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Immigrant Ship

I discovered the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild (ISTG) site while looking to interpret the abbreviations used in a ship passenger manifest.*  Since the site so efficiently answered my questions, I was curious to see what else it offered. I began exploring the Guild’s website http://www.immigrantships.net.  The more I explored, the more impressed I became.  Founded in 1998, the Guild was created by and is made up of volunteers. For nineteen years these volunteers have been transcribing ship manifests and have completed over 17,000. These lists cover voyages from the 1600s through the 1900s and include a number of ports worldwide. Once transcribed, the manifests are filed into sixteen online volumes that are right on the home page. You do not, however, have to go through each volume if you are searching for something specific.  To find an individual person or ship, enter the name into the search box at the top of the home page’s left frame.

You would think that 17,000 ships’ manifests would be more than enough for any website. But this is just the beginning. The site’s home page is divided into two frames. Prominent in the left frame is a link to The ISTG CompassThe Compass is aptly named. It leads you to additional sites that help you find and use immigration and naturalization records.  When you click on the Compass you will see a number of buttons on the left that help you with various designated topics. Those buttons cover a lot of territory, from general ancestral resources to material on immigration, naturalization, and maritime resources. Didn’t find the passenger or ship you were looking for at the ISTG? They give you links to additional passenger lists for both USA and non-USA arrivals.  Wherever there is a ship’s manifest, there is a ship and that ship has a history. Use the “Ships” button to find more sites with additional information on individual ships. The Compass also gives a short but impressive description of the ISTG’s goals and ways you can further use the site to find answers and expand your knowledge.

No website, however, is perfect. And that goes for ISTG’s site. Here and there you will find a dead link.  Yet the Compass even anticipates this problem. It explains how to access the Wayback Machine, a site that periodically saves snapshots of a website. You can copy and paste your defunct website address into the Wayback Machine, and it should bring up all the dates on which it copied your site of interest. Click a date to find the information you need. Directions regarding using the Wayback link appear in the third frame of the Compass on the far right. That said, the Wayback machine certainly is not perfect. The Guild’s link to “Armenian Immigration to the US & Canada” does not work in Wayback because the site contains something called robots.txt. (I assume these are second cousins to web crawlers and spiders used in dynamic – always changing — web browsers.) So I just copied and pasted the title with quotes (“Armenian Immigration to the US & Canada“) into a Google search and up it came, complete with links and information. There is usually some way to get around a computer glitch. And sometimes we mere mortals can figure it out.

If you go back to the Guild’s home page, a brief examination uncovers another useful (and perhaps unexpected) section: it treats adoptees and the adoption experience. According to the author of this section, “Only a handful of states have open records; in all others the records are sealed. Those involved in adoption, whether it be the adoptee, the birth family or the adoptive family have become statistics; perhaps nothing more than a number on a sealed file. . . .  From personal experience, I know that genealogists and family historians are some of the best sleuths in the world. Please take a look and see if you may be able to help someone complete their family tree. The Adoption Story Board puts a human face and words from the heart on a situation and an injustice that has existed far too long.

There is one other quote from the home page I want to share with you: “We are expanding our research to become more personal. If you are searching for an ancestor and you know the name of the ship, the date and port of arrival, we will do all we can to locate and publish on our site the passenger list from that ship. The Research Team can be contacted by emailing Research Team.”  This is one extraordinary group of people. If you do contact them, however, allow plenty of time for a response. There are only so many of them and lots of individuals who want to use this service.

* For those curious about my original search, this end-note is a description of what brought me to the Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild. I was looking for a photographic image of a passenger list that included a particular family. I found the visual I needed by going back and forth between Ancestry and FamilySearch. FamilySearch gave me the transcription that allowed me to bring up the actual image in Ancestry — a 1946 alien passenger manifest that was a listing of displaced persons who were coming to the United States after World War II.  Located next to the typed information of each individual were handwritten abbreviations. I wanted to find out what they meant.

I started with a quick Google search of “alien passenger manifest” and abbreviations. (When you put quotes around a Google search, you are searching for the exact words listed in the exact order as they appear within the quotes.) The Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild was the first likely site in Google’s list. When I clicked on the link, up came the SS Marine Flasher (a sister ship to the SS Marine Perch that I was researching). Below the list of passengers were all the abbreviations I was looking for and what they meant. They stood for the different organizations that were sponsoring the passengers.

vea/5 August 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

New Bedford Whaling Photo (Cropped) by Lee Wright on Flickr/Creative Commons

New Bedford Whaling
Photo (Cropped) by Lee Wright on Flickr/Creative Commons

If you think you had an ancestor who worked aboard a whaling ship, you now have a means of checking for him online, at least if he signed out from New Bedford. Volunteers at the New Bedford Whaling Museum have created a database with information on all the mariners who signed onto whaling ships leaving the port of New Bedford from 1840 to the last whaler in 1927. The information comes from records kept by the chaplains of the New Bedford Port Society. When this was completed it was combined with previous work done at the New Bedford Free Public Library that brought the time covered back 31 years to 1809. This combined work covers 127,531 seamen.

