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# Friday, 31 August 2007
How to Find Records of an Accidental Death
Posted by Diane

Q I have a family note that says Robert Samuel Robinson (born Sept. 18, 1877, in Chaffey, Muskoka County, Ontario, Canada), died in "western USA" Aug. 11, 1901, and that it was a work-related death. It had to do with electricity, according to family story. I'd love to get a copy of a death certificate and any newspaper articles about the accident, and then to really push my luck, a photo of his grave marker. (Posted by Tracy on the Forum.)

A You may not be lucky enough to find a death certificate, as most states—particularly those in the then-relatively unsettled US West—didn’t mandate recording of deaths until after 1901. (See our chart of statewide vital-recordkeeping dates.) Occasionally, counties or cities recorded deaths before the state required death certificates, so it’s worth checking with the county clerk where he died.

An accidental death also might have generated other records, including coroner’s reports, coroner’s inquests (if the coroner found negligence or intention),
and, as you mentioned, cemetery records and newspaper articles. Depending whom Robert worked for, his employer might’ve had to fill out paperwork for a work-related accident.

It sounds like your first problem is you don’t know where Robert was at the time of his death. You’ll need that information to find coroner’s records, which are kept at city or county coroner offices (they also may have been transferred to the state archives and/or microfilmed by the Family History Library, which has branch Family History Centers around the world).

Finding historical newspaper articles, in most cases, also requires you to know where he lived. You might get lucky and find Robert by searching a database of digitized, indexed newspapers, such as the subscription sites GenealogyBank and World Vital Records (see our news blog for more information on World Vital Records' newspaper databases). But most newspapers haven’t been indexed and digitized, so you’d need to use a directory such as the Library of CongressChronicling America to find newspapers covering his area. Then you could see if a library near you has the paper on microfilm, or try to borrow it through interlibrary loan.

I’d suggest searching a 1900 US census database to see if you can pin down a location for Robert in that year. Continue your research on his earlier life, which could turn up information on where and when he moved to the United States. You also should examine your research and family papers on his parents, siblings and other relatives—information on them might give clues to Robert’s whereabouts.

Check online cemetery records, such as Find A Grave and Cemetery Junction, just in case he’s in one of them. Likely, though, you won't find his burial place until you can learn where he died.

It also might help to do a little historical research on electricity-related happenings in 1901, such as cities that were getting electric power. This article, for example, discusses the dangers of electricity between 1901 and 1909.

birth/death records
Friday, 31 August 2007 14:53:56 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Monday, 20 August 2007
Make a Resolution: Viewing Online Photos
Posted by Diane

Q Momto3boyz asks this question on the Forum: My cousin put some pictures on a family Web site. When I pull them up, most of them come up in thumbnail sizes. When I try to zoom in or enlarge them so I can see the faces, I lose the sharpness of the pictures. Any suggestions on how I can enlarge these pictures?

A How you can view images on a Web site depends mostly on the person who posted the images.

You could copy the thumbnail images to your desktop by right-clicking on each one, then selecting the Save to Desktop option (on a Mac, you’d control-click the photo or simply drag it onto your desktop). Then you could zoom in by opening the photo in an image viewer such as Picture Viewer (Preview for Macs). But as you've found, you won’t be able to see much detail anyway.

That’s because Web standards call for posting photos at a relatively low resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch). This reduces a photo’s file size so the Web page won’t take forever to load. So usually, if you try to take an image off most Web sites and enlarge it for your family history book, say, the image looks blurry and pixilated, like this:

Your cousin may have intended to link the thumbnail photos to larger versions of the images (as we did for this Photo Detective column), but forgotten to do so.

Your best bet is to ask your cousin to send you higher-resolution versions of the photos—that means 300 dpi, which is the resolution needed if you want to print out the image with the same dimensions as the original. If you want to print out a larger photo, you'll need an even higher resolution.

When you scan a photo, you can select the resolution in your scanner settings—see the owner's manual for help with this. Likewise, if you have a digital camera, you can set it to take low- or high-resolution photos.

