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<2009 July>

More Links

# Thursday, 23 July 2009
Finding Family History in Digital Memory Projects
Posted by Diane

State archives, county historical societies, libraries and other organizations across the country are preserving the history of ordinary people in free online collections of photos, letters, stories and historical documents.

You might find something about a relative in one of these collections. You’ll almost certainly get a good picture of your ancestor's life. Here's a sampling of digital memory sites (I had to stop myself from spending all day surfing for more!) followed by tips on finding a collection relevant to your family:
  • Allen County Community Album: Images at this Allen County Public Library-hosted site portray people and places in Northeastern Indiana. The library’s well-known Genealogy Center also has an Our Military Heritage site with records and photos from researchers across the country.
  • Arizona Memory Project: Collections come from the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Arizona Jewish Historical Society, state archives, City of Glendale, Gila County and others.
  • Documenting Arkansas: This site's content relates to the Civil War, 1927 Mississippi River flood and other events.
  • Maine Memory Network: More than 200 organizations have contributed materials to this site, which also supports similar projects for Maine communities such as Bath and Isleboro.
  • Montana Memory Project: Cattle brand books, the Fergus County Heritage Book and Rocky Mountain College yearbooks are a few of the resources you'll find here.

  • Terrace Park, Ohio, Building Survey: A local genealogist maintains this site on the history of buildings in an Ohio neighborhood. It has photos, deeds, census and land records, residents' names and more.
  • The Valley of the Shadow: Censuses, church records, letters, diaries and newspaper articles detail life in two communities—Franklin County, Pa., in the North and Augusta County, Va., in the South—before, during and after the Civil War.
Also explore the digital collections on our 101 Best Web sites list, including Seeking Michigan, the Florida Memory Project, Missouri Digital Heritage and the Library of Congress' American Memory.

To find collections related to your ancestors’ lives, look for links to a memory project or digital archive on Web sites for the state archives, local libraries or local historical society. Many projects are listed on Cyndi's List country, state and local pages; as well as USGenWeb state and county pages.

Also try running a Google search on digital history or memory project plus the town, county or state name, or a topic such as Civil War or pioneer.

Click Comments below to share a link to your favorite digital memory project.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips | Social History
Thursday, 23 July 2009 08:57:45 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Wednesday, 22 July 2009
Find Your Family in Old Newspapers
Posted by Diane

You may remember me mentioning my bootlegging great-grandfather, who was a guest of a Texas penitentiary for nine months before Gov. O.B. Colquitt pardoned him. You also may have read about my struggle to find his trial records.

So I’m pinning my hopes on newspapers. I’ve set aside time during September's Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Little Rock to search Texarkana newspaper microfilm at the Arkansas History Commission (Texarkana straddles the Texas/Arkansas border).

I created a list of titles to check using the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America newspaper directory.

Your ancestor didn’t have to be the subject of a criminal trial or gubernatorial pardon to make the news. Newspapers also reported on births, marriages and deaths ; graduations; townspeople’s comings and goings; local gossip; local clubs and organizations; businesses, events and more.

As Web sites increasingly focusing on digitizing old newspapers, it’s the perfect time for our next Webinar on Finding Your Family in Old Newspapers.

Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems will show you what’s in old newspapers, how to identify which ones may have information on your ancestors, and all the tips and tricks for finding and searching newspapers online.

The webinar is July 29 at 7 p.m. EDT, and costs $29.99. Your registration includes access to a recording of the presentation and copies of the slides. Learn more and sign up on

Newspapers | Webinars
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 14:36:19 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free Database of 5,000 York, UK, Prisoners
Posted by Diane

York Castle Prison museum in York, UK, has posted an online a database of 5,000 people who were held there or were victims of crimes, mostly during the 1700s.

The database, which isn’t comprehensive, includes:
  • Criminals sentenced to transportation to America, about 1705 to 1775
  • Criminals executed at York, about 1710 to 1899
  • Debtors who pleaded insolvency, about 1709 to 1813
You can download a fact sheet with details about the York prisoners database, how to search it and recommended resources (including a database of 123,000 convicts transported to Queensland, Australia).

The museum doesn’t have any original records on the prisoners, but the above-mentioned fact sheet tells you where to look for them.

On the York Castle Prison family history page, you can search the database for a name or keyword. You’ll learn the prisoner's name, date of imprisonment and source of the information, and perhaps a short synopsis of the crime (which may name the perpetrator's victims).

William the Conquerer built the original York Castle, which included a jail, in 1068. A county gaol and women’s prison were added in the 1700s; the whole castle was a prison from 1835 to 1929. Now it’s a museum with an interesting Web site that lets you explore the prison and introduces you to prisoners and keepers.

See our online article for more help tracing British criminals in your family tree.

