31 July 2013

Data Glut -- Are we creating a headache for our descendants and future historians?

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As I have felt increasingly overwhelmed with all the information out there – more and more FB posts, tweets, blogs, Google+ discussions, LinkedIn dialogues, images, videos and much more – I sometimes think that we are not doing those in the future any favors.

Apparently, someone else feels the same way as discussed in the article An Open Letter to the Historians of the 22nd Century: Sorry for all the stuff.

As family historians, we crave anything written by our ancestors – no matter how minimalist.  As the author says “...In contrast, future historians of my era (for whom this post is written) will have information, both useful and useless, sprayed at them with a fire hose. It’s worth thinking about how you future historians can sift through the flood of primary-source material ...”

And, though I am much better at organizing my images in folders labeled with dates and sometimes places, I do not re-label the individual image files and so I greatly identified with this statement, “Sorry about all of my files undescriptively labeled DSCimage987234534.jpg and GrantProposal2,docx. Sorry for the mess.”

With the plethora of “stuff” out there – what can we do to not overwhelm our descendants and future historians?



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30 July 2013

Truth can be stranger than fiction! Family learns adopted daughter is a true part of family tree ...


The more I do genealogy research, the more I am convinced that the truth is often “stranger than fiction!”

I don’t think any of us are creative enough to have thought of some of the “lives” that we have documented.  So, though we may go with the “law of averages” as we do our research, we do need to keep in mind that people were not “average” and that many lived amazing and “strange lives!”

Last winter I read about just such an instance of this, Family learns adopted daughter is a true part of family tree.

“It wasn’t until 1940 United States Census data was released that a relative started doing some research and discovered that Sarah is Steve’s fourth cousin once removed. That means Sarah’s brothers and sisters in the Hamilton family are her fifth cousins.”

This was a girl who was born in TX, lived in KS (where she was adopted) and the family moved to SD.  So, we are not talking about a small community where one is less surprised to find that the neighbors are distantly or closely related.

Have you had “truth stranger than fiction” elements in your own family history?





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29 July 2013

Need to reboot, restart or energize your genealogy research -- here are some ideas!

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Whether it’s the start of a new year or the start of summer or just the start of resuming our genealogical research, sometimes we are just stumped, frustrated and lacking the energy and sometimes the initiative to figure out “what next?”  Just like we can and need to reboot our computer, we need to do the same for our genealogy research.

I often find that for me, I need to focus on mundane (and sometimes mindless) activities for a bit – whether it’s becoming more organized, reviewing what I have in hand, what are outstanding queries, making sure my citations are all “there,” etc.  Or, I create a timeline (actually a matrix) to summarize all that is known (with when, where, who and what).  Like the first post mentioned below, I also revisit the www – my old favorite websites have been updated and there may be new ones that I need to pay attention to.  In fact, as I receive news about new websites (or major website updates), I place those links in a folder I created for just that purpose.  Then, when I have time and/or don’t know what else to do, I start visiting this collection of links.

Check out these blog posts and articles for some other ideas on how you might re-start your genealogy research!




Know of other equally helpful posts/articles?

What is your favorite way to reboot your genealogy research?

What other suggestions might you offer to someone who is “stuck and stumped?”




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26 July 2013

Upfront Mini Bytes -- American Revolution, Parents + Family History, Maps, Archiving Family History, and more ...

Upfront Mini Bytes

Welcome to our newest edition of our bi-weekly feature Upfront Mini Bytes.  In Upfront Mini Bytes we provide eight tasty bits of genealogy news that will help give you a deeper byte into your family history research. Each item is short and sweet.  We encourage you to check out the links to articles, blog posts, resources, and anything genealogical!

We hope you found the past editions helpful.  Use your favorite search engine with “Upfront with NGS” “Mini Bytes” or use this Google search link.

Do you have questions, suggestions for future posts, or comments?  Please post a comment or send an e-mail to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org.

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Faces of the American Revolution.  I sometimes forget how early photography was created and how long-lived some of those who served during the Revolutionary War were.  Both the article and the images are a fascinating glimpse into the lives of these soldiers. For more information, check out Maureen Taylor’s webpage and also Revolutionary Voices: A Last Muster Film.
                                                                                              
How old is the average country?  This post looks at years of independence to “age” each country.  The relevance to genealogists is that such a date (and sense of age) might help us as we search for records.  Are we looking under a “new” name when an old name for the country was relevant when our ancestors were alive and/or lived there? For example, East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971.  Do check out the underlying map here.

There has been much discussion recently about engaging the younger generations in genealogy research.  And, though, it might be hard for those of us who have been doing genealogy for decades to believe, there are many older individuals who have not yet explored their ancestry.  With that in mind, the article Why encourage your ageing parent to investigate their family history? reminded me that I do have many friends who are not genealogists. Additionally, many families are often seeking some activity that brings the family together.  Might not exploring one’s family history do the job?

Infographic: The Literal Meaning Of Every State Name In The U.S. Who knew that North Carolina really means “North Freewoman’s Land”)?  Beware, this map can be addicting to look at!

Sticking with maps, there was another neat one created called A 'Whom Do You Hang With?' Map Of America. Though these maps reflect contemporary connections – e.g. where the money goes, who you talk with, etc. – you can also use it to think about your ancestors.  We know from researching families that you would get little “hubs” of activity around a state line (e.g. NC/VA) or between two areas (northeastern NC and the whole Norfolk/Portsmouth area) for jobs, etc.  Maybe you can figure out whom your ancestors and their neighbors interacted with.

Maintaining and archiving family history is critical.  Remember, as you live your life, you are creating historical documents and taking historical photos and videos, etc.  These and any items we inherit or acquire from those who lived before us need to be archived so that future generations can enjoy them as well.  Do check out the three-part New York Times series, Tips on Archiving Family History – Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Throughout time, abbreviations have had a place in writing and then in what we read.  To this day, I abbreviate all kinds of words as I jot notes in my calendar.  Fortunately, it seems that for the most part, when forenames were abbreviated by clerks, they were fairly consistent in which abbreviations were used for which names.  Check out First Name Abbreviations. Does this mean those listed were the only abbreviations used? Of course not and they do give you a place to start.

Are you Irish American?  If so, you might have some fun with this infographic created by Genealogybank. Details are provided below the image.


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25 July 2013

Resource Lists (by County, State or Country) are Invaluable to our Genealogy Research



Are you researching ancestors in Alabama?  If so, check out this great resource from the Birmingham Public Library (BPL), Selected Resources for Alabama Counties

These pages are designed to be an overview of resources for selected Alabama counties. Although not exhaustive, they will give you an idea of what sources to use when researching a particular county. This is a work in progress so check back often and enjoy. Please contact us with suggested additions at askgenlocal@bham.lib.al.us.

And, if you do research in Alabama and Pauline Jones Gandrud abstracted records for your county, you are in for a treat!

Living in North Carolina, I make great use of a compendium created by the State Archives of North Carolina, Guide to Research Materials in the State Archives of North Carolina: County Records or the County Records Guide.  The link takes you to a 2002 version and subsequently a 2009 version was published.  If you want to know, at the county level, what records are held by the NC archives, your journey starts with this publication.


Has an archive, library or society in your state (or country) created a state-wide (or country-wide) equally helpful resource list?





Editor’s Note: Thanks to Lori Thornton, Stephens-Burnett Memorial Library, Carson-Newman College via Facebook (FB) for pointing out the BPL resource.







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24 July 2013

Using FBI Files for Genealogy Research


A recent post on the GenealogyBlog, Genealogical Research Using FBI Files, reminded me that for a project several years ago, I filed many many FOIA requests to the FBI to collect information about some individuals who were of interest (all long-deceased) for activities in the early 1900s.  It provided a fascinating look into all kids of people at the time. Some files were never found and for others, massive amounts of paperwork were received. 

Do realize that there is NO online submission and everything must be in writing.  You will then receive any communication from the FBI in writing through the mail.  I mention this so that you remember to be patient.  Learn more at What Happens After Making a Request.

When considering making such a request, do make sure that you have done your homework.  The FBI was created in 1908; before that the Department of Justice often used “Secret Service Operatives” to conduct investigations. 

So, if you are seeking earlier records, you might need to contact the United States Secret Service.

There is also online FBI Records: The Vault a “new electronic reading room, containing 6,700 documents and other media that have been scanned from paper...”

And, Fold3 has a collection of FBI Case Files which “cover[s] important investigations by an agency of the US government later known as the FBI, called the Bureau of Investigation. They include tales of espionage during World War I, case files for German aliens who were politically suspect, records pertaining to Mexican neutrality, and reports dealing with alleged violations of Federal laws.” The files cover the time period 1908-1921.

Have you ever used an FOIA to get records about your ancestors from the FBI or the Secret Service?  If so, please tell us how the process worked for you and whether any genealogical gems were found!

Do you know of other “online” collections of FBI or Secret Service files?




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23 July 2013

Elephind -- a new newspaper search engine


With so many newspapers becoming digitized, it can be challenging (and time consuming) to check them all out!  Never mind figuring out what ones exist online and what they include.

