Friday, January 20

World War II (WWII) Enlistment Records


Some of the everyday heroes of World War II

I like large databases, ones with millions of records. Plug in a family name, and you're almost bound to find some relative or other. That's one of the allures of the WWII Enlistment Records from the National Archives (NARA)


There are more than 9 million records here of just about every man and woman who enlisted in the Army in World War II (1938-1946). My dad's in here, along with a host of uncles, great-uncles, some aunts and a few in-laws.

Along with a name, the records include rank, serial number, state and county of residence, date and place of enlistment, Army branch, term of enlistment, date and place of birth, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, height and weight, military occupational specialty (1945 and later), and box and reel number of the original records on microfilm.



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.

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.