5    Apr 20086 comments

UK Censuses 1841-1901 online

Find My Past is a family history and genealogy website based in London, England, with more than 550 million family history records recently announced its plans to bring UK Censuses 1841-1901 online at WorldVitalRecords.com (a service of FamilyLink.com, Inc.).

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While the UK site focuses on those geographical records, many American researchers should look at these records as well. While many UK immigrants resettled in the US, the UK was also a transit point for immigrants from Europe and points farther east.

Some families and individuals stayed for a few generations or just a few years before moving on to North America. It is always worth searching new record collections to see what mysteries of history might be discovered.

Already added to the site's World Collection of Records are the 1861, 1881 and 1891 censuses.

Find My Past also offers access to the outbound Passenger Lists which now run from 1890-1960. There are now 24 million passengers recorded in this time period.

The company worked with the UK's National Archives and some 125 people worked for more than a year to scan in 1.1 million individual pages.

The outbound passenger lists cover many destinations - not only to the US. Although all seven decades of the passenger lists are free to search, obtaining images and transcripts requires a subscription - sometimes there are good deals, so check the FindMyPast site.

I look forward to hearing from readers who have located family records at the site.

4    Apr 20081 comment

Genealogy comes to your television

Who Do You Think You Are? was BBC's entry into the field of genealogy shows.

Today, there are WDYTYA programs licensed in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore and Poland, with other deals in progress; Israel and the US (NBC is the latest) are now on the list. The BBC show's fourth season premiere scored the highest rating ever, as some 6.8 million viewers watched it.

The show has sparked an interest in genealogy among many viewers; an annual May genealogy fair is now held in London, attracting thousands of attendees (this year the dates are May 2-4). Additionally, BBC Magazines began publishing the monthly Who Do You Think You Are? magazine about tracing family trees. A website offers detailed help from expert Dr. Nick Barratt.

Click to view photo in full size

Family history researchers believe that any program providing insight into the mysteries of family history is an excellent idea.

Each one-hour episode takes a celebrity through their tree, providing historical context and uncovering secrets and surprising details. The BBC version has uncovered tales of bigamy, wartime heroism and even attempted murder, and traced families from the UK to Poland, Germany, Jamaica, India and other locations. The celebrities are often deeply emotional as they learn about ancestors' hardships. And, of course, they are always depicted as finding convenient parking places outside busy archives - which rarely happens in real life!

The NBC effort is headed by executive producer Lisa Kudrow (who was Phoebe in "Friends"). She grew up in Los Angeles, and her father - a genealogist - is a physician specializing in migraine treatments. Our families share roots in Mogilev, Belarus and I have met Dr. Kudrow. It is obvious that his daughter has developed an interest in family history as well.

Her webpage indicates an interest in research, and her background in biology may also see DNA genetic genealogy worked into the series.

The new BBC fifth series this summer presents celebrities from the world of politics, television, design, acting and fashion. They will embark on emotional, personal and surprising journeys crossing centuries and continents to uncover compelling family and social histories:

--Television host Jerry Springer's Jewish parents had escaped to London from Nazi Germany just three days before the outbreak of the Second World War. Jerry sets out on a poignant and painful journey that take him from New York and back to Germany.

--Actor Patsy Kensit's late father was an associate of the Kray Twins. Apprehensively, Patsy embarks on an investigation into her father's murky past; wanting to understand the roots of his criminality and to discover how far back "the family trade" goes.

--Broadcaster Esther Rantzen believes her family history is exclusively a story of genteel middle-class respectability, but there is mystery and tales of a black sheep in the family that has always intrigued her.

--Great-grandparents on both sides of model Jodie Kidd's family were awarded titles. On one side is the legendary Lord Beaverbrook. But when Jodie heads up to Newcastle to find out more about her mother's grandfather the mysterious Sir Rowland Hodge, a Newcastle shipbuilder, she uncovers an early 20th century political scandal.

Designer Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen has always felt a close connection to the sea and wants to discover how far back his seafaring roots go.

Boris Johnson sets out to find more about his roots in Turkey, in particular his great grandfather who was also a journalist and a politician.

3    Apr 20080 comments

Orphan photos reconnected online

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AncientFaces.com and DeadFred.com are websites dedicated to reuniting old photos with the families of their original owners. They are only two of many in a subculture of amateur genealogists, antique hounds, and others who attempt to find real homes for old pictures.

DeadFred.com currently features 14,695 surnames, 77,573 photos/records, 1,278 reunions and experienced 62 million hits last year; AncientFaces.com houses 43,654 photos.

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According to a Boston Globe story, this subculture wouldn't exist without the Internet and its features. These days, libraries are also getting involved, and the Waltham (Massachusetts) Library has joined this community.

His picture arrived in the mail at the Waltham Public Library in a small manila envelope. The well-dressed stranger wore a dark pinstriped suit - late-19th-century vintage. His hair was parted sharply at the left temple, his starched collar crisp and white.

His photo carried the trademark of a Waltham studio, called Brown, L.C. on Main Street, which hasn't existed for more than 100 years.

"Hello," the handwritten note accompanying the picture said. "Don't ask me how I wound up in Sasser, Georgia! Would you please put me on display in your library so my family can find me? Thanks! Sincerely, A Lost Soul."

What was once a treasured image of a brother, husband or son is now an orphaned photo. But though this image might be a "Lost Soul," it is by no means alone. The Internet has created a thriving community of people who have found a calling in rescuing the thousands of these orphaned photos that surface in dusty attics or estate sales, and trying to reunite them with family or friends or anyone who could identify them.

And now Waltham's library has joined that community, drawn in by the arrival of the "Lost Soul" photo in January. Library workers have posted the image and several other unidentified pictures from its files on the library's website, and in a display case outside its Waltham Room.

Librarian Jan Zwicker oversees the local collection and says the library has more than 5,000 historical photos in diverse categories.

Amazingly, the "Lost Soul" is one of only five photos without a name or history attached. It was sent in by Patrica Rock of Georgia who found it in an antique shop. She hopes someone might recognize the man who might have been a local resident, visitor or student.

Another one of Rock's orphaned photos, this one depicting a 19th-century girl, included a name and the name of the man she eventually married. Rock used the information to track down their grandson, an 80-year-old doctor living in Chicopee. Soon afterward, the doctor contacted her with the reaction that she always hopes for. "He was absolutely amazed. She had died giving birth to his father, and they only had one photo of her, taken when she was older ...He sent me a paperweight this Christmas."

The library's other four mystery photos have been there for years, and whether those or Lost Soul will connect with family isn't certain. His best clue is the photo studio, in business on Main Street between 1893 and 1895.

Another - late-19th-early-20th century - is a white-haired gentleman wearing a long, fur-trimmed coat, staring into the camera, and taken at a known Boston studio, Elmer Chickering in 1904. A third shows a middle-aged man wearing the clothes of a priest or minister, in a pair of pince-nez glasses. The fourth is of a large crowd, mostly men, on the steps of a large stone building, taken by mystery man Adolphe Bean, who isn't listed in any records of the period. The last is a street scene of a streetcare, showing a steeple above the trees.

Read more about the friends of lost photos in the Boston Globe story here.

I'd like to know if readers have used either of these sites, have submitted photos or have found family photos. I look forward to your comments and questions.

3    Apr 20088 comments

Hart Island: New York’s Potter’s Field

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A poignant article in The New York Times recently focused on "Finding Names for Hart Island's Forgotten."

Hart's Island, in Long Island Sound, has some 800,000 graves dating from 1869. There are no markers with names, but registers do exist. And thanks to one woman, families may once again be able to learn about relatives buried there over the years.

New York sculptor Melinda Hunt has devoted more than 10 years to assisting people to track down Hart Island's dead. Although the handwritten ledgers listing the names were generally inaccessible, Hunt obtained 50,000 records for every person buried there since 1985 through the Freedom of Information Act. She is hoping to use the thousands of pages to create an online database searchable by name or date of death.

Their bodies were put into tiny pine coffins and buried together in a large grave on a lonely, grassy place called Hart Island, part of the Bronx in Long Island Sound. According to the burial ledger, the babies Walburton, Mieses and Suazo, and dozens more infants, are in babies' trench "No. 51."

Hart Island is home to New York City's potter's field, the place where hundreds of thousands of the city's anonymous, indigent and forgotten have been laid to rest, tightly packed in pine coffins in common graves. Hart Island is managed and maintained by the city's Department of Correction, and inmates dig and fill the graves - three bodies deep for adults, five deep for babies - and mark each trench with a numbered concrete block. The island is off limits to the public, though family members who can prove their relatives are buried there are able to arrange visits.

Since she began exploring the island in 1991, hundreds of people have contacted her looking for information on missing relatives or children who died at birth.

Hart Island has been home, over the years, to a lunatic asylum, a tuberculosis hospital, a boys' reformatory and a prison. According to the newspaper story, some 1,500 are buried there annually; half are babies or young children.

Hart and photographer Joel Sternfeld organized a year-long exhibit in 1997, published a book of photographs in 1998 and produced a documentary. Hunt became known as the resource for information.

It is hard to obtain access to the island, and Hunt believes the public should be allowed annual visits. However, the Department of Correction believes there is a security issue as inmates work there. The burial records need to be preserved, she says, as thousands of ledger records were lost in a fire in the 1970s. She's looking for money to post the records online and to collect the stories.

Hunt believes that people have the right to know where their family members are buried in the city. She's trying to show an important hidden part of American culture that has been overlooked. "These are public records. They belong to the people of New York."

To read more of the story, click here.

To learn more about the Hart Island project, click here.

3    Apr 20083 comments

Searching for your UK roots?

If you are searching for family with links to the UK, here's a mega site that covers literally everything related to genealogical resources in the geographical area.

It is sponsored by Price and Associates, who are experts in English family history and genealogy research.

Among the many links, you'll find some sites in color and this indicates fees are required.

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The main categories are Genuki, Burial Indexes, Occupations, Civil Registration (BMD), Census and Census Substitutes, Baptisms, Marriage Indexes, Education & Announcements, Historic Newspapers, DNA, Probate Records, Emigration Records, Migration, Maps and Gazetteers, Monumental Inscriptions, Military Records, Archive Catalogs, Networking with Others, Genealogy Humour, Surname Studies, Surname Distribution Maps, Old Handwriting Aids, Religion, Local Histories, Land and Court Records, Heraldry and Nobility, Records of the Poor, One-Place Studies, and Finding Living People.

As just one example, under Civil Registration (birth, marriage, death certificates), find links to major websites, as well as such lists as death duty (1795-1903), births/marriages/deaths at sea, birth/marriage/death indexes, geographical indexes and more.

Census & Census Substitutes lists both major sites and some esoteric links:

Hemp and Flax Grower’s Index (Dorset, Somerset, Devon 1783-1791)
Hearth Tax 1660s-1670s (Various Places)
Lay Subsidies for London (1292, 1319, 1332, 1541, 1582)
London inhabitants within the walls (1695)

UK and Ireland Records similarly offers records for many geographical areas.

Education and Announcements provides many links for resources (centers, magazines, guides, history, encyclopedias, blogs/newsletters, institutes/societies and more.

There are also Lots of Links to even more links, such as Cyndi's List, Genealogy Links, Looking 4 Kin, 101 Best Web Sites, etc.

Emigration Records provides passenger and immigrant lists, port records, lists of emigrants from and to specific locations, births at sea, Brits in South America, Canadian immigration index, New South Wales (Australia) convict arrivals and registers, and a host of other fascinating links). I barely had time to scratch the surface in my perusal of this list.

In addition, find Networking links, Jewish links, Occupations, Surname Distribution Maps, Handwriting and Language links, Religion links, records for the poor and literally hundreds of other links which lead to additional resources.

Enjoy your exploration of this site!

I look forward to reading the comments and questions of readers who take the time to look at the UK resources site.

3    Apr 20080 comments

Searching your roots in the Netherlands?

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If you have roots in the Netherlands, you might be interested in the Dutch Genealogical Society's English website.

The NGV has some 9,500 members and is one of the largest European genealogical societies. Expert Roelof Vennik is the group's head and says that researching relatives in the Netherlands is easy.

"The Netherlands is a good country to search in, perhaps the best in Europe. We have a very good, logical archive system, which isn't spread out. Everything is in the national, provincial and city archives. What's more, it's completely free of charge in the Netherlands. A lot of data has been archived. I'd say it's an eldorado for genealogists."

He offers tips for researchers outside the country who wish to search Dutch archives and websites.

--Learn the essential key words in Dutch. For a search, know achternaam (surname), genealogie (genealogy), kwartierstaat (a list of all ancestors), stamreeks (a list showing the descent in the male line) and stamboomonderzoek (research on the family tree).

--Spelling is important. While Van Dyke is a common US name, the original Dutch name may be Van Dijk or Van Dijck.

--Learn where a person was born - ask relatives and family friends to help.

--Check private family websites by Googling your name. You might find distant relatives who already have important information. Contact them and see if you can cooperate in researching the family.

--Access Dutch archives - an increasing number are online. These include the city of Rotterdam. There are also genealogical guides for people living outside the Netherlands. The NGV has various publications.

--Contact the NGV, which may be able to answer your questions.

--You might wish to hire a researcher. Vennik says that research can cost 2000-3000 euros plus travel expenses. The Central Bureau for Genealogy (CBG) in the Hague has a list of researchers.

Founded in 1946, the Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging (NGV) - the Dutch Genealogical Association, the nearly 10,000 members range from beginners to experts, and is run by volunteers who try to support and facilitate research for researchers. They do not perform private research.

The NGV has 28 geographic regional branches which hold meetings and other activities for members and others. It has three divisions which operate nationally: the Computer Genealogy division, the Heraldic division and the Family Organisations division.

The Family Organization division handles one-family associations. Membership includes the NGV magazine, published 10 times each year, but only in Dutch. The group's national center is about 20 minutes from Amsterdam, and it offers service groups such as those working on local and regional levels. These groups include Contact, Research Exchange and Information and Promotion service. The Genealogical Advice service offers help when research attempts have stalled.

The NGV's address is Nederlandse Genealogische Vereniging, Postbus 26, 1380 AA Weesp, the Netherlands.

A Dutch Roots blog offers help in tracing roots. In March, a five-part series was announced providing information on both online and offline resources.

Online records:
--Based on offline sources.
--Are often just indexes.
--Document scans are rarely available but this is changing.
--Online records are not exact copies, there may be errors.
--The original documents almost always contain more information than the index.
--While preparing indexes, sometimes records are overlookd.
--Not all sources are online yet, although many birth-death-marriage records are available.

Examples of resources are the birth-marriage-death records of the Civil Register, Population Register, Persoonskaarten, religious books and registers, and many other resources. For each source, you need to know why those collections were created, what years they cover, what information is covered and where they are located.

In January, the blog offered a posting covering online records. Some websites covered include Genlias, Zeeuwen gezocht, Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum, Tresoar, Drenlias, Emigrants from Drenthe, HCO, Het Utrechts Archief, Muster rolls from the Northern Maritime Museum, Noordhollandse huwelijken and the Nationaal Archief .

3    Apr 20082 comments

GenealogyBank keeps growing

Go to GenealogyBank.com

GenealogyBank.com is an offering of NewsBank Inc, which has been providing information to researchers in education, the military and the government. It now offers extensive genealogical material and exclusive content to researchers to access at home.

Modern and historical resources include obituaries, historic newspapers, military records, social security records and much more. Both historical and modern collections are updated frequently; the Social Security Index is the only SSDI site updated weekly.

Components include:

Historical Newspapers 1690-1977: more than 112.3 million articles, obituaries, marriage notices, birth announcements and other items published in more than 500,000 issues of more than 2,400 historical U.S. newspapers. Updates are made monthly.

Historical Books 1801-1900: Find the complete text of more than 11,700 books, pamphlets and printed items - all published in the US before 1900 - including genealogies, biographies, funeral sermons, local histories, cards, charts and more. Also updated monthly.

Historical Documents 1789-1980: Readers can locate military records, casualty lists, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow's claims, orphan petitions, land grants and much more including all of the American State Papers (1789-1838) and all genealogical content selected from the U.S. Serial Set (1817-1980), from more than 136,000 reports, lists and documents. The site is now digitizing documents for January 1938 and there are monthly updates.

America's Obituaries 1977-current: These records offer researchers essential information such as names, dates, places of birth, death, marriage and family information. The collection includes more than 26.9 million obituaries for the 20th-21st centuries, and includes obituaries from more than 1,000 US newspapers. Content is added daily.

Social Security Death Index 1937-to-current: Many online sites have the SSDI, but only GenealogyBank's database of more than 81.3 million death records is updated each week.

During February, the total of documents reached 220,763,095; new newspaper content was added from 24 states, and 4.1 million records and documents were recently added.

The site offers one of the best trial subscriptions - only $9.95 for a 30-day trial.

I look forward to reading your comments and learning if readers have found documents of interest for their families.

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