Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Wisconsin Pre-1907 Vital Records

The Wisconsin History Society has begun rolling out its Pre-1907 Vital Records databases, starting with birth records. These records—dating back to the 1840s—number more than a million, and are searchable by first and last name, county, and date. Most search results come with a button to click if you want to order a copy of the indexed record. Pre-1907 Wisconsin death and marriage indexes are coming in the months ahead.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System

Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System from the National Parks Service features databases of Union and Confederate combatants and Medal of Honor recipients, brief regimental histories, gravestone info and images from Poplar Grove National Cemetery, and prison records from Fort McHenry and Andersonville. There also are links to other NPS Civil War pages, like those remembering the service of African Americans and highlighting American battlefields at risk of development and destruction.

Famous DNA

Whenever the genetic information of some famous (or infamous) person is broadcast in the media, Famous DNA scoops up the haplotypes and DNA signatures and posts them for all to see. Among the test results gathered by the International Society of Genetic Genealogy are those of the Romanov clan, Marie Antoinette, and Jesse James, and of a couple of nameless contributors dug out of glaciers. They've also provided links to news articles about famous cases of genetic sleuthing—whether the testing was successful or not.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Arizona Genealogy Birth and Death Certificates

I wish all states were as helpful to genealogists as Arizona. Not only have they placed online indexes of their early Birth and Death Certificates, they've included images of the actual records (with the help of volunteers from the Mesa Regional Family History Center). Arizona has a 75-year waiting period for public access to birth records, and a 50-year period for records of death, so the former date from 1887 to 1930, the latter from 1878 to 1955. Records are displayed as PDF files, so you'll have to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Automated Genealogy

Automated Genealogy is a cool idea I wish I'd thought of first. It's a dual purpose site: a place both to view Canadian census transcriptions, and to transcribe a few pages yourself. The 1901 census is complete, and is now being proofread; and half of the 1911 census has already been transcribed. Each transcribed page has a "split view" option that lets you check the transcriber's accuracy against the original record. The main page has links to other ongoing projects, including several clever "Linking Projects" that match names in the 1901 census with corresponding entries in various offsite genealogical databases.

The Farber Gravestone Collection

The Farber Gravestone Collection contains 13,527 images of stones standing in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Texas, Nova Scotia, England, and Ireland, but mostly in New England. Their carvers have left us museum-worthy works of fine art, and equally worthy examples of folk art, rendered here in crisp detail. Most of the stones are from the 17th and 18th centuries, and are indexed by the names inscribed. The collection was not intended as a genealogical resource, but inscribed dates are often visible in the photographs. For background information, see the introductory essay (PDF).

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg: Emigration from Southwest-Germany

An English interface is now available for the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg—home to a large database of emigrants from Baden, Württemberg, and Hohenzollern (thanks to Dave for the heads-up). The amount of information given for each emigrant varies: No fewer than 28 search parameters are displayed on the Advanced Search page—everything from "Date of Birth" to "Number of Children" to "Motive." Information on additional regional resources and repositories is also provided. The overview of emigrant destinations indicates that this is not a database exclusively for North American researchers.

The Island Register

The Island Register demonstrates the advantage of having roots in a geographically isolated region. The website features "over 874 P.E.I. lineages, and 4500+ documents online," all related to the genealogical history of Prince Edward Island. There are maps, diaries, church and census records, ships databases, and "just for fun," the 1893 budget for the province. The wills database alone holds 417 transcribed records. The Register is always my first stop when researching a P.E.I. family.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Boston Passenger Manifest Search

The Massachusetts Archives holds Boston passenger manifests for the years 1848-1891. Their Passenger Manifest Search gives access to an index of these records, with such information as "name, age, sex and occupation of the immigrant; the country of birth, last residence and the passenger list number." An entry may also list the persons with whom an immigrant arrived, and perhaps a little extra information in the "Comments" field: of John Barry, who arrived April 6, 1880, aboard the Olympus, it was noted that he had "Left leg shorter than right." When complete, the database will contain over one million records.

Social Security Applications (SS-5) Database

Among the resources at I Dream of Genealogy is the Social Security Applications (SS-5) Database—a collection of digitized and abstracted forms submitted by volunteers. SS-5 requests now cost more than a tank of gas, so we should thank these contributors for sharing the wealth and preventing the duplication of effort and expense. The SS-5 may hold the only recorded birthdate for some individuals, or the key to determining a birthplace, a maiden name, or parentage. The database is small compared to the source material, but is growing regularly.

