Family researchers on a quest should contact genealogical and historical societies where their ancestors lived. These groups often work on indexing projects relative to their geographical areas.
The Southern California Genealogical Society - which also sponsors a great conference each year (Jamboree) - is particularly active in this regard, publishing volumes on immigration and naturalization extracts and also working on the 1892 Great Register of Los Angeles Voters.
Another major work is a multi-year project to reconstruct the Los Angeles County portion of the 1890 United States census, lost to fire and subsequent water damage, and create a searchable database based on many types of records, such as birth, death, marriage, cemetery, tax, immigration, church, and an every-name index of the 1890 Los Angeles Times.
The SCGS has just published four new volumes in its immigration and naturalization series. Now available in both softbound and CD versions are declarations of intentions filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California, Central District (Los Angeles).
The new volumes cover October 4, 1906-April 3, 1911, April 4, 1911-January 6, 1914, January 8, 1914-July 28, 1915, and July 28, 1915-February 3, 1916. They cover intentions numbered 1-3239.
Included in these documents - addition to name, age and address - are birthdates and places, physical description, method of immigration and port of entry.
In addition to the documents, there is an address index for indicated addresses as well as an index for birth locations indicated by the applicants.
According to one entry, from the SCGS journal "The Searcher" (Autumn 2008):
Lundstrum, Ture Edwin Intention No. 1243
Ture Edwin Lundstrom, aged 32 years, whose occupation is Carpenter, was born in Gislof, Simrishamn, Sweden on March 08, 1880. Mr. Lundstrom presently resides at 150 Colima Ave., Los Angeles, California. He departed from the port of Southampton, England on the vessel Titanic & transferre to Carpathia mid-ocean, arriving at the port of New York in the State of New York about April 18, 19132. His last foreign address was Simrishamn, Sweden.
Mr. Lunstrom's physical description: Color: White; Complexion: Fair; Height: 5'6"; Weight: 145 pounds; Hair Color: Light Brown; and Eye Color: Blue. Other distinctive mars: None. With his Declaration of Intention signed before Wm. M. Van /dyke, Clerk of the United States District Court, Southern District California by Chas, N, Williams, Deputy Clerk on February 25, 1913, Ture Edwin Lundstrom renounces his allegiance to Gustavus V, King of Sweden.
Researchers can obtain a digital or printed copy of the original record from which the abstract was taken, by contacting the society via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To a family history researcher, any archive may be a goldmine, providing information on relatives not found easily elsewhere. For those whose families have a connection to a specific organization or educational institution, the archives may hold exciting family information.
Even better is that many archives are now digitizing their holdings and making them accessible online.
As just one example, there is Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland, US), which has now made its Alan M. Chesney Medical Archives accessible to anyone around the globe.
Chesney was dean (1929-1953) of the School of Medicine. While he was researching his history of the medical school and hospital, he found many documents which he used to write a three-volume work. Following this, he began pushing for an archival program.
Thanks to his efforts, this archive has, for 30 years, been the historical location for preserving photos, films, documents, personal papers and objects connected with the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health. It has preserved these materials and made them available to researchers.
Here's a photo of the 1897 graduating class - the one female member of the class is absent.
In addition to documents and some 400,000 photos (including thousands of portraits), there are more than 10,000 items in the Material Culture Collections, which include decorative and fine arts, medical illustrations and equipment and memorabilia, such as an early defibrillator. There are also more than 500 collections of personal papers of alumni, faculty and administrators.
The entire catalog will be online, including a large part of its photo collection, biographical and historical information and will also feature online exhibits. The archives staff will also be available through a service which will permit visitors to ask general questions, request assistance or permission to use materials.
Have you ever kept a journal?
If you have - perhaps even as a young teen - what would happen if your grandchildren or great-grandchildren found it? What would it say to them about you, your life and the times in which you lived?
I know that some people who keep journals might not be too happy if their descendants found those, well, revealing diaries - which recorded their inner-most thoughts at a young age.
But what would those teen writings mean a century from now?
I have a friend whose family arrived in the New World in the early 1600s. One of their ancestors, a young woman, kept a journal about her travels, her family, the day to day chores, advice for her descendants and much more. The writings are a revered and priceless piece of family history.
I wish one of my ancestors had done that. I want to know how the family lived in Mogilev, Belarus in the 1700s, and how, in 1837, some formed an agricultural colony about 12 miles out of town called Vorotinschtina. And, I want to know how they got from Spain to Belarus even earlier.
We did have a 300-year-old genealogy, brought to America by one of the last to leave Belarus, but it disappeared in the 1950s when the man who had it died. It was likely discarded when his possessions were cleared out of the house.
While our family can never completely reconstruct those 300 years, we still try to find as much information as possible.
One reason we began this journey is that we'd like our descendants to know more than we did when we began our quest.
If you cannot locate writings of your ancestors, consider keeping a journal for your future descendants to go along with the family history you will leave to them.
It's Wednesday morning. Do you know where your family's file is?
My good friend Dan Leeson - a genealogist with Eastern European roots - is also a retired IBM executive, a Mozart scholar, a clarinetist and author.
Some time ago he wrote a funny piece that should be required reading for all new family history researchers as well as those more experienced. With his permission, here it is. Make yourself comfortable and settle down:
When I began to took for my roots, I was absolutely convinced that my family's file was out there somewhere, that it contained ail of my history in all branches, and all I had to do was find out where it was located; that is, genealogy was the finding and digesting of a complete, already-created file that was all about my family.
