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# Thursday, February 26, 2009
Using WWII Army Enlistment Records
Posted by Diane

Q. How do I use the WWII Army Enlistment information on Footnote? I found my grandfather within seconds. There was no document image, but the source information gave box, card and reel numbers. How do I use those numbers to find the document?

A. The WWII Army enlistment records that are free on Footnote (as part of its WWII Hero Pages collection) and other genealogy database sites come from the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system.

Search the enlistments on AAD here. It has records of approximately 9 million men and women who enlisted in the US Army, including the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, between 1938 and 1946.

The Army used punch cards to record the information. It microfilmed the cards after World War II, then destroyed them.

Normally, we'd advise genealogists to go right from an index or transcription to the microfilmed or paper record. But in this case, if you look at the film (which is what Footnote’s source citation numbers refer to), you’d just see cards with a series of holes in them.

NARA acquired the microfilm in 1959, and later digitized it and ran it through a “reader” to code the meaning of the punches. About 13 percent of the cards couldn’t be read due to poor microfilm quality, and an estimated 35 percent of the remaining records contain a scanning error (though NARA says few of these errors are in the name field).

I compared my own grandfather’s enlistment record on Footnote and in AAD, and both sites had the same information, though Footnote’s version is a bit easier to search and is presented in a more user-friendly format.

So what use is the information when there’s no original record to look at? The serial number, enlistment information and branch of service will help if you want to request military service records.

WWII service records are at the National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center. Due to privacy restrictions, you may need permission from your grandfather or his next of kin, or proof your grandfather is deceased. See this NPRC Web page for more details (scroll to the OMPF—Official Military Personnel Files—section). Note a large number of service records were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the NPRC.

You also can mine the enlistment record for clues to other research avenues and details to put in your grandfather’s life chronology. For example, the enlistment record can help you confirm a birth year and place, marital status, and place of residence at the time of enlistment.

It gives the person’s education level and shows how the government categorized your grandfather’s employment (my grandfather was grouped with “Messengers, errand boys, and office boys and girls”).

If some piece of information seems out of place, remember those scanning errors and look for confirmation in other records.


military records | Web tips
Thursday, February 26, 2009 3:12:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Which Genealogy Database Site Is Worth Your Money?
Posted by Diane

Q. How do subscription genealogy Web sites, such as Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com and Footnote, compare? In today's economy I want to get the most value for my money, and I can only subscribe to one.

A. When people ask us which genealogy data site is the best, our answer is “The one that has the records you need is the right one for you.”

Think about what records you’d use most, and then see which sites have them. If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want US census and immigration records. WWI draft cards are helpful, since virtually every man born from 1872 to 1900 (and living in the US in 1917 and 1918) registered.

Newspapers and city directories can fill gaps between censuses. Did your ancestors serve in the military? See which sites have records for wars they fought in.

Also check database sites coverage of places your ancestors lived—particularly if you've progressed to international research—as well as nationalities and ethnic groups they belonged to, such as American Indian or African-American records.

Databases in major sites are way too numerous to list them all. Here’s an overview and links to learn more about each site. Make sure you verify whether a collection of interest covers the right area and time period. Sometimes a site has, say, naturalization records from certain areas or years.
  • Ancestry.com: This site has the advantage when it comes to amount of content. Major databases include US census images and indexes, passenger and border-crossing lists for US ports, WWI and WWII draft registration cards, passport applications, newspapers, and family and local histories.
To see what might be useful, go to the catalog and run a keyword search on a place your ancestors lived or a type of record. Note that database names vary—a birth index might be called “Smith County Vital Records,” “Birth Certificates, Smith County” or something else. The US deluxe membership costs $155.40 per year, $50.85 for three months or $19.95 for one month
  • Genealogy.com: The Generations Network has neglected this site, instead devoting resources to Ancestry.com (which has Genealogy.com records). Subscriptions range from $69.99 to $199.99, but you'll probably get more value elsewhere.
  • Footnote: This site focuses on US records, with many records from the National Archives. Civil War content is strong, including Southern Claims Commission records, the 1860 census, and ongoing scanning of Civil War soldiers’ service records and widows’ pension records. You’ll also find Revolutionary War records, naturalizations, small-town newspapers, WWII photos and more.
Subscriptions run $69.95 per year (there’s a $10 off deal this month) or $11.95 per month. Or, for most collections, you can purchase a record for $1.95. Click here to see a content listing.
  • World Vital Records: This site excels at partnering with other sites (many of them free) to aggregate content in one place. That includes Ellis Island passenger lists and immigration indexes from the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild and the National Archives, small-town newspapers, yearbooks, family histories, and UK censuses. Click the green View All Databases button at the top left of the home page, then select a country or record type.
The US subscription is 39.96 per year or 5.95 for a month. The World subscription is 119.40 per year or 14.95 for a month.
  • GenealogyBank: This site has a huge collection of searchable historical newspapers, books and documents. Go here to see the titles. If you take advantage of the introductory offer, the price is $69.95 per year or $19.95 for a month.
  • FindMyPast.com: Major collections at this UK site include British censuses, military records and outbound passenger lists (many immigrants traveled through British ports, even if they didn’t live in Britain). Click here to see a database list.
Subscriptions range from around $21.50 for 30 days to $129 for a year. You also can pay as you go by purchasing credits (60 for $10 or 280 for $36; they’re good for a limited time) and exchanging them for record views.
  • Genline: Here, you can search virtually all Swedish church records. Its flexibility helps the budget-conscious—subscriptions range from one day ($9) to a year ($245).
For links to even more genealogy database sites, see Cyndi's List.

