department’s website. Note the updated Genealogy tab on the site, as well as the Through the Decades tab, which is packed with historical information for each census.

Updates

Since the show first aired, the 1940 U.S. Census has become publicly available. This was the largest, most comprehensive census taken, with over 132 million names of those known as the “greatest generation.” Full indexes and images are available at several sites. Your first stop should be the National Archives’ official 1940 census website to learn about the census itself. Then search it at your favorite genealogy data site in one of the links below.

Finally, I gave you specific instructions in the podcast on searching the 1930 U.S. Census online at Ancestry.com. To specifically search any of the U.S. censuses (or any other record collection) at Ancestry.com, go to the Search tab and select Card Catalog. You’ll see several censuses among the options they give you, or you can enter keywords like “1940 census.”

Links

Search U.S. censuses online at:

Ancestry.com

Archives.com

FamilySearch.org

findmypast.com

worldvitalrecords.com

OR Learn more about researching from microfilm at the National Archives website.