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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]
# Wednesday, February 18, 2009
How to Convert Old Slides to Digital
Posted by Diane

Q. I have some 35mm slides that I want to put on my computer. Also, the color on these pictures has turned red. What’s the best method to save these slides?

A. If you have a flatbed scanner, you may be able to find a special attachment for scanning slides, but these don’t always produce good results. Nowadays, you can get a slide converter, such as VuPoint’s film and slide converter or the Imagelab Instant Slide Scanner, for around $100 to $150.

See a demo of a converter here.

Alternatively, your local photo lab may be able to convert the slides for you, or you can use a service (great for large quantities) such as ScanDigital or ScanMyPhotos.

Color shifting in slides is common, says photo expert Maureen A. Taylor. “To slow the process, store color photographic materials such as prints and slides in a dark, cool place that is not subject to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Large archives actually store their color materials in refrigerated vaults.”

Though it may not be possible to return the images to their brand-new appearance, most professional services can correct the color and remove scratch marks. Do-it-yourselfers can use photo-editing software such as Adobe PhotoShop Express (free online).

Make sure you save the unedited scans as TIF files, a format that does the best job of preserving image quality. Make copies of the images to edit. Store the edited copies as high-resolution TIFs, too. For sharing or posting online, copy the edited files as JPGs (which reduces file size).

Finally, be sure to back up your digitized images. The best way is with an online storage service.  Mozy is one; see more back-up services in PC Magazine’s online review. You also can save the files to an external hard drive kept in a location away from your home. Give copies to family, too.


Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 4:58:33 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [5]
# 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]