Though the United States is a relatively young country, its history is a rich source of genealogical information! This week we’re featuring new collections available for United States family history, from the big and exciting to the small and fascinating. Vital records will provide specific names and dates, while newspaper and quilt archives will give a glimpse of your ancestors’ lives in the U.S.
United States: Yearbooks, Freedman’s Bureau, & War of 1812 Pensions
Yearbooks. A brand new genealogy record collection is available at MyHeritage for U.S. Yearbooks 1890-1979. There are over 36 million pages from over a quarter of a million yearbooks from around the country. From the collection description: “Yearbooks are excellent genealogical records that include personal portraits and group photographs. These books can give a researcher insight into students, faculty, and staff who attended or worked at a school. The yearbooks in this huge compendium are primarily from high schools, which in the United States normally comprise grades 9 to 12 or 10 to 12.”
Freedman’s Bureau. FamilySearch has two new Freedman’s Bureau databases available online. The first is the collection of Records of Freedmen’s Complaints, 1865-1872. The complaints consisted of problems which freedmen brought to the Bureau’s attention. Many registers give the names of freedmen and the nature of the complaint, but others give only a synopsis of the case without names. The second new collection is the Freedmen’s Bureau Ration Records,1865-1872. These records include letters and endorsements sent and received, account books, applications for rations, applications for relief, court records, and more.
War of 1812. In a massive effort by the entire genealogical community, the War of 1812 Pension Application Files are now available for the first time online, hosted online for free at Fold3.com. The project is about 2/3 complete with nearly 2 million documents online today. The files generally contain documentation submitted in support of a claim, such as the original application form, affidavits, and statements from witnesses.
California. All of the nearly 19,000 issues of The Stanford Daily (1892-2004) are available in a new online database. The collection is entirely searchable and provides a firsthand account of life at Stanford University from 1892 to today.
Another interesting new collection of California State Archives photos is also now available online. The archives digitized nearly 3,000 photos of early 20th century California taken by William and Grace McCarthy, who traveled throughout the state when automobiles were a new form of transportation, including images of long-gone North County landmarks.
Georgia. 16,000 pages of the Walker County Messenger dating from 1880-1924 have been added to the Georgia Historic Newspapers (GHN) website. Also newly added to the GHN database are historic Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah publications, including the Bulletin (1920-1962) and the Savannah Bulletin (1958).
New York. Reclaim the Records just announced that they’ve obtained and published the first-ever public copies of the death index for Buffalo, New York, for the years 1852-1944. Over 640,000 names are included, though be aware that the scanned copies may have some edges cut off.
Another unique collection now available is the New York Quilt Project, an archive of over 6,000 quilts and their histories. From the collection description: “Details were recorded like family background, religion, where a quiltmaker learned the craft, why they made the quilt, and where they obtained textiles, and a small tab was sewn into the back of each quilt for identification. These stories often chronicle immigration to New York, as some quilts were brought over from Germany or Italy, and visually show through their patterns and designs the influence of different populations from around the world in the state.”
North Carolina. A collection of 60 hand-drawn Civil War sketches have been added to Digital North Carolina, drawn by soldier Edwin Graves Champney. The original artwork includes scenes showing landmarks, landscapes, and Union military activity. From Wake Forest University also comes a collection of 19 newspaper titles dating from 1857 to 1925. They were written for Christian (primarily Baptist) communities across North Carolina. Finally, almost two decades of the newspaper The Carolina Indian Voice, from 1977-1996, have been added to the collection at DigitalNC.
South Dakota. From a recent press release: “Several Sioux Falls German titles have recently been added to Chronicling America: The Sud (Soot) Dakota Nachrichten (Knock-rick-ten), 1896-1900; the Sud-Dakota Nachrichten und Herold, 1900-1901; the Nachrichten-Herold, 1901-1907; and the Deutscher (Doit-shur) Herold, 1907-1913. To view these newspapers please visit the Chronicling America Website.”
If you want to dive into your American genealogy, you’ll definitely need the brand new 4th edition of The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood. This new 4th edition has been completely updated, incorporating all the latest developments, principles, and resources relevant to family history research. There are now two chapters about technology as it relates to family history research–one dealing with significant concepts and definitions and the other with specific resources and applications, including major family history websites and Internet resources. Click here to get it right now for $49.95 with FREE shipping! *Shipping to U.S. only, up to two weeks for delivery.
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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.
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.
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!
