Monday, November 24, 2008

Houston Public Library's Fantastic Collection Coming Online

There is some really exciting news coming from the folks at FamilySearch and The Houston Public Library. (See press release below) In the October 2008 Episode of The Family Tree Magazine Podcast I had an opportunity to interview Susan D. Kaufman, manager, Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. They have a fantastic collection of genealogical resources. Listen as Susan discloses what one of her favorite collections at the Houston Library happens to be!

Gulf Coast State Histories Slated for Online AccessHouston Public Library Joins FamilySearch in Digitization Effort SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

Thousands of publications that capture the diverse histories of Gulf Coast states will be accessible for free online.

FamilySearch and the Houston Public Library announced a joint project today to digitally preserve and publish the library’s vast collection of county and local histories, registers of individuals, directories of Texas Rangers, church histories, and biographical dictionaries. The digital records will be available for free online at and

“Houston Public Library has one of the top 10 genealogy libraries in the nation and a very strong Gulf Coast and international collection,” said Susan D. Kaufman, manager, Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research. “Visitors come from all over the country to visit the library. Researchers will benefit from the convenience of online access to the collection targeted under the joint venture with FamilySearch,” added Kaufman.

In 2007, FamilySearch announced its plans to create the largest and most comprehensive collection of free city and county histories online. Over 23,000 digital publications have been made available online since then. The addition of Houston Public Library and its collection furthers that goal.

Under the agreement, FamilySearch will digitally preserve thousands of Houston Public Library’s historic publications collection and provide free access to the images online. The targeted publications range in date from 1795 to 1923.

The new digital collections published online will have “every word” search capability, which allows users to search by name, location, date, or other fields across the collection. The search results are then linked to high quality digital images of the original publication. Users will also be able to just browse or read the publications as digital books online if they prefer.

The digitization efforts have already begun, and publications are now viewable online. Texas records are the first publications targeted by the initiative, followed by other Gulf Coast states. The project will take up to five years to complete.

Digital publications will be noted and hyperlinked in the Family History Library Catalog at as they are digitized. The growing collection can be accessed currently at (go to Search Records, and then Historical Books).

“We are honored to be part of such an important and beneficial initiative with a world leader like FamilySearch,” said Kaufman. “The digitization and online publication of Houston Public Library’s historic collections will help increase the inquisitiveness of library patrons and create a heightened sense of awareness of the library’s resources—which then brings customers back more often with more research questions. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Kaufman added.

FamilySearch is providing the computers, scanners, and camera operators required to complete the project. FamilySearch previously announced projects with Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, and FamilySearch’s own Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

The Houston Public Library’s Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research is also a FamilySearch Affiliate Library. That means local patrons have access to millions of microfilms from FamilySearch’s vast genealogical collection in Salt Lake City, Utah. Patrons can order research material from FamilySearch through the library and use the library’s film readers and copiers to further their genealogical efforts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Genealogists: RUN, DO NOT WALK to Google

I feel like Google has been reading my mind. For ages now I've been wishing for a way to manipulate my Google search results to benefit my research. And then I jump online this morning and Google announces the SearchWiki. My wish has been granted! And believe me, once you start using this, you'll realize that your wishes have been granted too!

The Search Wiki allows you to work "hands on" with your Google search results. How does this benefit genealogists? Think of the benefits of being able to do a search, put the results in the order of importantance to YOUR research, delete the results that are irrelevant, make notes to your self about what you did with those results, and the save it to refer to in the future! This is monumentally exciting stuff for genealogy researchers! The SearchWiki brings us another step closer to what I'm always preaching in my classes "YOU should not be a slave to the Internet - The Internet should be working for YOU!"

The key here is that you must be logged into your Google account to use Search Wiki. Now I know all my listeners already have Google accounts, but for those of you new to Genealogy Gems RUN, DO NOT WALK to Google and get yourself a free Google account.

I'll be covering the SearchWiki more in depth in Genealogy Gems Premium Episode #15 which will be coming out on Monday Nov 21. Premium Members can keep an eye out for that! I will also publish a Premium video for you showing you step by step how to squeeze out every little benefit of the Search Wiki in the very near future.

