March 25, 2010
To determine where we should look for records, we need to know the county and state our ancestor lived. As we search, we need to review histories and maps of the county and state to see when and how the boundaries changed.
States changed their boundaries more than we think. For example, Kentucky settlements were a part of Virginia until Kentucky became a state in 1792, but continued to have boundary disputes with Tennessee until 1820. The northwestern portion of Virginia split in 1863, forming West Virginia. Colonial Louisiana included sections of ten other states, including Minnesota.
County boundaries changed more frequently than state boundaries. Present day Indian River County, Florida has changed county boundaries six times since being Indian Lands. Sections of Mellette County, South Dakota were formerly part of Cheyenne and Jackson Counties.
To begin determining changes in county and state boundaries, you can search the following books:
The Handybook for Genealogists
Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920
Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Series
March 18, 2010
When Flickr first became available online, many individuals rushed to post photos to share with friends and family, then genealogists discovered they could backup family images as well. Now Flickr can be used not only to protect our ancestral photos, but for actual genealogical research. The Commons on Flickr is a photographic archive where many genealogists are discovering their ancestors images online. Several public repositories’ images can be searched on Flickr such as The Library of Congress, Smithsonian, State Library and Archives of Florida, and the New York Public Library. Besides searching images on the Commons site, you can share stories and discuss the photos available on the site. Another great source for you to use!
February 25, 2010
You can even Google people’s names, although you might be surprised to learn that your ancestor from the 1700s has a Facebook page and that you can get a background check on him with credit rating for a low fee! If you get such hits, obviously it is someone with the same name. You probably will have the best luck searching for someone with an unusual name. Googling “Dawson Pompey,” for example, brought to light photographs of his family members that someone had posted online.
A more planned approach to Internet searching might include looking at the homepages of public libraries, university libraries, genealogical and historical societies and courthouses in the specific areas where your ancestors lived. Any of these entities may have databases specific to the area online, or even digitized images of records, tombstone photos, and more. At the very least, you can discover the addresses and hours for the libraries and courthouses you want to plan to visit in the spring or next summer!
Cemeteries, funeral homes, colleges, fraternal organizations, governmental entities, ethnic groups, family associations and many other businesses and organizations have their own websites. And every website you land on often will have links to still more websites that may help your search.
In addition, you can look for other people to be your “legs” in a distant locale while you are snowbound. Local genealogical societies or libraries may have volunteer or for-a-fee research services. The Board for Certification of Genealogists and Association of Professional Genealogists have lists of researchers with specialties in geographic or subject areas that you can hire to further your research.
Just because you can’t take a road trip does not mean your genealogy project has to come to a screeching halt. Light the fire, pour the cocoa and grab the laptop – it’s time to hit the highway … the armchair research highway, that is!
February 24, 2010
If cold and snowy weather is keeping you from taking that genealogical research trip you are dreaming about, why not take a “virtual” research trip by doing some armchair research?
Until quite recently, armchair research meant writing letters to people researching the same family lines and sending forms to courthouses for copies of birth, marriage and death records. While these still are worthwhile pursuits, the Internet has opened up a whole new world for genealogical research from home, or from your local library.
The Genealogy Center’s website has a number of databases and collections of links that anyone can access from anywhere – you do not need to have an Allen County Public Library card. Access to these is from the gray bar running down the lefthand side of the Genealogy Center’s home page. Check back often because material is being added regularly!
The links in the top part of the white quadrant in the center of the page are for subscription-based databases, such as Ancestry.com, HeritageQuestOnline.com and Footnote.com. To access those, patrons need to be inside one of the Allen County Public Library’s buildings. But if you don’t live in Fort Wayne, call your local public library and ask about these databases – many libraries have subscriptions and you may be able to use these databases for free by driving to your closest library!
From home, you might try doing some creative keyword searches in the search box of your favorite Internet browser, such as Google or Yahoo! Try putting quotation marks around words that belong together in a phrase to help narrow your search to the most relevant “hits.” For example, “Allen County Indiana” will keep those three words together in the search instead of bringing up everything in cyberspace that has each of those words somewhere in the record.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Armchair Research.
February 15, 2010
Think you might be related to one of our American Presidents? Of course, you will have to research your own family to establish a link, but Ancestors of American Presidents, published in 2009, provides ancestral tables for each President, lines of descent from royalty to Presidents and First Ladies, and charts outlining relationships between various Presidents. The 1993 American Presidential Families also provides essays on the life of the family in the White House, pedigree charts, and descendants.
January 21, 2010
City directories fill in gaps in our research by providing information on our ancestors during time periods not covered by other records. We can see where are ancestor lived, possibly marital status, or a hint at migration or death, as well as occupational information.
1859 Philadelphia Directory
According to the 1850 Census, John Hagey of Philadelphia, PA was a confectioner, as were other members of his household who served the same occupation. The same John Hagey is employed as a clockmaker in 1860. Upon initial review, this appeared to be a drastic change in occupation, but using Philadelphia city directories, the answer was found.
In the 1838 Commercial City Directory, John Hagey owned a clock, watch, and jewelry business, but by the 1840 directory, he’s a confectioner in the Hagey & Nice Company that specializes in confectioners. From 1840 to 1860, his various sons are also in the directory as confectioners. The 20 year snapshot of John Hagey’s company and life provided in the city directories shows a man who shared his business with family and may have returned to his previous profession of clockmaker as he aged.
To access the Genealogy Center’s listing of city directories, you can search the microtext catalog or search the print catalog using search terms of town, state, “directory.”
January 18, 2010
As we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you might want to take a look at The Black 100, a ranking of the most influential African-Americans, past and present to read short biographies of King and others important to African-Americans in the United States, which not only includes civil rights leaders, but also artist Langston Hughes, patriot Crispus Attucks, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and baseball great Hank Aaron. This volume also includes photos or sketches of each subject and a bibliography to guide further reading.