15 February 2013

Upfront Mini Bytes

Welcome to the second edition of our new bi-weekly feature Upfront Mini Bytes.  In Upfront Mini Bytes we will 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 first edition helpful.

Do you have questions, suggestions for future posts or comments?  Please post a comment!


As genealogists, we often consider original sources as fairly exemplary as far as accuracy.  Should we?  I wrote that and then realized that I am always telling my clients that we don’t know who gave the information recorded on a birth record, marriage license, census enumeration, etc.  This suggests that obviously, I’m pretty suspicious about any single document and its accuracy, including even original ones.  Read more about just why we need to be suspicious of what is called primary or firsthand information in Michael Hait’s post Is primary information truly reliable for genealogists? [do check out the referenced video]

Haven’t been to a NARA location in a few months?  Do know that effective 1 October 2012 some of the fees changed; though most fees increased, the fees for NATF 81, 82 and 83 decreased. Check here for the old and new fees.

Digital books are really helping us get access to publications which were previously often unavailable to us.  Be sure to look beyond Google Books and Internet Archive. FamilySearch has Family History Books, a collection of more than 40,000 digitized genealogy and family history publications from the archives of some of the most important family history libraries in the world.

Like other produced works, obituaries are covered by copyright!  The Legal Genealogist, Judy G Russell did a great series about this:  Copyright and the obit and Copyright and the post-1963 obit.  The bottom line is if published before 1923, as with other works, the obituary is now in the public domain.  For those published after 1923, read her posts and get the scoop. 

Doing modern research in Atlanta? Like maps?  Check out Planning Atlanta: A New City in the Making, 1930s – 1990s consists of city planning maps, documents and publications primarily from the City of Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Have a Civil War veteran from Missouri who may have become an inmate in a soldier’s home?  Missouri Digital Archives has placed Missouri Veterans Home (St. James) Inmate Registers online. Volumes 1-3 contain the original admission registers for 2297 residents from June 25, 1897 through February 15, 1929. While visiting the site, check out these other genealogy-related digital collections.

Sometimes people think that because we are often researching “dead people” that genealogists and family historians don’t have a sense of humor!  Well, we all know we do!  On Facebook (FB), humorous cartoons or images are often posted from two sources which are NOT genealogy focused and yet frequently hit the genealogical funny bone: Grammarly & Someecards. Know a site with genealogical humor? 

Many of us have veterans in our family tree.  Some of those veterans might be buried in Arlington Cemetery.  If you have ever visited this massive, and I mean massive cemetery, you know that without knowing where you are going, it’s easy to wear out the tread on your shoes.  Navigating the cemetery is now easier with an online interactive map (can be used via the web, at kiosks or via your smartphone).  Read some PR about the new map.

Have a resource, article, etc you’d like to see included in a future edition?  If so, please send an e-mail to [email protected].

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  1. May I suggest a fourth reaction check box for future posts? How about "informative," which would be a little more affirmative than finding something merely interesting. "Informative" would indicate that there is something to be learned and maybe filed away for future use and not just the momentary pleasure of reading at the moment. Just a thought. . . ;-)

    John at

  2. Thanks for your comment John. Unfortunately, the "limited" choices are a function of the blog service we use and here at Upfront with NGS are assuming that your addition of an "informative" choice means that you found this edition of Upfront Mini Bytes just that, "informative!"

  3. Diane: Yes indeed! Upfront Mini Bytes was informative.

    Perhaps you might want to consider suggesting more user freedom with the reaction check boxes to your blog service. I would think it would be useful to customers such as Upfront to be able to tell at a glance (or via site statistics) if a posting was read and found funny/interesting/cool vs. informative and something that would be affirmatively used rather than perhaps just appreciated.

  4. Hey John -- thanks for your thoughts! Based on that, I learned from the NGS IT person I can adjust those items and after a bit of playing around you will see that they now are cool, interesting and informative (bet you recognize that last one). What might be other "reactions" appropriate to a genealogy blog post?

    I would love to make these more "appropriate" to the Upfront with NGS blog posts.

    Greatly appreciate the suggestion for making the blog better!

  5. Diane: That's great news! I just checked "Informative" for the Mini Bytes posted Friday. :-)

  6. You talk about accuracy of vital records.

    Here in Michigan, at least in 'rural' counties, births and deaths were collected once a year at the township level, and recorded usually in June or July over just 3 or 4 days, verified by the recording dates on the right side of the ledgers. I don't know how cities like Detroit recorded theirs.

    The reason was because there were few roads, transportation was on foot, horse (if you could afford one), or ox and cart. Not so odd, I am in my 70's and recall using horse drawn vehicles and getting our first vehicle. Mail / postal communication was not an everyday event.

    Some township officers kept the records in their township (six square miles) pretty much up to date (probably gossiping wives!) but others only went around at the end of the year.

    If someone moved in or out, or died, during the year, they were often not recorded. One notices births in particular recorded in county ledgers with a birth place in another place, sometimes even out of country like Canada.

    I have an uncle who was recorded born in both 1900 and 1901. Either it was a different person, or the person from the previous year could not recall if they recorded his birth, and so, he was born twice. I explain that the first one is the correct one, since they could not record an event before it happened.

    Next problem was pennmanship and re-recording. Township officials had to use their own paper and pen / pencil. They often used scraps. Then they re-wrote them to send to the county, where they were re-written in the county ledgers. Then they were re-written again for sending to the state, where they were again re-written into those ledgers. So most were rewritten at least five times... by people with sometimes poor pennmanship.

    I have seen some of this early writing and have to chuckle at how one's eye can (mis)read letters and words. Often I cannot make out some of my own writing.

    Sincerely, Gloria Hall, Tuscola County Genealogical Society

  7. Thanks for sharing Gloria -- this is a fascinating look into how records were collected/recorded and what they means for researchers.