Swedish-American newspapers are our first stop as we head off the beaten path. This week you’ll discover special record collections of Burke County, North Carolina yearbooks, photo images for Scotland, and State Militia records. Also this week, German civil registrations, Utah divorces, and lots of Irish goodies.
There are more online records than just those found at Ancestry, Findmypast, MyHeritage, or FamilySearch. Lesser known record collections pack a powerful punch to your family history research!
The Minnesota Historical Society has made some Swedish-American newspapers available online for the first time. This past week, Swedish-American Newspapers were made available through an online portal. Users can explore more than 300,000 pages from 28 different Swedish-American newspaper titles published across the U.S. between 1859 and 2007.
The portal is available in Swedish and English and includes a keyword search.
United States – North Carolina – Burke County – Yearbooks
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center has a statewide digital publishing program located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The center works to digitize and publish historic materials online.
Among their digital holdings, more than 60 years worth of yearbooks are now available to view online. The schools covered include:
Yearbooks provide enriching details into the lives of our ancestors and can be especially helpful in finding names of living family members!
United States – North Carolina – Militia
Also for North Carolina, the State Archives there have made their militia records, specifically the troop returns for the 18th and 19th centuries, available online.
The Troop Returns collection includes lists, returns, records of prisoners, and records of draftees, from 1747 to 1893. The majority of records are from the Revolutionary War, North Carolina Continental Line.
Militia records generally include the names of officers and soldiers, and are usually organized by district or county. Continental line records include field returns, general returns, draft records, and enlistment records.
This collection is a work in progress. As more records are digitized, they will become view-able online. In the meantime, see what’s there by checking out a helpful index in pdf form here.
Canada – Books
Though these new books added to the shelves of the Library and Archives Canada are not online, the information may be of value to you. Several new books are available to view in-person at the Library and Archives Canada.
Some of the new listings include:
Obituaries from the Christian guardian, 1891 to 1895, by Donald A. McKenzie (AMICUS 42197735)
American loyalists to New Brunswick: the ship passenger lists, by David Bell (AMICUS 43913838)
The link to the AMICUS record gives the call number you need to find the book on the shelves.
The collection includes birth, marriage, and death records from Nuremberg.
Birth records may include:
Name of child
Names of parents
Place of residence
Date of birth
Marriage records may include:
Name of bride and groom
Place of residence
Name of bride’s parents
Name of groom’s parents
Groom’s date of birth and birthplace
Bride’s date of birth and birthplace
Death records may include:
Name of deceased
Age at death
Place of residence
Date of death
United States – Utah – Divorce Records
Findmypast has added Utah Divorces to their collections. More than 177,000 records from Utah district courts cover the years of 1997 to 2016. Each result includes a transcript that will reveal the date the divorce was filed, the petitioner, respondent, attorney, case type, and the judgment that was reached.
Ireland – Cavan – Registers
Cavan Registers & Records currently includes only one title named “Crosserlough Census Index 1821.” The 1821 census of Crosserlough, County Cavan, was taken on 28 May 1821. The Four Courts fire in Dublin destroyed the original census documents, but a copy was made prior to this.
There are near 8,000 individuals listed in the 1821 census. Each entry records an individual name, age, occupation and relationship to the head of household.
Ireland – Kilkenny – Registers
Kilkenny Registers & Records are presented as PDFs. The collection includes the Castlecomer Census Index 1901 compiled in 2000 by Tom Delany.
The publication is a summary of the population of Castlecomer in 1901. It lists the names, ages, and occupations of the all the inhabitants. On image number 204 is the beginning of an index of all the names found in the publication to help you.
Ireland – Dublin – Registers
Ten new publications have been added to the collection of Dublin Registers & Records. These new items include school registers, district and street censuses, business directories, and monumental inscriptions. The collection also includes parish records from the Church of Ireland.
Ireland – Newspapers
Over 1.7 million new articles have been added to the historic Irish Newspapers collection. New additions have been made to existing titles including The Irish Times and The Weekly Irish Times.
Newspapers can be searched by time-frame, place, county, and newspaper title.
Scotland – Leith – Photographs
A picture is worth a thousand words, or maybe in this case, a thousand records! A rare collection of photographs from the 1920s in Leith, Scotland is available to view online. This collection was digitized by Edinburgh University.
Though most of the images are of buildings and streets and not well labeled, if you are familiar with the area, something might stand out to you. Take a stroll down memory lane of yesteryear in Leith Scotland by clicking here.
