Monday, August 31, 2009

How Popular Are You? (In a Family History Sense, That Is)



Here's just a quick look at some surname tools that are interesting from a family history perspective, but truth be told, they're mostly just fun.

The Census Bureau has a big list of Frequently Occurring Surnames From Census 2000.  Actually, there are several lists of last name rankings:

The Top Ten Surnames.  Smith leads the way, showing up 2,376,206 times in the 2000 Census.

The full Top Ten list is right here.

The list of the Top 1000 Names  can be downloaded from the Census site.

So can another ranking list with 151,671 surnames that occurred 100 times or more in the 2000 Census (the list is configured to fit in a standard spreadsheet).

There are similar lists of rankings of first names from the 1990 Census.

There's also an interesting (albeit technical) paper on the challenges of counting Hispanic surnames, with a list in the Appendix of the Most Common "Heavily Hispanic" Surnames.

There are other good surname tools out there.  Name Facts, at Whitepages.com, provides stats even on really rare names (like mine, which doesn't show up on the Census lists).  It even shows a map of geographical distributions for your family name.  The Social Security Death Index is another good, quick way to gauge the popularity or rarity of a particular name.  Enter just a last name (or just a first name, for that matter) and see how many results turn up.

I like having an unusual last name.  It makes family history research so much easier...almost everything that I find is actually related to my ancestors in one way or another.

If my last name was Smith, on the other hand...Hoo Boy!  Talk about too much of a good thing!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Anacleto Ebooks: Worth a Look for a Quick Family History Search


One of the frustrations of the internet is how scattered much of the information can be.  There's no easy way to search through, say, oral histories.  You just have to find individual collections, and begin to browse, in the hope that something valuable will turn up.

The same is sort of true with ebooks.  There is an enormous amount of content available in ebooks -- millions of volumes! -- but no easy way to search through them.

Google Books comes closest, and Amazon has some good inside-the-book search cabailities, but...isn't there anything more?

You can search thousands of books like this one

Try Anacleto.  This search engine plumbs the depth of content at Project Gutenberg's ebooks.  There are about 100,000 books here -- not huge, by internet standards.  However, many of these are older, non-fiction books that include tidbits of family history.

You can find slave narratives, biographies, Indian (Native American) records, historical accounts, correspondence, newspaper records, academic studies, personal journals, government reports, and many other types of materials that can include information about your ancestors, the places and the times in which they lived.

Anacleto is just a quick stop. Visit it, search on family names, and other topics of interest, and see what pops up.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

Use the Advanced Search feature (they call it Qualified Search) to fine tune results.  You can specify the format you want, including sound, video and image files, along with whatever types of text you'd like to access.

By the way, Gutenberg has its own full-text search feature, but I find that it rarely works well.  I much prefer Anacleto.

Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 

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.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Free Lexis-Nexis for Family History Research



LexisNexis is one big honking database, boasting of access to more than five billion searchable documents.  And this is all high-class stuff.  None of your blogs, chats, and tweets here.  LexisNexis is for professionals.

And maybe that's why a lot of people are not very familiar with it.  But you should be!  There's tons of family history information just waiting to be unearthed by genealogists.

What does a legal and news database like LexisNexis have to do with family history research?  Plenty.  Many of your family members from current and past generations are likely to be found somewhere in LexisNexis' vast collection of newspapers, professional journals, magazines, court cases, patents, public records, and a whole lot more.

Ruth the Acrobat, for no special reason

This is especially true of their collection of court cases.  Every family winds up in court sooner or later, either on criminal charges, or by filing a lawsuit or getting sued, or as witness or participant in a case.  Their Federal and State court case records go back hundreds of years, and include everything from runaway slaves, to personal bankruptcies, to some of the great criminal and civil trials of the ages.

Thing is, though, accessing their records costs a bundle.  Is there a way to get LexisNexis for free?  Yes...sort of.

You can access the databases at LexisNexis by Credit Card...use the Pay As You Go option (unless you want to set up a longer-term account).

I did say free, right?  You can search the databases at LexisNexis for free, and see Google-like snippets for the results.  You'll have to pay if you want to access the documents in full, but often, just having the free snippet provides a lot of useful family history information.  You still have to provide your credit card information to register, but you don't have to actually spend any money to search.