Thank you Google Fairy Godmother!

Sign Up for Genealogy Gems Premium Membership Today. Good news: The coupon code SAVE20 has been extended to Dec 15 so that you can make membership a Christmas gift to yourself or your genealogists friends! You'll save 20% off the annual membership. Learn more about the benefits of Premium Membership by visiting HERE.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Records Online at Ancestry

New this week from

This week we added to the U.S. City Directories database on We’ve had thousands of city directories on the site for some years now, but many of these databases contain no page images. This new release:

- Adds 50 million names in 1,100 city directories from 45 states and Washington, D.C.

- Includes directories concentrated around the year 1890, making them a great substitute for the 1890 US Federal Census.

- Has high-quality grayscale images that are much clearer than images in previous city directory collections.

We plan to add thousands more city directories to this collection over the next several months.

You can search the U.S. City Directories database at

Chris Lydiksen, US Content product manager for, blogs about the new city directories here.

Additional New Content
In addition to the city directories, we recently added the following U.S. military collections:

- U.S. Military and Naval Academy Registers, 1805–1908
- U.S. Navy Pensions Index, 1861–1910
- Index to General Correspondence of the Record and Pension Office

We’ve also recently released and/or updated the following international collections:

- Värmland, Sweden, Parish Records, 1661-1895 (in Swedish)
- UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919
- Veli Lošinj & Mali Lošinj, Croatia Christenings, 1821-1888
- Veli Lošinj & Mali Lošinj, Croatia Marriages, 1821-1890
- Veli Lošinj & Mali Lošinj, Croatia Deaths, 1822-1859

You can view the full list of recently added databases, extending back a couple of months, at

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Genealogy Holiday Hoe Down!

I just got back from the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ. I had such a great time meeting up with old friends, and matching the faces to the names of online friends. More about that in an upcoming post.

But now that the bags have been emptied and put away, and my email is pretty caught up, I've started thinking about what to serve at Thanksgiving dinner, and I'm getting serious about getting my Christmas shopping done. So to get me thoroughly in the holiday mood, I thought I'd start off with some good ole online fun!

So here's my version of A Genealogy Holiday Hoe Down starring some of my genealogy buddies:
AnceStories Genealogy Blogger Miriam Robbins Midkiff
Genealogy Insider Blogger and Family Tree Magazine Managing Editor Diane Haddad
Allison Stacy Editor & Publisher of Family Tree Magazine
Myrt of DearMYRTLE's Family History Hour Podcast

Yee Haw!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things To Check Off Your List

I'm just minutes away from heading out to the airport and on my way to the Family History Expo in Mesa, AZ. The last thing here on my checklist to do is to let you know the following:

  1. The Genealogy Gems Booth in the Exhibit Hall is Booth #8
  2. I'll be conducting OTF (on the fly) audio interviews for upcoming podcast episodes and I want to include you! Are you game?
  3. I'll be doing video interviews for the brand new Family History Expos TV at Booths 9 & 10
  4. Be sure and sit in on my class Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems I on Sat. 11/15 at 11:00 am in the Palo Verde I room
  5. Be there for the premiere of my new class Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems II on Sat at 1:00 pm in the Palo Verde I room.
  6. Sign up for your annual Genealogy Gems Premium membership and use the coupon code SAVE20 to get 20% off the annual membership. The offer expires this Saturday Nov. 15, 2008

Now most importantly...where are my car keys?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ancestry's Collections Priority Search

With the new Priority Search, you tell which national or ethnic records are most relevant to your search. When you select a specific nationality or ethnicity, the search engine will give databases with data pertinent to that nationality or ethnicity more weight when search results are returned.

In addition, choosing to prioritize a search helps know which Soundex algorithm and/or name dictionaries to use to better approximate matches for the names you’re searching.

Look for the “Give priority to” drop-down menu on search screens.