More Gems on Researching Newspapers for Genealogy
Available at www.shopgenealogygems.com
This week we explored Swedish-American newspapers as well as some from Ireland. Perhaps you are in search of newspaper elsewhere in the world. Lisa Louise Cooke presents everything you need to know about How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. This exceptional book is packed with information on how to find and utilize newspaper collections. Available in book and e-book, you will find
Step by Step Instructions
Worksheets and Checklists
Tons of Free Online Resources
Websites that are worth Shelling Out a Few Bucks For
A Massive Amount of Location Specific Websites (International)
Using school records for genealogy will earn you an A+! Here are 10 proven ways to find your ancestors’ awkward yearbook photos, sports triumphs, and more.
1. Establish a Timeline
Check your genealogy database to figure out when your ancestor would have attended high school or college. Keep in mind, as recently as the 1960s, children did not go to Kindergarten but may have started school at about 6 years old and beginning in First Grade.
2. Consult Family Papers and Books for school records for genealogy
Go through old family papers and books looking for senior calling cards, high school autograph books, journals and diaries, senior portraits, fraternity or sorority memorabilia, and yearbooks. If you don’t have any of these items at your disposal, try the local library in the area where your ancestor grew up. Many times, libraries have a collection of old yearbooks, scrapbooks, commencement announcements, and more. Be sure to ask a knowledgeable person what items might be in their archives.
3. Search Newspapers
Look for school announcements, honor rolls, sports coverage, end-of-year activities and related articles. Start your search with these:
Local newspapers can also be found by searching your browser for the public library website in the town where your ancestor attended school. Check the online card catalog or contact them to see what newspapers they have and whether any can be loaned (on microfilm) through inter-library loan.
Newpapers.com is a subscription website with over 4,000 newspapers and more being added monthly.
Ancestry.com is another subscription website that has many newspapers online.
4. Consult the Websites of U.S. State Archives and Libraries
Click here to find a directory of state libraries.
5. Contact State Historical and Genealogical Societies
In addition to newspapers, state historical and genealogical societies might have old yearbooks or school photograph collections. For example, the Ohio Genealogical Society library has a large collection of Ohio school yearbooks. Local historical and genealogical societies may also have school memorabilia in their small or archived collections. To find contact information to a local historical or genealogical society, Google the name of the county and state and add the word genealogy at the end. For example: Darke County Ohio Genealogy. (Click here to learn more about Google searching for genealogy and strategies you can use.)
6. Browse RootsWeb to Find School Records for Genealogy
Now hosted by Ancestry.com, the free RootsWeb websites are a remarkable tool for genealogists. Check the message board for the county and state you’re looking for. You might even consider posting a message asking if anyone has access to yearbooks or other school records for genealogy. Sometimes, you might be fortunate enough to find a RootsWeb site that offers digital images you can download from online.
TIP: Use the Google site search operator to find mentions of yearbooks on the county page you are looking at. Add the word siteto the front of the Rootsweb page for the locale, then the word yearbook after it. (Genealogy Gems Premium members can watch my video tutorial on Google site search.)
You might be thinking you didn’t read that right, but you did. Townships are small areas within the county. These small townships may have their own archives or one room museums. They are often the holders of some pretty one-of-a-kind finds. The best way to determine what the township may have is to contact the township trustees. Google your township name, the county name, state name, and add the word trustee. You will likely need to give one of the trustees’ a phone call to ask what resources might be available.
9. Call the School
If it’s still open, give the school or administration office a call. They may have old yearbooks and scrapbooks in their library or on display.
TIP: Go to www.whowhere.com and type the school name in the Business Name field. Call between 3 and 4:00 pm local time, when the kids are gone but the school office is still open.
Conduct a search on the school or town you are looking for to see if anyone is selling a yearbook that you want. Also, search for old photographs or postcards of the school building that you can add to your family history. Here’s my extra trick: From the ebay results page, check the box to include completed listings and email potential sellers to inquire about the books you are looking for. (Image right: I found this yearbook on ebay. It includes several photographs of my husband’s grandfather who was a music teacher at the high school back in the 1940s.)
TIP:Don’t be afraid to ask – ebay sellers want to sell! And if all else fails, set up an ebay Favorite Search to keep a lookout for you. Check out the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #3 for instructions on how to do that.
Learn more by listening to the free podcast
Have you listened yet? The FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast recently celebrated 2 million downloads worldwide. Why not tune in and see what everyone’s been listening to? You’ll get tech tips, inspiring stories, research coaching and please-try-this-at-home examples you’ll want to try right away!