Weekly Planner: Identify Holiday Heirlooms

ornament.jpgDuring the holiday season, as you’re pulling out those holiday decorations and serving pieces, take a few minutes to record the origins and significance of your heirloom and “special memory” pieces. Was that beautiful ornament made by a favorite aunt or a young child? Did that gravy boat once adorn Great-grandmother Johnson’s table? Was that tablecloth hand-embroidered by Grandma Smith? Or perhaps that centerpiece was from the first year you were married. Take photos of these precious heirlooms, and create a holiday book noting their significance. Include family stories and traditions to complete the album. Preserving your family’s holiday heritage in this manner will help to ensure that heirlooms and traditions are preserved for generations to come.

Staying Organized When Time is Limited, by Juliana Smith

It was a genealogical dream night. I had the house to myself with my husband at martial arts class and my daughter at play practice. And even better–Ancestry had just launched a huge collection of U.S. city directories, including some for New York City and Brooklyn. I made a cup of tea and settled in my office chair for an evening with my ancestors.

I had no sooner pulled up the database when my phone rang. It was a sales call. Thank goodness for caller ID. I ignored it and managed to get off one search, when my greyhound came in nosing me to let her out. I put her coat on, let her out and returned to work. As soon as I sat down, in came the cat. He strutted across my desk several times and I was reminded that I hadn’t given him a pill. I got up again, gave him his medicine, and sat back down. Dang, I had forgotten the dog outside. Up again to let the dog in. I didn’t even get to sit down this time when my daughter called telling me to come get her. Play practice had ended early–and so had my evening with my ancestors.

Interruptions are a fact of life, but if you’re organized, even a few minutes of research time here and there can be productive.

Desk Trays
I have long since resigned myself to the fact that my research time won’t always come to an end on my own terms. So I try to find ways to cut my research off in such a way that I can easily go back and pick up where I left off. One thing that helps me is a tray on my desk that is reserved for family history work that needs to be processed or filed.

Sometimes I’ll come home from a research trip and not have time to file everything right away. Or perhaps I was able to attach a record I found online to my online tree, but didn’t get a chance to enter the information into my genealogical software. Maybe I need to scan a record and save it electronically. Whatever the reason, unfinished business left lying around can quickly lead to problems.

Since I know I’ll probably forget where I left off when I get the chance to return to my research, I keep plastic sleeves and sticky notes so that when I’m interrupted, I can slip it into a sleeve and jot down where I am in terms of processing the information. (I use the plastic sleeves to protect the document and then put the sticky note on the outside of the sleeve to keep from damaging original documents.) Into the tray it goes, and the next time I get a free minute, I go right for that tray and pick up right where I left off.

Get Organized
I’ve also learned the hard way that it’s pretty much impossible to get any research done if it takes you twenty minutes to find what you’re looking for. Take ten minutes each day to go through and clear out that tray and any stray piles you have lying around. Even if you’ve gotten way behind in your filing (been there, done that, got the t-shirt), you can make a big dent in ten minutes.

When I do get too far behind, I add another step. I found a small file tabletop file like this one that is portable. I have folders in it with each surname and when the filing tray gets overwhelming, I can sit and sort papers while I watch TV with the family, or even while I’m waiting in the parking lot for my daughter to get out of school. Then when I get a little more time, I grab a surname file folder and file the documents in it properly in my binder. This way I don’t have to drag out all of my binders at once to get my filing done and I’m not bouncing around between families.  Continue reading

New South Wales Census of 1828, by Sherry Irvine, CG

1828 NSW Census.jpgIn 1828 punishments for breaking the law in Britain included being sentenced to death, transportation, whipping, or the payment of a fine. Jails (gaols) existed to hold people prior to trial. There were few prisons (also known as bridewells or houses of correction), all with dreadful conditions. The forty-year-old settlement of New South Wales was the destination for thousands of people convicted of crimes back in Britain.

The authorities in New South Wales kept careful track of all inhabitants of the colony and also assessed its capacity to be self-sustaining. To do so the colonial administration regularly counted the population in total or in various groups (e.g. convicts, settlers) using a muster system. A muster was a physical reckoning, similar to the way regiments of the army or militia were brought together and counted. Soldiers and colonial officials and free citizens were usually recorded at the same time. However, in November of 1828 the count of the population was done, for the first time, by means of a census because it had been determined that free people could not be compelled to muster.

In preparation for this enumeration forms were issued to magistrates in every district and constables went round to each habitation, usually accompanied by a clerk. In some cases a household member would fill out the form. The work was carried out between November 1828 and January 1829. Military personnel were not enumerated at this time.

