29 October 2009

Footnote.com to Digitize Entire U.S. Census

Editor's note: The following detail was posted today on the Footnote.com blog.

Today Footnote.com announced it will digitize and create a searchable database for all publicly available U.S. Federal Censuses, ranging from the first U.S. Census taken in 1790 to the most current public census from 1930. Through its partnership with the National Archives, Footnote.com will add more than 9.5 million images featuring over half a billion names to its extensive online record collection.

With over 60 million historical records already online, Footnote.com will use the U.S. Census records to tie content together, creating a pathway to discover additional records that previously have been difficult to find.

“We see the census as a highway leading back to the 18th century,” explains Russ Wilding, CEO of Footnote.com. “This Census Highway provides off-ramps leading to additional records on the site such as naturalization records, historical newspapers, military records and more. Going forward, Footnote.com will continue to ad valuable and unique collections that will enhance the census collection.”

As more census decades are added to the site, visitors to Footnote.com can view the status for each decade and sign up for an email notification when more records are added to the site for a particular year.

View the Census Progress Page on Footnote.com.

In addition to making these records more accessible, Footnote.com is advancing the way people use the census by creating an interactive experience. Footnote members can enrich the census records by adding their own contributions. Users can:
  • Add comments and insights about a person
  • Upload and attach scanned photos or documents related to that person
  • Generate a Footnote Page for any individual that features stories, a photo gallery, timeline and map
  • Identify relatives found in the census by clicking the I’m Related button
“We will continue to move aggressively to add records to the site, specifically those that are requested by our members and others that are not otherwise available on the internet,” said Wilding.


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27 October 2009

Avoid Disappointment: Call Ahead!


On a trip to Greene County, Indiana, in early October, NGS President Jan Alpert went to the county health department in search of a death certificate for an ancestor. She reports, "I arrived about 3:00 p.m. and was told I would be the last person to have access to the records until next year. Why? The county was preparing for H1N1 flu shots, and they needed the space normally used for genealogists requesting death certificates to administer flu shots. The records were being boxed up - until further notice. So, if you have a research trip planned, call ahead to make sure the vital records will be available."


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Historical Atlas of the American West


A new book entitled Historical Atlas of the American West with Original Maps by Derek Hayes is available from the University of California Press. The website describes the book as follows:
Spectacular in scope and visually brilliant, this atlas presents a sweeping history of the American West through more than 600 original, full-color maps and extended captions. From the earliest human inhabitants and the first European explorers to the national parks and retirement resorts of today, this extensive collection chronicles the West from uncharted territory to a well-populated Eden. We bear witness as state lines strike through Native American territories, see the frontier crack open and the railroad's iron belt snake across the Plains, and watch as the West's cities, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and Albuquerque to Anchorage, rise and prosper. This is the first atlas to compile all the historically significant maps relating to the American West; it includes field sketches of battles, the first maps to show the West, maps depicting mythical rivers and fictional towns, and maps showing early conceptions of California as an island. Distilling many centuries into one fascinating volume, this atlas traces history as redwoods, mountains, and deserts become California, Montana, and Arizona, and offers a rare opportunity to see the west through the eyes of its earliest explorers.

The book is 288 pages long and 10 x 13-9/16 inches. Containing 606 maps and 90 color illustrations, it is priced at $39.95 at the University of California Press website at http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/11187.php.


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26 October 2009

Following on NARA Proposed Changes

Editor's note: This article responds to NARA Press Release dated October 22, 2009, which followed an October 20 article in UpFront with NGS. Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL, Coordinator of the Archives 1 User's Group, offered the following explanations.

I would like to compare the statements of the A-1 User’s Group and the NARA press release:
A-1 User’s Group
The Microfilm Reading Room will be moved to a drastically smaller space (the current Finding Aids Room) with significantly fewer microfilm readers. We recognize that the number of researchers using the microfilm area has diminished over the past few years, but there is still a demand to use microfilm. We suggest a room containing at least 30 readers, which would be approximately half the current number.

NARA responded with:
Are you eliminating the Microfilm Reading Room?
No. Over the last few years use of our microfilm holdings has decreased by 70%. In fiscal year 2000 we had 53,000 microfilm researcher visits; in fiscal year 2009 we had 16,000 microfilm research visits. When our microfilm reading room was first designed and built we estimated the need for 100 microfilm readers. Because of digitization and other factors, there no longer is the need for so many microfilm readers. So we are considering reducing the number of microfilm machines to 30 and increasing the number of public access computers to meet the demand for the old and the new technology. We will maintain the number of microfilm machines at a level that is needed by those researchers who continue to have the need for microfilm.

My comment: The User’s Group never suggested that the microfilm reading room was to be eliminated. We agreed that the numbers are down, but we would like to see at least 30 readers.

A-1 User’s Group:
Direct researcher access to microfilm collections will be eliminated and replaced with a "pull on demand" system. We believe it is unworkable, and result in much wasted researcher time by requiring researchers to request individual rolls of microfilm, then wait for a staff member to retrieve it from a stack area deep within the building. No one has been able to tell us where the microfilm will be stored or how long it will take to retrieve it.

NARA responded with:
Are you eliminating self-service microfilm?
No. For the convenience of both researchers and staff, the National Archives maintains a policy of allowing researchers to browse our microfilm cabinets and select their own microfilm. We will continue with this policy as long as research demand warrants it. We may, however, relocate the microfilm to another public area adjacent to the microfilm reading room.

My comment: This was one of the suggestions that the User’s Group found totally unacceptable. NARA’s response [“We will continue with this policy as long as research demand warrants it. We may, however, relocate the microfilm to another public area adjacent to the microfilm reading room”] gives them the opportunity to change their minds at any time. No criteria have been set to indicate what is meant by “as long as research demand warrants it.” Knowing the location of the microfilm now and the areas surrounding the Consultant’s Office, there is little space to put the film. Since this was a move that was imminent (I overheard the NARA staff members looking at the area in the library.), I would assume the area would have already been chosen.

If you look at the map [in the original article], the microfilm is now located in the two hallways, and along two sides of the existing microfilm reading room. This is not re-locating a couple of hundred rolls of film.

A-1 User’s Group:
The Lecture Room will be eliminated. No one has been able to tell us where a new Lecture Room would be. This room is used frequently for NARA public programs (genealogy lectures, etc.) as well as internal NARA meetings.

NARA responded with:
Are you eliminating the Lecture Room?
No. Our current lecture room on the ground floor (G-24) is used daily for programs such as our very popular “Know Your Records” seminars. Any renovation of the ground floor research area will include a lecture room so our researchers, visitors, and NARA staff can continue to use it for critical outreach and other activities.

My comment: We said, “ No one has been able to tell us where a New Lecture Room would be.” Again, with a move imminent, the assumption is that the new space would already be designated.

A-1 User’s Group:
The Finding Aids Room (Consultants' Office) is to be moved from its current room, which provides adequate space for staff, researchers, and necessary finding aids to textual (unfilmed) records, to a small open area in the library which will not provide adequate working space or privacy.

NARA responded with:
Are you reducing the size of the Finding Aids/Consultation Room?
No. Current plans would more than double that space.
The current room on the ground floor of the National Archives Building (Room G-28) serves as the finding aids room, the consultation area, and as office space for three staff members. The area available in this space for consultation with the public is approximately 450 square feet and has three consultation tables. We are proposing to move the consultation area from G-28 to the adjacent area which is currently the National Archives Library, G-30. We will use approximately 1100 square feet of what is now Library space for this consultation area. The space will have eight tables for consultation. So, we will more than double the area and number of tables for researchers to consult with staff and use the finding aids. The three staff members who currently have their workspace in G-28 will have new workstations adjacent to the research room that they can use to do other work when they are not providing direct consultation service. This plan is based on the successful model that has been in place for several years for consultants at Archives II in College Park.

My comment: While it would be nice to have the additional space, there is no indication that this will be a dedicated space. One of the “plus” points mentioned was that, “if the consultant’s area was full, you could move to any other table in the library.” I wonder how a library user would like to have a consultation taking place right next to them? The current Finding Aids/Consultant’s office has 3 distinct areas. One for military, one for Navy, and one for Civil.

The statement, “This plan is based on the successful model that has been in place for several years for consultants at Archives II in College Park,” leads the reader to believe that the Consultants meet in the A-2 Library. While it is a very successful model, it is NOT in the 3rd floor library, Room 3000, but in a glass enclosed area in the 2nd Floor Textual Research Area. This dedicated room contains all the finding aids as well as real live Archivists. It is not tables in an open library. We want a dedicated room for the Archivists and the finding aids at Archives -I. If this is what NARA intends, a glass enclosed, dedicated room, I’m sure the A-1 User’s Group would back it wholeheartedly.

A-1 User’s Group:
The Orientation and Registration area would be eliminated. This is currently used for researcher registration, to issue researcher identification cards, and for researcher consultations with staff members and volunteers, and for researcher access to computers. No one has been able to tell us where these functions would be moved.
NARA responded with:
What are you doing with the Orientation and Registration Area?
While we may eventually re-locate those areas physically, we have no immediate plans to do so. We of course would not eliminate this critical function, and will ensure it is located appropriately.

My comment: Again, we stated, “No one has been able to tell us where these functions would be moved.” We realize these are important to NARA functions and cannot be eliminated.

NARA responded with:
These changes to the National Archives Building should improve the services we provide to researchers. No functions or services are being eliminated or reduced.

To ensure that the changes meet the needs of researchers, we intend to continue to have our quarterly meetings with our Archives I user group to keep users informed and solicit their comments.