Warning, though.  LexisNexis is no Google.  Searching is complex, and article retrieval is no picnic either.  And reading case law?  Hoo boy.  But if you can find some gems on your family's roots, it's all worth it.

One last thing.  If you find an interesing case in LexisNexis, try running the case name through a Google search.  With a bit of luck, you can pull up the entire case in Google, without paying a cent.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 

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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Family History Research at the National Archives: More Online Than You Know


The National Archives (or more formally, the National Archives and Records Administration) has some wonderfully massive databases online, and I've covered the major NARA data sets -- military enlistement records, immigration/customs records -- in earlier posts.

There's also a helpful summary at NARA in a section, What genealogical records are online?  where you'll find some treasures like military criminal case files, lists of US Marshals, and fugitive slave case papers and petitions.

But there's a section of NARA that is often overlooked...the Archival Research Catalog. ARC is the Archives' pointer system to their massive records holdings, the vast bulk of which are offline. But in putting together the database, NARA included millions of individual names...names that often come with snippets of interesting and valuable genealogical information.

Click image to enlarge

Almost all the family names that I searched on in ARC turned up some hits, even for some pretty rare surnames. Search on a common name like Davis, and you'll get 2,000 search results...the maximum the system allows.

But even an unusual surname like Bollin turned up five hits. Four of these were military records spanning a period from 1863-1947.

The fifth record was a 1917-1921 Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit (how often do you see one of those?) for Mary Klasinski. What's the connection between Ms. Klasinski and Bollin?

Clicking on the record, and then clicking through the tabs (Details, Scope & Content, Archived Copies, and Hierarchy) tells us that Ms. K lived in Kickapoo, Kansas, was born in Missouri on June 18, 1858, and her maiden name was (go ahead, guess!)...Bollin.  There's even a photo of Ms. K in the file that I can request from NARA -- the listing also provides contact information for the particular file in question.

You might notice that ARC searches include a People tab, meant for searching individual names. You can try this, but I haven't found it to be particularly reliable, and prefer to stick with their just-search-everything default option. There is also a Digital Copies tab, for restricting your search results to digitized records that can be retrieved online.

Run, don't walk, to the ARC search page to look for any of your ancestors who might be included here.

Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 

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.  

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Painful-Yet-Worthwhile Making of America

 

It was the best of sites, it was the worst of sites...

The Making of America collection is one of the internet's most frustrating sites...the very opposite of user-friendly.  But it's a very good specialty resource for family history work, so you should certainly have a look despite it's shortcomings. 

And shortcomings there are.  The collection is so convoluted that I'm not even sure what to call it (there are many possibilities), or what link to provide (most of them are horribly long and cumbersome).  Once you get to the collections (there are several), things aren't much better...it's a slow site, and hard to navigate, search and access results.

But the effort is worth it.  Through the combined efforts of the University of Michigan and Cornell University, the Making of America site has amassed a large (about a million pages), important and rich collection of Americana, with a strong focus on 19th century US history after the Civil War (antebellum to Reconstruction).  These are primary sources -- books and magazines of the period -- and make mention of probably millions of family names, from prominent historical figures to everyday folk. If your ancestors were part of the US in the latter 19th century, you may well find them mentioned here.

As for actually using the dang thing, I suggest starting at the University of Michigan Digital Library (UMDL) Collections page.   Here you'll find an overview of their collections, including Making of America Books, and MOA Journals.  These are both part of a larger collection, known as Nineteenth Century American Publishing      which includes works of Abraham Lincoln and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well a rich collection called The United States and its Territories, 1870 - 1925.  There are other important resources tucked away here, the most significant of which is the Digital General Collection (I'm getting tired of making links!), a very large collection of digitized books which probably overlaps greatly with the MOA books, though the site will never tell you that. 

Whew!  Confused much? Happily, you can search all these collections at once, if you're willing to click on one of the ugliest URLs I've ever seen...I won't even mask it:

  http://www.hti.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?sid=51a383ba92f628c53fc4594f9f2992d6;xg=1;page=simpleext;ALLSELECTED=1  

This should take you a search page that lists all the UMDL collections, and you can check or uncheck the ones you want included, but don't check them all, as it messes up the system (and ignore the Currently Searching box near the top, which misleadingly and arbitrarily lists a single collection name).  If you'd rather access MOA at Cornell, you can do so, along with their other fascinating (but not in a genealogical way) digital collections.  