Unfortunately, GoogleTM (or other search engines) searching might yield some results from newspapers and they are not systematic, nor comprehensive.  Besides Google News Archive (which does contain some really neat historic newspaper collections), you are more likely to come across current newspaper articles or abstracts.

There is a new search engine, Elephind.com, which was created to “search the world’s historical newspaper archives.” It encompasses free online newspaper collections. Currently, the coverage includes newspaper collections from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States.

It was neat to search on “Wake County” and find articles in The New York Tribune (6 April 1842), The Rutland Herald [VT] (2 May 1843), The radical [Missouri] (23 November 1843) amongst the results. 

You can help expand this collection by e-mailing Elephind.com with any other appropriate free online historic newspaper collections you know, contact@dlconsulting.com.  Since it is a work in progress, do check back often and you can also subscribe to its mailing list.


Did you search using Elephind.com and find a newspaper article that you probably wouldn’t have come by otherwise?

Are there any other online aggregate newspaper search engines?


Other Upfront with NGS posts about newspapers:





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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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22 July 2013

Writing in Style -- the Genealogy Way

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As family historians we do a lot of writing!  Whether it’s as simple as entering names and dates and places into a family tree program, writing e-mails to colleagues and family members, blogging to the world, creating a published volume of your research, writing for a genealogy journal, and much more, it’s important that we do it with style!

I, as many, may remember that in high school and/or college we were required to use a “certain style guide” as we wrote.  Of course, not all teachers/professors required the same one and these guides never agreed on everything ... Trust me when I say that after dealing with a few of those, I knew that I would never be an “editor!”  And, that I have learned to very much appreciate what editor’s do to help writers!

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to their very own editor.

That said, there are many of these older style guides and some newer style guides which might help make your writing more accessible.  I was reminded of this when earlier this year I came across, Writing For the Digital Age: 5 Free Writing Style Guides Online.  It was a bit of a nostalgic trip since the last guide mentioned is The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr.  I remember that one!

Even if I do not necessarily “follow” every element of these guides, they actually do help one write better.

There are also style guides that have been created and are specific to our genealogy community.

Some of these are:

Some recent Upfront with NGS blog posts about writing:

What one writing tip would you share?

Do you know of another great style guide, whether genealogical or general?






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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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19 July 2013

NGS -- Genealogical Standards and Guidelines

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A topic which is always current and relevant is Genealogical Standards and Guidelines.

These Genealogical Standards and Guidelines are recommended by the National Genealogical Society for the benefit of those who wish to improve their skills and performance in genealogical pursuits. NGS is neither an accrediting nor an enforcement agency and does not determine whether its recommendations are being followed in any particular case. These recommendations serve their purpose when an individual decides that the Standards and Guideline have been applied appropriately in a matter of personal interest.

NGS welcomes links to its Standards and Guidelines on other websites or their reproduction by others, as permitted by the copyright notice. However, such support from others does not assure that their websites or works conform to the recommended Standards or Guidelines.

Editor's Note: Related recent Upfront with NGS Posts: 



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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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18 July 2013

Archives Hub (UK) -- really neat centralized resource!


For UK researchers, there is a really neat resource called Archives hub, http://archiveshub.ac.uk/.  It is described by “The Archives Hub enables you to search across descriptions of archives held at over 220 institutions across the UK.”

One issue we often have in the US (and I suspect in other countries as well) is so many archives, so little centralization!

The closest I can think of to something somewhat centralized (and it is not US-specific) is Worldcat, http://www.worldcat.org/.  Though, its focus is more libraries and their holdings and this isn’t the same as archives and their holdings.  Though, one will sometimes find microfilmed versions of original records held in libraries and that can lead you to the repository which holds the originals.

Just looking at the list of participating archives was instructive.  I didn’t know that there was a National Co-operative Archive.  Given my families working class roots, this archive might hold something relevant regarding my ancestors or the industries they were associated with.  You can search on any term of interest. I searched on Hollinwood and Chadderton, two locales where I had family living in the 19th century, and entries were found from six different repositories; not all local.

Are you aware of other “Archives hub” type resources?

Just knowing that records exist and where they are held is so important to our research.  A big issue for us genealogists is that we don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to records and repositories.




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copyright © National Genealogical Society, 3108 Columbia Pike, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204-4370. http://www.ngsgenealogy.org.
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Republication of UpFront articles is permitted and encouraged for non-commercial purposes without express permission from NGS. Please drop us a note telling us where and when you are using the article. Express written permission is required if you wish to republish UpFront articles for commercial purposes. You may send a request for express written permission to UpFront@ngsgenealogy.org. All republished articles may not be edited or reworded and must contain the copyright statement found at the bottom of each UpFront article.
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