If you can’t fulfill all your research needs at one site, consider monthly subscriptions to multiple sites. Need only one or two collections from a site? See if you can get the information free. Many libraries offer HeritageQuest Online (federal censuses, family and local histories), NewsBank (newspapers) and ProQuest Historical Newpapers free to patrons both on-site and remotely from home.

Your library may offer on-site access to Ancestry Library Edition, a version of Ancestry.com. At a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Family History Center, you can use World Vital Records, Footnote and others. Of course, FamilySearch is adding to its record search pilot all the time, and that’s free from any computer connected to the Internet.

Readers, what genealogy database(s) would you recommend? Click Comments to tell us. See the March 2009 Family Tree Magazine for more money-saving genealogy advice.


genealogy basics | Web tips
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 6:51:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Thursday, June 19, 2008
Plot Ancestors' Lives With Online Mapping Tools
Posted by Diane

Q. I heard about a site that can help me find places in Chicago where my ancestors lived. What is it and how does it work?

A. You’re thinking about ChicagoAncestors.org, an interactive online mapping tool, created by the Windy City’s Newberry Library.

Type in an address, and you’ll get a map showing the location, along with nearby churches, sites of crimes and more. Roll over the map markers for each place to see data such as addresses, dates, related library resources or links to online images. (The data come from other history-related projects, such as Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930 and the Historic American Buildings Survey.)

There’s also a keyword search box, so you could type in St. Thomas, for example, to see locations of churches with that name. Registered ChicagoAncestors.org users can customize maps by adding their own map points, and comment on existing map points. Check the Tools section for documents that help you convert addresses predating the sweeping 1909 street renumbering.

Descendants of Bostonians can take advantage of a similar tool. Tufts University’s Boston Streets features Cowpaths, a map-based tool named for the cute but false story that Boston streets meander because they trace old bovine trails.

You can use it to plot information from the Boston Streets' databases of street scene photos, city directories and historical atlases. Users can either search those databases first and then click to plot matching places in Cowpaths, or start in Cowpaths by assigning different search criteria to up to four map layers. Use the illustrated Cowpaths primer for more-detailed instructions.
   
Those whose families didn’t live in Chicago or Boston can use good old Google to create a map showing a neighborhood over time, and where relatives lived. Start by going to Google maps and clicking Sign In, then creating a profile (if you don’t already have a Google account). You’ll be able to import images and add text and markers. You also can let others view and/or edit your maps.

A FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum member used features in Google Maps to find a street-image view of her grandparents'  former home. You can see then-and-now shots in her post.


land records | Web tips
Thursday, June 19, 2008 3:04:02 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Monday, December 10, 2007
Untangling Terms of Use
Posted by Allison

Q I wanted to use a Web site such as Kodak, Shutterfly, PhotoWorks or Snapfish to order a mousepad with my ancestors’ photos on it. But all these sites’ terms of use state that I have to give up my rights to the photos! For example, PhotoWorks' terms say, "You hereby grant to PhotoWorks, Inc. non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use, publish, copy, modify, transmit, display and distribute your Content for the purpose of delivering the Service and warrant that you have a right to grant such a license. In addition, you warrant that all moral rights in any Content and uploaded materials have been waived and do hereby waive any such moral rights." I feel that if I use the service of one of these companies, I’ve already paid it for the service, therefore it does not--and should not--have any rights to my photos. Why do  these companies think they should be able to do this?

A You'll find this type of standard disclaimer when you use any photo Web site. Unfortunately, all the legal mumbo jumbo and complicated wording make most companies’ terms of use, er, challenging for the average consumer to understand. We’re not legal experts and therefore can’t offer legal opinions. But as scary as this clause may sound, it doesn’t appear that PhotoWorks is trying to take away any rights from its customers. Let’s look at it one part at a time.

1) The first key phrase is "for the purpose of delivering the service." In order to produce your calendar, put your photos on a CD, create an album, or make whatever product you've ordered, the company of course has to digitally reproduce, possibly edit and print your photo. Therefore, you'll be required to legally grant the company the right to use your photo. You're only giving the company the right to create the product you asked it to, nothing else.