Anne Mitchell, search product manager, discusses Priority Search on the Ancestry blog:

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Indexing Projects at FamilySearch

Seven new indexing projects were released during the past two weeks:
  • Argentina 1869 Census – Buenos Aires (Part 2)
  • Argentina 1869 Census – Cordoba y San Luis
  • Massachusetts Death Records
  • Massachusetts Marriage Records
  • New Hampshire Birth Records
  • UK – Cheshire – Church Records
  • UK– Cheshire – Land Tax
To help with these or any other indexing projects, go to (and click Index Records) or

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Veterans History Project Spotlights Stories of WWII

News from the Library of Congress:
Veterans History Project Spotlights Stories of WWII 92nd Infantry Division
Soldiers from WWII African American Unit Recount History in Their Own Words

The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), a program of the American Folklife Center, commemorates Veterans Day on Nov. 11 and National Veterans Awareness Week, Nov. 9-15, with a special Web presentation at featuring the firsthand recollections of soldiers from the 92nd Infantry Division of World War II.

(Photo: Meda of Honor Recipient Vernon Baker, First Lieutenant, U.S. Army 370th Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division)

The 92nd Division, an all-African-American unit in World War II nicknamed the "Buffalo Soldiers," distinguished itself on the battlefields of Italy and earned an honored chapter in our nation’s history. Two years after the war ended, President Harry Truman signed an order to desegregate the U.S. Armed Forces.

Showcasing original photographs, video and firsthand narratives, the VHP presentation provides an up-close look at the experiences of nine division soldiers who contributed their recollections to the Library of Congress. The special feature is the latest installment in more than 20 online presentations comprising the "Experiencing War" series.

Narratives include that of A. William Perry, who had been in the Army for only 10 days when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He was shipped from his hometown in Cleveland to Alabama for the first of many postings in the racially divided South. Perry recalls that Italy was the first place in his service career where he actually felt welcomed by certain senior officers and by grateful Italian citizens. He describes the challenge of fighting the Germans while they hid out in landmark buildings like the Tower of Pisa, off-limits to Allied firepower.

Elvin Davidson enlisted with a plan to become a cavalry officer, just as his father had during the Spanish-American War. As the cavalry became obsolete, Davidson wound up a noncommissioned officer in the infantry with the 92nd Division. Davidson describes the hardships of serving in Italy, his leniency with his men, the importance of camaraderie to morale and the conditions in postwar Japan, where he served during the Occupation.

Robert Madison’s profile is rich in personal perspective. "We really believed sincerely that we were going to make our mark in this war and become able to claim our rights when we returned to the States." An architecture student at Howard University on December 7, 1941, Madison was also a member of ROTC, which allowed him to serve in the Army as an officer, albeit in a segregated environment. Madison lacked the points he needed to go home at the close of the war, and he served in various duties until May 1946. He faced prejudice back home in Cleveland as he studied architecture, but he persevered and eventually opened a minority-based firm in Ohio.

"Because these extraordinary individuals shared their recollections with the Veterans History Project," said VHP Director Bob Patrick, "future generations will have more than a textbook account of what it was like to serve in the 92nd Division. They will learn history directly from those who lived it."

The Veterans History Project was created in 2000 by Congress to record the firsthand remembrances of American service personnel in major conflicts beginning with World War I. During Veterans Day and National Veterans Awareness Week, the Library of Congress and VHP issue a challenge to Americans to interview a veteran in their family or community. Guidelines are online at Individuals may also request information via email at or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Remembrance Day

From the talented Scottish blogger Chris Paton at Scotland's Greatest Story:

"Today is Remembrance Sunday, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War, but also the soldiers of all conflicts.

However, please spare a thought too for the many civilians who lost their lives."

Read Paton's touching blog about his grandfather who was a young boy trapped in Brussels with his Scottish civilian family throughout World War One.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

British WWI Veterans - One of 5 Remaining - Dies

Just days before Veteran's Day here in the States, one of World War I's remaining Veteran's has died. Sydney Lucas was one of the few WWI vets to see the turn of the 21st century. According to his obituary he was among the last batch of conscripts to be called up in 1918. However, the Armistice meant he escaped the horror of the trenches. He later went on to serve in WWII.

