Saturday, January 21

Free Military Record Lookups



The original GI Joe

Time for a review! I've covered a few top-notch resources for looking up military records.

The resources are all from either the US or UK.  US lookups go back to the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  English records extend back centuries, all the way to the medieval times of knights and crusades.

Here's what we've got so far:

Forces Reunited: Searching UK Military Records.  More than a million records available here. Searching is free, though they'll try hard to get you to subscribe.


Free Civil War Military Records.  This is one of the great internet resources for US military history...worth a visit even if your family has no connection to the War Between the States.


Free World War II Military Records.  Another great resource with millions of US enlistment records from WWII.

Medieval Soldier Military Records (That's right...Knights!).  It's always amazing to find how well records were kept, even centuries ago, and how they've managed to find their way online.

National Gravesite Locator for Veterans.  Find the burial locations of millions of US soldiers.

Revolutionary Era Genealogy Research.  These tools from the Daughters of the American Revolution mix military and non-military records.
Some Civil War Genealogy Resources You May Not Know About.  Pensioners lists, Confederate war reports, slavery records...a lot here to explore.

Some Military Family History Resources That You May Not Know About.  Official US Army history sites can turn up a lot of useful genealogical information.  

World War I and World War II British Commonwealth Deaths.   A resource as vast as the British Empire itself, with records spanning the world.

Online State Archives. Individual states often have deep records of their own, both military and otherwise. Spend some time getting familiar with what's available in the states where you and your ancestors lived.

Good hunting!

P.S. Know a veteran -- or friend or family member -- who needs some help with PTSD? Maryville University put together a good PTSD resource.

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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.

Friday, January 20

Search 150+ Million Grave, Burial, and Cemetery Records for Free


Find A Grave includes photos of many gravesites and stones. 



With more than 157 million records on hand, Find A Grave is not only a BIG genealogical database, , it's also a pretty interesting one. 

Users can (and do) submit their own records to the data set. Some submit individual gravesites of one or two family members, while others consolidate masses of information from old graveyards and cemeteries, and create a database where none would otherwise exist.

It's a wonderful tool, and should be a frequent stopping point for family history research in the US. There is an impressive but scattered collection of records from other countries as well...take a look.

Searching is easy, and results will quickly give you the deceased's full name, dates of birth and death, and the cemetery name and location. There may also be a photograph of the grave or the cemetery (or of the person themselves!). Importantly, you'll also learn the name of the person who contributed the listing to the database, as they can often be a very informative source of additional information.

Everything a Find a Grave is free. Register to get full access to all the site has to offer. And if you've finished searching for your own acquaintances, you may want to give their Famous Graves search a try for to find out about your favorite no-longer-with-us celebrities!



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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.

Free Lookups in the Dictionary of American Family Names



The Dictionary of American Family Names is a classic


The Dictionary of American Family Names, from Oxford University Press, is one of those must-have resources for serious genealogists.  


Each entry gives a detailed origin of a family's surname, describing its various meanings, geographical origins, and the context in which it arose. 

In fact, the venerable Genealogy Bulletin says "it belongs in every library in America , particularly those who cater to genealogists".

Too bad the danged thing cost hundreds of dollars for the three-volume hard copy set.

Happily though, you can get online access to DAFN absolutely free, using the Surname Lookups at Ancestry.com. You can also use the look-inside-the-book feature at Amazon to search on your name.
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It pays to check both sources, as the presentations at Ancestry and Amazon are somewhat different. As far as I can tell, the lookups includes all 70,000+ surnames from DAFN.  Even more, you can also look up the etymology of first names...still at no charge.  A pretty good deal!  


And if that's not enough, you can download an old (circa 1950s) version of the book from FamilySearch, absolutely free. 

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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.

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.