Weekly Planner: Share Your Finds at Family Gatherings

During this holiday season as you’re enjoying time with family, spice up conversation with copies of records you’ve found. Check out the free historical newspaper sample pages online at Ancestry. These actual news accounts of historical events are bound to get the conversation and memories flowing. And check out the letters to Santa that appeared in newspapers from the 1920s and 30s. They are bound to stir up memories of Christmases past. Who knows? Maybe among those memories you’ll find a clue you can use in your family history quest!

Looking Back at 2008, by Juliana Smith

As I look out my office window, I can see the snow falling, and I’m grateful to be bundled up in a warm blanket, rather than outside in the frigid temps. I can’t believe we’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 we’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.

I’ve also had some good news in my family history, and as a community, we’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! That’s a whole lot of scanning going on! Since this will be the last newsletter of the year, let’s look back at just a few of the collections that had us doing the happy dance this year.

Naturalization Records
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. Continue reading

2008 at Ancestry: Collection Highlights

Ancestry____logo.gifThis week, I went through all of the newsletters from this year and pulled out some of the larger databases that were posted this week, and some of my personal favorites from this year. My thought was to write a column about them, but when I realized how many there were, I decided that the article would focus on five or so. Here is my initial list, beginning with some of the more exciting titles for the U.S.  (Bear in mind though that this is not all-inclusive for 2008. To make sure you’re catching all the resources for your area of interest, search the card catalog.)

Native American

African American



Maps of Scotland, by Sherry Irvine, CG

Recently I wrote about facilities in Scotland that are tempting me to return for another research trip, and I made brief reference to the online maps at the National Library of Scotland website. We all appreciate the value of maps whether researching at home or on location. Maps clarify our planning, whether for research or travel, or both, because a visual aspect helps us think logically and break a problem down into workable segments.

Whatever record I am searching, I begin with getting my bearings and that means finding out about boundaries specific to the record and contemporary with my research.

Wherever I travel I want contemporary maps of different scales. They help me find the bed and breakfast where I am staying, or the location of a surviving house, or the local library. Good road maps are usually at a scale of four miles to the inch and detailed town plans can be as large a scale as six inches to the mile–or the metric equivalent. (Maps in the United Kingdom are metric.)

I also look for maps that portray background information, such as the distribution of names, the historic location of industries, or patterns of migration.

Online Selection
At the National Library of Scotland website, you can examine the first three editions of maps at the one inch to one mile scale that were published by the Ordnance Survey, Britain’s official mapping agency:

  • One-inch to the mile, 1st Edition – 1856-1891 – 131 sheets
  • One-inch to the mile, 2nd Edition – 1885-1900 – 131 sheets
  • One-inch to the mile, 3rd Edition – 1903-1912 – 131 sheets

In addition, the website offers the first edition at the scale of six inches to the mile (2123 sheets), the four miles to the inch series of 1921 to 1923, and something known as the one-inch popular map of 1921-30.

Scotland produced many famous mapmakers of its own and the National Library reflects this in its online collection with the 1912 Bartholomew’s Survey Atlas of Scotland, and an atlas by John Thompson published in Edinburgh in 1832. A very useful collection is of town plans, many from the first half of the 1800s. Choose from a list of places, some with one or two dozen maps available (e.g. Edinburgh and Glasgow).

On the Scotland’s Family website you’ll find maps of county and parish boundaries. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Check Newspapers for Immigrant Origins, from Loretto Szucs

Search local and ethnic newspapers for information about your immigrant ancestors. Obituaries and other notices pertaining to life events (birth, marriage, anniversary, etc.) frequently list the town or county of origin for immigrants. You may also find lists of new arrivals, immigrants who were treated in a local hospital, lists of arriving indentured servants or apprentices, queries about missing relatives or friends, and notices of probates of estates–all of which may include clues to the immigrant’s origins. And don’t just look for direct line ancestors. While your ancestor’s obituary may not list that town of origin, the death notice of a sibling or cousin could be just what you’re looking for.

Check for newspapers in online collections like those at Ancestry. Inquire at local and ethnic libraries and genealogical/historical societies as they may have or know of collections, indexes, or compilations. State libraries and archives are another good place to check.

Your Quick Tips, 22 December 2008

Spellcheck Your Family History Notes
If your record management program does not include a spell checker for an individual’s notes, try this. It’s fast, easy, and it works! Open a new, empty Word document and minimize it. Now open an individual’s Notes page and copy it to your clipboard. (Yes, copy–don’t cut yet!) Open the Word document and paste the copied notes there. Draw a short line at the lower end. Select the spell check feature and work through the set of notes. When finished, copy the corrected set of notes and paste at the top of the individual’s Notes page. When you are satisfied that all is well, highlight and delete the old set of notes below the line you added and then delete the corrected set on the Word document. Voila! Correctly spelled notes!

I use PAF and printed a list of all the names of individuals whose record contained notes (File > Print Reports > Lists > Individuals with Notes > Print.) I then worked through the list using the above idea.

Della Nielson Steineckert

AWJ Editor’s Note: Family Tree Maker 2008 and 2009 have a spell checker for the Notes section. Just open up the note for a particular ancestor and click on the spell check icon. Be sure to check the entire note though. If you close the check window before the program has checked the entire note, your changes will not be saved. Continue reading

Photo Corner, 22 December 2008

20081222Leer.jpgContributed by Shane Lear
Art and Mercedes (Loveless) Lear’s engagement picture taken in 1928 in Kokomo, Indiana. They were married for nearly sixty years before he passed away in 1985 and she in 1986. They had seven college-educated, successful children and more than a dozen grandchildren, too. I miss them so much.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

20081222Benson.jpgContributed by Glenda Magsam
This old photo is from my Danish side of the family tree, and is labeled “Married Nov 1, 1905; Joahannes B. Benson and Anna M. Mogensen Benson.” The wedding took place in Elk Mound, Wisconsin. During this era, smiles were unusual on photographs. I love looking at the “Mona Lisa” smile on her face!

World Archive Project Update

World Archives.jpgWas just out looking at some World Archives stats and am thrilled to report that there has been significant progress. 8 million records have now been keyed by more than 9,000 contributors! Here’s a list of projects that are currently being keyed: 

  • Cartes postales historiques – France [Historic Postcards]
  • England and Wales, Criminal Registers, 1805-1892
  • England, Newspaper Index Cards (Andrews)
  • Nebraska State Census, 1885
  • New England Naturalization Indexes
  • New York Naturalization Indexes
  • NYC Naturalization Indexes
  • Southern California Naturalization Indexes
  • Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Piemonte, Italy: Marriage and Death Records

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.

To lear more, check out 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.