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.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The History of Housekeeping


Family Saying Grace, by Anthonius Claeissins

Old & Interesting is a not very old website, but it is rather interesting.

It bills itself as a site about the "history of domestic paraphernalia". It is all about how people have kept house through the ages, using everyday items that we now think of as antiques, if we think of them at all.

If you want to build a mental picture of how your ancestors cooked, cleaned themselves, cleaned their clothes, cleaned their homes, made the beds, kept warm, and stored food then this is the site for you.

There's a whole page on the History of Ironing Boards!

And if you're interested in historical oddities, like cooking without fire or 14th century baby walkers, then you'll also find Old & Interesting an informative and entertaining site.

Even if it's just to explore some of the wonderful images and uncluttered prose, this site is well-worth a good explore.



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 12, 2010

Historical State Census Records

Some sort of strange census machine
 (photo courtesy of Marcin Wichary, CC-BY)

I'm guessing that the plural of census is either the awkward-sounding censuses or the pretentious-sounding censii, but I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'll just roll with census records.

There are a ton and a half of state census records available online, mostly name searchable and all free of charge. Some records go back right to the days when the state was first settled, others focus on particular sub-populations like Indians or war widows and, of course, many are general census records for the entire population.

Without further ado:

The Kansas Historical Society Name Index includes the 1895 state census, and a bunch of other good stuff, including a directory, of sorts, of pioneer women.

The Maryland State Archives Census Indexes cover 1776, 1778, 1870 and 1880, with straighforward name lookups.

The Idaho State Historical Society houses the oddly-named Idaho non-population census for 1870 and 1880 which recorded workers in specific industries, along with 1890 Idaho state census. These are PDFs that you can download and search. You'll find a lot of Chinese names here, reflecting the immigrant workers in the mining industry.

Minnesota seems very keen on census-taking, as the Minnesota State Census Index includes records from ten censuses/censii between 1849 and 1905. Your online search provides preliminary information, and you can then order a full copy of the census record for a fee.

The Washington State census collection has a zillion online censuses from 1847-1910, but that's because they're listed by county. Happily, you can search them all at once at the Digital Archives Search.

New Jersey's online archives have some very cool records, including the N.J. 1885 Census and a very unusual tabulation of 100 years of legal name changes...how often do you see that!


The North Dakota State University Archives includes the Dakota Territory 1885 Census where you can look up names and order census copies. Take a look at the other databases available on the left side of the page.

Search the Colorado Census of 1870, which is actually the excerpt from the federal census. There are quite a number of other historical records here as well.


There are doubtless online census records in other states as well, but this is as far as I've gotten in cataloging them. Stay tuned for future updates...



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, November 10, 2010

Free Military Records For Veterans' Day

A determined World War II infantryman.

Wouldn't it be nice to get free access to three centuries of American military records with more than 100 million names on file.

Of course it would. And now you can, for a few days, at least. In honor of Veteran's Day, the entire military collection at Ancestry.com is available free of charge between November 11 and November 14. Just head to their site and click on See all Military Records to dive in.

Want to see George Custer's or William Tecumseh Sherman's hand-written application letters to West Point? They're there! Looking to explore family history from the Revolutionary War, Civil War or any of the other conflicts that have involved United States fighting forces?  This is the place to do it and, for a few days, anyway, do it at no charge.

A very happy and proud Veteran's Day to all.


=======

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 5, 2010

A Good Freebie from Ancestry.com


You're all familiar with Ancestry.com, no doubt, the biggest, baddest online source of family history information in the universe.

It's a subscription service, and we don't do fee-based sources here at Free Genealogy Tools. But there's a good deal of free content that Ancestry.com has made available.

One of my favs is Ancestry Magazine, a print magazine that ran for 25 years before it ceased publication in 2009. A lot of the content is available online, and there's some awfully good material here, like the list of the Top 300 Genealogy Sources at home, in public records and online.

Here's part of  the Top 300 list:  things you ought not overlook in your family papers:
  • Address books
  • Adoption papers
  • Application copies (for jobs, schools, organizations)
  • Autobiographies
  • Autograph albums
  • Awards
  • Baby books
  • Baptism/christening records
  • Bibles
  • Biographies and biographical sketches
  • Birth certificates
  • Birthday books
  • Cassette tapes, DVDs, and videos of family members
  • Cemetery deeds
  • Christmas letters
  • Citizenship/naturalization papers
  • Contracts
  • Death certificates
  • Deeds
  • Diaries
  • Diplomas
  • Embroidery
  • Employment records
  • Family e-mails
  • Family histories
  • Family newsletters
  • Family tree charts
  • Funeral books and records
  • GEDCOMs/family trees
  • Journals
  • Heirlooms
  • Home computers
  • Hospital records
  • Insurance papers
  • Jewelry with engravings, insignias, or photos
  • Leases
  • Letters (old and recent)
  • Letters of administration
  • Licenses
  • Marriage certificates (civil and religious)
  • Marriage licenses
  • Medals and trophies
  • Membership cards, papers, pins, insignias
  • Memorial cards
  • Military records and certificates
  • Missionary records
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Obituaries
  • Online sources including message boards
  • Passports
  • Pension records
  • Photographs
  • Postcards
  • Resumes
  • School records
  • Scrapbooks
  • Service medals
  • Social Security cards
  • Tax returns
  • Telegrams
  • Titles to homes, cars, etc.
  • Traditions/family stories
  • Wedding invitations
  • Wills
I'm sure there's at least ONE item on there that you hadn't thought about, eh?

The wonderful magazine collection at Google Books also has old issues of Ancestry Magazine going back to 1994.

Worth a look.


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..

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cyndi's List

Cyndi's List covers pretty much the whole planet.

I've written about hundreds of free genealogy resources on the internet, but somehow never got around to mentioning Cyndi's List before today. Time to rectify that oversight.

Cyndi Howells started up Cyndi's List in 1996 with (if memory serves) a few hundred links to genealogy sites. Her site has now grown to more than a quarter of a million links, with dozens added every week.

Of course, a site with hundreds of thousands of links has all the makings of a genealogical nightmare, but Cyndi does an excellent job of categorizing and sub-categorizing the links in a way that makes it an easy resource to use.

You can browse Cyndi's List by country or region, such as the 3,149 links for Cymru aka Wales.  You can also browse by:

There's even a category for Outer Space genealogy...really!

Cyndi's List is a not-to-be-missed site for family history research. I'm especially fond of the What's New section, where I always come across something that I just didn't know about, even though I'm one of those types who thinks he knows everything.

Thanks, Cyndi, for a terrific resource.


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, March 31, 2010

May I Introduce Mr. and Mrs. Fools, and Their Daughter, April


Someone, either a poet or a tax protester, once said that April is the cruelest month, and so it may be (though I'm rather fond of it myself).

But could anyone have really been so cruel as to name their daughter April, when their family name is Fool?

Ms. April Fool, are you out there?

Apparently so.

The family name of Fool or Fools, while not terribly common, is not unheard of, either. It may be a variant spelling of Fowles, and names of that ilk, but whatever its origins, there is no shortage of Fools out there in the world.

But really now...April Fools?

According to Intelius, one of the most comprehensive public record lookups, there are three April Fools in the US (in Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota), along with two women named April Fool, one in New York and one in Nebraska (I'm assuming April is a girl's name...no one would be so cruel as to name their son April!).

The Nebraska Ms. Fool has a relative by the name of Ima Fool, indicating a family with a sense of humor, or (more likely) someone filed a phoney form down at the local DMV.

The sounds-like search at Ancestry.com offers up a few variations on the name, including April Fewell, April Foil, and April Foyil.

From FamilySearch and other data bases come other variations: April Fauls, April Fowles, April Falls, April Foiles, April Fulce, and April Fales. And let us not overlook Miss May Foole.

There are many other families in history who could have given rise to an April Fool, but apparently chose not to (or at least, didn't leave a record behind), including:

  • Charles Fool-Bear, and other assorted foolish animals: Foolbull, Foolscrow, and Fool Hawk, among them.
  • According to CWSS, Dick Fool wore the Grey, and James Fool the Blue in the Civil War.
  • Bepiah B. Foolchand once walked the earth, as did Mohssen Fooladjoush, Charles Foolkroynik and Edith Fooler.
  • There's someone named Gold Fool and another named Fishin Fools
  • And according to Forces Reunited, there was once a British Soldier with the unlikely name of Tycloldicafoolo.

 However, according to the Canadian Genealogy Centre, there are no Fools in Canada.


 And no...I'm not fooling!

 
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, March 21, 2010

Is Frank Sinatra in Your Family Tree?


Today's Free Genealogy Tool is an unusual one.  Your mirror. 

Go on, take a look.  Do you see a pair of blue eyes looking back at you?  If you do, then you're related to Frank Sinatra -- Ol' Blue Eyes himself. 

Genetic researchers, back in 2008, published a ground-breaking paper showing that all blue-eyed people are descendants of a blue-eyed common ancestor.  What's more, the blue-eyed branch of the human family is a fairly new development, from a genetic point of view, arising perhaps as recently as 6,000 years ago.

The blue-eyed mutation arose in Europe, possibly in the area of Afghanistan.  Prior to that time, scientists theorize that all humans had brown eyes.

Of course, six millennia is a good stretch of time, so your relation to someone else with blue eyes is likely to be many, many times removed.  Still...there's some sort of family connection there.  If you see a fellow blue-eyed person, feel free to call him or her cousin.

You can read more about it in this nice write-up in USA Today on blue-eyed genealogy

Or if you prefer, you can dive into the original paper itself, though it's really only for hard core geneticists. Just look for the one with the title:  Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression

Sinatra not your type?  If you prefer, you blue-eyed types are also related to Brad Pitt.  And Marie Curie.  And Paul Newman.  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.





Intelius - Public Records Information


Monday, March 15, 2010

Historical Phone Books from East Europe


The good old phone book can be a genealogist's best friend. Telephone directories provide a detailed name and address listing (and phone number, of course).  But beyond that, collections of phone books can bracket how long a person lived at a particular address, showing when their listing first appears, when it changes to a new address, and when it eventually disappears, as an ancestor moves out of town, or out of country, or passes on.

The Library of Congress has a wonderful hard-copy collection of European directories, largely focused on the decades just before and after WWII.

A few of their phone books from Eastern Europe have been digitized, and are fully available online:


  • Bulgaria:  Directories for 1917, 1919, 1945 and 1947 are available. These include various combinations of individual and business listings, as well as government officials. There are also sections with maps, photographs, information on royal families, and so on. Text is in Bulgarian and German.
  • Poland:  The Library has a 1923 business directory, as well as a 1939 directory of residential and business listings for Warsaw and the surrounding areas.
  • Romania: This is the largest online collection of phone books, with intermittent coverage from 1923-1970. The books chiefly focus on the area around Bucharest, though there are listings for the rest of Romania as well.

Telephone books being what they are, these tend to be very large files if you try to download the entire directory. However, the LoC makes the directories available in a page viewer that allows you to flip through the content without having to download the entire volume. Very handy.

Looking for more historical directories? Check out the online collection at the Genealogy Indexer, which covers mostly Eastern Europe, but has a bit of material from the UK, France, and South America as well.


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, February 24, 2010

A Very Useful Irish Family History Page


The Primary Valuation of Ireland 1848-1864 at Ulster Ancestry is not quite a census of 19th-century Ireland, but it's close. 

This country-wide survey of property owners and households in Ireland was undertaken (of course) to determine who owed how much in terms of taxes.  It is also known as Griffith's Valuation, after Sir Richard Griffith, who directed the whole effort.

The look-up at Ulster Ancestry requires entering a full or partial surname of the person you're looking for, along with the County in which they lived. 

Search results provide first and last name, along with the Townland (a uniquely Irish jurisdiction, I believe, with great names like Drumreagh Otra), and Parish, along with the County name. 

It's a handy, pretty easy look-up to use, and worth an explore, even with the fairly limited information that's provided with the free interface. 

Also have a look at the other free Irish family history resources available here, including:

  • Old Irish Names History
  • 1609 Pardon List
  • Mayflower Passenger List 1620
  • Passenger Lists
  • Censuses and Rent Rolls

and a fair number of other resources as well.  



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..

Monday, February 15, 2010

NARA Naturalization Records


A little-known genealogical dataset from the National Archives and Records Administration is the group of NARA naturalization record indexes that are available online, covering a period from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries.

These are name indexes, rather than actual records themselves.  They are neither huge nor comprehensive, but for those with family roots in the covered geographical areas, they are a useful resource.

The records generally show names, dates, and country of origin, and sometimes include very useful aka remarks, such as the alternative surnames shown here:


  • Ditondo     Angela     6/23/1936     Italy     aka Angela Yeradi, Ieradi

The largest name index looks to be for naturalization records from St. Paul Minnesota and surroundings.  You'll find a lot of Scandinavian, Prairie Home Companion-sounding names here, like Odmund, Herm, and Erithjof, along with a large number of European names, and smaller numbers from all over the world.

There are other online name indexes for:


In addition to the name indexes, there are a small number of actual naturalization records from NARA available online, includuing declarations of intention (to become naturalized as a U.S. citizen) and petitions for naturalization requesting citizenship.

Head to the Naturalization Page of ARC (the Archival Research Catalog) and click on a country of interest to see the actual records available.  Take note of the ARC search terms that are automatically used, as you can easily modify these to fine-tune the search, or to look for specific names.

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.

For finding someone, Intelius is the best people-search service on the web (but I'd suggest steering clear of their 'special offers').

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Keep an Eye on TinEye


So, you're searching on the internet, looking into your family's past, and all of a sudden you come across an interesting old photograph: 
  • a street scene that just may be from the town where your great grandparents lived
  • an image of a faded and hard to read birth certificate
  • or best of all, a portrait of someone who, quite possibly, is directly in your family line.
Trouble is, there's not much information accompanying the photo, and you're really not sure where it came from or what it shows.  How can you find out more about it?

One very neat tool for checking further is called TinEye, a self-proclaimed reverse image search engine.

This is a very cool tool.  TinEye will quickly spool through more than a billion images in its collection to see if it can find a duplicate of the picture you need more information about.  If it does, it directs you to the websites where those duplicates can be found, and with a bit of luck, to more information about the provenance of the photographs.

Let's take the photo I ran with the FGT post, What's in a Place Name.    Suppose you came across that image, and wanted to know more about it.  There's not much information about the picture on FGT itself.  But a quick TinEye search uncovers six sites carrying the exact same photograph, including the Library of Congress site that is the original source of the photo. 

Russell Lee. School children singing. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940.
Reproduction from color slide. LC-USF351-372. LC-DIG-fsac-1a34151. FSA/OWI Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of CongressRussell Lee. School children singing. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Reproduction from color slide. LC-USF351-372. LC-DIG-fsac-1a34151. FSA/OWI Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Not bad, eh?

By the way, TinEye isn't a face recognition program.  It won't find different photos with the same people.  Instead, it's designed for one task...to find copies of the same photograph in other places around the web. 

TinEye is still a pretty young site.  It searches through more than a billion photos, but that's actually only a small chunk of what the web has to offer.  Give it a try, and definitely add it to your Favorites for checking back as its collection grows larger. 


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.

For finding someone, Intelius is the best people-search service on the web (but I'd suggest steering clear of their 'special offers').  

Friday, February 5, 2010

Black History Month and Beyond


This being Black History Month (in the US and Canada...Britain waits until October!), I thought I'd dig through my notes on some of the lesser-known resources available for African-American genealogy.

Don't be fooled into thinking these sources are only of use for black family history.  Where there were black slaves, there were white slave masters, shippers, sellers and abolitionists, and these families, too, are all part of the horrible-yet-fascinating diaspora that is African-American history.

In no particular order, here are some intriguing resources that I think you'll find useful:

1867 Alabama Voter Registration database.  This Reconstruction-era list of Alabama voters includes information on the race of registered voters.  There are 70,000 African-American men listed here -- about half of all voters on the list.  Along with name and county/precinct information, there is a section for "Native" country, though this seems to be rarely filled in.

Kansas Memory African-American Collection.  There are several hundred items of interest here, including several county censuses from the late 1800's that include the race of respondents, a 1934 Colored Directory for Topeka, and a file on African-American Cowboys.

At the Minnesota State Archives, you can find the Duluth Lynchings Online Resource, with more than 2,000 pages of scanned documents from this 1920 tragedy.  Their Visual Resources Database has about 1,000 African-American images.

From New York State, you can find the Harlem Hellfighters WWI Muster Rolls, the first African-American regiment to participate in World War I.

The West Virginia State Archives have diversified pages on African-Americans in the state.  These include information on individuals, as well as broader contextual resources, like a timeline of significant events in WV black history.

Some of the primary documents and behind-the-scenes events in the history of the civil rights struggle can be found at the new Library of Congress exhibit, NAACP: A Century in the Fight for Freedom.

Also from the LoC, the WPA Slave Narratives, over 2,000 first person accounts of slavery, along with about 500 photos, collected by the Federal Writer's Project in the 1930's.

The State Archives in New Jersey has several collections related to black family history:
  • U.S. Colored Troops Service Files (Civil War) 
  • Hunterdon County Slave Manumissions -- 1788-1836
  • Hunterdon County Census of Children of Slaves - 1804-1835
There is also an in-depth history available online:  Afro-Americans in New Jersey: a short history.

Also don't forget some of my earlier entries here at FGT:

African American Family History

Slaves and Slavery

Michelle Obama's Family Tree

African American Newspaper Archives


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, January 29, 2010

State Archives


With little fanfare, state governments have been digitizing their historical archives and putting mountains of new information online.

A new website called, logically enough, Digital State Archives, is beginning to sort through this newly-available content, and highlight the crème de la crème.  Happily, a good deal of state archive materials are valuable resources for genealogists.

Here are just a few examples to whet your family-history appetites:

  • Alabama's Archives include online records of Civil War and World War I soldiers, as well as an 1867 Voter Registration database including thousands of newly-registered ex-slaves.

  • Alaska's archive collections include probate records, an index to pioneers, and a large collection of obituaries from historical newspapers and magazines.

  • Over at the Illinois Archives, you'll find cemetery internment records, online newspaper archives, and a scary clown!

  • The good folks at the Minnesota Archives, bless their archival hearts, have consolidated many of their historical name lookups into a single Minnesota People Find search page.

  • New York has a wonderful collection of the Harlem Hellfighters WWI Muster Rolls, and a huge Civil War database, while their archiving neighbors in Pennsylvania have their own collection of military records dating back to the Revolutionary War.  

These links just skim the surface, of course.  So much online material is available, and so much is continually being added, that state archives should be a regular internet stopping point for anyone serious about family history research.


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.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Good European Resources, With Soundex


One branch of my family harks back to the Sarotchkin clan.  Or maybe it was the Sarochkin's.  Or Sorotchkin.  Sarotzkin?  Who knows?

Localized spelling of family names, non-Latin alphabets like Hebrew, Cyrillic, Arabic or Greek, and the whimsical nature of official papers like passenger manifests and immigration forms all contrive to make family history research even more complex than it otherwise is.

Which is why I'm writing today to suggest a visit to the slightly oddly-named Genealogy Indexer.  This site (currently in beta) does two very interesting and very useful things.

One, it compiles some primary European resources that you don't see all the time, like historical directories, military records, and Yizkor books (memorials to the Jewish dead).  The focus is primarily Eastern Europe, though there are resources here from France and the UK, among other countries.

Secondly, it incorporates three search functions:

  • exact search on a name or keyword (as spelled)
  • a Soundex search, which returns a wide variety of phonetic spelling variations
  • an OCR-adjusted search.  This last also returns word variations, though I'm not very clear on what its underlying logic might be.  


Try all three search types to compare results.  And if the Soundex results are a bit overwhelming, you can use the Advanced Search features to narrow things down a bit.


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..

Thursday, January 21, 2010

African American Newspaper Archives


There are a few free newspaper archives available online that focus on the African American community, or on anti-slavery, or both. These are valuable resources for black history in general, and for black family history in particular. I hope to one day see more materials like this available online (Google News Archives, are you listening?).

 But for now, the key materials are:

Freedom's Journal (1827-1829), a weekly publication from New York City, and widely regarded as the first major African-American newspaper in the country.

The Friend of Man (1836-1842), an anti-slavery publication from upstate New York.

The Colored American (1893-early 1900s),  a Washington DC newspaper with a national focus, made available through the Library of Congress.

Muncie Times Newspaper (1991-current). A contemporary African American newspaper serving communities in Indiana, and one of the few I've found with an appreciable archive.

Google News Archives includes several black newspapers, including the Washington Afro-American, and similar publications from Baltimore and Richmond.   To search include source:afro along with your search terms. 


Two other archives of note are subscription services, but have rich collections just the same:

African-American Newspapers: The 19th Century collection, from Accessible Archives

NewspaperArchive.com, is the world's largest online newspaper archive. They haven't yet made clear which of their publications are African American, but with billions of articles to search, they are certainly worth a visit for any serious genealogy researcher.

And lest we forget, a few earlier posts on black family history resources:  African American Genealogy, Michelle Obama's Family Tree, and  Slaves and Slavery.

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, January 15, 2010

FGT Challenge: Round I


Whew!  You folks don't fool around with your brick walls, do you.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the FGT Challenge of a few days ago.  There are some terrific (frustrating, I know...but terrific just the same) family history roadblocks presented there.  Feel free to continue adding comments there.  I hope to be able to get to a few more of the challenges myself, but even if I don't, the commenters themselves have been offering some valuable insights and leads to help others out.

The proverbial brick wall!

One challenging situation provided in a comment from GenealSue Renzo was:



Joseph Henery Hyland was born in Nov 1863 somewhere in Ireland. According to the 1900 census he emigrated to Manhattan NY in 1885. Also according to this census he married Anna Keegan in 1892. He and Anna had four children, one daughter (my grandmother) and three sons. He appears again on the 1910 Manhattan census, but that's it. By 1920 his wife had re-married. I cannot locate bmd records,other family, immigration records or naturalization records.

Here's what I came up with from some of my favorite FGT resources:

CastleGarden.org shows a Joseph Hyland, age 21, arriving in NYC on December 16, 1885 on the ship, Lake Superior, from Liverpool.  He is listed as a 'Laborer', but his nationality is not clearly stated.

Ancestry.com has a passenger list with a Hyland arriving in NY on May 16, 1885 from Queenstown, Ireland and Liverpool, England.  First name is not totally clear, but seems to be an abbreviation: Jno, who is a 21 year old male from Ireland (ie, born 1863-64).  He arrived on the ship, City of Richmond.

The NYC Death Index includes dozens of Joseph Hyland's.  There doesn't seem to be quite the right combination of death year and age, except for one entry, where the date of death is February 19, 1919, and the age is unknown (actually, it's shown as 999 years!).

There are also NYC birth records online, with numerous Hyland births in the right date range.  However, the online records provide the child's -- but not the parents' -- names, so it can't be pinned down with any certainty.  Still...you might want to have a look:

FYI, you can request a search of NYC vital records (births, deaths, marriages) from the NYC Municipal Archives for a very reasonable fee:

That's it for now, but stay tuned for more FGT Challenge results



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..

Monday, January 11, 2010

The FGT Challenge


Know why I call this blog Free Genealogy Tools? Go on...guess!

Today we're offering a free tool for you family history buffs that's a bit different from the usual name look-ups, databases, archives and such...the 2010 FGT Challenge:

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Post a personal genealogy challenge in the Comments here. I'll pick one for some in depth research, to see what FGT can find.  
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So...tell us about your great grandfather, who seems to have disappeared without a trace, or your ancestors who immigrated to America, even though you can't find any record of their journey.

Who knows what mysteries will be revealed?

Don't be afraid to go way back, to your beknighted relatives in medieval England, perhaps.

Toss down the genealogical gauntlet...we'll see what we can find.  So Comment away.  Remember, though, this is a public webpage, so all material will be visible to my millions, er thousands umm scores of FGT readers.


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.



Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Never-Before Seen, Quite Fantastic Genealogy Collection


I can say with considerable confidence that I've come across a sizable collection of online, free books on ancestry and genealogy that no one's ever seen before.

How can I possibly know this?  'Cause I created the collection myself.  And I'm happy to now be able to share it with you.

World War I Honor Roll, 
from the U Michigan Library via Hathi Trust

I posted a few weeks ago about the Hathi Trust digital books collection.  This is a pretty new and quite substantial resource, comprised of millions of digitized books housed at university libraries and other distinguished collections.

