Top Genealogy Websites, Pt. 3: Burial & Cemetery Records

Continuing our series on the top genealogy websites that will save you time and get you 24/7 access to the data you need and will rely on in your family history research, our next category is the best websites for cemetery and burial records: National Gravesite Locator, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves.

National Gravesite Locator Search Adeline Kemp

Credit: National Gravesite Locator, http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/

This important website, created by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, lets genealogists quickly locate military and veterans’ burials from 1997 to today. This cemetery website is updated daily and includes all persons buried in the hundreds of officially-designated U.S. federal and state military cemeteries.

National Gravesite Locator Map - Adeline Kemp

Credit: National Gravesite Locator, http://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/

These military cemeteries permit the burial of the service member and their spouse. The online index gives you the core genealogical information: each person’s name; dates of birth and death; name and rank of the person that served in the military; and the name and contact information for the military cemetery. All of this is available at your fingertips 24/7 online. This cemetery website is updated daily.

Billiongraves Find a Grave

Credit: Find-A-Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/
Credit: BillionGraves, http://billiongraves.com/

These essential online cemetery websites rely on crowdsourcing to grow. As the above photo shows, individual genealogists take pictures of the graves that interest them and upload them to these two websites.

“Many hands make light work,” allowing these cemetery websites to grow quickly.

BillionGraves has over 4.2 million photographs of individual gravestones.

Find-A-Grave has roughly the same number of tombstone images, but also has included indexes to the names of persons buried in cemeteries across the country—boosting its name count to over 102 million “grave records.”

Billion Graves Sarah Whitehouse

Credit: Billion Graves, http://billiongraves.com/

Find A Grave Addie Estelle Morris Huse

Credit: Find-A-Grave, http://www.findagrave.com/

Genealogists using Find-A-Grave routinely add an image of the tombstone, and also old family photographs and a biography of the deceased. Since this content is all online photographs, documents and similar items may be added to each individual’s memorial page by all interested persons.

Find A Grave John Henry Kemp

Credit: Find A Grave, http://www.findagrave.com

I decided to test how easy it is to add photographs of a tombstone and of the deceased to these cemetery websites. Bang. Within just a few minutes I was registered on Find-A-Grave and uploaded a photo of my great-grandfather John Henry Kemp’s grave along with his portrait.

This was simple and easy to do.

I encourage all genealogists to hold nothing back: put all of your family’s information, documents, and photographs on cemetery sites like these, and on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.

It is essential that we preserve and protect our family history information by putting our genealogy records on multiple websites. Ensure that the information about your family tree that you have gathered over years of genealogy research is not lost, but is permanently available for you and the rising generations.

Genealogy Records Storage: Tips & Software to Preserve Your Family History

After doing family history research for awhile, genealogists reach the point where they ask themselves: I have gathered all this information—now, what do I do with it?

Genealogists are the family hunter/gatherers, sifting through family obituaries, photographs and birth certificates. We take that information and organize it on our home computers in family tree software programs like PersonalAncestralFilePAF, LegacyFamilyTree and RootsMagic.

These family tree software programs designed for personal use at home are excellent ways to manage and organize your genealogical data.

But, at the end of the day, they are only the first step in compiling and sharing your family history.

As genealogists we want to share the family’s information with the rest of the family, to preserve it for the rising generation. We must find a way to make this family history information “permanent” with today’s tools and resources.

What are the storage options open to us?

Storing Genealogy Records at Home

We can protect and keep our genealogical data on a home computer, being careful to make back-up disks and giving copies of those disks to relatives near and far. I have done that for over a decade. The downside is that right now my relatives just are not interested enough in our family history to upload that data. They simply—on a good day—take the disks I sent them and put them in a drawer. The family data is preserved but it is still at the one-off level: it is preserved but only accessible to a few people.

We have seen genealogists spend 40+ years gathering family data, carefully managing it in their paper or computer files—only to have it all discarded as the person dies and the family downsizes, consolidates and moves to warmer climates. The pattern has been that the genealogy records gathered by each generation are known only to a few and are seldom preserved.

It is urgent that genealogists use the report function on their genealogy software programs to print and share their research. These reports can be targeted to report on all descendants of specific parts of the family and can even be personalized so that each person has a copy of their family tree—starting with themselves and going back in time.

Storing Family Records in the Online Cloud

Are there ways that we can preserve our family history information and at the same time widely disseminate it?

Yes.

This is important. Now that we all live in an interconnected world we can easily share and preserve our information with family members we have never met.

Genealogy Tip: For security reasons, only put information about deceased members of your family online. Make that information “public” so that it seamlessly becomes a part of the global family tree being built by millions of genealogists worldwide. If you add what you know—and I add what I have discovered—a much stronger and accurate family tree is built, permanently available online.

