The pull of family history … family is more than names

What motivates people to do family history?
Family history is more than names – we are drawn to the stories of their lives. We dig their names and dates out of vital records or the census and we dig deeper into newspapers and family letters to find the stories of their lives.

When I was teaching a genealogy class for the Darien Historical Society (CT) back in the early 1970s I asked my class – why were they interested in their family history?

One elderly man said – My sister was the kindest person he ever knew. She never married. I knew that if I didn’t write our family history that no one would remember her. That always stuck with me.

In today’s Denver Post Tina Griego wrote:

“Usually it starts with a family story. Grandma was tracking the family and they ended up with a box full of her papers. Or they heard someone in the family fought in the Revolutionary War. Or ‘My ancestors came from Spain and settled in Mexico and I want to find that branch of the family.’ “
What is it, I ask her, that draws people to their family histories? What is it they hope to learn? Why does it matter?
As I ask, I am aware that these questions are as much professional as they are personal.

Tina Griego, columnist for the Denver Post writes about the pull of genealogy in today’s paper.

Click here to read her entire column.
Family History is more than Names. 14 April 2009. Denver Post.

Need help writing an obituary?

You can find all types of helpful advice in newspapers.
This humorous advice on writing an obituary is from today’s New London (CT) Day (3 April 2009). It wasn’t written on April Fool’s Day – but it sure could have been.

This video clip is by Day reporter Rick Koster.
You can view the video clip of his column here.

Have you noticed that more and more newspapers are adding video clips of their columnists and in depth expanded coverage of local news stories?
These “news clips” are a terrific 21st century bonus in today’s newspapers.

One of my favorite newspaper video clip stories is the New York Time’s report on Green Wood Cemetery’s (NYC) Civil War Graves Project. See it here. McDonald, Brett & Donald Glenn Collins. Green-Wood Remembers the Civil War Dead. (NY Times, 28 May 2007).

Both of these newspaper video clips are must viewing by genealogists.

Hunt is on for phony POW’s…

Today’s Chicago Tribune has an interesting article by Steve Mills about Mary and Chuck Schantag of the P.O.W. Network who say they have exposed close to 1,900 people who have falsely claimed to be prisoners of war. Click here to read the article “Hunt is on for Phony POW’s.

A quick check of GenealogyBank shows almost one million articles about POW’s, documenting their brutal experiences. It is an excellent source for verifying these claims.

TIP: Use GenealogyBank to search for previously published news articles that can expand on the details you find written in an obituary notice.

Green-Wood Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY – Honors Civil War Vets

Newspapers are producing more than newsprint – they are adding video news clips.
Here is an example from the New York Times – “Green-Wood Remembers Civil War Dead”

Click here and watch in depth report about Green-Wood Cemetery’s effort to document the graves of Civil War veterans.

It’s must viewing!

GenealogyBank – packed with veteran’s records

Today is Veteran’s Day – I have many ancestors and cousins that served – from the days of the Colonial militia, the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 right up to today. In fact my brother and I joined the Navy when we were 17 – but that was a long time ago.

With Veteran’s Day in mind I started looking at the many resources in GenealogyBank for researching our family members that served in the military.

The Historical Documents section of GenealogyBank now has over 226,000 documents – it is packed with military records.
For example – here is one page from the published list of all lieutenants serving in the US Navy – as of 1832. The list gives their names; dates of appointment; ships they served on etc.

(US Congress. American State Papers. List of lieutenants in the Navy in 1832, and the sea service performed by each since his promotion. Communicated to the House of Representatives, June 16, 1832. American State Papers. 026, Naval Affairs Vol. 4; 22nd Congress, 1st Session Publication No. 483).

I decided to pick a name at random from this list just to see what else I could find out about him.

I selected John P. Zantzinger.

I quickly found that he was listed in multiple documents – the ships he served on – his rejected pay increase request for serving off the coast of Brazil – and other interesting details of his career.
Turning to the Historical Newspapers I found even more.
I found his marriage to Susan R. Hipkins – recorded in the Massachusetts newspaper, the Columbia Centennial (21 March 1821) even though they were married in North Carolina!

This article also filled in another detail – that his middle name was: Paul.

Then I found the sad news that 25 years later his wife died at Fauquier White Sulpher Springs, VA – an area then well known for the “restorative” powers of its natural sulpher springs.

Note that her obituary was published in the New London (CT) Morning News 18 Sep 1846 – even though her death occurred in Virginia.

TIP: Remember – a newspaper from across the country might have printed your ancestor’s marriage announcement or obituary. Don’t limit your search to just the newspapers in one state.

In all I found more than 1,500 records for Zantzinger.

GenealogyBank – makes it easy to search over 243 million records and documents for our ancestors.

Give it a try right now.
Start your 30-day introductory trial on GenealogyBank.
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Discover Your Family Story.

GenealogyBank sheds new light on the daily lives and communities of millions of American families from 1690 to today. With more than 3,700 newspapers and other core documents from all 50 states, you’ll find not only your ancestor’s names, dates, places and events, but also learn about their everyday challenges and the events that defined their lives.

