Archive for the ‘Databases’ Category

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:  

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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

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A member of our local genealogy club just emailed  to tell me about an offer from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. They are offering free access to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont vital records (birth, marriage, and death records) until the end of January. They are promoting their free guest memberships. It’s worth checking out if you have ancestors in these three states, even if you’ve already found information in places like Ancestry or FamilySearch.  NEHGS has materials and collections you will find nowhere else.

To find more details about their guest (free) memberships, check out their American Ancestors website.

Below is the information posted about the offer on the American Ancestors website.

Good to Meet You, 2016!

Register free as a Guest User to get access to three of our most popular vital records databases for the month of January 2016.

Guest User accounts allow web visitors to use a limited suite of AmericanAncestors.org databases and access content such as making purchases from the online store. To receive unlimited access to all 250+ million records and other benefits, become a member of NEHGS.

In addition to the standard suite of databases available to guest users, other new databases may be available to guest user for a limited time. To see the complete list of databases currently available to guest users, visit the advanced search page and use the “free” check box.

vea/22 January 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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In the Newton Free Library’s December Newsletter is a very succinct, well written description of four databases that are made available through the library by the City of Newton. The author is Cathy Balshone, another member of the Reference staff here at the library.

e-RESOURCES for You: Genealogy and More*

American Ancestors:  Access records collected by The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS). View centuries of records that will help trace ancestors as far back as our first American settlers. Use filters to narrow by century and country of origin. Make use of practical aids like family tree templates and research tracking logs. In library use only.

Ancestry Library Edition: Important genealogical reference sources, census and other records are now available online. Explore by Location offers an interactive map listing specific resources by geographic search. Other bonus features include Learning Center and Charts and Forms. Make a memory book from yearbook photos to spark family stories! In library use only.

HeritageQuest Online is equally engaging for students, writers, history buffs and genealogists. Primary source material from census, bank, war and pension records will add context and interesting detail to your writing or research. Available remotely to Newton residents with a Newton library card.

Digital Newton: offers a large collection of Newton materials. Assessed Polls list registered voters, Blue Books and City Directories list residents and street addresses. There are also high school yearbooks, biographical pamphlets, diaries and more. Available remotely to anyone: http://guides.newtonfreelibrary.net/digitalnewton.  CB

Not from Newton?  Check your own local library to see what they offer. Subscription databases may be provided at no cost through your local library.  Also note that no matter where you live, you can check out Digital Newton.  It’s free.  No cost. No subscription fees.

Quick Tip: Always remember to check the resources that are local to places where your ancestors lived. Local public libraries often have both written and human resources that can be made available to you,  even if that library is a thousand miles away. All you have to do is check them out  — and that includes their librarians.  Local librarians may know of a descendant of one of your ancestor’s siblings still living near by. (Some members of the family may have been happy to stay put.) Or that local library may have a collection that includes material about your family. You may strike gold if only you dig for it. VEA


*Bold face has been added.

21 December  2015/vea and cb
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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This is the group that started as an English/Irish database a number of years ago. It is rapidly expanding to all geographical areas. It is FindMyPast that is working to link actual articles to the PERSI index.  Their US headquarters is next door in Cambridge, MA.  No matter where your ancestors came from, this is worth a look.  If you have any English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh ancestors, this is a must see. Here is the link if you are curious: http://www.findmypast.com/freeweekend.

vea/18 September 2015

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To me, the name sounds like some exotic bird.  However, Mocavo is actually a search engine, a relatively new one, launched on March 16, 2011. Like that exotic bird, it can help your family search take flight. Using the free version should reward you with unexpected hits, adding to your trove of family information.

How is this search engine different?  Unlike Google, Mocavo searches only genealogy and family history sites.  (No more Facebook pages popping up.)  It is also my understanding that Mocavo goes back in time, not just hitting what has been posted most recently.  It is built to search for people, for your ancestors. Although you can come up with many hits unrelated to the person you are researching, it is not difficult to narrow parameters.  Mocavo also has a subscriber version called Mocavo Plus, but use the free version to see how far you move forward in your research.

Want to know more?  I am including some links below.

To Mocavo:  http://www.mocavo.com

Mocavo.com — Don’t Search Without It by Carolyn L. Barkley

Some Quick Tips on Using Mocavo from Mocavo’s Blog

Mocavo Connects the Hidden Dots for Genealogists by Trevor Gilbert

Mocavo Plus — The Next Generation of Genealogy Search Engine by the genealogist and blogger Dick Eastman.  (His is a must read blog if you want to have a prayer of keeping up with everything that is going on in the world of  genealogy.)

Now, take flight.


vea/25 September 2012
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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The Massachusetts State House was the former home of the Massachusetts State Archives

Online at the Massachusetts State Archives

Status of the 1916-1920 Vital Records Project

Posted by the State Archives on June 27 2011

We are pleased to announce that the contract between the Archives and the GSU/Family Search has been finalized. Digitization of the 1916-1920 vital records should begin this summer and the GSU has confirmed that the process will take approximately 18 months from the start date. At the end of that time we will have an indexed database complete with images of our vital records, 1841-1920, available on our website.

The approximate 18-month duration of the scanning process is something that is determined by FamilySearch. We are told, given the scope of their operations and the detail of the indexing involved, that this is the fastest turn-around that they can provide. Though this does little to lessen the inconvenience of the long wait for these critical records, we hope that it might clarify for you the reasons for the delay.

With the needs of our researchers in mind and given the complex process of digitization, we have worked out an arrangement whereby we can accommodate requests for searches resulting in certified copies of the 1916-1920 vital records. Although the physical volumes will remain inaccessible for in-person research and photocopies, in an effort to make the materials as accessible as possible, we have made arrangements so that we might process search requests for certified copies as we do for the earlier vital records.