Transcriptions of the Forms
Within the next year or two the information in the household returns was transcribed into two sets of volumes; one set of seven volumes went to London in February of 1830 and the other set, six volumes, remained in Australia. The former is held by The National Archives (TNA) of the United Kingdom, and the latter by the State Records Authority of New South Wales (SRNSW). It is uncertain which of these versions was the earlier of the two.

The two versions remained more or less in obscurity until the twentieth century. Discovery and transcription by hand of the UK set of volumes occurred first, shortly before World War Two. The Australian volumes remained out of site in Sydney and did not become accessible to the public until the 1970s.

Comparisons between the two versions have revealed differences. The order of entries is not the same. In addition, the 1828 census at TNA has more duplicate entries and some additional information. It is these differences that make it necessary for genealogists to consult both versions. Ancestry now has indexes to the NSW listings, and both images and indexes to the TNA volumes.

A household census form recorded the name of the householder and others in the house–both family members and servants. For each person facts noted were the place of residence, age, condition, ship of arrival, year of arrival, sentence, employment, and religion. It also recorded whether someone had been born in the colony. The original census form, on the reverse, sought information about land cultivated, cattle, sheep and horses. Only a portion of the original forms survive. The volumes into which the information was transcribed contain about 35,000 names in all. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear, from Paula Stuart-Warren, CG

Over the many years I have been researching, there have been several times where I’ve been advised against researching in valuable collections. A librarian, historian, or archivist might tell you that a certain set of files, index cards, or an electronic database or image doesn’t have anything to do with genealogy. Some have even said it would be a waste of time to check the record or index. A recent experience demonstrates how much we might miss if we heed that kind of advice.

Browsing around a library is great way to become acquainted with it and possibly find some things you did not expect to find. I was searching through an extensive old card catalog and was told that there was “nothing in there for genealogy.” I smiled and politely said I was just going to browse a bit. What did I find in this catalog? County histories, biographies, autobiographies, town and community histories, excerpts from diaries and journals, war history, maps, historical directories, histories of hereditary and occupational organizations (some with list of members), Daughters of the American Revolution publications, fur trade history, regional histories, Historical Records Surveys (WPA), and even some personal papers.


Your Quick Tips, 01 December 2008

Mark Locations of Cemeteries
I have read a lot of tips and columns in this newsletter on how to take photos of headstones–all which have proved most helpful. I’ve taken photos of the general area in which my family is interned; however, another thought crossed my mind.
I live in Montana; my children were all born and reared here but my hometown is in Southern Indiana. One night a thought occurred to me–none of the photos show where or how to locate the cemetery. If sometime in the future they want to visit their grandparents’ gravesite, they wouldn’t know the name or where it is located.

I went to Google maps; found each cemetery and printed a picture of it, making sure a street or road name was visible. Then I marked the area where their ancestors are buried. This will be included in a family history I’m writing for them.
Nancy L. Garcia
Superior, Montana Continue reading

Photo Corner, 01 December 2008

James Clarence Martell (1880-1941), taken in Somerville, Massachusetts in the 1930s.Contributed by Lorraine H. Wright, Oklahoma
This is my favorite picture of my great grandfather, James Clarence Martell (1880-1941), taken in Somerville, Massachusetts in the 1930s.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Amelia Zorn Golden & Friend Henry Kramer (in front), and her brother, Jacob Zorn with his future wife, Anna Neuman (back).Contributed by Edward Day Golden, Inverness, Florida
From the 1920 Worlds Fair, Long Island, New York, this is my grandmother Amelia Zorn Golden & Friend Henry Kramer (in front), and her brother, Jacob Zorn with his future wife, Anna Neuman (back).

World Archives Project Update

World Archives.jpgI was just checking out the Ancestry World Archives Project and thought this would be a good time to post an update on the status. There are currently more than 7,900 participants in the project and close to 4 million records have been keyed! The top indexer alone has indexed more than 70,000 records.  We should begin seeing collections posted to Ancestry.com in the near future.

Here are some of the collections that are being indexed right now:

  • Nebraska State Census, 1885
  • New England Naturalization Indexes
  • New York Naturalization Indexes
  • New York City Naturalization Indexes
  • Southern California Naturalization Indexes
  • England and Wales, Criminal Registers, 1805-1892
  • England Newspaper Index Cards (Andrews Collection)
  • Cartes postales historiques (France-Historic Postcards)

Click here if you’d like to learn more about the World Archives Project or if you’d like to join the community of keyers.   

You can also view the free webinar that was held on the World Archives Project in the Learning Center webinar archive. There is also a new article on Reading Old Handwriting in the Help section of Ancestry.com, that is useful both in keying for the World Archive Project and in reading the handwriting we’re faced with in our research.