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# Wednesday, 31 May 2017
How to Use the Library of Congress' New Sanborn Maps for Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Have you heard the news about the Library of Congress’ new digital Sanborn maps? Nearly 25,000 maps are now online, with more to be added over the next three years for a total of 500,000.

Sanborn fire insurance maps were published for insurance companies to assess a structure’s risk of catching fire. They were published in different years for different places, and usually after 1920, a set of maps for a particular town might be updated by pasting over a new building.

The maps show subdivision names, streets, buildings, and building details such as address, purpose, composition, windows and doors. You can locate your ancestor’s address before renumbering and renaming that might’ve happened, and you get a good look at your ancestor’s neighborhood at the time.

Here’s an example of how I used the collection to see where my ancestors lived:

1. Much of my mom's family lived in Covington, Ky., so that’s what I searched for (typing the full state name) in the Search box at the top of the page. Maps were published in 1886 and 1894.

I chose 1886.

2. Next, I looked up a few ancestors’ addresses in city directories. In 1886, Louis Thoss lived and worked at a hardware business at 73 E. 12th st. His mother, Elizabeth, was a widow at the southeast corner (“sec”) of 13th and Garrard. His deceased brother’s widow, Jennie, lived at 165 E. 13th.

3. Each set of maps took up many pages in a book. An index map, labeled Map 1, is the first in the series and shows which page covers each area.

Zoom in on the index map and drag it around to get a better look at street names.

For larger cities, check the last page in the series for a street index that lists which range of house numbers and the map page they’re located on. It also lists “specials,” or major buildings.

The corner of East 13th and Garrard is on Map 30. Jennie's address on East 13th could be on map 29 or 30.

I Googled Louis' address to get a better idea of its location today. It's probably on Map 20, but might be on a different map if houses have been renumbered since Louis’ day.

4. At the top right of the web page, switching from single image to gallery view and clicking Go gets me to the view of all map pages in this set, so I can find and click image 30.

Here's where it helps to check a Google map if you don't know the area. Thirteenth street was shown running north/south, because it was probably positioned horizontally on the page. But in real life, it runs east/west. If I didn't know that, I’d pick the wrong corner of 13th and Garrard. You can rotate the map using controls in the lower right corner.

Elizabeth Thoss lived at No. 133. No. 165 is 11 doors to the east.

5. Elizabeth’s home is mostly pink and some yellow, with numbers and Xes, and the notation “no opgs” on the side. You’ll find a key on the index map page and more information about the colors and symbols here, along with notes such as the area’s population and size of the fire department.

Colors indicate construction materials. Green indicated a high-risk building. The numbers tell how many stories. An X marks a door, and Xes on walls mark windows, with dots for windows on second or higher stories. An O is an iron chimney. Elizabeth’s building was mostly brick (pink) and 2-½ stories, with a 2-story wood (yellow) addition. The front section held a saloon (“sal”), with a dwelling (“Dwg”) in the rear.

6. You can download this map in several formats, all the way up to a TIF, using the Download menu at the lower left.

If you’re looking in New York City, you can use the New York Public Library’s Map Warper to view Sanborn and other old maps layered over modern maps. If not, you can upload your map to Google Earth and do an overlay there. Find a tutorial in the July/August 2015 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Maps
Wednesday, 31 May 2017 20:58:11 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [5]
# Tuesday, 30 May 2017
MyHeritage DNA Releases New & Improved Ethnicity Estimate Reports
Posted by Diane

MyHeritage DNA today releases its new and improved Ethnicity Estimate reporting, which provides your percentages of origins from 42 ethnic regions around the world—more than what's available with other tests. 

These regions are based in part on MyHeritage's Founder Populations Project, which analyzed the DNA of 5,000 individuals whose MyHeritage family trees showed ancestry in the same areas for many generations.

Video results
Uniquely, the ethnicity estimate comes with a short, shareable video presentation enhanced by music that's based on the culture of the ethnicities represented. Here's an example provided by MyHeritage:

MyHeritage DNA’s new Ethnicity Estimate experience from MyHeritage on Vimeo.

42 world regions
But here's a more-important unique feature: According to its announcement, MyHeritage DNA estimates tease apart ethnicities that are grouped together in other companies' DNA tests. The 42 ethnicities include "Balkan, Baltic, Eskimo and Inuit, Japanese, Kenyan, Sierra Leonean, Somali, four major Jewish groups (Ethiopian, Yemenite, Sephardic from North Africa and Mizrahi from Iran and Iraq), Indigenous Amazonian, Papuan and many others."

MyHeritage, headquartered in Israel, is known for its international member base. It'll be interesting to see how my report looks: My Ancestry DNA test reported me at 28 percent Italy/Greece and 4 percent Middle Eastern. I have no known ancestry in Italy or Greece, but my great-grandparents were Lebanese.

Free for those who've uploaded results
The Ethnicity Estimate is free to users who have already uploaded their DNA data to MyHeritage from other services, or who upload it in the coming months. (This offer helps MyHeritage build its DNA results database, important when more-established competitors at Ancestry DNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe already have large databases.)

Another benefit of uploading is free DNA matching to others in the MyHeritage DNA database. Note that different companies test different locations on the autosomal DNA, and they "impute" (or estimate) the DNA values for locations that don't overlap with another company's test. MyHeritage takes the imputed values into account when making matches, so your match list will look different here than it does at the service where you tested.

