Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hungarian Jewish Roots

I like genealogist-run websites that make available records otherwise inaccessible. Andras Koltai's Hungarian Jewish Roots fits the bill. Andras is based in Budapest and offers his research services to both English and Magyar speakers. His site gives a good overview of the extant records, and an honest appraisal of what information might be found. A short "pre-check" will be undertaken before any money changes hands, because, he says, charging for a wild goose chase "would make us feel rather uneasy." That one admission makes me feel less uneasy about recommending his services.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission maintains the Debt of Honour Register, with records of 1.7 million men and women who fought and died for the British Commonwealth during the two world wars, and of 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as the result of enemy action. Also included is information on 23,000 cemeteries, memorials, and other locations where their sacrifice is commemorated. Under "Additional Information" you might find the names of parents or spouse, or—as in the case of Cecil Dan Dunham—the home address of a soldier's mother.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's a toss-up which of James Pylant's titles I prefer: "The Case of the Axe-Wielding Grandma" or "Weaselhead, Devil and Drunkard: Surnames Originating As Insults." Both are featured at—a website founded in 2004 as the electronic successor to American Genealogy Magazine. The site has articles by Pylant and others, biographies, photographs, and an eclectic collection of databases free to browse. Limited record searches in Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas may be requested for a fee. Don't miss the articles gathered in the section called Research Tips—unless you already know what "pleading the belly" means.

Monday, March 27, 2006

London Signatures

London Signatures offers a free index of more than 10,000 wills proved at the Archdeaconry Court of Middlesex from 1609 to 1810. Digital copies of the wills may be ordered online for 4GBP (view the sample images on the FAQs page to see what you'll be getting). Eventually the index will include "wills from the Consistory Court of London, the Commissary Court of Surrey and the Archdeaconry Court of Surrey," among other sources. The index may be searched by testator's name and date range. Unfortunately, the additional names sometimes included in the "Other Comments" field cannot be searched.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Great Lakes Maritime Personnel Online Database

Great Lakes Maritime Personnel Online Database is one of those narrowly focused sites you'll overlook right up until the day you find it indispensable. The project has collected data on about 30,000 seamen who worked on the Lakes between 1836 and 2003. More than 200,000 entries were extracted from newspapers, directories, and published histories, and are searchable by name, place of residence, and vessel. Only five search results are given per page, so be sure to click "Next Page" when necessary. And don't blame me if you can't get "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" out of your head.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Perseus Digital Library

The Perseus Digital Library contains 19th-century books on California and the Upper Midwest and Chesapeake regions, and a 19th-Century American Collection containing several genealogically valuable texts. A simple search function is available for all of these collections, but for the last you'll find the just-released "Named Entity Search" much more useful. An automated system was devised to extract person and place names from the texts, and even dates. Type in a date and see what was happening the day your ancestor was born, married, or died. These search functions are still being tested, so be prepared for occasional frustration.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Blacksheep Ancestors

Blacksheep Ancestors gathers records about those ancestors you might not want to meet in the afterlife. If your forebear ever called a prison or asylum home, or practiced the arts of the highwayman, bootlegger, or buccaneer, check here to see if his misdeeds have earned him Internet infamy. There also are links to court records, many of which are for non-criminal cases.

Friday, March 17, 2006

N. W. Ayer & Son's American Newspaper Annual

The Library of Congress has digitized images from 34 editions of N. W. Ayer & Son's American Newspaper Annual published between 1869 and 1919. This is a great place to find out what newspapers your American and Canadian ancestors might have read, and where you might find their names in print. Papers and periodicals are arranged by state (or province) and town, and also by religious affiliation, subject matter (education, agriculture, temperance, etc.), and language (German, French, Scandinavian, etc.). Use the "Page turner" format for quick browsing, or download the "extremely large" PDF files for searching.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

National Archives: Famine Irish Collection

The Famine Irish Collection at the National Archives comprises two searchable resources: "Famine Irish Passenger Record Data File" and "List of Ships that Arrived at the Port of New York During the Irish Famine." Both cover the years 1846 to 1851, inclusive. The first has 604,596 records of passengers arriving in New York—70% of whom came from Ireland. The second offers a bit more information on the ships that brought them over—including the total number of passengers on each voyage. Together they should satisfy your Irish-famine-migration-to-New-York needs.