Free Databases | Museums | UK and Irish roots
Wednesday, 22 July 2009 08:35:56 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Jamie discovers her ancestors' home
Posted by Jamie


The 1930 census places my 5-year-old paternal grandfather, Grandpa R., as living in Mount Adams in Cincinnati with his mother, aunts and grandmother. When I saw the address I didn’t think much of it–that is until I did a Google Maps search of the address.

I figured Mount Adams wasn’t too far from where I currently live and it would be interesting to see my ancestor’s home on a map if it was still standing. Turns out I live 1.21 miles from my great-great grandmother’s home.

Then I dug a little more and visited the Hamilton County Auditor Web site, which lists the house as being built in 1809. But the file has something called a second card attached that says the same address was built in 1985. I was seriously confused: Why are there two files? Why was the house built in two different years? Was it torn down and rebuilt?

I decided that I just had to see the house for myself. Upon arriving I saw that it is located just steps away from the aptly named Eden Park, which has the most breathtaking views of Cincinnati. All of the houses on the street have a cutesy, classic style about them: I could tell they weren’t built recently, but I couldn’t exactly place when they were built based on the style. Many of the houses had undergone at least some sort of renovation, but they still looked homogeneous on the street.

It was then that I happened upon my ancestor’s home. I realized that I had driven down this street several times before, never knowing that this is where my Grandpa R. had once lived.


There was just one thing: I couldn’t tell which house had originally belonged to my ancestors. The address was correct, but it looked as if two houses occupied that address. The style of the houses and the paint jobs matched, but they still looked to be two distinct houses. I looked into what appeared to be an alley between the two houses and saw a second-floor skyway that joined the two structures.

This wasn’t the only house that had undergone such a procedure on that street. While the others didn’t have a skyway, they did have non-matching, single-story entryways that were sandwiched far back between two multi-floor structures, indicating that the front doors were probably added later to join the once separate houses.

I returned to the Hamilton County Auditor Web site and looked at properties close to my ancestors, and there are other old houses that are listed similarly with a second card that has a different date for the year built. I suppose somewhere along the way some Mount Adams residents decided that two homes were better than one.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009 15:59:34 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 20 July 2009
Ways I'm Genealogically Lucky
Posted by Diane

My biggest genealogical frustration is the gap in records about my great-grandfather’s family from 1918 to 1924. Where were they? Not in the 1920 census, unfortunately for me.

But I did luck out, research-wise, in a number of ways. Maybe counting these blessings will bring on good genealogical karma:
  • Ninety-eight percent of the deaths listed in the Social Security Death Index occurred after 1962, the year the index was computerized. By all rights, my great-grandfather, who died in 1949, shouldn’t be included. Yet he is!

    Once I had his SSN, I sent off a request for his SS-5 (the SSN application) and learned his parents’ names and where he lived and worked at the time.

  • The only WWII draft registration cards available for research are from the Fourth Registration or “Old Man’s Draft” of men who were 45 to 64 years old on April 27, 1942. (Privacy laws have closed registrations of younger men.) Eight states’ cards have been destroyed, and online databases (a free browseable one on FamilySearch and a searchable one on fee-based aren’t complete. Lucky for me, I found Great-grandpa's card.

  • My dad has a copy of his dad’s resume and a job application from the 1940s. In neat, square writing, my grandfather detailed his employment background. His answer to the criminal offense question tells of a fine he paid after a fender bender with a streetcar. “I was not intoxicated and I don’t drink,” he stated emphatically.

  • My mom's sister was way into genealogy, and before she passed away five years ago, she gave me copies of her microfilm printouts and family group sheets. The family’s home burned down not long after she died; I feel fortunate to have her papers.

  • Once I found my great-grandfather’s obituary in the Cleveland Necrology File, I was able to track down the right funeral home and send an e-mail. Someone faxed his funeral record within days. With today’s privacy hyper-concerns—and the fact I’m not planning to be a customer of the home anytime soon—the response was unexpected.
Of course, I’m very lucky and very glad that it’s part of my job to keep learning about genealogy and stay up on new resources. Click Comments below to share your genealogical blessings.

Research Tips
Monday, 20 July 2009 16:43:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [6]
# Friday, 17 July 2009
Genealogy News Corral: July 13-17
Posted by Diane

Here are news bits and pieces we turned up this week:
  • British subscription site has added the Civil War Roll of Honor listings of more than 276,000 Union soldiers buried in national cemeteries, soldiers' lots and garrison cemeteries.
  • The East Central Georgia Regional Library's African-American Funeral Program Collection is online (and free) in the Digital Library of Georgia. The 1,000 funeral programs date from 1933 to 2008, with most dating since the 1960s and coming from churches around Augusta, Ga.
  • The College of Charleston in South Carolina has launched the Lowcountry Digital Library with about 7,500 images (so far) of historical letters, scrapbooks, photos and more.
  • Online genealogy company (and GenealogyWise owner) FamilyLink has another site coming next week, as hinted on Twitter by CEO Paul Allen: “41% have pictures of ancestors on the walls of their home ... We are launching a new site soon for the other 59%”
Could it be related to this digitization service, announced in 2007 but no longer offered?