As for searching itself, try looking for family names, or the towns that are part of your family history.  A Bibliographic search for books at MOA with Directory in the title, turns up a host of useful documents, like the Ohio State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1860-61.

See...I told you it was worth it.

Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Family History Grab Bag!


Just a few odds and ends today.

Free Genealogy Tools has achieved Greatness! At least, that's the opinion of the well-respected genealogy experts at OneGreatFamily.com.


Genealogy at OneGreatFamily.com



That's a very nice pat on the head for a new blog like us. Thanks guys.



Farquier County, VA has a surprisingly-large online index of biographical information that appeared in the Fauquier Democrat/Times-Democrat newspaper during the period 1905-1999. There look to be almost 100,000 names included here, each with a snippet of information on a birth, marriage, or death (some heartbreaking, like: Age 16; drowned at Daniel's Dam Millpond ). Staff at the Fauquier County Public Library will photocopy articles of interest, for a small fee. A good, fast resource for this part of Virginia.

Another surprisingly large collection can be found at Genealogy Images of History, aka the Tom Russell Collection. This site sells images of newspaper pages, flyers, etc. and has quite a large list of names, easily searched. You can preview the images at no cost.

That's it for now. See you next time.

Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Some Military Family History Resources That You May Not Know About


The US Military has some huge databases online. A few of them contain extensive historical records of military actions, and reports by, or about, individual soldiers, platoons, units, companies and every other category used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines (and the Reserves, Coast Guard, etc). These are available to the public, and they're free.

Perhaps it's no surprise that these datasets are also rather bureaucratic and not the most user-friendly. Maybe that's why they're not often used by genealogists or those casually searching for family history records. But still...they contain so much information that they are definitely worth a look. So, without further ado...

The Army Heritage Collection Online is a military history website that is both a pointer system to offline records, as well as a large library of digitized information that is fully searchable. There's an incredible assortment here: oral histories, field reports, letters and diaries, memoirs, along with a large body of photos and artifacts. Click on Search Digitized Material (near the page bottom) if you want to restrict your results to digitized content that is immediately available online. Otherwise, use the Search All option to query both digital and non-digital records.

The Center For Army Lessons Learned is another historical site that is largely available to the general public. This is more of bibliographic system than a way to pull up actual documents, but it's still worth a visit. Click on CALL Archives, then Public Archives, and then check-off all the databases for a comprehensive search. Hit Query towards the top of the page to begin searching.

I've covered a number of other terrific sources of military information in earlier posts. Have a look at:


Good luck, everybody.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. 


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.


Monday, August 24, 2009

What's In a Name? More Than You Think!



Just a short entry today, to make note of a worthwhile tool... a free worthwhile tool (of course).

If you're searching your family history back more than just a generation or two, chances are there are a lot of spelling variations in both the first names and surnames used by your family members.

Even a simple, old (and by old, I mean Biblical) and pretty standard name like David, has about 100 common spelling variants, including Daevid, Dahvid, Daivid, Davide, Dayvid, and so on.

A Rose is a Rhoze by any other name...

The NameThesaurus is a terrific tool for identifying the most common variants for both first names (forenames) and last names. With alternative spellings in hand, you can do more thorough searches of ancestry databases. The system will also return alternative names (William, for Bill; Rosalind for Rose), which can also be important clues to better searching.

The NameThesaurus has a reputation as being more accurate and focused than sounds-like name-matching tools, like Soundex or Metaphone. But even if it isn't, it's fun to play with.

See you soon.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Family History in Free Online Photo and Film Archives: Part I



In genealogical work, finding an old document that mentions your ancestors is thrilling enough. But how great would it be to find an old photograph of your great grandparents, or better yet, some video copies of old moving pictures from generations past?

Photography was invented in the 1830's (the daguerreotype dates back to 1837), so has been around for about 175 years; color photography for 150 years; moving pictures well over 100 years. Though not as thoroughly documented as text-based materials, photography and movie/video archives can be a rich source of family history materials. Family members don't have to have been among the rich and famous, either. Just being in the right (or wrong) place at the right time can get you in the archives.

