Sunday, May 6, 2012

Old (and Not So Old) New York



If a picture is worth a thousand words, than a collection of a million pictures is worth...well, you do the math. But the New York City Department of Records new photo gallery includes about 900,000 online images, which is pretty close to a million (and the numbers are growing steadily as they add new content).

John Conlan, Coney Island Lifeguard and 50-yd Dash Winner (1922)
These are mostly photos, but the collection also includes maps, films and audio files. The material looks to be mostly 20th century, though some 19th century images from as far back as the 1850's are included.

Since so many immigrants passed through NYC, the collection is definitely worth a visit to search for your family history. With luck, you may even come across a photo of your ancestor's house from old NYC tax records.

A simple search on a surname will quickly show you if anything of interest is available. Used the Advanced Search to fine tune your search results. Click the Add to Workspace button to open the highest resolution picture available at the site, or the Buy Print button to purchase a hi-rez copy.

You can read more about the collection in this NYC Department of Records announcement.


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. Also worth a read: What's the Most Common Phrase in English?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Free Help for the National Archives -- Know Your Records


The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, DC

Usually, here at FreeGenealogyTools, we're highlighting digital resources you can access for free.

Today, we (and I'm using the royal we...it's really just me) are turning the tables a bit. The Know Your Records (KYR) program at the National Archives is asking for some free help from you.

KYR is a pretty cool program of seminars, newsletters and other outreach activities designed to introduce history researchers to the amazing collections at the National Archives. Most of KYR's activities have only been available in the Washington DC area. Now, KYR wants to put some of its videos online. Their genealogy lectures -- they've hosted hundreds over the years -- have covered topics like:
  • Access to Archival Databases (AAD) for Genealogists
  • Passport Applications, 1795–1925
  • Alien Files (A-Files) for Genealogy Research
  • The Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company: A Gold Mine for Black and White Genealogists
  • World War II Finding Aid
  • Documenting Death in the Civil War
Good stuff! They even have specialty sessions on using Ancestry.com and other commercial family history resources that include NARA records.

Anyway, KYR wants your vote! Let NARA know which presentations you'd most like to see posted online at YouTube and iTunes U. Your votes will determine what new videos get posted...but you don't have to wait to get the flavor of what's available. A few KYR videos are already online at YouTube:
Have fun.


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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Get Ready For the 1940 Census


Pie Town, New Mexico in the 1940s
The Wells Fargo wagon isn't the only thing that's a'coming.

The National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) will publicly release the 1940 Census records on April 2, 2012.

The 1940 Census will be available online. But it won't be searchable by name, at least not at the outset. Scuttlebutt has it that the National Archives will eventually provide name search capability. Even if they don't, I'm sure Ancestry.com will have it up and running in fairly short order.

But for starters, the only online option is to browse the 1940 Census according to what the Census Bureau calls enumeration districts, which are essentially the territory covered by a single census taker. If you know a person's address in 1940, you can figure out their enumeration district and peruse the relevant Census forms.

It's not necessarily easy, but it's not too difficult either. NARA has a detailed set of instructions for locating the 1940 enumeration district using Archive records. They also offer a description of the information available from 1940 Census forms, along with a page of FAQs about the 1940 Census.

Steve Morse, one of the gurus of online genealogy, has created several helpful online tools for tracking down the proper enumeration district.

I hope your breath is appropriately bated, as this will be one huge new data source for family history researchers.

Have fun.


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, November 18, 2011

The Wacky World of the Internet Archive

There are oodles of war records at the Internet Archvie

The Internet Archive is a wonderful-yet-peculiar hodgepodge of digital materials, including many thousands of items under the heading, Genealogy.

You'll find a little bit of everything here. Census records, military musters, court filings, ship manifests, old newspapers, family histories, vital records...etc, etc.

Some of the material is full-text searchable, some of it is image only. I haven't found a single comprehensive index of what's available, and the materials themselves aren't always well-described. Here's the master list of the available genealogy categories:

  • United States Census -- 23,614 items
  • Records of military units in volunteer Confederate organizations -- 536 items
  • Records of military units in volunteer Union organizations -- 225 items
  • Eastern Cherokee applications of the U.S. Court of Claims -- 348 items
  • Family Genealogies -- 1,805 items
  • Family History Book Collection -- 436 items
  • Passenger and Crew Vessel Lists for New York, NY 1897-1957 -- 7,128 items
  • Passenger Lists of Vessels for Baltimore and Philadelphia 636 items
  • Passengers arriving in the St. Albans, VT District 1,027 items
  • Passport Applications, 1795-1905 - 694 items
  • Records of the Cotton Bureau, Confederate War Department 53 items
  • Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands -- 453 items
  • Records relating to War of 1812 -- 454 items
  • Registers of Births -- 3,139 items
  • Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards 2,544 items
  • United States Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes -- 494 items
  • War Records -- 44 items

There are some unusual materials here, including several Indian and African-American histories.  And don't think these are all U.S. materials as there are quite a number of resources from other countries and in several non-English languages.

This is a resource to browse and explore. Your odds are pretty good that you'll come across something that's relevant to your own family history quest.

If you find a needle in the Internet Archive haystack, let us know by leaving a comment. 

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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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Limited Time Offer...Free Access to (Some of) Ancestry.com



It's not like me to reproduce a press release, but I'll make an exception in this case, since it comes from Ancestry.com and offers (briefly!) some free access to an important genealogy tool.  So, without further ado...



ANCESTRY.COM OFFERS FREE ACCESS
TO IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION RECORDS

Week of Free Access Enables Families
to Discover Stories of Ancestors
International Travels and Passage

PROVO, UTAH  (August 29, 2011)  Ancestry.com, the world?s largest online family history resource, today announced an entire week of free access to its popular U.S. and International Immigration and Naturalization records. The free access week begins August 29th and runs through the Labor Day holiday ending September 5th. During this time, all visitors to Ancestry.com will be able to search for free the indices and images of new and updated U.S. immigration records as well as selected international immigration records from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. Millions of Americans can trace their family history to other countries, and these collections provide valuable information about the travels and journeys that brought them to America or other countries around the world.

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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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tracking Down Veterans

The VA can help track down veterans.

A veteran may be the key to unlocking some of your family history. Perhaps a soldier is a long-last family member. Or a veteran may have served with your grandfather, father, brother or uncle (or grandmother, mother, sister or aunt) and have information that can help fill in the details of your family tree.

The problem, of course, is finding a veteran whose name doesn't show up in the phone book or any other of the usual people-find resources.

The Department of Veterans Affairs can help! Write a letter to the veteran you want to contact. Then write a seperate note to the VA explaining who you want to contact -- name, branch (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force), unit and any other information you have. If they have an address on file, Veterans  Affairs will forward your letter to the veteran in question.

With luck, the soldier gets back in touch with you, and your investigation begins.

P.S. And, of course, you can use this to find buddies you served with, even if genealogy isn't the reason.

Intelius - Public Records Information

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.