My personal response:
We obtained the information that generated our letter from the 16 October A-1 User's Group meeting. It was not erroneous. Minutes going back to 23 June 2008 mention the reduction of the microfilm reading room and film being “pull on demand." At that time it was acknowledged that those plans have been discussed, “however, NARA does not have the funds for the renovations at this time.” I assume the 5-phase plan allows NARA to move the consultant’s office and the microfilm reading room without a budget item. I have heard that the rest of the renovation is in the 2011 NARA budget.

If NARA intends the self-pull microfilm and a dedicated Consultants/Finding Aids room, I would support their plan. I am happy to hear that NARA will continue to meet with the Archives-1 User’s Group. We are available to meet with NARA staff whenever necessary.

Sincerely,
Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL
Melchiori Research Services, L.L.C.


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25 October 2009

Genealogies of the victims of the 1692 witch hunt


In keeping with the Halloween season, the Boston Examiner has published a brief genealogy of each person who was persecuted and hanged or who died in jail as a result of the hysteria that surrounded the town of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1962. What started as the fanciful story of a few girls mushroomed into an all-out witch hunt that implicated mostly women but also men in the Salem area. To read their genealogies as supplied by Robin C. Mason and access links to related websites, visit http://tinyurl.com/ygn689p.


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21 October 2009

2010 NGS Family History Conference Program and Registration

Arlington, VA, October 19, 2009: Mark your Calendar for the 2010 Family History Conference, Follow Your Ancestral Trail, which will be held 28 April—1 May 2010, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Whether your family helped settle the nation, migrated across the country, stayed in the same place, or recently arrived in America, this conference has much to offer.

The online searchable conference program is now available at http://members.ngsgenealogy.org/Conferences/2010Program.cfm.

A few examples of the Family History Conference’s diverse program offerings include the International Workshops which will focus on researching the cultural records of other countries through lectures, research, and problem solving; the Evening Celebration of Family History, which will incorporate a multi-media tribute to family history, a special guest speaker, and a mini-concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; and Ask An Expert, where the Utah Genealogical Association will sponsor twenty-minute family history consultations to registered attendees.

Registration will begin 1 November 2009. To register online, visit our website, click on Conferences & Events, Annual Conference, and then Attendee Registration. You can also choose to mail-in your registration by downloading the form and sending it to NGS.

Registration brochures will be available for download from the NGS website, beginning 1 November 2009. To receive a print copy of the registration brochure, email Erin Wood at registration@ngsgenealogy.org. The brochure includes information about workshops, lectures, sessions, luncheons, speakers, registration times and rates, as well as general conference and exhibit hall information.


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20 October 2009

NARA Seeks to Shrink Research Space and Services in D.C.


The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has proposed some major changes that will significantly reduce the space and services available to researchers who wish to use NARA records in Washington, D.C. Specifically, the proposal is to relocate the Finding Aids/ Consultants to a smaller, open space within the library, reduce the number of microfilm readers, and replace self-serve microfilm access with a "pull on demand" process that requires staff to retrieve each film as someone requests it.

In addition, the space of the research facility will shrink as the microfilm reading room will be moved to the old Finding Aids/Consultants room, and other spaces are eliminated, including the Military Services Research Room and the Lecture Room. Click on the picture on the left to enlarge the floor plan showing the affected areas.

Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL, Coordinator of the Archives 1 User's Group, noted that the areas lost to researchers would be used to expand the exhibition area and shops that are part of private sector partners of NARA, the Center for the National Archives Experience (NWE) and The Foundation for the National Archives. The User’s Group is seeking support from the genealogy community to protest these losses to the public and to publicly discuss alternatives. Marie also noted that some of these changes may be acted upon even before the 2011 budget dollars are allocated to the plan.

If you are concerned about this issue, below is a list of contacts to whom you can express your concern. Following the contact list is a form letter that you can use as a starting point for your own letter.

Contacts:

Acting Archivist:
Ms. Adrienne C. Thomas
Acting Archivist
The National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
The nominee for the position of Archivist. Since the nominee has yet to be confirmed, you may want to write him at his present position in New York as well as at the National Archives:
Mr. David S. Ferriero
Andrew W. Mellon Director of The New York Public Libraries
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
New York, NY 10018

Mr. David S. Ferriero
Archivist Nominee
The National Archives and Records Administration
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
The Senators responsible for Mr. Ferriero's confirmation hearings:
The Honorable Thomas Carper
United States Senate
513 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510
http://carper.senate.gov/contact/

The Honorable John McCain
United States Senate
241 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-0303
http://mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm
Members of Congress who have previously demonstrated a strong interest in the affairs of the National Archives:
The Honorable Richard Durbin
United States Senate
309 Hart Senate Building
Washington, DC 20510
http://durbin.senate.gov/contact.cfm

The Honorable José E. Serrano
United States House of Representatives
2227 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-3216
http://serrano.house.gov/Forms/Contact.aspx
Your personal congressional representatives.