Where do I plant my tree online?

You want to use the standard “family tree” websites: FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com

FamilySearch.org. This free site has multiple options for uploading family trees. Their “new” family tree site is still in limited release but is expected to be fully open to the public later this year. Register now to get an invitation. Users can personalize and view this information in multiple languages, including all of the expected European, Scandinavian and Asian languages.

Ancestry.com. This commercial site has millions of family trees with documentation and photographs. It is essential that you make your tree “public,” making the information easily findable by genealogists worldwide.

What about using Facebook, a blog, or other sites?

Earlier I noted that you can print a family tree report from your home-based family tree software—but notice that you can also print these as PDF reports.

Be careful to adjust your settings so that none of the current, living generation of your family is printed in the report.

Then you can easily upload a copy to your Facebook page, blog or similar sites.

Scribd.com

One terrific online resource is Scribd.com.

This free website encourages everyone to publish their reports online. I regularly post copies of my genealogical reports here, and this has paid off. I have heard back from relatives in the United Kingdom and around the world who never would have found me on a “genealogy” site.

Genealogy Record Storage Online with Scribd

Scribd.com for Online Genealogy Record Preservation

How did they find me on Scribd.com? Easy—that site makes every word, every name fully searchable on Google and the other search engines. So—when my cousins decided to start looking at our family tree they searched using Google and Bingo!—they found my family tree report.

One nice feature of Scribd is that I can update my family history information, then upload and overlay the original version of my report. So all links are preserved and the information available will be the most accurate version of my research data.

Take time this summer to find ways to permanently preserve and disseminate your genealogy research. Doing so will inform and entertain your family members—and help your own family history research by getting others involved.

Social Security Death Index Comparison across Genealogy Sites

The Social Security Death Index is available on so many genealogy sites—are they all alike?

You might think so—but on looking closer, they aren’t all the same. In fact, there are many differences in the Social Security information they provide, as this article will show.

Here’s an important question to ask when comparing various genealogy websites: how many SSDI records are on each site?

SSDI Search Websites Comparison Chart

SSDI Search Websites Comparison Chart

GenealogyBank and Ancestry update their SSDI records every week and have 91.4 million records.

In contrast, FamilySearch.org has 90.7 million SSDI records and Mocavo has only 88 million SSDI records.

So—just in numbers of Social Security records available—you can miss millions of records depending on which genealogy website you visit.

Let’s look deeper and see what information is in the SSDI record on each site.

For this Social Security record comparison we’ll use Tracy Kemp as our target person, who died in 2010.

GenealogyBank.com (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from genealogybank's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from GenealogyBank's Social Security Death Index

GenealogyBank gives his name and tells us that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey. Importantly, the record also gives complete dates of birth and death, adding the day of the week. The Social Security record also gives a complete and accurate age at death, giving the age in years, months and days.

GenealogyBank also includes the extra information that the Social Security Administration has validated this information, giving it the “Proven” designation—telling genealogists that it is accurate information.

Ancestry.com (Pay site, no free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from ancestry's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Ancestry's Social Security Death Index

Ancestry gives the basic facts in the Social Security record: first name, last name; birth date; death date; noting that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey in 1979.

Archives.com (Pay site, no free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from archive's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Archive's Social Security Death Index

Archives.com gives his name, birth and death dates, and notes that the Social Security card was issued in New Jersey in the online SS record.

The Social Security death record also adds that he was age 39 when he died.

FamilySearch (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from familysearch's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from FamilySearch's Social Security Death Index

The FamilySearch website repeats this same basic information in the SS record: his name, dates of birth/death, and place of issue of the Social Security card are all the same.

FamilySearch incorrectly gives his “estimated” age at death as 40.

Mocavo.com (Free SSDI)

tracy kemp death record from mocavo's social security death index

Tracy Kemp death record from Mocavo's Social Security Death Index

Mocavo gives the core facts in the SS record: name, dates of birth/death, and gives the age at death as 39 years old. This site gives the Social Security number. The other sites have all removed the SSN for security concerns.

Mocavo has no SSDI records for 2011 or 2012.

AmericanAncestors.org (Free SSDI)

AmericanAncestors Tracy Kemp SSDI Record

Tracy Kemp's SSDI record from AmericanAncestors.org

AmericanAncestors.org gives the first name, last name; birth date; death date and Social Security number. It has records from 1937 to 2011.

It is quickly apparent that all SSDI sites do not contain the same number of records or display the same amount of information. Clearly GenealogyBank.com has the edge, offering the most complete and accurate SSDI information available online.

John Fuller longtime leader in Internet Genealogy has passed away.