The presence of these archives on the internet has greatly simplified the task of researching old photos and movies. Here are some of the key resources for video, movie and TV archives, all of which can be searched for free, though you generally need to pay to obtain high-quality copies of the videos that you find.

Nothing to do with this blog post...I just like the picture!

Footage.net has compiled archival news footage from a number of sources. You may want to linger here a bit just to enjoy some of the great footage, but searching for a name or place relevant to your family history is easy and quick. Just enter the terms in the search box, or use the Advanced Search to restrict results to a particular time period.

British Pathe boasts of 3,500 hours of video and 12 million still photos in its impressive archives, dating back to the 1890's. Though the focus is mostly UK, coverage is worldwide, so go and have a look. Again, Advanced Search will help you fine-tune results to, eg, a specific range of years.  Still in the UK, the British Film Institute has an impressive BFI Film and TV Database, with over a million names included.

Though some of their content is covered at footage.net, much of the BBC Film Archives can only be found at their website. To fully search the older archives, you'll have to (annoyingly) register at the site. Be sure to unclick all the send me free newsletter boxes. Also register at Movietone news archives, and have a look around.

Elsewhere in Europe, the ever-polite German Newsreel Archive has a Guest option, if you don't want to register.

The Moving Images Collection, at Georgia Tech, is another resource, though searching on a person's name is a really hit or miss prospect here -- many films are described without mentioning individuals in the films, or involved in production. Still, worth looking at their two search options: Collections, and Archive.

Think someone in your family might have been on the evening news? Check the Vanderbilt University Television News Archives, dating back to 1968, and including national news broadcasts from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News.

Whew! That's it for now. I cover still photography in Part II.


Film is fine, but most of what's out there is in print form.  Don't forget to also check for your family history at 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.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Free Ancestor Research: Our Story So Far




A quick recap. This blog is devoted to discovering genealogy resources that are free, high-quality, and not always well-known, even to aficionados of family history research. Here's what we've highlighted so far:

Google News Archives -- 300 Years of Free Newspaper Articles

Immigration Records from Ellis Island, Castle Garden, etc.

SSDI -- More than 80 million death records

Free Civil War Military Records


Family History...it'e everywhere

FamilySearch.org from the Mormons

Free Newspaper Archives and Historical Articles

Free World War II Military Records

Medieval Soldier Military Records (That's right...Knights!)

Millions of Family History Records from Canada

Immigrants from Europe

New York City Family History

National Gravesite Locator for Veterans

World War I and World War II British Commonwealth Deaths

Search Millions of Ancestor Records in an Instant (with free Census info, to boot)

Search 35 Million Grave, Burial, and Cemetery Records for Free

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

Five Centuries of British Family History Records

Proceedings of the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London

Finding Free Obituaries

Finding People Who Are Still Living

Searching for Family History in Old Books, Online and For Free

Some Civil War Genealogy Resources You May Not Know About




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.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Some Civil War Genealogy Resources You May Not Know About


The Civil War. War Between the States. War of Northern Agression. The Southern Rebellion. War for Southern Independence.

Whatever you call it, this was one of the great conflicts in history. It was also the beginning of modern military record-keeping, so that there are deep family history resources available from this era, regardless of whether your ancestors wore Blue or Gray. Some mid-19th century resources that you should be aware of include:

The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS), which I wrote up in an earlier blog post.

Civil War Soldiers of the Sixth Maine Infantry


The Making of America collection (a joint project of Cornell University, and the University of Michigan) has a number of important collections from the Civil War era that are useful for family history. The War of the Rebellion reports are comprehensive records of the Union and Confederate actions, including prisoners, correspondence, field actions, etc. Note than many first names tend to be abbreviated (eg Danl for Daniel). Civil War Naval Records also are a deep resource.

Cornell also houses an important Anti-Slavery collection. The materials here can be especially useful in researching African-American family history.

You can view, or download, the official List of pensioners on the roll January 1, 1883: giving the names of each pensioner, the cause for which pensioned, the post-office address, the rate of pension per month, and the date of original allowance (whew!). These records can be easily searched for your family names; just use the "Search in this book" feature on the left hand side of the page when you visit the above link. This is only one of several volumes; see the "Other editions" links at Google Books for additional volumes in this series.