Monday, February 20, 2006

British History Online

British History Online contains "some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles." More than a few of these sources have direct genealogical value, like the assize and lay subsidy records. The background provided by titles in the Victoria County History series will prove invaluable to researchers whose ancestors come from obscure corners of England, whether their surnames are mentioned or not.


I don't have any Mennonite ancestors, but I kind of wish I did so I could look them up at Mennobits. Volunteers have transcribed the full text of Amish and "Swiss Mennonite" obituaries published from 1864 to 2005, and are waiting (I would hope not eagerly) for more to be published. The main index now contains 77,180 entries. Death notices are also indexed by maiden name and year of publication, but are not directly searchable.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

DeadFred.com Genealogy Photo Archive

What I like most about the DeadFred.com Genealogy Photo Archive isn't that it's named for a German monarch who kicked the bucket 99 days after ascending the throne. It's that anyone who finds a direct ancestor among the contributed photos will be sent the picture at no cost. If no descendant claims a photo in 6 months, you can have it for the price of postage. Proprietor Joe Bott asks for nothing but your boxes of unwanted pre-1960 photographs, and maybe a handful of spare change.

Land Record Reference

Land Record Reference is the most comprehensive set of land record resources I've seen online. There are articles on the history of U.S. land grants, warrants, patents, and sales, explanations of the legal and surveying terminology found in deeds, and land histories for Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia. Read through the lessons in the On-line Land Record Research Course to test your knowledge of U.S. land history and impress your easily impressible friends.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Libraries at Mystic Seaport Museum

The Libraries at Mystic Seaport Museum house a wealth of information on New England seafarers and their vessels. The Daniel S. Gregory Ships Plans Library has 100,000 architectural drawings of watercraft constructed between 1827 and 2004, only a portion of which are online. Of greater genealogical interest is the G. W. Blunt White Library, among whose online offerings are the New London Crew List Index: 1803-1878, the Seamen's Protection Certificate Register Database (31,047 certificates issued from 1796-1871), and a long list of maritime-themed e-books and manuscripts. The searches are case sensitive, so be sure to capitalize your queries as necessary.

NEHGS Online Seminar Series

NEHGS Online Seminar Series brings the expertise of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's resident genealogists to your own desktop. So far, the site has an introduction to the NEHGS website and tips on transcribing gravestones from David Allen Lambert, and a three part Getting Started in Genealogy series from library director Marie Daly. The Society promises more titles, "on both introductory and advanced topics"—all free for members and non-members alike. Macromedia Flash Player is required.

The Library of Virginia: Military Records and Resources

The Library of Virginia: Military Records and Resources is an impressive effort to bring records of Virginians' military service to the Internet. Despite the up-front warning that "Most records of military service contain only the name of the individual and the unit in which he served; rarely do they contain either genealogical or biographical information," the indexes and scanned documents will at least save you a trip to Richmond, and at best confirm an ancestor's service. Records range from muster rolls of Dunmore's Expedition of 1774 to questionnaires completed by soldiers returned from the First World War.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Behind the Name

Behind the Name has been since 1996 wholly devoted to "the etymology and history of first names." Not just the standard English, Spanish, and French names, but Azerbaijani and Esperanto names as well. There are lists of namesakes (kings, queens, hockey players, etc.), and a clever roster of "linguistically logical" names for twins. There's also a message board, where questions can be posted about the meaning, history, and usage of given names.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How Much Is That?

How Much Is That? will let you calculate in 2004 dollars (or pounds) your ancestor's wages, or how much he paid for that piece of swamp land. As an example, one of my ancestors paid $900 for 125 acres in 1805. That $900 has the purchasing power of more than $14,000 of today's dollars. Use the "unskilled wage" option to see how much your father's dollar-a-day job really earned him. To figure out how much your grandparents' steerage tickets cost, check out the exchange rate calculator. The calculations aren't exact, so read and take into account all the caveats attached.

U.S. Surname Distribution

U.S. Surname Distribution shows how America's 50,000 most common surnames spread geographically from 1850 to 1990. Data from 1850, 1880, and 1920 was taken from census sampling; 1990 data was drawn from telephone books. Select "All Years" to watch a surname infect the nation like an Ebola outbreak.

Civil War Maps

Civil War Maps is a Library of Congress presentation of "approximately 2,240 Civil War maps and charts and 76 atlases and sketchbooks that are held within the Geography and Map Division, 200 maps from the Library of Virginia, and 400 maps from the Virginia Historical Society." If your relative fought at, say, Chancellorsville, you can view in colorful detail the 1863 battlefield, complete with troop positions, roads, and vegetation. The accompanying essay, History of Mapping the Civil War, discusses the importance and extent of Union and Confederate mapping efforts.

Experiences in Researching in Court Houses

Experiences in Researching in Court Houses is a site I ran across years ago, and for which I've found no substitute online. It's a place for genealogists to report their impressions of courthouses and archives, or to learn what to expect when they visit. Some of the reports are negative ("They made it very evident that we were not welcome"), but many more are positive ("[They] even included me when they ordered lunch!"). What's most beneficial is the advice on finding records not even the courthouse clerks have discovered. This website deserves more than the single, overladen page it's allotted.

Utah Digital Newspapers

Utah Digital Newspapers is an online repository for that state's earliest papers. The earliest—The Deseret News—dates from 1850, but most were published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If there's any fault with the website, it's that there's no way to perform a global search of all newspapers within a given date range, and reordering results by date doesn't seem to work. But the search function for individual papers is excellent—even allowing a "Genealogical Search" for births, marriages, or deaths, though not by date. All issues can, however, be browsed by date.

The Global Gazette

The Global Gazette is a free online magazine sponsored by Global Genealogy & History Store and Global Heritage Press. The focus of the magazine—and of the associated businesses—is Canadian genealogy, with emphasis also on U.K., Irish, and United Empire Loyalist resources. Wade into the Gazette archives and you'll find yourself knee-deep in product reviews, how-to articles, and news of interest to researchers north of the border.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project

Rhode Islanders are lucky to live in a place where you can see all the state's cemeteries from the roof of your house. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but living in such a small state does have its advantages, among them the The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project. The database has about 426,350 inscriptions, with another 50,000 yet to be added. The Master Index, with listings mostly from 1647 to 1900, is online; the full database with name and maiden name indexes is available offline at a number of Rhode Island locations.

One-Step Webpages by Stephen P. Morse

Stephen P. Morse has managed to create one of the most important genealogy websites in the world without mentioning a single one of my ancestors. What One-Step Webpages does is make the information on other websites more accessible by offering new "front ends" for those sites. The Ellis Island interface is most famous, but you can also search passenger lists from other American ports, U.S. and Canadian censuses, vital records and naturalization records. Scroll down the page to find several One-Step pages for Hebrew and Russian resources. Note that some databases require an Ancestry.com or Genealogy.com membership to search.

Early Canadiana Online

Early Canadiana Online is a digital library with "2,198,626 pages in 13,825 volumes" and counting. The interface is available in either English or French. For several hundred of their non-U.S. dollars you can gain access to all the databases, but the free collections may be all you need. Whether your ancestors were French, English, or Native, you'll find historical documents that give context to their miserably cold lives. Searching for your Canadian surnames—or the names of your ancestors' hometowns—can produce some interesting results, but don't expect to find your family tree laid out and adorned with red maple leaves.

Silicon Valley History Online

Silicon Valley History Online proves the value of having rich high-tech companies move into your ancestors' backyard. There's plenty here about the digital technology that made the Valley famous, but also info about the area's early agricultural history, with postcards and photographs to pique the interest of pea-picker descendants.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

First-Person Narratives of the American South

First-Person Narratives of the American South is remarkable for the variety of voices represented, including those of "African Americans, women, enlisted men, laborers, and Native Americans." Text of their diaries, autobiographies, memoirs, travel accounts, and ex-slave narratives offers a first-hand view of the South's troubled history from 1860 to 1920.

Finland's Family History Association

Finland's Family History Association nicely complements the work of the Genealogical Society of Finland. The latter is indexing parish records, while the former is digitizing those records and placing them online. A sizeable number of pre-1880 church records are available for browsing, and some sample census records. Many of the site's pages, and all of the digitized images, require knowledge of Finnish (and sometimes Swedish) words, so non-speakers should have a good online dictionary or glossary (like this) handy. Since records are arranged by parish and village, you would do well to first consult the Genealogical Society's searchable index.

Online Archive of American Folk Medicine

The Online Archive of American Folk Medicine from UCLA gives home remedies for everything from a hangover to appendicitis. The source of each remedy is cited, and the region in which it was collected. A warning, though: Don't have your wife heat stove lids, wrap them in rags, and place them on your naked belly. It won't help your ruptured appendix.

