11    Nov 20096 comments

Digitized Maps: Another source of family details

title pageAs family history researchers, we are usually fascinated by maps - at least I am. These visual interpretations help us understand our family's origins in other countries and provide information on how our immigrant ancestors traveled to ports to board their ships, in addition to understanding historical events.

Those maps can be found in gazetteers and online. There are also local maps that can help us locate relatives who lived in towns and cities. Some local maps are for tax purposes, and others were developed for fire insurance liability.

In the US, the Sanborn Company published more than 660,000 maps from 1867-1970. These maps were drawn to help insurance underwriters understand the risks of insuring buildings in cities and towns.

For more than a century, over 660,000 Sanborn maps have demonstrated the growth and development of more than 12,000 American towns and cities. New digitalization projects, such as the one at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County (Ohio), preserve the original colors in the two volumes scanned so far. Volume 1 runs 1904-1917, while Volume 2 runs 1904-1930.

The originals were colored according to construction key and other details. Some libraries have microfilmed copies of the maps which are only in black and white, but digitization preserves the original colors (see below)

Let's take a look at what the Cincinnati maps hold for illustration purposes. At this library, there's a separate PDF document online for each index page and map sheet.

All the sheets are on a map index (see below). Each sheet shows about four to six blocks. The scale of 50:1 means that each inch of the map covers 50 feet, allowing for considerable detail. Major public buildings include houses of worship, companies, public schools and more.
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24    Sep 20091 comment

Family history: Budget cut problems

LibraryLibraries are a major source of information for genealogists and family historians. In addition to nurturing the love of books in children and young people, they provide wide-ranging sources of information and community services for all library patrons and their neighborhoods.

In fact, 10 New York City Public Library branches in three boroughs (Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island) have been open - since September 14 - for expanded hours from early morning through late night, for an average of 52.5 hours weekly. Some branches are open 8am-11pm, others from 10am-9pm. People who work during the day will now have an opportunity to access major free resources.

While New York's famed libraries - where I spent many hours from elementary school through college - are expanding hours, other libraries are either closing or - horror of horrors - giving away their books, such as this school in Massachusetts is getting rid of its books in favor of technology. Personally, I think it is short-sighted, given the fact that information recorded only a few years ago on such technology as 4-inch floppies cannot be read today, but a book printed five centuries ago can still be read. Do read the comments to this story; there were more than 500 the last time I checked.

However, for many US libraries, the economic situation has caused a major kick to the chest and reduced hours and service cuts are in the news for libraries across the United States.

Indeed, we were shocked to hear that the Free Library of Philadelphia's entire system might be closed as of October 2, 2009, unless Pennsylvania legislators reached a budget agreement.

The closure would have cancelled all programming for children and adults, InterLibrary Loan, circulation of materials, computer classes, afterschool programs and community meetings. This is serious business, not only for genealogists, but for all residents whose neighborhood libraries would close.

However, in Philadelphia, the outcome was a happy one. The Free Library's website reported on Thursday, September 17, that the Pennsylvania State Senate had passed the bill needed to avoid closings. State legislators received more than 2,000 letters (in addition to phone calls and emails) in support of the libraries.
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12    Oct 20083 comments

Godfrey Library – Online Resources

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The Godfrey Memorial Library of Genealogy and History in Middletown, Connecticut, was established in 1947.

Family history researchers frequently find information on their ancestors in the library's thousands of online databases in addition to its onsite resources. Although it is a subscription site, numerous public libraries in the United States offer it for free or as a benefit of local library registration (where it can be accessed via users' home computers).

Although in Connecticut, the library is sometimes thought of as a state library or New England library, although its collections cover the Middle Atlantic states and the old Northwest Territory.

Some of the Godfrey's online resources include:

Godfrey Library Online Catalog: While most libraries have online catalogs, the Godfrey offers a special feature. In addition to searching for books by or about a specific family name, it also provides the resources found inside the book, other than ordinary catalog entries. More such references are added daily.

An example given by the library is a search for the name "Tyler," which produces 396 results.Most hits refer to the name inside a book where regular cataloging wouldn't find it. According to the library and researchers, this is a definite advantage and offers many more alternative results than an ordinary search.

American Civil War Research Database: This is an online resource for researching the individuals, regiments and battles of the American Civil War, with indexed, searchable information on 4.3 million soldiers and thousands of battles, together with 16,000 photographs. Researchers can find the military record of a soldier, and learn about a wide range of historical statistics.

Godfrey Library Links: The library has researched, evaluated and posted 3,000 links to other sites with important information for genealogists. All are free, though some require registration and a few are partially paid sites. Some 50 sites are added each month.

Godfrey Collection: The online databases were frequently updated with some 4,000 genealogies, memoirs, biographies and funeral sermons to the Godfrey Scholar program. All materials are from the library's own collections and represent the beginning of a long-term plan to digitize all materials in the public domain.

Godfrey Library Blog: According to the Godfrey's new blog, the American Genealogical Biographical Index (AGBI) will go online in January 2009. The 226-volume AGBI - published by the Godfrey - is an every name index of hundreds of genealogies, includes those only partially indexed or not at all. Also indexed is the genealogical column from the Boston Transcript (1896-1941), the 1790 census, parts of the Pennsylvania Archives and various vital, military and church records.

Other resources - not online - include these collections:

Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War: This collection includes 17 volumes, and 17,071 pages of records from muster rolls, pay rolls, registration returns, descriptive lists, orderly books and account books combined into 620,000 cards, then arranged alphabetically. It also includes records of Rhode Island regiments and the First New York; these are not online however, but can be used in the library or through a Quick Search.

Quick Search is a service for researchers; each costs $10 and takes up to 30 minutes. Staff and volunteers search the American Genealogical Biographical Index, county and local histories, biographies, vital records and pension abstracts for any name submitted. Results are sent to the requester. For more details, go to the library's main site, click on "Search", then on "Quick Search."

City Directories: Historic city directories are the precursors of the familiar telephone book. Reading through a city's chronological directories can give you a sense of your family. Learn where they lived, where they moved, what occupation family members followed, where their business was located, among other details. The Godfrey has an extensive collection of these very useful books. They are not online, but can be used in the library. There are 143 directories for Massachusetts communities alone, from 1825-1920.

Have you utilized any of the Godfrey's resources? I am working on a separate blog posting on city directories which will illustrate how these listings can help track your family.

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