Saturday, October 31

Halloween Alert: Mad Scientist on the Loose!



On this All Hallows Eve, it seems fair to ask: Is there a mad scientist in your family tree? Or perhaps even a very sane scientist or inventor, making the world a better place one discovery at a time.

There are two wonderful databases that cover hundreds of years of patents from around the world. Search them to see if one of your ancestors is included.

Google Patents covers seven million US patents (and a million more patent applications) that go back to 1790.  Even if there are no relatives of yours listed here, this a fun and amazing resource to poke around in.

A not-so-mad scientist, perhaps.

The European Patent Office boasts one of the largest online databases in existence. They cover patents from all over Europe, of course, but they also have a global reach, with millions of patents from Albania to Zimbabwe, and scores of countries in between.   Patent giants like China, Japan, Israel, Germany and Great Britain are here, along with patents from Kenya, El Salvador, and Viet Nam, just to name a few.  Here, too, records go back several centuries. You may find an unheralded Edison or Einstein in your ancestry, with a bit of looking.

While you're at it, also pay a visit to WorldCat.  If your creative ancestors ever wrote a science book (or any other sort of book, for that matter) they're likely to be listed here, in this massive online catalog of holdings from libraries around the world.


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, October 28

Genealogical Acts of Kindness



Let's say you've been a good little genealogist.  You've interviewed your living family members, been to the library poring through old records and microfilm, and been all over the internet accessing all the cool data sources featured here at the Free Genealogy Tools blog.

And now you want to know more.  You want a photo of great-grandma's gravesite in Indiana.  A copy of a birth certificate from a small town in Arizona.  A baptismal record from back in the old country.

You can plan one heck of a road trip to begin gathering up these old records (which is pretty much what Alex Haley did in writing Roots!).

Let a volunteer help you track down your family's roots

Or...you can ask for help.  A site called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is built around a lovely concept:  volunteer family historians agree to devote one day a month as volunteers, and offer free assistance to anyone in need in acquiring local records.

There are thousands of RAOGK volunteers all over the US and in many places around the world.  Ask, and ye may well receive.  Volunteers have been known to comb through courthouse records, visit graveyards and photograph the headstones, unearth local library records, and so on.

There is no fee for this wonderful service.  However, protocol requires that volunteers are reimbursed for any out of pocket expenses, like copying fees, postage, and so on.  Also, keep your request short and sweet... one person, one record.


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.

Tuesday, October 27

European Jews and the Holocaust



It's hard to write about this latest family history database, as it's such a grim and awful reminder of humanity at its worst.  Still, the Shoah Victims' Names Database at Yad Vashem is an incredible source of information on the millions of people who died at the hands of the Nazis during the holocaust.

The database contains about 3 million names, and hopes to one day have a fuller accounting of all the victims of Hitler's attempted genocide. The database is almost exclusively focused on Jewish names from all over Europe, though I understand there are records of non-Jews included as well.


Read the story of how Rozel and Kayla were identified from their photo.


The search interface looks to be very well designed, and will pull up records of closely related spellings and pronounciations for the name you search on.  The information in the records varies, but the designers have bent over backwards to include as much information as they possibly can, including parents, siblings, relatives, and information on where and how people lived.

There is a substantial and poignant photo archive at the site.

You can also search the Related Lists Database.  This resource is not searchable by individual names, but can be browsed by place name, group identity, or general keyword search.  There are probably hundreds of thousands of individuals named on these lists that haven't yet been entered into the master Shoah Victims' Names Database.


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, October 26

On the Qui Vive for Family History



I'm surprised at how many people still don't know how easy it is to set up internet alerts.

An alert scans through new content on the web, looking for keywords that you specify.  For instance, if you set an alert for the name of your great-grandfather, Shmoyim Strudlepfieffer, then any time Shmoyim's name is added to new content on the internet, you'll get an email alerting you to the link.  An alert can be designed to search web pages, news stories, blog content, forums, or all of the above.

One of them might be great-granddaddy Strudlepfieffer


If your family name is an unusual one (like, for instance, Strudlepfieffer), then an alert simply on your family name might be enough to provide valuable genelogical information.

On the other hand, if grandpappy's name is John Smith, then your email inbox will wind up swamped with alerts about the thousands of people with that name that show up every day in new web postings.  If that's the case, then include some keywords in your alert to help narrow things down -- an unusual middle name, perhaps, or the name of the small town that John Smith called home.

I like using Google Alerts myself.  They are easy to set up and easy to modify if you end up with too many or too few results.

So keep on the alert, or on the qui vive, as they say, for any new family history information.

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.


Friday, October 23

Coats of Arms


In 1905, a fellow by the name of Arthur Charles Fox-Davies published an encyclopedic tome called Armorial Families: a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour.  

In its more than 1,500 pages, it covers a very large number of heraldy coats of arms in Britain, with illustrations and brief descriptions of the family histories and heads of family for each crest.

There's even a section devoted to the particular gentlemen's club to which the family head belonged.

As you may have surmised by now, the book is fully available online (for free, of course).  It is a massive download, at more than 200 MB, so unless you're really keen on having this as your own file, you may want to use the Read Online ebook viewer offered at the Internet Archive. The Table of Contents can be found on page n31, while page n33 starts a list of the many splendid colored plates in the book.

Tally ho!


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.