The photo on this Photo Detective blog posting, for example, is high resolution so you can examine its detail. Save it to your desktop, open it an image viewer and zoom in, and you’ll see what I mean.

Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Monday, 20 August 2007 17:11:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Immigrants Who Didn't Arrive at Ellis Island
Posted by Diane

Q My grandfather Anthony Borges was an immigrant from the island Sao Jorge in the Azores [Portugal], and I’m looking for records of his arrival in America. I’ve tried Ellis Island and found nothing. (Posted by Mumsy on the Forum.)

A Ellis Island is the best-known US immigration port, so many people assume their ancestors arrived there.

Don't stop your search at Ellis Island. Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans and San Francisco also were major immigration ports, but immigrants could arrive in just about any coastal city.

You didn’t say what year your grandfather came to America. Ellis Island opened in 1892 and closed in 1954. And the passenger database you searched covers only arrivals from 1892 to 1924 (you can find this information in the site's search tips).

Sometimes database creators had a hard time reading the original records, so passengers’ names might be misspelled. If you're sure your grandfather arrived at Ellis Island, search for alternate spellings, or use Stephen P. Morse’s Ellis Island One-Step search form.

If you know your ancestor’s port, you can find his passenger record on microfilm at the National Archives and Records Administration, the Family History Library and most large public libraries.

What if you don’t know the port? You can narrow the possibilities by researching his life in the United States. You also may get lucky with a searchable immigration database. The subscription site has one; a version called Ancestry Library Edition is free at many libraries.

My quick search returned a Canadian border-crossing record (below) for an Anthony Borges born in 1904 in St. Marie in the Azores. This man arrived first in Canada and traveled to Niagara Fall, NY, on Sept. 7, 1933.

This was the first of many matches for people named Antonio Borges, so if the man in this record isn't your grandfather, try an search.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007 20:25:48 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Wednesday, 08 August 2007
How to Find Civil War Records in State Archives
Posted by Diane

Q I have my ancestors’ Civil War service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. Do military records offered by some states contain different information? I’m wondering whether it’s worthwhile to check those records, too.

A State archives’ Civil War collections often differ greatly from the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSRs) and pension files available from NARA.

States may hold soldiers' letters, regimental histories, Civil War-era newspapers, Grand Army of the Republic post records, veterans' cemetery indexes, soldiers' home records and more. (Archives of formerly Confederate states also have pension records. Those aren’t at NARA because the federal government didn’t pay Confederate soldiers’ pensions.)

For example, the Ohio archives has correspondence to the state’s governor and adjutant general dating from 1859 through 1862 (series 147, volume 42). In May and June, 1862, Col. John W. Fuller and Maj. Z.S. Spaulding of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry 27th Regiment wrote Adjutant General C.W. Hill, describing their encampment and recommending various promotions.

Since state Civil War collections are so varied, I can’t say whether the information would be different from what’s in your ancestors’ CMSRs. But even if the state record doesn't have previously unknown details, You'll have new evidence of your ancestor's presence at the place and time the record was created.

If my ancestor were in the Ohio 27th, I’d want to know whether his commanding officers had anything to say about him, and where he was in June, 1862. (You can browse abstracts of these letters, as well an index to Ohio prisoners at Andersonville and a guide to Civil War-related primary source collections, on the archives’ Web site.)

Start by searching your ancestral state archives' online catalog for Civil War-era materials related to your ancestor, his regiment, or the county and town where he lived. Likely, you won’t know from the catalog listing whether the source mentions your ancestor, so you may have to visit the archives or contact an archivist for help.

You might be able to save yourself the trip by borrowing materials through interlibrary loan, ordering photocopies of documents or seeing if the Family History Library has microfilmed copies (which you can rent through a Family History Center).

Check local historical society and university libraries for Civil War collections, too.

And learn nine steps to researching your Civil War ancestors in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine. You can get bonus information and links to additional resources—including those at the state level—on our Web site.

military records
Wednesday, 08 August 2007 14:55:51 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]