African-American roots | FamilyLink | Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives
Friday, 17 July 2009 12:25:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Free in July: US Virgin Islands Slave Records
Posted by Diane has added 200 years of Caribbean slave records with help from the Virgin Islands Social History Associates. You can access the records free through the end of July (you’ll need to register for a free account).

So far, the collection includes St. Croix slave lists from 1772 to 1821 and population censuses (1835 to 1911), which together have information on more than 700,000 slaves, owners and family members.

The slave lists aren’t yet indexed, so you can’t search by name, but you can browse the record images by year. Here's an example:

You can search the census records. Most are in English, but some are in Danish—the islands became a Danish colony in 1754; the United States purchased them in 1917.

African-American roots | | Free Databases
Friday, 17 July 2009 11:52:16 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
Colonial Williamsburg and Other Places to Time Travel
Posted by Diane

My ancestors got here after Colonial days, but all the same I enjoyed an afternoon in Colonial Williamsburg earlier this week while visiting family.

The park covers 301 acres with 88 original buildings plus other reconstructed ones. I hadn’t realized Colonial Williamsburg isn’t an enclosed park—rather, it’s a historic part of the city of Williamsburg, Va., with streets closed to cars but otherwise publicly accessible. You can walk around outside and enter shops and restaurants for free; a pass gets you into the park’s other buildings (except private homes and offices) and exhibits.

On our whirlwind trip, we visited the courthouse

... apothecary

... blacksmith shop

... and the magazine and guardhouse, carpenter’s shop and gaol (jail). Exhibit  hours vary, and special programs happen daily at different times and places, so if you’re planning a visit, check the online calendar.

You can see our ancestors’ world at living history centers around the country, such as Old World Wisconsin, Ohio Village, Old Sturbridge Village  in Massachusetts and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City.

Find more museums here or run a Google search on “living history” and the city, county or state you’re interested in.

Celebrating your heritage | Historic preservation | Museums
Friday, 17 July 2009 10:39:10 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 16 July 2009
Library of Michigan Faces Elimination
Posted by Diane

The news that Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has abolished the state’s Department of Histories, Arts and Libraries—which includes the state library and archive—has genealogists concerned.

Granholm’s executive order, which will save the cash-strapped state an estimated $2 million in the first year, divvies up parts of the department among other state agencies. Of particular interest to genealogists:  
  • Most Library of Michigan functions, including its genealogy collection, go to the Department of Education
  • The Michigan Historical Commission, which includes the state archives, will be moved to the Department of Natural Resources
In Section B (8) of the order, Gov. Granholm directs the state Superintendent of Public Instruction (head of the education department) to cut state library costs:
Unless the Superintendent determines it to be impracticable, these measures shall include, but shall not  be limited to … Eliminating circulation of specific collections (including, but not limited to, the Main, Dewey, and General Reference collections, the Michigan collection, the Michigan Documents collection, and the Rare Book collection) or, alternatively, transferring such collections to other suitable institutions, . . . (c) Suspending or eliminating participation as a participating lending library in MeLCat, (d) Eliminating or transferring to other suitable institutions the Federal Documents Depository and the non-Michigan genealogy collection.”
The order is effective Oct. 1 unless the state legislature rejects it within 60 days.

Genealogists provide 85 percent of the foot traffic to the Library of Michigan, says Michigan Genealogical Council (MCG) delegate Mary Strouse. The library's Abrams Foundation Historical Collection is one of the 10 largest genealogy collections in the United States (see an overview here). Its Seeking Michigan Web site, a partnership with the state archives, was named to our 101 Best Web Sites list this year.

In a July 13 press release, the governor announced a possible “transformed Michigan Library and Historical Center”—the Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention, which would “help equip Michigan citizens for the knowledge-based economy through entrepreneurial and innovative programs,” in partnership with a university or other organization.

What might happen to the library's genealogy collection? Among other consequences, it could be broken up the among multiple locations, interlibrary loan access (through the MelCat system) could be shut down, and access to materials on non-Michigan ancestors could go away.

MCG reports that 10 Michigan senators have introduced bills in response, which would transfer functions of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries to the Department of State.

See the MCG Web site for information on these bills and links to finding Michigan senators and representatives.

Libraries and Archives
Thursday, 16 July 2009 17:14:59 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]
GenealogyWise Is Down
Posted by Diane

GenealogyWise, FamilyLink's social networking site that has surged in popularity after just over a week online, is down this morning. We'll keep an eye on it and let you know what we hear.

Update: FamilyLink CEO Paul Allen tweeted that GenealogyWise is down due to a DNS (Domain Name System) problem, which is being fixed, but it'll be awhile before the site is available again.

FamilyLink | Social Networking
Thursday, 16 July 2009 08:45:42 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [0]