Saturday, September 13, 2014

Revisiting FamilySearch



FamilySearch, where the 21st century meets the past

It's time to check back in to FamilySearch.org.

The site has grown enormously in the past few years and become considerably more user-friendly. For any serious family history researcher, it is an essential resource. But it's also worth a visit for the merely curious, for searching for a lost friend or relative, or simply to marvel at the depth of the collection here.

FamilySearch, a service of the Latter Day Saints, bills itself as "...the largest genealogical organization in the world".  I don't know exactly how you go about measuring something like that, but still, their stats are impressive: more than 3 billion names on record, almost 5,000 service centers around the world and even 24/7 telephone support. And it's all free!

The main tool at FamilySearch is their Search function, which quickly peruses billions of records from hundreds of sources ranging from Alabama Births and Christenings to Zimbabwe Death Notices. There are specialty searches as well, such as a quick look through 150,000 online genealogy books.

FamilySearch is also a place where you and other family members can collaborate to build a family tree, store documents and photos, and ask for help from other researchers. And naturally, there's an app for your phone.

You don't need to register at the site to get started, although registration (which, of course, is free) lets you save and post in certain places that wouldn't otherwise be available.


 Don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com as well as Newspapers.com and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Forces Reunited: Searching UK Military Records


There are two things I like to find in a family history research tool: (1) a large set of names to search on, ideally, a million or more, and (2) a price tag of absolute zero! You just can't beat free family history searches.

The Military Records Search at Forces Reunited does the job on both counts, though it just squeaks by on #2...you can search for free, and get preliminary results on members of the UK military, both present and past.  But if you want the full record, you'll need to subscribe to the Forces Reunited site.

Still, a million-plus records makes for a pretty good, powerful search, and the free results are enough to let you know if there's more information in the dataset that makes it worthwhile to sign up for the full service.

Masters of the Hound ca WWI

The records themselves are a combination of publicly available information, along with information voluntarily submitted directly by members of the Forces Reunited website.  These latter records are a large set of data in their own right, and are not going to be found anywhere else.

There are also good military history search tools at the site for information on different services (Army, Air Force, Marines, etc), or individual corps, regiments, units, or conflicts.

Earlier posts here at Free Genealogy Tools have covered other military databases in the UK that are good family history resources, including the Debt of Honour Register (WWI and WWII deaths), and, stepping back a few centuries, Soldiers and Knights from the 14th and 15th centuries.



Don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Free Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly



I have a lot of links for you today, with just a little background, and a little diatribe.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps were drawn up for many cities and towns in the late 1800's and early to mid-1900's.  They are wonderful sources of insight and detail on how and where your ancestors lived and worked.

The maps list almost all buildings, streets, places of work, parks, schools, many residences, and town/city layouts.  Maps from different years show changing street names, boundaries, and land use.  You even get to find out if a factory had sprinkler systems, elevators, and was made of brick, wood, or stone...the maps are that detailed.

A fair number of Sanborn maps have been digitized, and are available in free online collections.  That's the good.  The collections are sometimes infuriatingly difficult to browse, with very large maps being made available a small window at a time, with limited panning and zoom tools; that's the bad.  The maps are never ugly, however...quite the opposite (I just wanted to throw ugly in the title).  So without further ado, here are some links to online, free collections of Sanborn insurance maps (and maps from a few other sources, as well).


There are many more such maps in hardcopy and microfilm collections; check with your community library or town/county historical society for local resources.

Don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Half a *billion* free records from Ancestry.com, at WorldConnect


Talk about large databases!

Forget millions, WorldConnect gets you more than half a billion records. Just about everyone's family history is reflected here, to some degree, so certainly pay a visit to this powerful and free genealogical search tool.

WorldConnect is a collection of family tree information that follow the GEDCOM format -- Genealogical Data Communications. GEDCOM allows family tree data from different systems to 'talk' to one another through a common format.

The format was developed by the Mormon Church (the folks who brought you FamilySearch), and WorldConnect is housed at Rootsweb, which is run by Ancestry.com. This may well be Ancestry's largest database, but unlike its other, subscription-based resources, you can access this data at no charge.

Searching is easy. Just be sure to use the actual WorldConnect search boxes, rather than searching at the advertised sites on the page, which also have First Name/Last Name search boxes.


A piece of George Washington's family history


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more information. And don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

NewspaperArchive.com

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

World War I and World War II British Commonwealth Deaths


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the Debt of Honour Register, with 1.7 million names of Commonwealth soldiers killed during WWI and WWII. The Register includes some civilian casualties from the Second World War as well.

The scope of the database is as vast as the British Empire itself. Most of the names are from major Commonwealth countries -- UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and India.

But the actual burial sites of the dead can be found pretty much worldwide: 15,000 names in Israel and Palestine, 52,000 in Egypt, 7,000 in Libya, 38,000 in Burma (Myanmar), 29,000 in Singapore, 55,000 in Tanzania, 37,000 in Turkey, 6,000 in China, 62,000 in India.

If you have family history with any English, UK or Commonwealth roots, this easy-to-use site is certainly a database to explore.



Don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.


Australian infantryman

Monday, August 11, 2014

National Gravesite Locator for Veterans


The US Department of Veterans Affairs has amassed an online database of the burial sites for more than five million veterans.

The Nationwide Gravesite Locator can help families, friends, and fellow veterans locate the cemeteries and plots for veterans from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and any other military service.

Records can be searched on last name (full name, or a 'begins with' search). You can search the US as a whole, or specific cemeteries.

Search results include name, rank, date of birth and death, war service, and burial location.

For overseas burials, use the databases maintained by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which include foreign burial records for the Mexican and Spanish-American Wars, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and the War in Vietnam. 



Don't forget to also check for your family history at
Ancestry.com and NewspaperArchive.com. Yes, these are subscription databases, but they are also among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots