Saturday, September 13, 2014

Revisiting FamilySearch



FamilySearch, where the 21st century meets the past

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System





Very neat handwriting, back in the day!

I love family history databases with millions of names in them. They make research so rewarding! 



One such data source is CWSS -- the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, maintained by the National Park Service. With more than six million names in the system, CWSS gives you an immediate sense of the vast scope of the Civil War. The entire population of the US at the time (North and South) only came to about 32 million or so.


CWSS shows the information on the General Index Card...an information source prepared from unit and regiment musters as a soldier or sailors service record.

The cards were also used after the war to figure pensions for Union Soldiers. Once you identify the microfilm role with a record of interest, an actual copy of the General Index Card can be ordered from the National Park Service.



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Don't forget to also check for your family history at NewspaperArchive and Newspapers.com. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. And visit the main page of Free Genealogy Tools for more, umm, free genealogical tools.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Old (and Not So Old) New York



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

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

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

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

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


Don't forget to also check for your family history at Ancestry.com and  NewspaperArchive. These are subscription databases, but they are among the most powerful research tools available for looking into family roots. Also worth a read: What's the Most Common Phrase in English?