MyHeritage Chief Science Officer Yaniv Erlich called the ethnicity reporting "an appetizer." "There are excellent installments on the way, and users can prepare for a feast! We have detailed plans to increase accuracy, extend our Founder Populations project further, and improve the resolution for ethnicities of great interest to our users from highly diverse origins."

Genetic Genealogy | MyHeritage
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 11:29:08 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Three New Ways to Learn About Your Ancestor's Military Service
Posted by Diane

On Memorial Day, Americans traditionally place flowers on the graves of those who died in military service (read how this holiday, originally called Decoration Day began). Canadians observe Memorial Day on July 1. 

Library of Congress

Another way to honor your ancestors who served in the armed forces is to learn about their wartime experiences and preserve those stories by writing them down. If it was years ago when you last learned about the wars your ancestors served in, it might be time to give it another go—technology offers new ways to explore historic wars through maps, apps and videos.

Library of Congress

If you can learn the military unit and battles your relative served in (this military research guide can help), military maps let you trace his movements and even where he would've been during battles. The Library of Congress has a Military Battles and Campaigns map collection, which you can search by keyword using the search field at the top of the page. The one above is from a series showing the 12th Army Group from D-Day through July 26, 1945, in World War II.

The David Rumsey Map Collection has digitized military maps and military atlases you can search or browse using the filters on the left side of the page.

For the Civil War and American Revolution, explore the animated and historical maps at the Civil War Trust website. They include overviews of the entire war and for individual battles.

Your smart device can help you access military history information wherever you are. Try searching your device's app store for "military history," "[name of war] history" or "[name of battle] history." A few I found include:
  • Civil War Today ($2.99, iOS): This History Channel app shows you a daily newspaper article about the war.

  • Civil War Trust Battle Apps (free, iOS and Android): These let you virtually tour Civil War battlefields for major battles like Chancellorsville and Antietam, and they're good companions if you're visiting the battlefield. 

  • Military History (.99, iOS): This reference has 1,200 entries for  important military events; search by date and keyword. It also has a "this day in history" feature.

  • 20th Century Military Uniforms (about $4, iOS and Android): View uniforms used by various countries throughout the 20th century.
The Civil War Trust comes through again with educational videos from history experts, including a Civil War In4 series that delves into a topic in four minutes or less.

The National Archives' YouTube channel has playlists including WWI Films, Tuskeegee Airmen and D-Day. The Library of Congress has a YouTube playlist on the Spanish-American War. YouTube also has videos from Ken Burns' documentaries about the Civil War and World War II.

And here's the only known Allied color footage from World War II.

More Genealogy Resources for Military Ancestors
Find websites for researching your ancestors who served in the US Armed Forces in this list of websites and get research tips in our free podcast on military records

In, check out our downloadable, complete guides to research in military service records and military pension records.

Maps | Military records
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 12:44:23 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 03 May 2017
Overlooked Genealogy Resource Alert! 9 Tips to Research at Heritage Museums
Posted by Diane

You’ve searched and FamilySearch, gone to the library and maybe even taken a DNA test to discover your family's immigrant origins. But for a genealogist, just knowing the country or region is rarely enough.

To find records in your family's homeland, you need their town or village. And you probably want to understand how your ancestors lived, what they did for work, what they wore and ate.

Heritage museums give you a look at that culture’s history and people. Many have research centers (an overlooked genealogy resource!) with records such as foreign-language newspapers, maps, photos, histories and more. Staff often can help with research and translation.

Whether your ancestors hail from Germany, Ireland, Eastern Europe, Japan, Africa, Mexico or elsewhere, there’s probably a museum for that—including Family Tree Magazine's roundup of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums.

National Hispanic Cultural Center library, Albuquerque

These tips will help you do your best genealogy research at a heritage museum:
  • Scan the museum website to understand its library holdings and geographic focus. The National Hispanic Cultural Center library in Albuquerque, NM, for example, is a great research destination for those with deep Southwest roots. It has more than 12,500 titles, and an archive with rare books, photos, maps and manuscripts.

  • Search the online catalog (if there is one) for materials you'll want to use.  
  • Call ahead to verify hours and any fees (including acceptable forms of payment), ask about special services such as translation or research consultations. Make an appointment with research center staff if needed.
  • Check the museum's events calendar in case you want to time your visit for a family history workshop or cultural festival (such as Historic Huguenot Street's annual Gathering).
  • Find out about research room rules. For example, you may need to request materials ahead of time so they can be pulled for you, or use only pencils for note-taking.
  • Bring a pedigree chart with as much information as you know. Summarize what you’ve learned about immigrant relatives, even if all you have is stories. “If your family talks about your great-grandfather who always went to the river to catch fish, that can be a clue to a geographic area,” says Karile Vaitikute of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago.
  • Bring good-quality, full-color copies or high-resolution digital images of any records needing translation.
  • Consider becoming a museum member or making a donation, especially if the research center charges minimal fees. Send a thank-you note to acknowledge help you received.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i Tokioka Heritage Resource Center, Honolulu

See Family Tree Magazine's list of 11 Must-Visit Heritage Museums here.

To find museums focusing on your family's heritage, search online for the country or ethnicity plus the words heritage, history or cultural and museum. Add the name of a city or town to narrow results to places in that area.

Libraries and Archives | Museums
Wednesday, 03 May 2017 12:35:44 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #  Comments [8]