Thursday, January 19

Find Your Jewish Ancestors







Avotaynu is a Hebrew word meaning Our Ancestors. It's no surprise that Avotaynu.com is a rich source of information and tools for Jewish family history research.

Many Jewish families have roots in Eastern Europe

The Jewish Surname Index is home to more than 7 million records of names with some link to Jewish ancestry. That is, names on the list appear on indexes of Jewish villages, registries, concentration camps, etc. However, finding a name in the database does not necessarily mean the name is exclusively Jewish.

The Surname Index uses Soundex to provide a list of all "sound alike" names -- those that are phonetically similar to the name you searched. A search on Kohn, for example, returns several hundred names, including Cayn, Cohen and Kean.

Put one or more letters in brackets to force them in the results. For example, search [Ko]hn to see only names that begin with "KO".

The index points you to other databases, most of them online, where you can explore the origins of the name further.

Also worth a look is the site's Five Minute Guide to Jewish Genealogical Research.


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

Wednesday, April 13

History Unfolded: Nazis, Jews and You




While you're poking around in historical archives to unearth your family history, you have a real opportunity to contribute to our understanding of an important facet of modern history.


The Holocaust Museum has launched History Unfolded, an intriguing crowd-sourced research project. It aims to build a more complete picture of how the rise of Nazi Germany was perceived in the United States. As the museum puts it:

Help tell America's story. 
Together, we can uncover what ordinary people around the country could have known about the Holocaust from reading their local newspapers in the years 1933–1945. We need you to join our team of citizen historians uncovering new knowledge that will be shared with scholars, curators, and the public.

In other words, as you're digging through old newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s to find tidbits of family history, you can also be on the lookout for stories about Hitler, Nazis, the treatment of the Jews and the reactions here in America. Find an article, clip it (literally or digitally) and send it the museum to be added to their collection.

History Unfolded targets specific events, such as:

  • Nazi Olympics
  • German Race Laws
  • Kristallnacht
  • Warsaw Ghetto 
  • Concentration Camps


All submissions become part of the collection of the Holocaust Museum and will be available online for all to see.

This is an unusual and valuable opportunity to contribute to the historical record. Let us know in the comments below what you've discovered.


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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.

Saturday, June 6

Ancestors Who Came From -- Or Thru -- Germany



Emigrants leaving Bremerhaven, Germany 1850
Leaving Bremerhaven

If your ancestors immigrated to the United States from Germany, they almost certainly traveled by boat. Even ancestors who came here from other European countries -- France, Russia, Italy, Sweden -- may well have left the continent from a German port.

In either case, here's an important resource worth checking. The German Emigrants Database (the elegant-sounding Deutsche Auswanderer Datenbank in German) is a joint project of German and American organizations, specifically:

  • Castle Garden Immigration Research (New York) 
  • Historisches Museum (Bremerhaven) 
  • F√∂rderkreis Historisches Museum (Bremerhaven) 

Here's a direct link to the search form (though you may want to click through the site first for background info). You can search on surnames as well as gender and a range of dates. The data is mostly compiled from a large (and growing) collection of shipping manifests.

The German Emigrants Database includes other useful content: information on ships, research tools, and a collection of almost a century's worth of photographs covering the period from 1840-1938.

On a related note, the Staats Archiv in nearby Bremen also has searchable passenger lists for 1920-1939 (the page is in German, but there's a button for English at the top right of the page).  I'm not clear on how much overlap (if any) there is with the Bremerhaven lists. If anyone knows, please post a comment.

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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.

Sunday, May 10

FIBIS




What? You never heard of FIBIS? Perhaps it's time.

Rockin' those turbans.
The Families in British India Society hosts the FIBIS website to celebrate, if that's the right word, all things related to Colonial India. If your roots hark back to the UK or to India, this can be a valuable site for family research. As the FIBIS genealogy motto says: Your brick wall is in India.

Their main tool is a searchable database of more than a million names. These look to be mostly British names, but there are a substantial number of Indian surnames as well. The database was amassed from newspaper mentions, shipping records, property records, government files and so on.

Don't overlook the rest of the site. Although not as comprehensive as the names database, there is ample material here like photographs, reference sources and research advice, all worth looking into. You can register at FIBIS at no charge for access to additional materials.

Enjoy your exploration!


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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.

Saturday, March 21

Military Records, State by State





Wars are really bad for humankind, but really good for family researchers. Armies keep lots of records. One underappreciated (and of course, free) resource for military records are online state archives. Some of them are phenomenal.

Here are some state military records to check out.

Alabama
  • Civil War Soldiers database.
  • World War I Goldstar database.  This database of WWI dead from Alabama 
Alaska at War!