Although these men came from all over the world, they were only listed if they signed on from the port of New Bedford.  Those picked up along the way from places like the Azores were not listed unless they subsequently left on another voyage from New Bedford.  For more information check the Boston Herald article “Did Your Ancestor Hunt Whales?” and the Whaling Museum’s website.

Keeping with this nautical theme, my next posting will focus on a key website covering ship passenger lists from the 1600s to the 1900s.

vea/4 August 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Map that you see on the main wiki page at FamilySearch.org

Map from the main wiki page at FamilySearch.org

Our ancestors had a tendency to move around.  If they didn’t, we probably wouldn’t have so much trouble finding their records.  When you track people from state to state, you start noticing what holds true for finding records in one state is not necessarily true in another.  Different types of records were kept during different periods in different places.  For example, those who are used to the time frame of New England vital records, which can go back as far as the 1600s, are startled to find that New York state started saving birth, marriage, and death records at a far later date.  New York finally passed a law requiring the collection of vital records in the 1880s, but it was very slow to be implemented. You can still have difficulty finding them in a number of New York towns during the early part of the 20th century.

When you start to follow your ancestor into a new state, you need to do some homework or you may miss key information. Otherwise you could hit a brick wall that you’ve unwittingly constructed yourself. So how do you find out which records were kept when and where they are located? One very good source is Ancestry’s Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources. You can check information on the various types of records available under each of the fifty states. This book is available in the Newton Free Library’s Special Collections Room for quick consultation or a more detailed read. But if you are working elsewhere and you don’t want to interrupt your work to look for a book, you have a simple alternative.  Red Book is available online at the following live link. Click on it and read away.  http://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Red_Book:_American_State,_County,_and_Town_Sources

But what about records outside the United States?  There are a very large number of books on family history research that deal with specific countries and even areas within a country. But for now you want to know how much trouble you are going to have tracking your line back to another country. You just want to get a general lay of the land. This is where FamilySearch’s wikis are invaluable.

If you have done much research in genealogy at all, you learn that, besides Ancestry, FamilySearch.org is one of the most extensive databases for genealogical records. The nice thing about FamilySearch is that, unlike Ancestry, it is free. Upon first discovering FamilySearch you will no doubt zero in on searching for records and thus might be likely to miss all its other resources. If you focus on the very top of its home page (as of July 2016) and run your cursor over the word “Search” you will see a dropdown menu. At the bottom of that menu you will see the word “wiki.”  Click on it and you see a map and an invitation to search the wiki by place or topic. For countries such as England that have a huge amount of literature written about researching ancestors, the topic is made manageable by the way FamilySearch sets up its main wiki page for each country.

But where do you find information for other countries where the records may not be so easily accessible?  Anyone who saw America Ferrera’s segment on TLC’s cable program “Who Do You Think You Are?” understands how difficult such a search can be, even when you have help. She was searching for information on her father’s family in Honduras, a quest made especially challenging because of the problems of record preservation by both local as well as national governments.  Specifically, where do you find basic information on the existing records of countries whose history has been filled with internal conflict?  FamilySearch’s wiki is an excellent place to start. Check out Honduras, or any other country of interest, to see what FamilySearch has done with it.  There are a number of links to information, records, and online help. Just as you would consult maps before taking a trip, it’s a good idea to know something about where you are going before you get there.

 

vea/29 July 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  
http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

 

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Has July 4th got you thinking about how your ancestors got here in the first place? Do you need a break from the festivities. FindMyPast has the answer.  They are offering free access to the following records until next Wednesday. These include Military Records, British and Irish Censuses,Travel and Migration Records,and 112 Million US Marriage Records. Out of their 4 billion records, this is not a bad haul.

I first heard about the offer through Dick Eastman’s EOGN site at https://blog.eogn.com/2016/06/28/findmypast-celebrates-4th-of-july-with-free-access-to-more-than-1-billion-records, but there did seem to be some confusion about what was covered. I contacted FindMyPast and they confirmed the collections I list above.  They also gave me a link if you want to follow this up at: http://www.findmypast.com/tracing-transatlantic-ancestors.