Sydney Maurice Lucas was born in Leicester, England on 21 September 1900 and, after leaving school, began his apprenticeship as a plumber. (Listen to Genealogy Gems Episode 52 for more information on British Apprenticeship Records) He was just 17 when he was drafted into the Sherwood Foresters, in August 1918, and sent off to Yorkshire for his basic training.

Both of his elder brothers had fought in France during the war. Sydney later recalled, "The youngest one of the two was blown up twice but he didn't get any bad injuries and the other one was shot through the finger, that's all he got. They were lucky."

He attributed his long life to a moderate consumption of alcohol. "My doctor used to say that if you have two whiskies a day, it won't hurt you. He used to call in and bring the bottle."

(Image: WWI Poster from WWI)

The Forgotten Records of 22 Poor Law Unions

Volunteers around England and Wales are embarking on an exciting project to unearth the often sad and gruesome world of the Victorian poor. Led by The National Archives, the ‘Living the Poor Life’ project will see more than 200 local and family historians catalogue thousands of memos, letters and reports held within the long forgotten records of 22 Poor Law Unions. Ultimately the scanned records will be made available online at The National Archives website.

Local and family historians will be able to search by name, place, date and event, providing a level of detail found in no other records from this period.

From the running of the workhouses, to tales of family breakdown, greed and corruption, these records provide a detailed snapshot of a key period in Britain’s history.

It is estimated that around 80% of people in the mid-1800s would have been affected by the Poor Law Unions. Yet despite their historic value these files are currently poorly catalogued and underused. (More on Poor Law Unions)

Over the next 18 months the volunteers will catalogue more than 100,000 pages of documents dating from the mid-1830s to around 1850.

“While the 19th century saw a huge growth in Britain’s economy and industrial capacity, not everyone shared the material benefits,” says Dr Paul Carter, Project Director and Principal Modern Records Specialist at The National Archives. “These are the kind of records that will help researchers, whether a family historian or an academic, answer the question of what life was like for these people.”

The National Archives, which is funding the current work, is actively seeking additional funding to continue the project through to the early 1870s.

“The raw historical data this project will release will prompt researchers to formulate new questions about this period of British social history, and help them to answer existing ones,” says Roger Kershaw, Head of Records Knowledge at The National Archives. “Furthermore, designing the project the way we have, and working with volunteer editors from around the country, makes this a truly national partnership project and we hope to secure funding to allow us to complete the cataloguing of these records up to 1870.” (continue...)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Great Family Tradition & Heirloom Ideas and A Riveting Story of DNA and Genealogy

I love a good story and my friend Colleen Fitzpatrick has one that brings together DNA and genealogical research in a fascinating way. Listen to the brand new Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 54 to hear her tale.

And of course you've heard it said that every picture tells a story. Well, according to Lee and Connie Drew every quilt can tell a story as well. Find out how Drew's creative wife Connie turned her love for the needle arts into a catalyst for family bonding and the creation of future heirlooms. And the photos of these creations that you'll find on the epsiode show notes are just glorious!

Also in this episode regular contributer Ben Sayer the MacGenealogist is back with his review of MacFamily Tree. And James Mowatt of the Historyzine Podcast has a Linguistic History Trivia Bit for us.

This week also marks the launch of my brand new family history podcast called Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. You'll find the weekly half hour show right along side Genealogy Gems in iTunes where you can subscribe for free. Download iTunes for free now.

Each episode starts off with a personal conversation with leading experts in the field of genealogy, and then takes you step by step through the research process. While those of you who are experienced researchers will enjoy hearing from your fellow researchers in ways you never have before, Family History: Genealogy Made Easy is a show that you can send to any of your friends or relatives who are brand new to genealogy.

Do you teach a beginning genealogy class? Why not give your students the link to the show so that they will have ongoing support and encouragement right from their computer every week! Direct Link:

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