Monday, March 15

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

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

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

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

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..