A nice feature of Hathi is that they give users the opportunity to create their own collection-within-a-collection.  Hathi users have created personal collections of books on topics as diverse as Abraham Lincoln, Dime Novels, and Historic Bicycling.

There's even a collection on How to Be a Domestic Goddess (with 123 books, no less!).

And now, without further ado, I am proud to announce the world premier of the Free Genealogy Tools Ancestry and Genealogy Collection at Hathi Trust, henceforth known by its elegant acronym, FGT-AGC@HT.  

There's well over 2,000 books in the collection.  Many of them are family genealogies, with titles like:
  • An historical and genealogical account of Andrew Robeson, of Scotland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and of his descendants from 1653 to 1916
  • An account of Azariah Orton, of Farmington, Illinois, and his descendants (1900)
  • The Robinsons and their kin folk (1902)
There are some geographic titles:
  • 1800 census of Kent County, Delaware
  • Parochial and family history of the parishes of Tintagel and Trevalga, in the country of Cornwall (1877)
some deep-sounding reference works:
  • Passenger lists of ships coming to North America, 1607-1825; a bibliography (1937)
  • The abridged compendium of American genealogy; first families of America; a genealogical encyclopedia of the United States (1925)
and a fair number of mystery items:
  • Danmark-Norges len og lensmaend 1596-1660 (1885)
By the way, creating smallish collections at Hathi Trust is easy, but a large collection like this one, with thousands of documents, took some behind the scenes assistance.  My sincerest thanks to Jeremy and Chris for their fast and effective help.

FGT-AGC@HT is fully searchable and access is, of course, entirely free.  I'd love to hear your Comments as to whether it's a useful collection, and how you used it for your family history research.  Thanks.




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, January 6, 2010

Ancestor School Days


What, pray tell, were mom and dad or grandma and grandpa doing back in school?

Stuffing phonebooths (remember those)? Sitting on flagpoles? Demonstrating? Streaking?

Perhaps one of your ancestors was a student class president. Scored the winning touchdown in the championship football game. Member of the debate team. Voted most likely to succeed...or go to jail! Whatever academic superlatives and shennanigans lie in their past, there are some very useful tools for unearthing some of their high school, college and university history.

First and foremost, are scattered but often fairly deep collections of college newspapers. If you're lucky, and grandpa's alma mater has its newspaper archives online, then you've struck gold. Granddad may well have been written up in the student paper, but even if he wasn't, you can still come away with a good overview of what campus life was like back in the day.

Most college newspaper archives extend back at least to the early 20th century. The University of Richmond, in Virginia, has free online archives dating back to 1914, while Barnard College in New York City goes back to 1901.  Not to be outdone, the Harvard Crimson dates all the way back to 1873, while its neighbor at U Mass only manages to date back to 1966.

Here's a good list of free college newspaper archives, so you can explore what's available.

There's a ton of archived high school and college yearbooks scattered about, like this 100-year collection of yearbooks from Penn State, or the Columbus, Indiana High School collection of yearbooks.

These can be a lot of fun to browse, but you need to do some scouting around to find them.  A good trick is to search one of the commercial yearbooks sites like e-yearbook or even ebay to see what exists in digitized form. If you find one, then search the web more generally to see if it's posted for free. If it's not, then you can purchase the yearbooks from the sites where you found them, if you're so inclined.


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.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Family Trees, Family Tribes


There are a number of make-your-own-family-tree sites floating around.  I happen to like TribalPages myself.

First off, it's a large search site, with a database of either 50 million or 25 million names (the site gives different numbers on different pages).  Whatever the right number, though, it's a biggie.

The Queen's family tree is a large one.
Find your tribe as well.

Be sure to use the TribalPages search tool and search on your family name, to see what turns up.  With luck, you may not only uncover some family history, but you may unearth an old portrait or two out of the more than 1.5 million photos at the site.

There's more here than just name searching, including the opportunity to build your own family tree website, free of charge.  These are nicely done, interactive pages.  Their sample page on the British Royal Family Tree gives you a good idea of the features available.

This is a site worth exploring.


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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.

NewspaperArchive.com