I envisioned armies of government workers (Department of Commerce?) preparing my file as I headed towards and through puberty, and now that I was old enough to have this intense interest in where I came from, my file was there waiting for me. It would inform me of my great-grandmother's maiden name (which my mother never really knew), and the exact spelling of the original family name of my grandfather (which my father never really knew), and answer those thousand questions that would enable me to know who I was and how did I get here. Best of all, this file would document in considerable detail, the travels of all of my ancestors from the year one, maybe even earlier. Who's got my file, please? Would whoever has it please notify me by Tuesday next? Would that inconvenience anyone?
So I started my genealogical quest by presuming the existence of such a file and this made my search very easy. I would keep asking where all my data was and never have to bother with actually researching it. I went to the New York Public Library and asked if they had my file. They didn't.Then I tried several other prestigious libraries and archives in the New York City area. Same result. Perhaps I'm asking the wrong questions. It's kind of like trying to locate a misplaced library book.
Of course, there was no Internet then, only mail. So I sent out hundreds of letters asking everyone if they knew where my file was. It would be easy to spot. My great-grandmother died in Poland sometime after World War I, and I think my grandfather was from Sidzun, Lithuania, or maybe it was Radviliskis: I'm not sure. But he had red hair, of that I am certain. All good data, of course; no silly family stories and other stuff like dates and precise locations. Just solid evidence like red hair. But despite this wealth of heavy-duty documentation, no one seemed to have my file. Did the Department of Commerce spend all that taxpayer money to make a file on me only to have it lost by some careless person?
One day, in the New York Public, I met a woman who was doing her genealogy and wow, did she have a file! It was a foot thick and wandered through the Middle Ages with the same ease that I wandered through a meal at my favorite French restaurant. So I asked her where she found her file (mine would be bigger and more impressive of course, because I'm sure that there was royalty in my family) and she looked at me as if I had asked her where to find a size 19 bustle frame.
"What on earth are you talking about?" she said graciously, full of the warmth and charm of one who likes neither to be disturbed nor strangers who interrupt her work. "This file has taken me 23 years to put together. Every scrap of paper in it was lovingly found by me. What is it with you? Do you really think that someone has done your genealogy for you? You have to do it yourself, you dweeb!"
I smiled condescendingly at her jolly but intemperate outburst. Clearly she did not understand the problem. "Of course," I said. "I know that I have to do it, and that is exactly what I .aw trying to dr. By locating my fife, I am doing my genealogy. When I find it, I will then be in a state of having done my genealogy. It will all be there, and my genealogy will have been both found and completed by the act of finding the file. "Then I can go on to something else in life, like collecting stamps, shoeing horses, or learning how to make those little roses of red butter-cream icing that go on birthday cakes."
"I am being accosted by a crazy!" screamed the lady, causing armies of librarians to say 'Ssshhhh.' "I have the misfortune to be in the presence of a class A, gold-medal, deranged mind. There is no file on you, Mr. Dopey-In-The-Head. All there is about you and your family in the world consists of little remnants of what your ancestors left as they passed through this mortal coil." (Now that lady had a flair for language. "Mortal coil" is hot stuff. I must use that some time.)
"What do you mean?" I said.
"You imbecile, you! Let me explain in short words, since you seem to have trouble absorbing abstract ideas. Four hundred years ago, one of your ancestors, a tinsmith by trade, made a pot that he sold in the central market in Erfurt, Germany, at a price that was considered by the buyer to be way too high. Your ancestor was sued by the buyer and taken to court. The court record (Volume 5,24, page 361, subfolio CIX, city of Erfurt, now located in the federal archives in Berlin) recorded his name, the name of the suing party, and the price of the pot as well as the fact that your ancestor was found guilty of price gouging and spent one month in the slammer."
"I don't want that information," I said. "I want his birth certificate, full name, name of wife (including maiden name), date of death, death certificate, plus the names of all his children as well as the full names of all their spouses. That's what I want. What do I care about a lawsuit in 1595? And besides, no one in my family was ever in, as you indelicately put it, 'the slammer'! I'll have you know that we are all descended from kings and dukes and stuff like that."
"You better start learning to love the kind of information that is out there," said my new-found friend, "because that is what you will get if you are very fortunate. Besides, birth and death certificates are a relatively new invention."
Here's a list of some of the many bloggers (and their blogs) who attended the Southern California Genealogical Society 40th Jamboree.
As we arrived on the first day of the event, we met in the lobby and managed to grab this shot.
PHOTO: From left, top: Susan Kitchens, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Elyse Doerflinger; seated: Kathryn Doyle, Sheri Fenly, footnoteMaven
If you haven't visited these blogs before, do take a look at them - you may find vauable information for your own quest:
Genealogy conferences are not only for experienced researchers. If you are just starting out, consider attending a regional event.
The just-concluded 40th annual Jamboree of the Southern California Genealogical Society is a completely volunteer-run event providing an excellent experience for researchers of all levels. Their team does a great job in providing the right mix of expert speakers, diverse topics and technological innovation, along with a good dose of creativity in out-of-the-box thinking.
More than 100 speakers presented sessions; there were seven programs at each time slot, and more than 1,500 researchers of all experience levels attended, making it one of - if not the - largest regional US conferences. the 400-page syllabus included speaker bios and session handouts, and was also available on CD.
This year, some 35 genealogy bloggers attended. Eight of us were on the second annual Blogger's Panel offering our own perspectives on blogging in general, and on genealogy blogging specifically.
PHOTO: From left, Lisa Louise Cooke, Dick Eastman, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, DearMyrtle, Craig Manson, the mystery Ancestry Insider, Leland Meitler, Steve Danko and moderator George C. Morgan of The Genealogy Guys.
The double session panel fielding questions and answers about genealogy blogging, while bloggers in the audiernce tweeted and blogged in realtime. Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings.com posted some 87 tweets over the course of the session; others posted photos of the panelists as we spoke.