This is huge. I don’t think I’ve ever seen free access to this many records over such a long period. Now may be a good time to check out those immigration records you’ve been thinking about. You’ve got seven days! Have fun!

Clarification: I have sent an email to FindMyPast to make absolutely sure access runs through July 6th (to 11:59 pm on July 6th and does not end just as you get into July 6th (12:01 am). Remember my cardinal rule of genealogy, “Assume nothing. Never trust. Always verify.” Granted, I don’t have that down pat yet, but I’m working on it.

vea/29 June 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

 

FamilySearch.org WebsiteMany of you use FamilySearch.org as a key research site. You need to know that it is going to be unavailable this upcoming Monday.  I just learned from Thomas MacEntee’s Facebook feed that FamilySearch is going to be shutting down for a full day to do site maintenance and upgrades.  If you were planning on doing some work there on Monday, you need to reschedule.  And if you are teaching from it on the 27th, you had better get it on PowerPoint or make some screen shots ahead of time.

If you are not using FamilySearch to do your family history research, why not? This site is just as important as Ancestry with the added benefit that it is free.  It has a huge number of records. Remember that no two databases duplicate all the same material. You will definitely find records in FamilySearch that you will not find in Ancestry. Also remember that there is always at least one person standing between you and your record, the indexer. Ancestry and FamilySearch use different people for this task. Even when they do have the same record, using different indexers to read the names and enter them into the system increases your chances that one of them will enter the name you are looking for with the spelling you are using.  If you are curious, you can check it out at https://familysearch.org — just don’t do it on Monday!

vea/24 June 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

DSC06280I just received the June/July issue of Internet Genealogy.  One of the first sections I go to in each issue is “Net Notes.” It’s a series of short pieces covering recent website activity that may be of interest to readers. The first entry describes some online releases from the Library and Archives Canada (LAC).  I have a special interest in Canadian genealogy so I took a closer look — and came to an unexpected halt. One of the entries cites LAC’s release of a database consisting entirely of immigrants from the Ukraine (1890-1930) arriving in Canadian and American ports. I had just put together a list on Ukrainian genealogical resources for several patrons who needed help on this topic. This entry gave me another resource to add to my list that might help break down some of their brick walls. If it hadn’t been for this article, I might never have found this little gem.

Flipping through genealogy magazines can not only help to keep you up to date, but can unearth treasure you’d never find otherwise. Perhaps some of the following might help you. Do you have ancestors in the American colonies during the Revolution or in the United States during the War of 1812? The Canadian piece also includes references to databases on the War of 1812, and to the Book of Negroes (with 3,000 names of Black Loyalists who fled the Port of New York at the end of the Revolutionary War). It concludes with another database consisting of the recently digitized list of Loyalists and British Soldiers (for the period 1772-1784) from the Carleton Papers.

Other articles in this issue center around saving family stories. One describes what can be done with FamilySearch.org’s Memories section, which is devoted to researching and preserving family stories. Then there are related pieces, “Stellar Storytelling Apps” and “Recording Family Interviews with Audacity.”

DSC06341British genealogy is represented with two articles.  One lists seven websites relating specifically to the Victorian era. The second highlights three free UK websites run by volunteers.

The magazine rounds off with articles on “Researching the Great Depression,” “Supreme Court Cases and Your Family History,” and a review of Yale’s Photogrammar Project that digitizes photographs of the 1930s and 1940s and makes them available online. There are also the monthly features “The Back Page,” “Genealogical Society Announcements,” and additional short pieces in the Net Notes already mentioned.

DSC06342Perhaps I now have you curious, but frustrated because you don’t subscribe to the magazine. Not to worry. The Newton Free Library does. Pay us a visit. You can find this and other genealogy magazines just to the right as you enter the Special Collections Room on the first floor.  Take a few minutes to see what’s there.  Here there be discoveries to be made, brick walls to be dismantled, and gold to be found.

 

 

vea/16 June 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

Welcome to BostonA reminder:  Tonight, June 14, at 8pm PBS’s Genealogy Roadshow arrives at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. The trio of genealogists helps locals uncover links to the Salem Witch Trials, orphan trains, and Boston’s founders.

Next Tuesday, June 21, the Roadshow reconvenes at the Providence Public Library. There an investigation reveals how one key document – a passport– sheds light on how one family survived the Holocaust. Other segments cover an African American who served in World War I, and a man’s Amish relatives.

PBS affiliates often show these programs at staggered times after the original telecast. Full episodes, as well as previews of future episodes, should also turn up on the PBS website.

vea/14 June 2016
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com
Genealogy LibGuide:  http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/genealogy

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