2) You grant this right "non-exclusively"--meaning that you also can extend your rights to anyone or any other company you wish.

3) The statement "[you] warrant that you have a right to grant such a license" is also important: It's an acknowledgment that you actually have the copyright or permission to use the photos you upload. This statement protects the company against legal action if a customer reproduces photographs illegally. For example, say you get your kid's picture taken at Olan Mills, then you scan one of the photos and upload it to PhotoWorks so you can order a product. That's a violation of copyright law, because professional photo studios almost always copyright their work (that way, you have to buy the photos from that studio). It would be impossible for PhotoWorks or any such site to vet all the photos its users upload. By PhotoWorks' inclusion of this statement, Olan Mills (in this example) couldn't sue PhotoWorks if PhotoWorks' users were reproducing Olan Mills' copyrighted photographs without the studio’s permission.

4) "Moral rights" has nothing to do with morality, but with the copyright holder's right to attribution and to the integrity of the work (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_rights). Again, in my not-legal opinion, by "waiving moral" rights, you're waiving your right to have a "credit line" on a PhotoWorks products and allowing the company to "change" the image by affixing it to a coffee mug etc.

When you boil it down, what PhotoWorks is asking is common-sense stuff and shouldn’t raise red flags for most family historians. Of course, some services or companies may include some terms of use that you simply don’t agree with—which is why we encourage consumers not to ignore them. If you see something that concerns you, you can choose not to use that service—before it’s too late.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips | copyright
Monday, December 10, 2007 5:00:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Family Tree- and Photo-Sharing Web Sites
Posted by Diane

Q We received this question via our MySpace page: I’ve heard about Web sites that will host pictures to give my family its own sharing place of current pictures of our kids (considering we're all over the United States). Do any of these also have a genealogical chart you can fill in?

A It sounds like you could use a family-oriented social networking Web site. Many of these sites let you upload photos, build a family tree online (you may even be able to upload a GEDOCM to cut down on data entry), create profile pages for family members and even add important dates to calendars.

Usually, you can opt to keep your family’s pages private by giving everyone a password, and you can also grant certain people editing privileges.

You’re in luck! The January 2008 Family Tree Magazine (now on newsstands and at FamilyTreeMagazine.com) has an overview of genealogy social networking sites. Here are some family-photo sharing sites that also let you create a genealogy chart:

Amiglia offers basic tree-building (when our reviewer checked, you couldn’t enter places or events besides birth and death), photo- and video-sharing. There’s a free trial period; after that, the site costs $49.95 per year.

Geni is a graphically cool site where you can upload photos and add a calendar and a family tree (with dates and places of birth and death, but not baptisms and burials). Our reviewer found navigation easy, and the site is free.

Ancestry.com Member Trees is also free, but after you add a tree, you’ll see “shaky leaves” that indicate Ancestry.com’s subscription-only databases may have records on your ancestors. Member Trees lets you add photos and video clips with searchable descriptions, and create a book using Ancestry Press.

MyHeritage offers an easy way to type information into a tree, or a more-elaborate, downloadable Family Tree Builder. You also can upload photos. The free Basic plan limits storage space; you also can choose a paid plan for $2.95 to $9.95 per month.

If your family’s on Facebook, relatives can upload a program called Family Tree to their profiles and use it to create a pedigree chart. See the Genealogy Insider blog for more information.

With the capabilities of Web 2.0, these sites are updated frequently and new social networking sites are popping up all the time. If the whole family will be using the site, let other people weigh in on which you choose.

Readers: Which family social networking sites would you recommend? Any tips for families that use a site? Click Comment to post here, or add your two cents to our Web Watch Forum.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos | Web tips
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 4:59:36 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [7]
# Friday, October 05, 2007
Tracking down Contact Information
Posted by Grace

Q I want to contact a person who posted on a genealogy message board a few years ago, but the e-mails bounce back. How can I get in touch with this person?

A It happens all too often: A Web search for an ancestor turns up a nugget of information on a message board, but when you try to contact the person—no dice. First, check out the poster's user profile. If it includes a personal Web site, visit to look for updated contact information. If you're not that lucky, look next for a full name in the profile or the original posting.

You can then search for the name in an online directory such as Yahoo! People Search or Switchboard. Doing a Google search for the name may turn up some contact information as well, though this will be more helpful if you're looking for a Heidi Kryschek-Horowitz than if you're scouting a Steve Smith.

Another tactic is to search Google for the person's message board username—people often use the same ID on different sites. GenieFreak293 may show up with more-recent activity on other forums.

You can take this as a lesson in genealogical karma. Whenever you get a new e-mail address, always update your contact information on all the Web sites where you've posted queries. Or sign up for a free, Web-based e-mail account at Gmail or Yahoo! to use just for genealogy correspondence—then you'll never need to change your e-mail address.


black sheep ancestors | Web tips
Friday, October 05, 2007 5:06:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]