NYPL Digital

NYPL Digital now has "over 415,000 images from primary sources and printed rarities including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs, illustrated books, and printed ephemera." Individual collections include In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience, Small-Town America Stereoscopic Views, and American Shores: Maps of the Middle Atlantic Region to 1850. Under the heading Explore History & Geography you'll find more maps and photos of genealogical interest.

With the breadth of material offered, it's worth checking the main database for your surnames—you never know what cousins might turn up.

Punzalan Network

Punzalan Network—a family history website started by Bernard Punzalan in the mid-1990s—has evolved into the "Premiere Portal for Chamorro Genealogy." If you have ancestors from Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands, there's a good chance you'll find useful information here. Free registration grants you access to the 1897 census of Guam, submitted family trees, and (for those not fluent like me) an English-Chamorro Glossary.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project

Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project is the perfect place to look for those ancestors caught up in the hysteria of 1692. 17th-century documents drawn from repositories such as the Boston Public Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Peabody Essex Museum have been digitized and transcribed (or retranscribed) verbatim et literatim. Also included are a collection of contemporary books that touched on the subject of witchcraft, and maps of Salem and other affected communities. Most of the main figures are profiled, with some biographies accompanied by historical illustrations, photographs of Essex County landmarks, etc.

St. Louis Probate Court Digitization Project, 1802-1900

St. Louis Probate Court Digitization Project, 1802-1900 offers online access to over 2 million images of wills, petitions, estate inventories, and other probate records filed in the city and county of St. Louis, Missouri. Images are rendered as PDF files, so Adobe Acrobat Reader is required. Larger probate files have been split into several "collections" that must be downloaded individually. But I'm sure no genealogist is going to complain about having too much information.

Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database

Illinois Civil War Muster and Descriptive Rolls Database is the newest addition to the Illinois Archives website. Data on 285,000 Union soldiers from the state has been entered by volunteer Fred Delap, with information taken from original Muster and Descriptive Rolls and eight volumes of the state's Report of the Adjutant General.

Information provided goes beyond that found in similar databases, giving us the soldiers' physical characteristics, places of nativity, and locations of their mustering in and mustering out. This is a major addition to the Archives' arsenal of Illinois veteran databases, for which you can also thank Fred Delap.


DocumentsOnline is an amazing service of The National Archives, providing digitized images of millions of British public records. There are records of well over 5 million World War I campaign medals, and Registers of Seamen's Services containing half a million names. Perhaps most genealogically intriguing are the "more than 1 million copy wills proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury from 1384 to 1858"—1,018,498 to be exact. Searching is free, but it will cost you £3.50 to download a document.

If you're in a less genealogical mood, check out the UFO reports and photographs available at the Archives.


HarpWeek provides universities with electronic access to Harper's Weekly issues from 1857 to 1912. They've also provided free features that can offer genealogists some historical context. Features like Arkansas and the Civil War, The American West, Black America: 1857 - 1874, and Immigrant and Ethnic America. Included are illustrations, articles, short stories, news items, and cartoons from contemporary sources.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ancestor Tracks

Ancestor Tracks is a genealogist-run business specializing in Pennsylvania land-ownership resources. Sharon and Angus MacInnes' latest CD titleFirst Landowners of Pennsylvania: Colonial and State Warrant Registers in the PA Archives, Harrisburg 1682-ca 1940—comprises three major resources from the Pennsylvania Archives. They've also published Township Warrantee Maps on file at the Archives. Free index lookups are available.

The website includes sample images and indexes, and links to related resources on the web. Sharon promises that "We are also going to put more and more early county atlases and maps on our site so that genealogists can download them gratis."

The Danish Emigration Archives

The Danish Emigration Archives has an online database of 394,000 emigrants who left Denmark between 1869 and 1908. Abstracted info includes name, age, last residence, name of ship, and destination. Many records include the emigrant's place of birth. With the amount of information given, identifying an emigrant with an immigrant in, say, the Ellis Island database should be an easy task. If you find one relative, try searching again using only their contract (ticket) number and registration date—you may find other family members.

One warning: If your search generates 12,000 results, all 12,000 will appear on the results page.