Your patience and understanding are appreciated as we work to provide, to the fullest extent possible, access to these important records. If you have any questions about this project, please contact us.

I discovered this information from the intrepid Dick Eastman in his Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter.

vea/8 September 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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I just caught the following announcement at Dick Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter. You can look at Ancestry’s immigration and naturalization material at no cost from your home computer through Labor Day.  Ancestry is usually a paid subscription for home use.  The only way you can usually access it for free is by going to your local library – if your local library subscribes to it.  So read below or check out the entire article at Dick Eastman’s Newsletter.

If you’re not aware of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, you are probably new to genealogy.  It is the best way to keep up with what is happening in our field. Take a look at it. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

The following is the main body of the announcement from Ancestry via Dick Eastman’s Newsletter.

PROVO, UTAH – (August 29, 2011) – Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family history resource, today announced an entire week of free access to its popular U.S. and International Immigration and Naturalization records. The free access week begins August 29th and runs through the Labor Day holiday ending September 5th. During this time, all visitors to Ancestry.com will be able to search for free the indices and images of new and updated U.S. immigration records as well as selected international immigration records from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Mexico. Millions of Americans can trace their family history to other countries, and these collections provide valuable information about the travels and journeys that brought them to America or other countries around the world.

Ancestry.com’s extensive collection of immigration, naturalization and travel records offer an important resource for discovering and celebrating family history. As part of this promotion, the company is adding to its collection of U.S. and international records for tracing relatives from their homeland to other countries around the world. These records include ships passenger and crew lists, declarations of intent, petitions for naturalization, witness affidavits, border crossings, certificates and other records generated by the naturalization process, which is the act and procedure of becoming a new citizen of a country. Because the process has changed significantly over time and varies from country to country, different records are available from a wide variety of state, federal and international sources.

Newly added U.S. collections include Florida Petitions for Naturalization, 1913-1991; Delaware Naturalization Records, 1796-1959 and Utah Naturalization and Citizenship Records, 1850-1960. Noteworthy updated U.S. and international collections include U.S. Naturalization and Passport applications, 1795-1972; UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960; Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956; New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922; Border Crossings: From Mexico to U.S., 1895-1957; New York State, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1917-1973; Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959.

“One of the most common elements of the American experience is our respect and interest in our native heritage.  Almost all Americans have international roots, and many take great pride and even feel patriotic toward the countries from which their ancestors originated,” said Josh Hanna, Ancestry.com Executive Vice President. “That’s why we continue to build and enrich our collection of immigration and naturalization records and why we are providing free access to anyone who wants to search these records to discover their family’s international history.”

Many families have already made important discoveries in Ancestry.com’s immigration and naturalization collection. Each of the following stories offers an example of the exciting and often emotional discoveries made by some Ancestry.com users.

To start researching the immigration and naturalization records for free, please visit www.ancestry.com/immigration.

vea/1 September 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass
Library website:  http://www.newtonfreelibrary.net
Genealogy blog:  https://thecuriousgenealogist.wordpress.com

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First, a Word Regarding Databases


What is the difference between a website and a database?  There are more technical and precise definitions of each term, but for our purposes a website is free to everyone.  A database must be paid for either by the individual or the institution wishing to use it.  The library provides access for its patrons to some subscription databases. Depending on the provisions of individual database providers, a patron who lives in Newton may be able to access the database from home.  Others can be used by anyone using the library, but must be used at the library only, not off site.  For a complete list of all databases, click  here. Those provided by the state of Massachusetts can be accessed from anywhere within the state. The list of genealogical databases provided through the library follows.

Ancestry Library Edition (In Library Only)

Ancestry Library Edition allows you access to more than three billion names using a number of different records that it provides online.  Once you find a transcribed record through Ancestry’s “Search” function, the database often allows you to click onto a photographic copy of the original record. Never rely on a transcription when you have access to an original record.  There can be major discrepancies between the original and the transcription.  Another Ancestry tip: their section on federal census records allows a search for neighbors. This is often very useful for finding additional family members.  If you are looking for recent immigrants, it also helps you find other people from the town or village of origin. People coming to a strange country often settled around other people they knew or who shared the same culture. Ancestry does not allow the library to provide remote access, so it must be searched here at the Newton Free Library.

American Ancestors:  Member Website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (In Library Only)

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), founded in 1845, is the nation’s oldest and largest genealogical society with a research library of over 200,000 volumes. Even if you do not have New England ancestors, you will find that NEHGS is an important resource for helping you to track information about your family history.  If you do have New England ancestors, it is a treasure trove that you must check.

This database provides most of what is available to its members online to anyone using one of the library’s computers. Here you will find extensive family resources, including databases, how-to articles, research columns, bibliographies, free queries, and discussion groups. You may also browse through the online book catalog for New England, New York, and other regions.  This site is not limited to the New England area as its new title suggests.  Non-members can access some sections of the American Ancestors site from home.  Anyone working within the library can access the database as though you were a member.  Check with a librarian if you need help.

America’s Obituaries and Death Notices (Home Access Available for Newton Residents Only)

America’s Obituaries and Death Notices database contains the largest and most comprehensive online collection of newspaper obituaries and death notices published from 1980 to the present.  Each obituary or death notice is indexed by the name of the deceased person. In addition, the text of each obituary or death notice is searchable, making it easy to find other categories or leads such as a place of residence, occupation, names of family members, or other personal information.   There are over 29 million listings.  Not all newspapers are included.  For a list of newspapers and the dates covered by each, click here.

vea/4 January 2011
Newton Free Library
Newton, Mass.

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