Also from Google Books, here's a listing of fully-searchable Directories from the Civil War era. Think of them as phone books for the days before the phone was invented! There are directories here for Boston, Rochester, Hartford, Madison, Doniphan County (Kansas), and many other places. There's even a directory of clergymen.

And take a look at the Special Collections page of Free Newspaper Archives, where you'll find several archives focused on the Civil War from both a North and South perspective.

Happy exploring.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Searching for Family History in Old Books, Online and For Free


One of the great revolutions of the internet age is that an increasing number of books are available for searching online, books on all topics, and from all eras since publishing began. Some of these books may well have information about your family and your ancestors in their online pages.

Start your search with Google Books (of course!). The familiar Google interface makes searching easy, though the search results will be less familiar. Because of varying copyright issues, some books are presented only as snippets, while others appear in full text (you can even download them).


Anyone you know?

For instance, you can download the 500 page Rocky Mountain directory and Colorado Gazetteer, for 1871, or simply search it online. With some clever searches, you can find many other city and regional directories.

Amazon.com also allows searching in the content of books. Their collection leans towards more recent publications, but is still worth a look. Unless you're searching for a highly unusual name, you should put the name in quotes, to avoid a ton of spurious results.

Questia bills itself as the World's Largest Online Library of Books. Whether true or not, there's a lot here. It's a subscription resource, but you can search for free, and get valuabe snippets of the results. They also offer a free trial worth checking out.

Next, visit the World eBook Fair, a large collection amassed from Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and other deep resources. Best thing about them is an excellent search interface (all too rare, I'm afraid). They do charge a small fee to join the site, but searching is free, and you can usually find any books of interest at other sites, at no charge.

Lastly, and sadly, I feel compelled to mention the Universal Digital Library, more popularly known as the Million Book Collection. And yes, there really are a million books online here. This should be one of the internet's (one of the world's!) great treasures, but it's so poorly implemented as to be almost useless. Still...might be worth a browse if you've nothing better to do.


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finding People Who Are Still Living


In searching out our family history, it's not always about ancestors who lived generations or centuries ago. Sometimes, we just want to know more about people who are (or at least, may be) still alive, but who we lost touch with for one reason or another.

It could be Aunt Patty, who used to bounce you on her knee. Where is she now? What happened to Uncle Buddy? Was Buddy really his name? Maybe you even have a brother or sister you haven't heard from in years... where are they now?

Where is Uncle Buddy these days?

As always, the best starting place is your own family. Ask your living relatives (go ahead...give them a call...they'll love hearing from you) for any information they may have on the person you're looking for. Then, turn to the internet.

The online phone book, Superpages is a good place to start. This online directory can search the entire US at once; just leave the City/State field blank for a nation-wide search.

Intelius is another great people-search tool that can tell you a lot, including identifying possible relatives. Ancestry.com (the name notwithstanding) also has current listings for people, and there's always newspaper searches at Google News or NewspaperArchive.com (Note, though, that Intelius, Ancestry and NewspaperArchive charge a fee after showing preliminary information for free).

Of course, you can always just Google their name. And believe it or not, it's sometimes possible to find people just from a search of their first name.

The cleverly-named Pipl.com is one of the best people finding aggregators on the web. 
There are too many people search tools to cover them all here, but check out this good people search overview for more information.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Finding Free Obituaries



For budding genealogists, few discoveries are as satisfying as coming across an obituary. Here, in a nutshell, are all the salient details of a person's life, wrapped up in a brief, neat package.

There is not, unfortunately, any comprehensive online collection of obituaries. Instead, one has to hunt and peck across numerous resources. Here are some of the best, though.

It's very helpful to know the date of death of the relative you're looking for. Use the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) to find dates of death for those in the US, from about 1970 on. Many of the free resources highlighted here in this blog can also be very valuable in pinning down dates. If all else fails, try Ancestry.com, where some information is free, but full records will cost you.



Even short and sweet obituaries are full of info


For the obituaries themselves, you'll need to search newspapers, of course, but which ones you search depends on what you know about when and where the death occured. Google News Archives is a good starting point, as it includes major papers, like the NY Times, along with obits from hundreds of small town papers, reaching back centuries.