Special 30 day introductory offer only $9.95.

Pay just $9.95 for full access to GenealogyBank for 30 days.You may also choose one of two membership package options:
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Change your mind and want to cancel simply call us at 800-243-7694 before your trial ends and you still only pay $9.95.

Hurry – this offer ends TODAY – Tuesday, November 11th!

Key Historical Newspapers Online at GenealogyBank.com

With over 3,500 newspapers on GenealogyBank it might be difficult to be familiar with all of them.

GenealogyBank is packed with obituaries, birth records and marriage announcements – but here are some quick facts you might not know about some of our historical newspapers.

Baltimore Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Maryland)
Although this prominent paper published some of Edgar Allen Poe’s earliest poetry, Poe was unable to secure a job on its staff as he had hoped. Includes 3,619 issues published between 1826 and 1838.

Blackfoot Register (Idaho)
The Register covers the Idaho mining boom and the run up to statehood. Publisher William Wheeler used his persuasive writing skills to bolster the population of the then-struggling Idaho Territory. Includes 255 issues published between 1880 and 1886.

Boston Journal (Massachusetts)
One of the first newspapers to conduct a census of its readers, the well-known Journal offered a balance of businessnews and general interest stories, especially those that focused on life in New England. Includes 14,438 issues published between 1870 and 1917.

Daily Alaska Dispatch (Juneau)
The Dispatch offers detailed coverage of shipwrecks, volcano eruptions and other dangers that settlers faced in the harsh northern lands. Includes 5,724 issues published between 1900 and 1919.

Frankfort Argus (Kentucky)
One of the first newspapers west of the Appalachians. Includes 283 issues published between 1808 and 1821. Alternate Title: Argus of the Western World.

Frederick Douglass’ Paper (Rochester, New York)
Including its predecessor the North Star, this powerful anti-slavery newspaper had a circulation of 4,000 readers worldwide. Includes 136 issues published between 1847 and 1860.

Hobart Republican (Oklahoma)
Founded the year Oklahoma achieved statehood, the Republican reflects conservative middle-American views on World War I and the Russian Revolution. Includes 7,438 issues published between 1907 and 1920.

Hokubei Jiji or The North American Times (Seattle, Washington)
This was the first Japanese newspaper in the Pacific Northwest. Includes 57 issues published between 1916 and 1918.

Jeffersonian (Thomson, Georgia)
The Jeffersonian was the official mouthpiece of Georgia’s controversial fire-brand Populist and former presidential candidate, Thomas E. Watson. Will include issues published between 1909 and 1914.

Milwaukee Sentinel (Wisconsin)
The Sentinel provides national and international coverage as well as a glimpse into the northern fur trade. Includes 5,929 issues published between 1837 and 1866.

New-Bedford Courier (Massachusetts)
This important weekly newspaper from the U.S. whaling capital covers the industry at its height. Includes 181 issues published between 1827 and 1833.

New York Tribune (New York City)
For much of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Horace Greeley’s newspaper was one of the most powerful and successful in America. Will include issues published between 1856 and 1922.

Prescott Daily Courier (Arizona)
This early daily covered Arizona in the years before statehood, after the Desert Land Act significantly increased the territory’s population. Includes 2,173 issues published between 1891 and 1908.

Steamer Pacific News (San Francisco, California)
One of the most popular California newspapers, the Pacific News was shipped east during the height of the Gold Rush. Will include issues published between 1849 and 1851.

St. Louis Republic (Missouri)
This respected daily provided firsthand coverage of Midwestern events such as the Great Tornado of 1896 and the death of Sitting Bull. Includes 3,955 issues published between 1888 and 1900.

Territorial Enterprise (Virginia City, Nevada)
Nevada’s most important early newspaper featured articles written by young staffer Samuel Clemens, later known as Mark Twain. Will include issues published between 1874 and 1881. It will be loaded soon.

Texas Gazette (Austin)
The first English-language newspaper in the state, this important but short-lived title set the standard for frontier journalism. Will include issues published between 1829 and 1832. It will be loaded soon.

Die Washingtoner Post (Washington, Missouri)
This German-language title portrayed the lives of immigrants along the Mississippi River in the 1870s. Will include issues published between 1870 and 1878. It will be loaded soon.

Click here to see the complete list of newspapers on Genealogy Bank.

Give GenealogyBank a try right now!
Click here and see what you’ll discover about your family!

National Archives, Library of Congress Documents Go Online

The National Archives and the Library of Congress announced today that they have begun loading digital copies of their materials on a new site called the World Digital Library.

Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced today that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has become a founding partner in the World Digital Library (WDL).

NARA will contribute digital versions of important documents from its collections to the WDL, which will be launched for the international public in early 2009.

These documents include Civil War photographs, naturalization and immigration records of famous Americans, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, and photographs by Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Lewis Hine. Examples of the images that NARA is contributing to the World Digital Library are now available online.

Example of a naturalization document – Declaration of Intent of Maria von Trapp, 01/21/1944 – that was put online by NARA. NARA ARC Identifier 596198.

The WDL will include representative examples from these document categories – not the complete backfiles of these documents.

The complete run of the American State Papers is already available on GenealogyBank. See GenealogyBank’s Historical Documents collection where you will find military records, casualty lists, Revolutionary and Civil War pension requests, widow’s claims, orphan petitions, land grants and much more including the complete American State Papers (1789-1838) and all genealogical content carefully selected from the U.S. Serial Set (1817-1980). More than 146,000 reports, lists and documents. GenealogyBank has the most comprehensive collection of these US Government reports and documents available to genealogists online. GenealogyBank is adding more documents to this collection every month.

Proposed in 2005 by the Library of Congress in cooperation with UNESCO, the WDL will make available on the Internet significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world. The project’s goal is to promote international understanding and to provide a resource for use by students, teachers, and general audiences.

“We are pleased that our fellow Federal cultural institution, the National Archives, is joining the Library of Congress in the early stages of this project,” said Billington.

“NARA’s participation not only will ensure that the World Digital Library contains a full record of the American experience, but it also will encourage archives around the world to join with their counterparts from the library world in this important initiative.”

“The mission of the National Archives is to make U.S. Government records widely accessible,” said Weinstein. “The World Digital Library will be a valuable conduit for us to share some of our nation’s treasures with others around the world. We look forward to working with the Library of Congress on this important project.”

In addition to NARA and the Library of Congress, the WDL project partners include cultural institutions from Brazil, China, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many other countries. Click here for more Information about the WDL.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest Federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections. The Library seeks to spark the public’s imagination and celebrate human achievement through its programs and exhibits. In doing so, the institution helps foster the informed and involved citizenry upon which American democracy depends. The Library serves the public, scholars, members of Congress and their staffs through its 22 reading rooms on Capitol Hill. Many of the rich resources and treasures of the Library may also be accessed through its
award-winning web site and via interactive exhibitions on a new, personalized web site.
.

New York City – APG Chapter takes detailed tour of GenealogyBank

I had the opportunity Monday night to speak to the New York Metro Chapter of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

I have been a member of APG from the beginning – and a member of the New York Metro Chapter for many years.

Living in Connecticut I welcomed the opportunity to go to the city and speak about GenealogyBank.

It was a good group – the room was full and it was clear that most members of the group were already actively using GenealogyBank. We spent the evening walking them through the many types of records found in GenealogyBank and in particular showing them examples of records that they might not have used before … obituaries published in government reports, marriage announcements, Civil War pension records from the 1920s, passenger arrival notices/lists; rare documents and more – showing them clear examples of what could be found and their value to genealogists.

Many thanks to the Chapter leadership Joy Rich & Eileen Polakoff for a job well done in arranging for tonight’s meeting.

Our Honored Dead …

When Abraham Lincoln gave his stirring remarks at Gettysburg in 1863 word spread quickly across the nation.

The San Francisco (CA) Daily Evening Bulletin of 18 Dec 1863 captured the impact of Lincoln’s words that still move us today.

Newspapers report what happens every day giving each of us the emotion, context and impact of the news as it happens.

GenealogyBank with more than 3,400 newspapers over four centuries gives us the news as it happened.


Gripping accounts of the attack at Lexington & Concord appeared within days giving us the emotion and details of that day.
(NH Gazette & Historical Chronicle. 21 April 1775).

As we look back and remember our “honored dead” it is a good time to pause and reread Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

Four score and seven years ago
our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,
conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether
that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field,
as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives
that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense,
we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—
we can not hallow—this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather,
to be dedicated here to the unfinished work
which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before us
—that from these honored dead
we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
—that we here highly resolve
that these dead shall not have died in vain
—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom
—and that government of the people,
by the people,
for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.
This familiar version cited from Wikipedia

Now compare that with the version published in the San Francisco (CA) Daily Evening Bulletin of 18 Dec 1863

There were in fact multiple versions of the Gettysburg Address that were written down by reporters, others at the event and Lincoln himself.

See a discussion of this on the Library of Congress website loc.gov including a copy of the only known photo of Lincoln taken that day.

1860 Census & Civil War Pension Index – Going Online

FamilySearchLabs.org has begun putting the 1860 Federal Census and the Civil War Pension Index Cards online.

The 1860 Federal Census includes all new indexing and new digital images of the census pages. The FHL-Labs site is just beginning to put the 1860 census online – and has loaded the first 5% of the census. They are putting the index up for free but the census page images may only be viewed with a separate subscription to Footnote.com

The Civil War Pension Index Cards are 90% complete. According to the site, “each card gives the soldier’s name, unit, the application number, the certificate number and the state from which the soldier served.” This index is free on the FHL-Labs site.

FamilySearchLabs.org has changed their site so you no longer have to register to login.

You can find additional Civil War pension information in GenealogyBank. Look at the US Serial Set in the Historical Documents section. See also the example I posted earlier about the Civil War pension of Henry B. Platter and his widow Rachel (Bittinger) Platter.