As I look out my office window, I can see the snow falling, and Iâ€™m grateful to be bundled up in a warm blanket, rather than outside in the frigid temps. I canâ€™t believe weâ€™re just a week away from Christmas and two weeks from a new year. Where does the time go?
A lot has changed in the world since we looked hopefully at a new 2008, and while the news reports will probably focus on the more negative aspects of the year, I want to focus on the good. While weâ€™ve certainly had some rough patches in our family, we also have much to be grateful for and that is what we will be celebrating this holiday season.
Iâ€™ve also had some good news in my family history, and as a community, weâ€™ve seen some great new resources added to the collections at Ancestry. I browsed past newsletters to select some of the highlights to include in this article, and after going through the entire year I found that I had copied seven pages of URLs. I was going to either have to scale down a bit or this was going to be a VERY long article.
All told, Ancestry added 1.3 billion names to its collections and 52.9 million images. Wow! Thatâ€™s a whole lot of scanning going on! Since this will be the last newsletter of the year, letâ€™s look back at just a few of the collections that had us doing the happy dance this year.
Because of the nature of the naturalization process, locating naturalization records can be challenging. An immigrant ancestor may have begun the process in one location and completed it in an entirely different location, perhaps even another state. And for many years, they had various options when it came to the courts in their area. They may have naturalized in a criminal court, federal court, circuit court, or marine court, among other options. Because of the scattered nature of the records, the search can be challenging and some records might never be found.
In May, Ancestry posted nearly 2.5 million in the U.S. Naturalization Records, 1794-1995 database. On September 7th, I wrote about how the index to post-27 September 1906 records could be used to order the naturalization records through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) new genealogy program.Â The following month, access to some actual naturalization records got even easier when Ancestry posted the images of more than 490,000 naturalizations to its Immigration and Emigration Collection.
And the news gets better–naturalization index records from New England, New York, and Southern California are currently being converted to searchable databases as part of the Ancestry World Archive Project. As more and more of these records are centralized in the Immigration Collection, the odds are getting better and better for millions of family historians seeking these valuable records.
Canadian Passenger Arrivals
The addition of Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935Â had researchers all over North America jumping for joy. While itâ€™s obvious why this is good news for Canadians, many others who emigrated to the U.S. did so via Canada. For much of the nineteenth century, travel to Canada from Europe was cheaper than the trip to U.S. ports. Many chose the cheaper route and later moved on to the U.S., while others may have stayed. You may found that some families split, leaving siblings or cousins in Canada.
Additionally, in 1921 the United States began imposing quotas on immigrants based on nationality, so many eastern Europeans turned their eyes toward Canada. Again some remained in Canada, while others moved on. For those that moved onto the U.S., you may find them entering the U.S. in the database of Canadian Border Crossings, 1895-1956, which was also updated this year.
U.S. City Directories
Since we just talked about the 1,100 new city directories that were recently added to Ancestry, I wonâ€™t dwell on it here, but for those who missed it, I dissected a directory from Brooklyn in a recent column that can be found on the blog.Â City directories give you an up close look at your ancestorâ€™s neighborhood, with insights into the people and businesses that populated it. Because theyâ€™re listed alphabetically, itâ€™s a great way to find other family members, some of whom may have lived in close proximity to your ancestors.
Newspapers Doubled in Size
Until historical newspapers made their way to the Internet, family historians searching for mentions of their ancestors typically had to spend hours going through microfilms of their ancestorâ€™s hometown paper. Access was limited to library or archive hours of operation. This year Ancestry doubled the size of its newspaper collection, giving us the ability to browse newspapers into the wee hours of the night. Newspapers give us a real sense of the times in which our ancestors lived, and even if our ancestorâ€™s hometown paper isnâ€™t available yet, we can still read about the events in the world the year they were born, married, or died. We can read about weather events like droughts that might have forced our agrarian ancestors to move on to greener pastures. Or an epidemic that may have made them flee the city for a timeâ€”or for good. Take the time to browse through papers for the years when your ancestor seems to be missing from records. You may find the answer right there in the pages of history.
Just this month, Wisconsin mortality schedules were added to the collection of U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1880. While this might not seem to be of interest to many, Iâ€™m including it here because it is the first database made available through the Ancestry World Archives Project, and there are more to follow. So far contributors have preserved more than 8 million records. To learn more about the project and how you can join more than 9,000 other contributors, click here.Â
Around the World
For our readers in other parts of the world, I havenâ€™t forgotten you. I compiled a list with some of the more significant U.S. and international databases that were posted this year. To review more titles from 2008, you can see my list on the blog.
Whatâ€™s Your Favorite?
Iâ€™m curious. What was your favorite database or tool launched at Ancestry this year? Please share your favorite addition of 2008â€”or any year for that matterâ€”with all of us in the comments below.
Juliana Smith has been an editor of Ancestry newsletters for ten years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” magazine and wrote the Computers and Technology chapter in “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy,” rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e- mail at Juliana@Ancestry.com, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.