I was alerted to John Fuller’s passing by DearMYRTLE. Others in the genealogy community have sent me items to include in writing about him. His complete obituary will be posted later this weekend.
John Fuller was well known in the genealogy community for his landmark website – Genealogy Resources on the Internet – that made it easy to find “Genealogy Mailing Lists” and other resources online. He started that site back in 1995. That seems so long ago now.

A viewing and visitation will be held this coming Tuesday, June 23 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm at the
Murphy Funeral Home; 4510 Wilson Blvd.; Arlington, VA

Per his sister Cynthia, “John would not want flowers” – she suggested memorial gifts to the American Cancer Society.

(Photo supplied by the family – John was a career Navy Officer in the Submarine Service)
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Linda Fay Kaufman, genealogist, 1940-2009

Remembering one of our own: Linda Fay Kaufman, genealogist, 1940-2009

Enthusiastic genealogist Linda Fay Kaufman (1940-2009) has passed away.
She put her family history research online and actively corresponded with genealogists across the country. A search of the genealogy lists shows her posts as recently as the last few months.

Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) – April 12, 2009
Kaufman, Linda Fay Born in Hanover, NH on July 15, 1940, died peacefully on March 30, 2009 surrounded by family at North Memorial Hospital.


She is survived by husband Stan, daughters Eleanor Kaufman (Chicago, IL) and Elizabeth Shiroma (St. Paul, MN), son-in law Ian Shiroma, grandson Ryan Shiroma, sisters Marcia Fay (Bethlehem, PA) and Norma Bigos (Baltimore, MD), nephew Jon Bigos (Baltimore, MD), and extended family across the U.S.

A graduate of Newton High School and Wellesley College in Massachusetts, Linda studied classical languages and literature in graduate school at Yale University. During this time, she met Stan, and they married in 1964.

Linda taught at Vassar College and at the Thomas School for Girls. In 1969, she embarked with Stan for universities in Germany, first in Heidelberg and then in Mainz. In Heidelberg, she taught English to German-speaking adults.

Later, she worked in the University’s Library of Southeast Asian studies, organizing and cataloging documents in the many languages of that region. At the University in Mainz, she assisted in the Comparative Literature Department.

In 1976, Linda and Stan moved to Minnesota, and adopted their first daughter Elizabeth the next year; their second daughter Eleanor was born in 1979. When the children were in school, Linda held several accounting positions. She then became a Certified Professional Accountant and developed a small practice of her own, specializing in tax returns with international involvement. She especially enjoyed her work assisting recent immigrants in the Somali community.

During the past decade, Linda conducted extensive genealogy research on her New England family roots. She developed comprehensive family websites, collaborated with many others, and responded to world-wide inquiries from fellow genealogists and distant relatives.

Linda will be remembered lovingly by her family and the many people whose lives she touched. A gathering in her honor will be held later in the spring. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers donations to Green Belt Movement (http://greenbeltmovement.org) or Books for Africa (http://www.booksforafrica.org/)

Edition: METRO
Page: 5B
Copyright (c) 2009 Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities

Did you know GenealogyBank has more than 130 million obituaries and death records – from Newspapers 1690 to Today; Government Reports like the US Army Register and hundreds of other sources?

Click Here and Start Searching Now

NY genealogist featured in newspaper article

Lawrence Corbett, Watertown, NY family historian, has been researching since 1976 when his mother compiled their family history and published it in a spiral bound book.

He is the Corresponding Secretary of the Jefferson County (NY) Genealogical Society.

Click here to see the article about Corbett’s research experience and advice. The article appeared in today’s (4 April 2009) Watertown Daily Times (NY).

GenealogyBank has the Watertown Daily Times (20 Jan 1988 to Today, America’s Obituaries) and over 300 other New York newspapers.

Click Here to search GenealogyBank’s 304 New York historical newspapers.

How to deal with heirloom, oversize portraits

This weekend’s Wall Street Journal (February 14-15, 2009 pp. R6) has a terrific article by Kathleen A. Hughes – “The Person over the Mantle”.

Hughes tells the experiences of families in preserving and displaying their old family portraits and her own change of heart in displaying the image of her 3rd Great Grandmother, Mary Plumb Fairchild.
Early on she was offered Mary’s portrait but decided that she didn’t want that “stern” looking woman over the mantle of her fireplace. Thirty years later she had a change of heart and looked into her genealogy and remembered that old family heirloom. Turns out that Mary Plumb Fairchild was “one of the first women to attend Oberlin College, and an early abolitionist. She died at 29 after giving birth to her fourth child”. Now not accepting the offer of the family portrait is one of her regrets – but the portrait is preserved and hangs in the home of a cousin across the country. (Portrait of Mary Plumb Fairchild is from the article).