The comprehensive collection at NewspaperArchive.com is an excellent source of obituaries, but again, only tidbits are free, and you have to subscribe for full access. To search free newspaper archives in particular states, try FreeNewspaperArchives, and for international searches of newspaper archives, there's a wonderful collection at XooxleAnswers.

Need more info? Here's a good guide to finding obituaries.

.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Proceedings of the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London


This is a bit of an odd one. But if your family's roots are in England (and they may be, even if you don't know it), this is worth a look. Especially if you suspect some distant relation had a tendency towards thievery, burglary, larceny, or perhaps murder. If so, you just might find him or her in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court (1674-1913).

There are about 200,000 criminal cases here, and well over a million names of defendants, victims, witnesses, judges, and attorneys mentioned throughout. William Shakespeare is here, on trial for pocketpicking (though not that William Shakespeare). It's so much fun to read these, that you should pay the Old Bailey a visit, even if your family is not likely to be mentioned here.

The Proceedings also include the collection of Ordinary Accounts (1679-1772) which can also be searched separately. These are fascinating journals of the last days of criminals condemned to death, and about to be executed. Reading them, it's often hard to tell who is the worse offender: the criminal or the court.



Another day at the Old Bailey.


Visit the
main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.
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.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Five Centuries of British Family History Records



FreeUKGEN isn't for everybody. But then again, maybe it is.

As the name suggests, it covers genealogy records from the UK, and is absolutely free of charge. So if your family has any roots in the UK in the past, oh, four or five centuries, then the resources at FreeUKGEN are certainly ones to check out.

But even if you think you don't have British roots, think again. Family trees are complex, with old roots and branches hidden from the view of our 21st century eyes. Isn't it worth a few minutes of searching to see if your family surnames, no matter how obscure or 'ethnic', are represented in UK history?

The records are divided up into three pretty straightforward data sets:

FreeBMD covers births, marriages, and death records for England and Wales between 1837-1983, and only contains, oh, about 200 million records.

FreeCEN has UK Census records from 1841-1891...about 15 million records.

FreeReg covers parish registers of baptisms, marriages, and burials. There are about 9 million records in all, and in many cases, these go back to the 1500's or even earlier.

Go ahead, take a look. You may discover a long lost link to the Duke of Earl.


A long lost relative, perhaps?


Visit the main page of Free Genealogical Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.
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.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Search Millions of Ancestor Records in an Instant (with free Census info, to boot)



I covered FamilySearch.org in an earlier post, and this continues to be a wonderful resource, of course.

But the Mormons are up to something that might be even better. They've quietly posted a Pilot Site with a new Search for Ancestors interface. If you've used FamilySearch before, it will certainly look familiar.

But the results are different!

One difference is in format. The Pilot Site search returns very clear information identifying a person by name, the source of information (such as 1900 US Census, Passenger Lists, etc), and detailing life events (date of birth, etc), and family relations (spouse, siblings, parents).

But an even bigger difference is what happens next. Clicking on a name provides more information. In about five seconds I had the name of the ship that transported my great grandfather from Russia, via Hamburg, and into New York.

More clicks can take you to actual page images of census records, ship manifests, and so on. Let me say that again: you can use the Pilot Site to get free access to census records and page images.

It's not entirely clear what other differences will ultimately become a part of this new system, and how different it will be from the main FamilySearch search function. But this is a fun and useful resource, and a very welcome addition to the world of free genealogical tools.



Ah! Life was fun in the Old Country


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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Free Family History Research -- Our Story So Far


A quick recap. This blog is devoted to discovering genealogy resources that are free, high-quality, and not always well-known, even to aficionados of family history research. Here's what we've highlighted so far:

Google News Archives -- 300 Years of Free Newspaper Articles

Immigration Records from Ellis Island, Castle Garden, etc.

SSDI -- More than 80 million death records

Free Civil War Military Records

FamilySearch.org from the Mormons


Free Newspaper Archives and Historical Articles

Free World War II Military Records

Medieval Soldier Military Records (That's right...Knights!)

Millions of Family History Records from Canada

Immigrants from Europe

New York City Family History


Mystery ancestors. Yours, perhaps?