Irish Famine Migration to New Brunswick

Those attempting to track down their Irish ancestors' port of entry shouldn't forget about New Brunswick, which lies closer to Ireland than Boston or New York. Irish Famine Migration to New Brunswick from the Provincial Archives has 23,318 records of Irish arrivals between 1845 and 1852. If your ancestors emigrated at an earlier date, check Port Returns [including Passenger Lists], 1816-1838: 10,412 indexed records of arrivals with digitized images of the passenger manifests.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Irish Ancestors

Irish Ancestors is a site that I suspect could be useful to some—especially to those with deep pockets. All the usual suspects are here—census returns, civil registration records, parish registers—and also such valuable census substitutes as Griffith's Valuation and the Tithe Applotment Books. Unfortunately, few of the actual records seem to be online, and there's no guarantee that requests for offline research will produce useful results. Among the free resources are a civil parish map, and a placename database. Try also the Surname and Ancestors searches to see what relevant resources are available, and what a thorough search will cost.

Monday, March 13, 2006


My appreciation of Norway's Digitalarkivet (Digital Archives) is diminished by my ignorance of the Norwegian language, but only a smidgen. The site has 652,165 images from parish registers, and transcribed data from a dozen Norwegian censuses. The databases are best approached through the WebMeta interface, which reveals the true extent of Digitalarkivet's offerings, ranging from the invaluable ("Deaths in Norway 1995-April 2001") to the worrisome ("Norwegian lepers immigrating to the US until 1888"). English support is good, but don't be surprised if the language suddenly changes to something disturbingly foreign. is a database of 10 million passengers to New York, most of whom arrived between 1830 and 1890 (two million more, arriving as early as 1820, have yet to be included). Simple searches for individuals by name and date range are free, and you'll be able to refine your search by specifying occupation, place of origin, and ship. More advanced searches cost $45—however many passengers fit your criteria. Needless to say, this option should be used sparingly, and only if the number of records provided would justify the cost. See this site for information on viewing original manifests.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Vermont State Archives ONLINE

Vermont State Archives ONLINE is the state's recently-launched effort to place searchable databases on the Web. The Record Series Database is of some genealogical use, if you can figure out which queries to enter. "Naturalization" is suggested, but try also "births," "military," or anything else you think might produce results. The Nye Index will be more interesting, especially to genealogists with pre-1800 Vermont roots. 53,000 18th-century state records indexed by Mary Greene Nye are now searchable, with twice that number still to be added. The records themselves are not online, but information on ordering copies is provided.

U. S. Census Bureau: State & County QuickFacts

U. S. Census Bureau: State & County QuickFacts gives demographic snapshots of states, counties, and cities. Click on "selection map" in the upper left-hand corner and you'll get a map of current county boundaries. Dave at OakvilleBlackWalnut suggests that this site be used together with the historical census and animated county-formation maps accessible through My Census Maps and My County Maps. (Sadly, maps for four New England states and West Virginia are not online at the moment.)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Nationwide Gravesite Locator

Nationwide Gravesite Locator started as a database of veterans buried in VA national cemeteries since the Civil War, and in state military cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery since 1999. Recently, the VA added 1.9 million records (mostly for veterans and their family members buried in private cemeteries since January 1997), the total number of records now exceeding 5 million. The database may be searched by first and last name, dates of birth and death, and name of cemetery. Records generally include the veteran's rank, branch of service, the war in which he or she served, and birth and death dates.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


ScotlandsPeople is the "official government source" for Scottish genealogical records. Access to their index of Wills and Testaments is free, though downloading the full documents will cost you 5GBP each. Searching the indexes of parish and statutory registers and census records is not free, and the system of credits should be understood before you sign up. Images and indexes of the 1851 census have recently been added to the collection, which already included the five subsequent censuses. Records on the site date from 1513 to 1955, though linking images of the earliest parish records to index entries has proven problematic.


Okay, the name of Jane Devlin's website—DUNHAM - WILCOX - TROTT - KIRK—isn't very inviting (it's named in honor of her grandparents), but the number of records she's managed to cram into this site is amazing. She's got Connecticut vital records from the Barbour Collection, cemetery records, church records, land records, probate records, and extracts from dozens of wonderfully musty old books. Her primary focus is Connecticut, but look here also for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, and Michigan resources.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Dibean Michigan Marriage Index

If you don't know what a "Dibean" is, don't worry: you're not alone. Actually, The Dibean Michigan Marriage Index is named for project coordinators Jack and Marianne Dibean, who've been collecting Michigan marriages for years. They now have more than 400,000 records in their index, and are still looking for more. Records come not only from civil records, but from private sources, newspaper articles, and obituaries. The Dibeans stress that this is only an index—and one built upon uncorroborated user submissions at that—so be sure to verify any information that you glean.

Voices of the Colorado Plateau

My ancestors never set foot west of the Mississippi, but I still like Voices of the Colorado Plateau. Choose by person, place, or topic an oral history taken from an area encompassing parts of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Then listen as the story plays, alone or complemented by period photographs. A wide range of perspectives is offered, from the Hopi's to the homesteader's, on topics from Butch Cassidy to mylodon fossils to Depression-era shoe-scavenging.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


ArchiveGrid is a database of "nearly a million" collection descriptions contributed by thousands of repositories across the United States—and it's available to the public for free through the end of May. Locked up in libraries, museums, and archives are "historical documents, personal papers, and family histories" few people ever see. Plug the surnames you're researching into ArchiveGrid, and these hidden treasures will be hidden no more. Use the search tips in the left sidebar for best results; I found the proximity search especially helpful when searching for surnames within a given state (e.g. "Dunham Maine" ~10).

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Salem Deeds: Historic Records

Salem Deeds: Historic Records is a site I wish were a little more user-friendly. Images from the first twenty books of Essex County, Massachusetts, land records may be browsed, dating from 1641 through 1709. But without digitized indexes, individual records are difficult to locate without stepping away from the computer. Installation of additional software may be required to view the TIF files in your browser. I've found the site useful for checking deeds referenced in published genealogies where volume and page numbers are given, but researchers starting from scratch may find a trip to the Registry of Deeds more productive.

IGI Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America

IGI Batch Numbers - British Isles and North America will help you search the International Genealogical Index within geographical areas as small as a town or parish. Hugh Wallis went to the trouble of figuring out which batch numbers were assigned to which areas; all you have to do is plug in a surname and a number and weed through the results. If you find an indexed record you need, click on the Source Call Number at the bottom of the page to learn what microfilm reel it was taken from. (For batch numbers from other countries, see this list.)

Friday, March 03, 2006


GenLine is the place to find Swedish church records online: "over 15,438,277 images" (which probably means 15,438,278). Parish records date from the 16th to 20th centuries, and include births and baptisms, confirmations, banns and marriages, arrivals and departures, deaths and burials, church ledgers and household examination rolls. Fees run from 75 Swedish krona (about $10 US) for a 24-hour "Demo Grande," to 2690 SEK (about $344 US) for a year's subscription. (Notice that there are special offers for subscribers to certain genealogy magazines.) A 2004 article by Gary Shea provides a good introduction to the service.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Gathering the Jewels

What better way to celebrate St. David's Day than to visit Gathering the Jewels—a digital exhibit with "20,000 images of objects, books, letters, aerial photographs and other items from museums, libraries and record offices in Wales"? You'll gain insight into the customs, language, landscape, and history of this exotic but not-all-that-remote corner of Great Britain. There's a section on family history that explains how the website might be useful to genealogists with Welsh roots. If you feel truly inspired, try browsing the website in Welsh.

MapTech: Historical Topographic Maps

MapTech: Historical Topographic Maps offers scanned USGS maps from 14 states in the Northeastern U.S.—as far south as Virginia, and as far west as Ohio. These are gloriously outdated maps, the earliest of which date back well over a century, and usually show the locations of schools, churches, and dwellings. Maps for a given town may be available over a span of several decades, allowing a genealogist to date the relocation of a road, or the presence or absence of a particular building. Use them also to locate old cemeteries, some of which may not appear on current topo maps.