We have a wall of old family portraits in our home along the landing at the top of the stairs – much like the walls at Hogwarts in a Harry Potter movie – they are hard to miss. The really oversize family portraits still hang at my uncle’s home in New Hampshire.

If you have early family portraits – be sure to make a digital copy of each one – identify them and post them online. eMail copies to members of your family. You could post them for free at Facebook.com; on Scribd.com or similar sites …. and you can join online genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and post the digital images there.

But – what do you do if you don’t have a portrait of any of your ancestors?

You could scour the Internet looking to see if a historic image of your relative is already online. You could also search sites like GenealogyToday – a terrific site that regularly posts funeral cards, early printed items and photographs etc.
Another source is old newspapers. I have found thousands of images – photos, etchings of people in 19th & 20th Century newspapers. GenealogyBank is a great source for tracking down old family photos that the family lost track of decades ago.

This image of Daniel Freeman is from the Omaha (NE) Sunday World Herald 26 June 1899.

FamilySearch adding 1920 Census online

Complete US Census Index 1790-1930 to be free online.

FamilySearch.org (the Family History Library – Salt Lake City, UT) announced today that it will complete its online index to the US Census 1790 to 1930, making the entire index free online for the first time.

Currently FamilySearch has online free indexes to the 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900 US Federal Census online at its FamilySearchLabs site. It announced work on the 1910 census index a few weeks ago.

Today FamilySearch announced that it will immediately work with The Generations Network (TGN – also known as Ancestry.com) and begin putting the 1920 census index online for free. TGN will swap it’s index to the 1920 census and in exchange FamilySearch gave TGN their digital version of the 1900 census.

As I wrote earlier – the Family History Library’s indexing project has done high quality work and the FHL’s version of the 1900 census is the best online with double keyed indexes and brand new digital images of each page of the census.

FamilySearch will merge the Ancestry indexes with the new FamilySearch indexes to create an enhanced census index, which will be added to both sites. The final indexes will be free on FamilySearch.org

FamilySearch will use the 1920 Census index from Ancestry as a first pass and will begin to double check and correct each entry. FamilySearch will also add more indexed fields and arbitrate any discrepancies between the two indexes. This re-indexing of the 1920 census is currently in progress. Once completed, the enhanced 1920 index will be available on both sites.

Genealogists interested in helping create the improved index may volunteer at FamilySearchIndexing.

As FamilySearch did previously in an agreement with Ancestry for the 1880 census – the 1920 census will be searchable for free on FamilySearch.org but to view the page images, researchers will need to pay a fee and will be redirected to the page images on Ancestry.com

It’s a great day for genealogy.
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A genealogy blog? What’s that?

A “blog” is one of those made up words coined by the Internet. Click here to see the Wikipedia definition.

Think of a genealogy blog as a telegram service keeping you up to date on all possible aspects of genealogy.

These could be brief postcard size updates on what the writer has been researching; breaking news in the field; or a mini-lecture – giving you a quick lesson on some genealogical record source.

Blogs are a quick and painless way to stay informed and to upgrade your family history research skills.

I have been posting news stories and tips (blogging) since the 1990s and use my blog to share breaking news and research tips. In many ways I feel like a genealogy news reporter and I really love it when my blog is the first to report on a new resource – which we’ve done many times.

GenealogyBank – the Official Blog
Usually one posting per day, written by yours truly – the focus is on breaking news in genealogy that you will actually use and rely on; genealogy tips as well as targeted news & insights about new content added to GenealogyBank.

Here are just some of the blogs that I highly recommend.
They are each must read sites.

Ancestry Insider
This well informed blogger’s daily posts are focused on Ancestry.com and familysearch.org Knowledgeable and on target it is a must read blog written by an Ancestry employee – BUT it is not an “official” corporate blog.

DearMYRTLE’s Genealogy Blog
DearMYRTLE has been working in genealogy for decades. Her blog is essential reading and can be counted on for breaking news and insight. Count on her to make new resources easy to use and understand.

Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter
Dick Eastman’s blog is essential reading. Dick is up to date and knows the field. His blog comes in two flavors – free and a paid version. You’ll want to pay the nominal fee and subscribe to his blog – it’s worth it.

Everton Publisher’s Genealogy Blog
Leland Meitzler posts 3-4 times a week and puts his decades of experience to work in reporting what is happening in genealogy. Leland has the pulse of the field and hey, he’s a heck of a nice guy too.

The Footnote Blog
This blogger usually posts 2-3 times a month. The articles are usually brief and focus on the latest developments at Footnote.com – you’ll want to read it to keep up with what’s new on that site.

Genealogy Insider
Diane Haddad, Editor of Family Tree Magazine is a great blogger. Well informed and with an upbeat writing style. Haddad is essential reading. Don’t miss this blog – its terrific.