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

Friday, August 7, 2009

New York City Ancestors and Family History


At one time or another, it seems that almost every family in America passed through New York City. Most typically, this was the major port for newly-arrived immigrants, passing through Ellis Island (and earlier, Castle Garden) on their way to Manhattan or the outer boroughs.

But even for US natives, New York held a special draw for those wishing to make it big, or simply to find work in one of the world's largest metropolitan centers.

To check on your own family history in New York, start with the New York City Death Index for 1891-1948. This massive list of almost three million death certificate records can be easily searched by last name on a full name search, a partial name (with wild card searching), or with a sounds-like surname. Searching can be fine tuned with first name, dates, or a choice of boroughs.

The NYC Death Index is provided courtesy of the Italian Genealogical Group, who also makes some other wonderful NYC and Long Island databases available, though none as large as the death index. You don't need to have Italian ancestors to find some very valuable family history information here. Visit their site to peruse their bride and groom records, births, marriages, and naturalization records. There are also databases linking Italian surnames to the particular towns in Italy from which they came.



NYC Ballplayer, Back in the Day


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.


NewspaperArchive.com

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finding Ancestors Who Were Immigrants to the US from Russia, Germany, Ireland and Italy



Most of what's in the US National Archives is, well, in the National Archives. It's just sitting in boxes and file drawers, or immortalized on microfilm.

But a few large files from NARA (as they're known) have made it online, and are terrific tools for researching your family history. They include the following immigration files.

Note that many immigrants from other countries are included in these files, mostly because they sailed on a ship that left from someplace other than their home country.

All told, there are more than six million records here... a rich resource for anyone searching their family history who may have ancestors who made their way to the US from Europe in the 19th century.

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.


Guess which country he immigrated from.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Family History in Canada, eh?



I was surprised to find a Canadian wing to my own family history, though once I did, it stirred dim memories of having visited some distant uncle or other in Montreal when I was a kid.

Anyway, searching records from Canada is fairly easy, so you might as well have a look. The national government hosts an Ancestor Search at the Library and Archives Canada website. (and you can also recherche d'ancĂȘtres en Français, if you please).

This lovely and easy to use family search tool appears to contain several million records (though the overall scope is not well described). These include vital records -- births, marriages, deaths, and divorces -- census records, military rolls and casualties, immigration, land grants, and many other sources as well.

Coverage seems strongest in the late 1800 and early 1900's, though some files extend back much further, and I'm told a few even venture into the 17th century (1600's).

Like I said, it's an easy system to use, so have a look at your family names, and see what you find. If something turns up, check out the Canadian Genealogy Center (sorry...Centre!) to explore next steps in your search.



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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

English Soldiers of the 14th and 15th Centuries




Sure, anyone can search back in time a hundred years or so. But how often do you get the chance to search family history dating to the 1300's?


A new online genealogy resource, The Soldier in Later Medieval England, let's you do exactly that. The system, covering the years 1369-1453, currently has almost 250,000 records in three distinct databases: historic muster rolls, garrison database, and something known as the protection database. The whole thing is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in the UK.

The records, from the UK National Archives, include military campaigns and duties like the King's Remembrancer Expedition to Brittany in 1375, or the Standing Force of the King's Bodyguard, in 1398.


Searching here is easy, by first or last name, or with other parameters such as year, military rank, commanding officer, and so on. Just remember that things weren't spelled quite the same way back then as we might expect today, so be creative. Still, if your family has any roots in England, and perhaps a knight or two in the woodwork, this is a database to have fun with.

Don't forget to 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.

Monday, August 3, 2009

World War II (WWII) Enlistment Records


Like I said the other day, I like large databases, with millions of records. Plug in a family name, and you're almost bound to find some relative or other.

That's one of the allures of the WWII Enlistment Records from the National Archives (NARA). There are more than 9 million records here of just about every man and woman who enlisted in the Army during the period of World War II (1938-1946).
My dad's in here, along with a host of uncles, great-uncles, some aunts and a few in-laws.

Along with a name, the records include rank, serial number, state and county of residence, date and place of enlistment, Army branch, term of enlistment, date and place of birth, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, height and weight, military occupational specialty (1945 and later), and box and reel number of the original records on microfilm.

Some of the everyday heroes of World War II


Visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools. And 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.