Boston Streets: Mapping Directory Data

Boston Streets: Mapping Directory Data from Tufts University combines city directories, maps, and photographs to tell the story of Boston over the last 160 years. Zoomable maps from 1844, 1867, 1874, 1898, 1928, 1950, and 2001 are provided, and searchable city directories from 1845, 1855, 1865, 1870, 1872, 1875, 1885, 1905, and 1925. With the Cowpaths tool and a little practice, you'll be able to search for Boston residents who appeared in a city directory, and see where they lived on an historic or modern map. Older maps often showed ward boundaries—very handy for anyone working with Boston census schedules.

Veterans History Project

Since its creation by Congress in 2000, the Veterans History Project has been collecting the oral histories of American men and women who served in the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. More than 2,200 of these stories can be seen or heard on the website—most accompanied by one or more photographs of the veteran. You can search the database by name, rank, service unit, etc., or browse by name, conflict, or branch of service. If you're a veteran, or have a friend or family member who served, be sure to find out how to participate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

AmeriSpeak: Expressions of Our American Ancestors

AmeriSpeak: Expressions of Our American Ancestors preserves for posterity such Americanisms as "Stupid enough to hide a sugar cube in a bucket of water," and "It's your butt, you blistered it, don't blame me." Whether you're whopper-jawed or katty-wonkered, this subsite of The Gene Pool will leave you happy as a clam suckin' sand. You can even submit the phrases passed down in your own family—noxious epithets excepted.

Family History Archive

Family History Archive from BYU is a growing collection of digitized family-history texts, as of today numbering 4,726. What's great about the Archive is the variety of books available for viewing—not just the same old public-domain genealogies you'll find elsewhere, but also recent (sometimes scholarly) works that otherwise could only be tracked down offline.

If you click around the Family History Library Catalog, you may notice links to books in the Archive. As the Archive grows and FamilySearch evolves, this relationship is bound to be significant.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online (1841-1902)

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online (1841-1902) allows full-text search of the defunct Brooklyn, New York, newspaper for 62 years' worth of issues—about 147,000 pages of digitized content. You can search by date, or by keyword within a date range. Click on Selected Subjects for some historical highlights, including "A Genealogical Joke" from an 1899 issue. Consult Genealogy Information for tips on finding the stuff you're really after ("If executing a Date Search please note that death notices appear in nearly every issue of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and are listed under the heading 'Died'").

Making of America

Making of America is a "digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction." It's actually two digital libraries, maintained by Cornell University and the University of Michigan. The former has focused on journal articles, the latter on monographs. Together, they've placed almost 10,000 books online, and 150,000 journal articles.

My favorites: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, and The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, both indispensable Civil War resources.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, London 1674 to 1834 has records of 101,102 trials held at London's central criminal court between April 1674 and October 1834. The records may be searched by name, but it's much more fun to search by Crime, Verdict and Punishment. If you were to search for, say, any sexual offenses of which the defendant was found guilty and subsequently branded, you would get 108 results—proving that 18th-century Englishmen were not so boring as their novels would lead you to believe. Links to scanned images from the published Proceedings are generally provided.


AfriGeneas aims "to find and document the last slaveholder and the first African in each family"—an ambitious goal, given the special difficulties that African-ancestored genealogists face. The articles and collections in the AfriGeneas Library make for interesting reading whatever your heritage. The site also features forums on twenty subjects, a chat center, and databases of everything from census and military records to the Slave Data Collection—an effort to extract genealogical data from the primary records of slavery. Since this site is about researching African ancestry in the Americas, people with Caribbean roots should also take a look.

Google Book Search

Google Book Search has drawn fire for stepping on the toes of copyright holders, but it's the public-domain works Google has scanned that genealogists will perhaps most enjoy. By using the Advanced Book Search page and selecting "Complete books only," you'll guarantee that the books appearing in your search results will be viewable cover to cover. Searching for "vital records" turns up VRs from dozens of Massachusetts towns. The first result for "genealogy" is a book about one of my own lines, the Coolidges. Search with "All books" selected to view sample pages of copyrighted works, including other genealogist-enticing titles.

Palaeography: Reading Old Handwriting

Palaeography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500 - 1800 from The (U.K.) National Archives will be useful to anyone confronted with a seemingly unintelligible bit of writing. There are helpful tips ("If you know the phrases which are likely to appear in a particular document, you will be able to read them easily when they appear"), and examples of nasty abbreviations now (fortunately) extinct.

The included tutorial offers ten documents of increasing difficulty—the tenth written by an especially malicious scribe. Under the heading Further Practice you'll find other documents from the 16th through 18th centuries to transcribe—should you enjoy that sort of thing.