Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bit by Bit: Slavery and Family History


There are so few online resources available for African-American family history research, that even a fairly small-scale online lookup deserves attention.

Johnston County, home to Smithfield, North Carolina, has a very handsome and user-friendly collection of online archives.

The county has a rich agricultural history that was made possible, in large measure, by slave labor.  Included in the online collection are two important resources for African-American genealogy.

Slave Name Index for Johnston County, NC.  Aptly described as "one of the first of its kind", this name database compiles information from a few dozen primary sources -- deeds, wills, court records, tax rolls, and estate papers.  The result is a lookup list of slave names.

Slavery being what it was, pinning down particular individuals and families is tricky going.  Most slave records are first names only, and spelling is highly variable.  Details on the slaves, and slave owners are provided, which can help facilitate research.

The Johnston County Heritage Center also offers to provide copies of original records, to those who request them.


Slave Marriage and Cohabitation Index.  Emancipated slaves were offered the opportunity to officially record the fact of their marriage, and these records too, are available online.  Full names are generally included, and you can search on either the first name or last name of the groom or the bride.


The Virginia Memory project  has some similar slave and ex-slave records available online (click on African-American Resources to access them).  The Register of Colored Persons Cohabiting Together as Man and Wife collection is not very extensive, but there is a great deal of information available for each of the families listed...full name for the husband and wife as well as former owners, age, birthplace, occupation, children's names and age, and more.  This will be a goldmine for the fortunate researchers who find their families included here.


A few other African-American genealogy resources to note have been written up in earlier posts:

African American Family History 

Slaves and Slavery 

Filling in Michelle Obama's Family Tree 


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 NewspaperArchive.com and Ancestry.com.
These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your Mom or Dad's (Grandma, Grandpa's) Social Security Application as a Family History Resource


First, a confession.  Today's post at FreeGenealogyTools is about a resource that isn't actually free.  Mea culpa!  But it doesn't cost much, and it's so @*$&#! useful, that it's worth knowing about and maybe even worth forking out some cash.

At one time or another, just about everyone living in the US -- and many who have passed on -- have filled out an application for a Social Security number.

Two generations ago, these were largely being filled out by adults.  As the Social Security system matured, parents began filling them out for their children as well.  But regardless, an application was filed for just about everyone.

These can be family history goldmines.  Though the application has changed over the years, the earlier ones contained details such as:
  • Full name
  • Maiden name (where applicable, of course)
  • Complete address
  • Current employer
  • Date of employment
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Father's full name
  • Mother's full name and maiden name
  • Race

The form required a signature, which is also part of the application record.

Like I said, a real genealogy goldmine.

You can get a copy of the original application form directly from Social Security.  There is a modest fee, which varies depending on the nature of your request.  A family member who is living will have to make the request themselves, but if they've passed on, then you can request a copy.

Worth the effort...worth the cost.


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Xmas...I Found Santa's Grave


Happy Holidays everyone, and please....forgive me...but I've located Santa's grave.

Actually, Ol' Saint Nick has a number of ancestral death records.  Using the Best Genealogy Tools for 2010 that I highlighted a few days ago, here's what turns up with a search on the name, Santa Claus.

FamilySearch uncovers two records in the Social Security Death Index, complete with Santa's SSN:

Santa CLAUS
    Birth Date: 10 Jun 1930
    Death Date: 10 Sep 2008
    Social Security Number:  428-48-5735
    State or Territory Where Number Was Issued:  Mississippi

Santa CLAUS
    Birth Date: 15 Jan 1944
    Death Date: 26 Aug 2003
    Social Security Number:  326-34-2714
    State or Territory Where Number Was Issued:  Illinois


Stephen Morse's wonderful site  uncovers an Italian immigrant to the US in the Castle Garden database, one Santo Clausi, who arrived in New York on October 1, 1902.

Morse also has a search interface to Ancestry.com, where we find 20 Santa's, including Santa M. Claus, Santa Elf Claus, and even Santa Hohoho Claus (with an odd attached note of Other Possible Names: Kris Hohoho Kringle).

And alas, at FindAGrave we have photographic proof of the final resting place of Santa "Nick" Claus.

Santa's demise notwithstanding, I suspect folks will have a very Merry Christmas and assorted other solstice-inspired celebrations this holiday season.

Here's hoping for a prosperous, peaceful new year for all.

David




Santa Claus, his wife Mabel, and the six kids, from the 1930 Census.  No Rudolph, though!


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Free Family History Lookups for 2010


We've covered a lot of territory since the Free Genealogy Tools blog first started up.  But what, you may ask, are the absolute best FGTs out there?

Here's my list of the Top Five Free Genealogy Tools for 2010.

Say Howdy Doody to the new year, folks.


  1. FamilySearch.  You just can't beat this one.  It covers almost as much territory as the genealogy motherlode at Ancestry.com, but without the need for a subscription.

  2. Stephen Morse.  I love this guy, whoever he is.  He created easy-access tools to search millions of records from Ellis Island, Castle Island, and other immigration points of entry to the US.  One of the real online genealogical gems.

  3. Social Security Death Index (SSDI).  With more than 80 million records, this database covers almost all deaths in the US for the past 50 years or so...an essential tool for recent family history.

  4. Google News Archives.  Old newspapers are a favorite resource of mine, and these archives span the past 250 years.  Also check out NewspaperArchive.com, a subscription service, but one of the best resources there is.

  5. Find A Grave.  Over 35 million records...need I say more?


Conspicuously absent from the above list are the millions of military records available in online lookups.  Problem is, it's hard to choose the best from among some excellent resources, mostly from the US and UK.  Have a look at the best military lookup sites I know of.