Arkansas
  • Confederate Pensions
  • Confederate Home (as in Old Soldiers Home)
  • Arkansas Civil War site
California:
  • Calisphere 1939-1945
  • World War II
Colorado:
  • Vietnam Deaths
  • World War I Civilian Service Questionnaires
  • Spanish-American War Volunteers
  • Civil War Casualties
Connecticut:
  • Fitch's Home for Soldiers Database -- Civil War and Spanish American War
  • World War I Veterans Database
Delaware:
  • Muster rolls, Civil War and WWII
Florida:
  • World War I service cards
  • Confederate Pension Application Files
Georgia:
  • Militia Enrollment Lists, 1864
  • Confederate Pension Applications
  • Spanish-American War Service Summary Cards
Hawaii:
  • World War I Service Records
Illinois:
  • Slavery and emancipation database
  • Veteran Records, including those from wars you don't often hear about, like the Black Hawk War, or the Winnebago War.  
Indiana:
  • Military Records (citations, veterans home records, Mexican War veterans)
  • Civil War era telegrams
  • Indiana Muster, Pay and Receipt Rolls, War of 1812
Iowa in World War II (press clippings)

Kansas:
  • World War I, 1914-1919
  • World War II, 1939-1945
  • WWI Alien Enemies list, of foreign born non-citizens living in Kansas
  • Civil War Soldiers from Kansas, with name look-ups
  • WWII Kansas Veterans Lookup
Kentucky:
  • Survivors of the Bataan Death March Oral History Project
Maine:
  • Revolutionary War land grants and pensions
  • Civil War records, including narrative histories, photos, muster rolls and burials
Maryland:
Massachusetts:
  • Fire and Thunder: Massachusetts Blacks in the Civil War
Michigan:
  • Military Service Records from the Civil War
Minnesota:
Mississippi:
  • The Freedmen's Bureau searchable index includes the records of more than 30,000 ex-slaves who entered into contracts with farmers after the Civil War.
Missouri:
  • Civil War resources
  • Civil War Provost Marshal Index Database
  • Soldiers' Records: War of 1812 - World War I
Nebraska:
  • Civil War Veterans (includes name searching)
  • WWI Draft Registration Cards
New Jersey:
  • Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Civil War, 1861-1865
  • Civil War Treasury Vouchers, 1861-1865 has more than 100,000 records of payments to soldiers for final pay, or to families of deceased soldiers, as well as for hardship. 
  • Civil War U.S. Colored Troops Service Files
  • Registers of Revolutionary War and Civil War soldiers
New York:
  • Harlem Hellfighters WWI Muster Rolls
  • Military Patents
  • New York State Civil War database
North Carolina:
  • Civil War Resources
  • World War I
North Dakota:
  • Veterans History Project
Ohio:
  • War of 1812 Roster
Oklahoma:
  • Oklahoma Confederate Pension Records (soldier and spouse's names) 
  • Military Deaths-World War I to the Korean War.
Oregon:
  • Oregon at War: World War I and the Oregon Experience
  • Life on the Home Front: Oregon Responds to World War II
  • Pearl Harbor Remembered: Oregonians and the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Pennsylvania:
  • PA National Guard Veteran’s Card File, 1867-1921
  • Civil War Veterans’ Card File
  • Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File
  • World War I Service Medal Application Cards
  • Spanish American War Veterans’ Card File of United States Volunteers
  • Mexican Border Campaign Veterans’ Card File
  • Militia Officers’ Index Cards, 1775-1800
South Carolina:
  • Confederate Pension Applications, 1919-1938
  • Militia Enrollments of 1869
South Dakota:
  • South Dakota National Guard Collection
  • Civil War Diary
  • Military Records
Tennessee:
  • Civil War Military Records
  • Civil War Soldier Photographs
  • Looking Back - The Civil War in Tennessee
  • Tennessee in World War I
  • Civil War Era Database -- Nearly 2,000 pamphlets and eight newspapers
  • Civil War Sourcebook -- Over 7,000 articles 
  • Military Records
  • Vietnam War
  • War of 1812
  • World War I
Texas:
  • Texas Adjutant General Service Records: Military and Ranger Records, 1836-1935
  • Confederate Pension Applications, 1899-1975
Utah:
  • Indian War Service Affidavits (1909-1919).
Virginia:
  • Confederate Disability Applications and Receipts
  • Confederate Pension Rolls, Veterans and Widows, name searchable
  • Dunmore’s War (Virginia Payrolls/Public Service Claims, 1775)
  • Revolutionary War Bounty Warrants
  • Revolutionary War Rejected Claims
  • Revolutionary War Virginia State Pensions
  • VMI Archives historical rosters database, all enrolled students, 1839-1935
Washington:
  • Military Records
West Virginia:
  • Civil War
  • Civil War Medals.
  • Militia Database, lists Civil War soldiers who fought for the Union
  • The Veterans Memorial Archives Database lists more than 10,000 veterans who died in 20th century conflicts.  
Wisconsin:
  • Wisconsin in the Civil War
  • Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust


Most state archives have other pertinent records -- census, deaths, land grants and so on. Check out the full set of available materials at Digital State Archives.

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