Form Letter:

As member of the [insert your organization name], I am a researcher who uses National Archives records. I am very concerned about proposed construction plans to reconfigure the ground (first) floor of the National Archives building. This will dramatically reduce the Robert M. Warner Research Center in ways that will significantly--and negatively--impact researchers as follows:

The Finding Aids Room (Consultants' Office) is to be moved from its current room, which provides adequate space for staff, researchers, and necessary finding aids to textual (un-filmed) records, to a small open area in the library which will not provide adequate working space or privacy.

The Microfilm Reading Room will be moved to a drastically smaller space (the current Finding Aids Room) with significantly fewer microfilm readers. We recognize that the number of researchers using the microfilm area has diminished over the past few years, but there is still a demand to use microfilm. We suggest a room containing at least 30 readers, which would be approximately half the current number.

Direct researcher access to microfilm collections will be eliminated and replaced with a "pull on demand" system. We believe it is unworkable, and result in much wasted researcher time by requiring researchers to request individual rolls of microfilm, and then wait for a staff member to retrieve it from a stack area deep within the building. No one has been able to tell us where the microfilm will be stored or how long it will take to retrieve it.

The Lecture Room will be eliminated. No one has been able to tell us where a New Lecture Room would be. This room is used frequently for NARA public programs (genealogy lectures, etc.) as well as internal NARA meetings.

The Orientation and Registration area would be eliminated. This is currently used for researcher registration, to issue researcher identification cards, and for researcher consultations with staff members and volunteers, and for researcher access to computers. No one has been able to tell us where these functions would be moved.

NARA proposes a five-phase operation with the first phase being the move of the Finding Aids (Consultants' Office) the Library area starting in the very near future. There is no indication that the finding aids, so vital to textual research, will be in close proximity to the consultant area. The second phase would be the move of the microfilm reading room.

Those areas, once vacated, will be taken over by Center for the National Archives Experience (NWE) and The Foundation for the National Archives to expand their museum and shops.

I would like a dedicated (i.e., single use) Finding Aids Room to continue and to maintain the existing manner of direct researcher access (self-pull) to microfilm.

I would like to request that there be an open disclosure and a public discussion of these plans. There does not appear to be any attempt to incorporate the open area in the Research Center Lobby.

Thank you for your consideration.


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06 October 2009

NGS Family History Writing Contest: December 31st Deadline

Want to win a great award with many benefits? Then it is time to enter your family history in the NGS Family History Writing Contest! The deadline for submitting is December 31, 2009. The winner receives a certificate as well as prizes with an estimated value of $1500, including travel to and from the NGS Conference and Family History Fair in Salt Lake City April 2010 (not to exceed airfare purchased 60 days before the Conference), up to five nights’ hotel accommodations, complimentary conference registration, and a complimentary banquet ticket.

The family history should be an original work that has not been previously published or submitted elsewhere, covering three to four generations with proper documentation using the NGSQ Numbering System.

The family you select to write about may span any period of American history and must span at least three generations. The progenitor may have been born elsewhere, but he or she must have actually lived in colonial America or the United States. The second and third generations must also have lived in colonial America or the United States. The writer and his or her siblings or spouses may not be included as a member of the third generation.

The paper will be judged on how well the writer demonstrates their research skills by using and analyzing a wide variety of original documents and telling the story by placing the family in the relevant historical context.

This contest is open to NGS members only. Those not eligible to enter the contest include contest judges, NGS officers and directors, NGS staff and their family members, former contest winners, and fellows of the American Society of Genealogists.

For contest details, visit the Awards & Competitions section of the NGS web site.


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NGS Newsletter Competitions: December 31st Deadline

Does your genealogical or historical society produce an outstanding newsletter? Is it impressive and informative? Is your society a member of NGS? If the answers are all yes, it is time for your society to nominate their newsletter for the NGS Newsletter Competition. The deadline for a society or organization to nominate a quality newsletter for the NGS Newsletter Competition is December 31, 2009. Don't delay, do it today!

There are three levels of competition:

  1. Major genealogical society newsletter
  2. Local or county genealogical/historical society newsletter
  3. Family association newsletter

To qualify, the nominating society or family association must be an NGS organizational member and must submit three copies of two consecutive issues from the current year along with a completed entry form. Check out the Awards & Competitions section of the NGS web site for details and entry forms.

The organization sponsoring the winning newsletter will receive a certificate, a one-year membership to NGS, and be featured in an article in the NGS Magazine. The runner up will receive a certificate and be featured in the NGS Magazine. Winners will be announced at the Opening Session of the NGS Conference and Family History Fair in Salt Lake City, Utah, April 28, 2010.


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