Is there a Top FGT that you think belongs on the list?  Let me know in the Comments, and we'll take a look

And as we head into 2010, a happy, healthy, meaningful and  peaceful new year to all.

David

NewspaperArchive.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

People Who Need Pipl



There are many, many, many tools on the internet that specialize in searching for people, both living and dead. I've covered some of the best people-search sites in an earlier post.

But a site called Pipl.com warrants a separate write-up. This is partly because of what it does for you now, but also, partly, for what it might do in the future. Sort of like Obama's Nobel Peace Prize!

Fanny Brice, an original People person

Pipl does a very nice job of searching on a name, and organizing the results...telephone book listings in one section, Facebook and other social networks in another, business results in yet another, and so on.

But Pipl also has some good access to the so-called invisible web...that vast, dark, mysterious repository of information that doesn't show up on ordinary searches. These are sources that require a subscription, disallow search engines, require dynamic lookups, or are otherwise out of view from the googlebots and search spiders that scour the internet for information.

And that's where Pipl's future potential lies. Right now, it's more a lookup for friends, acquaintances and family members of fairly recent vintage (and be sure to Pipl your own name as well...might as well see what shows up!).

But as Pipl search adds more and more deep content, it will grow in value as a genealogical tool as well, revealing ever-more information about your ancestors and your own family's history.

So take a look, and even if nothing of major import shows up for now, this is a site worth bookmarking, and coming back to from time to time.


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Using the Future to Find the Past



Nothing like a mysteriously ambiguous blog title to capture some viewers, eh?

Actually, though, this really is about using future tools to peer back in time at your family history. You're probably already familiar with the venerable FamilySearch site -- one of the premier genealogy sites on the web.

But did you know FamilySearch also has a Labs page? This is where they post their up-and-coming tools that are in development, and are made available for a test run. That's right...you can be the first one on your block to try out the latest genealogical power tools. 

Marie Curie in The Lab


The current listings at FamilySearch Labs include some intriguing possibilities for new ways to explore your family history:



  • FamilySearch Beta -- a major renovation to the familysearch.org web site
  • Record Search -- a quick and easy way to search millions of historical records for clues about your ancestors.
  • Research Wiki -- a community of research experts and interested genealogists that share up to date information on how to research sources for information about your ancestors.
  • Community Trees -- Ever wish you could reconstruct the families that lived in your ancestral village in the 1750s? Now you can.

I highlighted one of the Lab success stories -- the Pilot Search for Ancestors -- in an earlier post.

There's much more than this available, so be sure to check out the FamilySearch Labs page (and while you're there, check out their motto as well!).


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.

NewspaperArchive.com

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Family Trees in Wikipedia


Today's entry is just a link, but it's a link worth knowing about.

Wikipedia's List of Family Trees is exactly what it says...a compilation of notable family trees, including nobility and royalty, rich and famous families, important religious and historical figures, and many more.

An Ahnentafel-style family tree from Wikimedia.

They even have family trees for fictional families. If you've ever wanted to map out the familial relations for Scrooge McDuck, Luke Skywalker or Marge Simpson (and who wouldn't?), then this is the place.

Among the more intriguing family names you'll find here are:

Lady Astor and her brood, along with the Roosevelt family, from the US.

Dynasties from Egypt, Persia, Japan, China, Korea, Mongolia and the Aztec Empire.

The Nehru and Gandhi families from India, and Bhutto from Pakistan.

Family trees from the Bible, Islam, Babylonia, and the Greek Gods (an essential item for you Percy Jackson fans).

And lest we forget, there's the wonderful, recent work done on Michelle Obabma's family tree.

There's nothing in this whole collection that ties these historical figures (real or imagined) in any way to my own family. I imagine that's true for most folks.  Still, it's a wonderful and interesting overview of who's who, and of how family trees get put together. Wikipedia also has a general article on Family Trees that is worth a read.


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.




NewspaperArchive.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Googling Your Family History


Let's face it. When it comes to search tools of both the plain and fancy variety, nobody even comes close to Google.

But a company that started life as the soul of simplicity -- a nearly blank page and an I'm feeling lucky option -- has grown to ginormous size, and taken on a fair bit of complexity in the process. That's not a bad thing, because some of their more obscure internet search tools can really lend a lot of depth and power to your family history research, starting with...

Thanks, Google

Plain Old Google,  but use it wisely, as in this ...kaff...kaff... insightful article on how to power search your ancestors.

Google News Archives, a very rich newspaper resource that extends back hundreds of years (at least to the 1750's, maybe further), reaches around the world, and grows by leaps and bounds. Visit it often.

Google Books lets you search the text of millions of books in the space of a few heartbeats...it still amazes me that such searches are even possible. There's also Google Scholar,  which searches through tons of legal court cases and university journals.

Google Patents makes it easy to search through a few centuries worth of patents, looking for the inventors in your family history.

Google is also getting more and more sophisticated at handling non-English languages. They offer several tools that can be incredibly useful in getting a handle on what an obscure foreign-language webpage or document is all about. Google Translate  can handle (reasonably well, too) about 50 languages, everything from Afrikaans to Yiddish. Their transliteration  and scripting tools make it easier (I didn't say easy) to work with foreign alphabets.

Lastly (for now) I'll mention Google Alerts,  a very valuable tool for setting up automatic searches to look for new information on your family as it appears on the web.


Don't make the mistake of thinking your family never got written up in old newspapers, books, patents or other historical resources. They did! And it's up to you to find them. Google helps in that search, more than I would have thought possible just a few short years ago.


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.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots.