Home Microfilm Digitization

I know I shouldn’t be shopping for me, but, an opportunity presented itself to me this afternoon and I could not say no.

Background: Last week I emailed a co-worker of mine who has years of photography experience to ask a question. I wanted to know how I could rig a set-up like this.

PhotoMicrofilm

so that I could capture my own digital images of the microfilm of old newspapers I’ve purchased in the past few years.  The picture you see is the setup that a gentleman named Joel Weintraub. Joel shared the details of this setup in the comments section of a blog post by Dick Eastman on the ST-Genie Microfilm Converter.  I’ve been interested in the type of converter Dick posted about for awhile now, but the cost has been greatly prohibitive for me ($1000+).  Over the past few years, I’ve been transcribing old newspaper issues and creating online indices/blogs for them for wider dissemination but b/c of the expense of digitizing them, I only have about 8 rolls total of microfilm.

When I shared this with my coworker, he offered another, cheaper suggestion — try  a gadget that converts slides & 35mm negatives to digital format.  Hmm.. I guess I am working with 35mm microfilm after all? He sent me several different types and I’d planned to do some further research until I could learn more about them.  Well, today, while at Bed, Bath & Beyond of all places, I just happened to see this device from VuPoint Solutions:

VuPoint Converter

VuPoint Converter

The converter offers two resolutions for image capture – 1800dpi and 3600dpi.  At 1800dpi, I can take more than 6400 images and store them on my 4GB SD card.  This resolution works okay from what I can tell, I’m not sure yet if I need to go up to 3600.

As you can see from the picture, it is designed to be used for slides and 35mm negatives, and that tray didn’t look like it would be too easy for microfilm to work well, but I bought it anyway just to experiment.  And, experiment I have. The microfilm is thin enough that it does slide around well in the slide tray.  So far, it seems the biggest problem I have is that the dimension of the image capture area is not quite big enough for each frame of microfilm.  So, I’m having to rotate the image and take two pictures for each frame.  I appreciate having the viewfinder, so I can at least see how it lays out on the screen, but I cannot see the detail of the newspaper issue.

For items in the paper, such as advertisements, I’m pretty much okay with the quality.  Here is an example of an ad from G.S. Waters & Sons of Newbern, Craven County, North Carolina for their buggy business.

waters

The newspaper article text is another story.  The quality I’ve captured so far is not good enough for posting the actual image, but it is good enough for me to read, transcribe and enter into my databases.  Here is an article from the August 3, 1912 issue of the Kinston Free Press about a man named Henry T. King from Greenville that mentions his work to write a history of Pitt county.

king

Yes, the process will probably be tedious, for after capturing the images, I then need to collate the images into newspaper issues, but I rather like working hands on with the images.  If I were to send the roll out for digitization by a commercial entity, it would cost me anywhere from $70-$100 per roll and ultimately, that probably does save me time in the long run.  However, I’m not in this for volume, but rather to enjoy the experience and reading through these old newspapers, so we’ll see how I adjust over time.  This particular converter was $100 and the SD card was $40.

I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow and thank my coworker for providing me with this suggestion!  If you’ve used one of these, I’d love to hear your experience.

Family Vacation – 1st Day

Last week, I was very busy with my family as we took our family vacation.  I feel fortunate though in that I was able to work in a number of genealogy-related activities, so the next several posts will be dedicated to sharing my experiences during the vacation.  I will also be posting more general items on my family website and will focus on the genealogy activities here.  Our vacation began August 1, when we drove up to Evansville.  I have four bonus sons (that’s my new term for them, seems to be how the celebrities refer to their stepfamilies :-)) and two of them live there.  In all, the kids are ages 14, 12, 11, 8 and then Kaleya is 4.   See my family site for an overall synopsis of the day.

While we were there however, I was able to go to the Evansville Public Library for a few hours and get some genealogy work in.  I went for the expressed purpose of retreiving obituaries.  I am trying to verify if one of the interviewees in the Slave Narratives Project is an ancestor of Kalonji’s aunt.  I’ve blogged about the specifics for the blog of the Tri-State Indiana Genealogical Society and needed to do some follow-up based on some information I was able to find online.

Those in the Evansville area have on hand a wonderful resource, the Browning Genealogy Database, and I used the index to locate details of obits I wanted to look at.  However, I learned this day, of a major limitation of the Browning database — Evansville had two major papers over the last several decades and when the obits were abstracted for the database, there is no indication of which paper the obit was published in.  This meant I needed to often search both papers for the obit of interest.  Also, the database gives death date, not obit date, so I still had to search across several days to find the obits of interests.   That said, I’m better off for having this handy index than not!

The EVPL has an interesting computer use model that I’ve not yet encountered, but thought it was a good idea.  If you are not an account holder, you pay $1 for two hours (continous or not) of computer use.  With this, I was able to access the internet as I needed.  Also, the microforms area has a microfilm reader connected to a computer for making digital copies of articles of interest.  Sweet!

I was not able to find the most important obit I needed, that of George Washington Fortman Jr.  According to the Browning Database, he died June 6, 1934 and there as an obit in one of the papers that listed his family members.  All I was able to locate was a death notice for him that appeared in the Evansville Press on June 9, 1934 where he is included in a list of deaths recorded in the city, but this notice has no family details.  I looked in both papers across a 10 day period and never found the obit I was looking for.

But, this does at least confirm that he died somewhere around that time frame.  I am searching for information about George’s father.  In the 1930 census, his father’s name is listed as George Ford, but in the Browning Database entry, it is listed as George Fortman Sr.  Since this George was a Jr., the Fortman name makes sense.  In the slave narrative interview, George Ford (the interviewee) apparently goes by both surnames.  This, in addition to some other details being similar between the George that I *know* to be the Sr. and the slave narrative interviewee have me considering that they may be the same person.  I am seeking verification though, so my next steps will be to

1) order the death certificate of George Washington Forman Jr.  Perhaps it will be more clear on his father’s name

2) to also see if I can contact a living daughter of George Jr.s to see if she can shed any light on this.

The interview details are absolutely fascinating so I do hope I can let Kalonji’s aunt know if this is part of her ancestry or not.  You can read the interview here.

While at the public library, I did copy some other articles of interest that is no relation to my quest, so I could use it as fodder for the Tri-State Genealogical Society Blog.  I’m not yet a member, but I regularly submit content for the blog.  The newspaper articles I have as a result of this trip should give me great posts for the next several weeks.

All this in just day one of my trip.   More to come later!

Using Ancestry Trees

With the recent news of Ancestry updating their Online Member Trees I have been thinking over this for a few days now.  Randy’s excellent post describing his experiences with the new interface prompted me to go ahead and explore it for myself and I was quite pleased.  While the changes they have currently implemented are an improvement from my own personal use experience, I am eagerly looking forward to the additional enhancements that are planned that will create an online environment more like Footnote’s that really helps promote social networking.

One of my projects I’ve been working on for the past three years is indexing old issues of the Roanoke Beacon Newspaper of Plymouth, Washington County, North Carolina.  I have a web database of information extracted from the paper and a corresponding blog.  I use these as avenues for sharing the information that I find.  I also will post items to the mailing listservs on Ancestry in order to further get the word out there.  I know that those related to the people mentioned in the newspapers would welcome the chance to read more about their ancestors.  In my experience so far, I’ve received feedback from other genealogists on how an obituary or wedding announcement has helped lead to knew areas of research, or make connections they were previously unable to prove.  That is why I love doing this! However, I’m always seeking ways to further spread some of the information I find.  With the changes at Ancestry, I thought this might be the time to give it another try.  I have an outdated version of my own family tree up, as well as a few other trees, but did not pursue fully linking individuals in them to Ancestry records, etc.

Over the weekend, I uploaded my GEDCOM of individuals from Washington & Martin counties, NC.  I’d initially started doing this file on my own website using TNG: the Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding software.  I had an idea in the past to do a broad community-based approach, so as I collected information about individuals, I would add them.   It had been awhile since I actively added anything of significance to this GEDCOM, so I uploaded it to the Ancestry Online Member Trees.

The upload was very fast, and it was then I discovered that my file was larger than I thought, with more than 700 people.  Those Ancestry shaky leafs immediately started to appear and I started linking people to Ancestry records.  So far, I have enjoyed using the site.  Navigation is easy, pages load quickly, and I am able to quickly see what other Ancestry users have these individuals as part of their tree.  For each newspaper item that I put online, I am linking it to the appropriate people and building up their family trees.

Here is an example of an article I found about an Easter recital of young Emily Harney. The description of the church’s reaction to her recital is precious – could you imagine this being your own ancestor and learning about this? Emily  was only 4 years old at the time too and I wonder if this was ever known to her or passed down to other family members?

There are five names mentioned in the article, and I’ve connected each person to it.  This is especially helpful since often in this time period (late 1800s, early 1900s) , women were identified as Mrs. (insert husband name here).  I n this example, Mrs. P.W. Brinkley is Addie May (Latham) Brinkley,  Mrs. W.C. Hassell is Martha (Ward) Hassell, Emily’s mom was named Hope (Hunter) Harney.  Lossie was the last person I linked up and guess what I discovered?  She married a man name Amos KOONCE! (gotta love it! – now that gives me a new person for my Koonce Genealogy Surname project — more details on that later).

I was able to trace little Emily’s  line forward very quickly in about 30 minutes and found a couple of possible current descendants of hers, one on Facebook. But, at the least, having it online at Ancestry may help anyone actively seeking for her or her family.  So now, as I have time and continue to transcribe these newspaper issues, I’ll begin to do more of this online tree work.   Despite all the advantages I can see with this, the major disadvantage is that you have to be a subscriber to see it.  However, I think Ancestry’s membership is going to continue to rapidly expand, and I always have the option of downloading my GEDCOM and creating reports that I can subseqently share with others in free venues and sites.

Based on my experiences the last few days, even though I do like it tremendously, of course I have suggestions for improvements:

1. Bio excerpt – I would appreciate having a part of the screen where we could put a 2-3 bio of a person so that at a glance I know a bit about them without having to look through the timeline.  This may not be an issue for one’s own personal tree, but I know many of us work on trees of others and individuals to whom we are not related.  There is some blank space currently at the top underneath the birth/death details where this could sit.

2. Know when your photo is used – Since photos & documents posted to someone else’s tree, it would be great to receive notification when this happens. For example, another Ancestry user had a picture of the headstone for Addie May Latham, so I linked that picture to my tree. Did the original submitter receive any notification that I’d done this? I don’t have a lot of pictures on Ancestry, but I’ve never received notifications such as this. It is helpful to see where it is linked when I go to the actual item, but alerts can speed up the process of being informed.

3. Uploading a photo — speaking of photos, currently, when an image is uploaded, the default “type” is set to Photo.  However, Ancestry recognizes several different types – Photo, Site, Headstone, Document & Other.  If you upload an image and it is not a photo, it takes several more clicks to get back to the “Edit Information” screen to change the type.   I would like the option to set the Type on the same screen when I upload the photo.

4.  Photo permanency –  If I attach someone else’s photo to my tree and they delete that photo -does it get deleted from my tree too?  If so, I would like to see this change.  Of course the photo would “belong” to the submitter, but i would like to see copyright options added (such as Creative Commons), that would help facilitate more permanent access — sort of like submitting the photo to Wikipedia/Flickr/Picasa Commons to let others know that it can be reused with appropriate attributions.

5. Ancestry Hints — after I read through all the comments on Ancestry’s post announcing the changes with the online trees, I see that they separated out Ancestry Tree hints from Historical Document hints on a person’s profile page.   That is quite helpful! I would however like to suggest this be extended a bit further. When you are on the “Pedigree View” or the “People with Hints” pages, there is an indication of how many Ancestry Hints you have, but only the number is given. I would like to see these pages offer a visual distinction of if the hint was a Tree vs. Historical hint.

6.  More generations in Descendant View — the current Pedigree view options for descendants only lets you see 2 generations below the selected individual. I would like to see this expanded to 4 or 5 generations.  I think their zoom in/zoom out bar can handle that!  On a related note, last night Randy posted his 2nd post about using the online trees and he comments that moving from generation to generation is still cumbersome and there is a lack of useful reports that can be printed. Agreed! I am sure they will, in time, get around to fixing this.

7. Better customer service — as I’ve been exploring the trees and getting used to them again, I’ve had several questions.  I’ve sent three questions to Ancestry.com – two through their formal help on their website and one through Twitter.  I’ve had no response to any of them.  I could have posted to their blog I guess, but I felt it would be out of place then.

So, I’ll continue to use the online trees to build up this community, and will add more newspaper information but am definitely interested in the next phase and seeing if any of my suggestions make it into the update!

Visit to Multnomah County Central Library

This week I had a short trip to Portland, Oregon for a conference associated with my current degree program.  I’ve posted on my main family blog about the trip in general, but I am posting here about a mission I went on at the public library.

On my way back from my meeting, I stopped at the Multnomah County Central Library.

The library was only a few blocks from my hotel and I am glad that I had a chance to visit.  The library system here is the largest to the west of the Mississippi and dates back to the 1850s.  This building was erected in 1913 and has undergone a recent renovation.    Upon entering the building, I was almost immediately struck by the gorgeous grand staircase! It was designed by artist Larry Kirkland and is called “Garden Stairs.”  The black and white etchings have a mix of designs and words.  I did not take any pictures, but I did buy this postcard of them.

When I arrived, I was not sure what I was going to do there, but quickly developed an action plan; I would look at old issues of an African-American newspaper (if they had any).   I have a great interest in newspapers, particularly African-American ones,  so was delighted to find out that there was indeed some published in Portland.   This guide on the History of African-Americans in Portland provides a handy list on page 8.   The paper I chose to look at was the Advocate and I focused on the 1924-1929 time frame.

Here is the front page of the October 11, 1924 edition.

Similar to my own Nashville Public Library, this library offers microfilm machines connected to computers so that microfilm images can be scanned. Unlike the NPL however, their library sells 256 MB USB drives for $5 since the computers are not hooked up with internet access. Not bad though! I was able to scan about 10 issues and save to the USB drive before I had to download them to my own computer.

I had fun perusing the issues. I was not looking for anything in particular, but I will transcribe articles of local interest from the issues I did scan and make them available online, most likely by posting them to the appropriate surname listserves at Ancestry or by contacing people who have Ancestry Trees that mention the individuals named in the paper.

I found it intersting to see ads that I’ve seen in other African-American newspapers, such as this one from the East India Growing Company for their product to promote hair growth.

I have some work to do to transcribe the issues I scanned, but it is my hope that this information helps someone out there one day!  Even if they don’t, I’ve gained glimpse into life in Portland in the 20s that has been quite insightful.

Also, since I contribute regularly to the blog of the Tri-State Genealogical Society of Evansville, Indiana, the TSGS Cruiser, I also wanted to see if I could find any Evansville-related news items in the Oregon papers.  Fortunately, the University of Oregon offers an extensive Oregon Newspapers Index of close to 1 million records spanning 1852-present.  A quick search revealed a few Evansville-related items and I chose to transcribe one for submission to the TSGS Blog.  That should be going up next week sometime.

So, those few hours were my  genealogy fix.  I just could not pass up the chance to work in some genealogy while in town :-)

Great Finding!

This is why I stay up until 1 in the morning! Tonight while doing some newspaper transcription, I had a great discovery.

For the past couple of years, I have been transcribing old issues of  The Roanoke Beacon. This is the newspaper of Plymouth (Washington County), North Carolina.  My maternal grandmother and practically all of her family and ancestors are from Plymouth and neighboring Tarboro, so I’d always hoped that I’d find something relevant for my family.   I didn’t expect to find much until early to mid 1900s, but tonight I found the death notice of one of my 3rd great-grandfathers, Prince Walker.

The notice from the February 24th, 1899 issue states that he died near his home and was about 90 years old. This is fairly close to what I’d estimated his birth to be from census records.  He is also described as a ” ‘fore the war darky,” which I take to mean he went along with social norms of the day on how blacks were to behave with whites.  According to the article, Prince died Febrary 22nd, 1899.

Prince was born in North Carolina and was married to Lovie Boston.  They had at least 8 children, their son Anthony W. Walker being my ancestor.  Anthony and wife Martha Jane Baker were the parents of Martha Jane Walker.  Martha Jane Walker was the mother of my maternal grandmother, Alice.  This Walker line is one that I know I have several gaps to fill, but I’ve not made concerted effort to get in contact with many Walker relatives.  There are a few that I know I can share this with, but maybe this will inspire me to work harder.  I am too thrilled!

Last night I had another discovery that I think may be relevant to my husband’s aunt, but I’ll save that for another blogging day.

Search Enhancements At GenealogyBank

I really need to go to bed, but I just had to post this!

I was sneaking a peek in GenealogyBank.com tonight and noticed that they have made some enhancements to their search interface for the Historical Newspapers Collection.   When you go to the search screen, you are shown several new search options that were not there last time I searched about a month ago.  I don’t see an announcement on the GenealogyBank blog though. (update 2/18/09 — today, they made a blog post about it)

The first new item on the search screen is the option to search the *updated content* that is added to the database.  GB often adds new pages and I’d written to them several months ago that it would be nice to be able to search the new additions only.  I was told that it was coming, and now it’s here.  At the time of this post, the options for searching just the updated content allow you to select things added since Feb 2009, since Jan 2009, or since Dec 2008.

genealogybank

They have also added a graphic map of the United States with blue dots to represent locations where they have newspaper content.   While it’s not my dream vision of seeing a Google Maps ultra-mashup of all the online digitized newspapers online, it is a nice view to get a sense for where they have coverage and where they don’t.  I wish all providers of historical newspapers would do something similar.   Beneath the graphic is a list of all the states and you can select which states to limit your search to.  Previously, you could only select one state at at time; now you can select multiple states.

If you haven’t searched GenealogyBank in awhile, you should revisit it.  If you are not a subscriber,  try out the one-month trial.  (No affiliation, just a very happy customer).

To add to my excitement about the new search options, I also found something of great interest to me.  In my last post, I shared how this week has been all about my Koonce research.   A lot has happened this past week with that.  Well, as I often do, I did a keyword search for a city of interest for blog fodder, and one of my results was a slave runaway advertisement that I’d seen before and blogged about previously.  I’d selected to search new content only, so even though this was something I’d seen before, I knew that often ads were run in multiple issues.  I decided to take a look at this particular issue of  the New Bern Sentinel and as I was browsing the pages, I came across this marriage announcement

kooncedavid_marriage

Source: “Marriage: David Nunn & Alice Koonce.” New Bern Sentinel 6 Sept. 1823. GenealogyBank. 16 Feb. 2009 <http://www.genealogybank.com>.

This is the marriage notice of David Nunn and Alice Koonce who married in Jones County, North Carolina in 1823.  I am quite happy to see this! I have Alice Koonce & David Nunn in my “other” Koonce gedcom collection.  I added David & Alice after *meeting* Jennifer, another African-American Koonce researcher who is descended from a slave David sold to his brother-in-law Isaac, named Solomon.   Isaac, as part of some of the pioneer families migrating from North Carolina, moved to Tennessee, bringing Solomon with him and that is where Jennifer’s family is from.  She’s got a wonderful website and blog with more details.  In any case, I just happened to browse the pages and I see a notice of David & Alice’s wedding.   Up until now, I’d only had secondary sources for their marriage.   I can’t believe I have yet another Koonce-related discovery and I wasn’t even searching for it!

Congratulations to the Heritage Trail

The newsletter for one of the genealogy societies that I belong too recently won an award, the Joe M. McLaurin Newsletter Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians, Inc. The Heritage Trail is the newsletter of the Heritage Genealogical Society, a society that covers Lenoir, Greene & Jones counties in North Carolina. My father’s family is in part from Lenoir County.

Since I joined the society, I’ve tried to get involved and have submitted entries for the newsletter. I have made two contributions so far

  • transcribed a couple of marriage notices from a 1909 issue of the Kinston Free Press for the Nov 08 issue
  • did a short write up of the Library of Congress Chronicling America historical newspaper site for the Aug 08 issue
I’m currently trying to figure out what to submit for the next issue, since I have microfilm of old issues of the newspaper, the Kinston Free Press that I use for an index and blog, I have a lot of material to choose from. I’m glad to be a part of the society!

GenealogyBank

I love historical newspapers and I find that you can learn a tremendous amount about the cultural context of a given community by reading through their newspapers. I have ordered old newspapers for a few communities of personal interest and some of my side projects involve indexing them (see links on sidebar).

I was pleased to get a message in my email inbox this past week about an online conference call this weekend that Sharon Seargeant is hosting about the use of newspapers as sources of information. I’ve not yet participated in any genealogy related conference calls/webcasts, so this should be an interesting experience. I very much look forward to any tips that may be offered. More information about the call can be found here.

In related newspaper news, I read on Eastman’s blog today that Genealogy Bank has added new content. I’ve kept my eye on Genealogy Bank for awhile now, but never subscribed. Today however, I decided to go ahead and do a one month subscription. I can’t wait to delve into all the offerings, but something immediately jumped out at me and I am going to email Genealogy Bank.

I do however have a recommendation for them (and any other site that indexes newspapers, Ancestry included) that I think would make these sources immediately more useful. Google Map the location of the newspapers! While there may be times that I am familiar enough with a region to know the nearest major town that I could possibly check for information, I do not know this all the time. A list of paper titles even if it includes the town name does not always make it easy for me to pick a paper. If I could type in the town name in Google Maps and see little red balloons for each paper that is geographically close, that approach would be MUCH more useful to me!

That said, I still cannot wait to get in and play around with Genealogy Bank! Just now I was doing some searching and located this ad from the October 17, 1829 issue of the North Carolina Sentinel. This is an advertisement for a runaway slave named Tom Whitfield from a man named Henry B. Mitchell. The ad states that Tom used to belong to Warre Kilpatrick – a man whom I suspect my own ancestor, Silas Kilpatrick, may have belonged to (or at the least, I suspect Warre to be part of that family). They could have known each other….

Newspaper Directory

For anyone that loves historical newspapers as much as I do, this post is for you. In reading the latest issue of Family Tree magazine, I read the column they have on the Library of Congress’ website for historical newspapers. While I’d been to the site before, I didn’t realize until I read this column that the site offers a directory to published newspapers that also lets you see which libraries hold it! This is great!

A Big Family

From the 1 Apr 1898 issue of the Roanoke Beacon (Plymouth, North Carolina)
pg. 4

Mrs. Sallie Hinton of Turkey Foot precinct, this county, is probably the head of the largest family in the world. She is the mother of twelve children, all alive and married. She is the grandmother of fifty-seven grandchildren, and the great-grandmother of twenty-two great-grandchildren, all of whom live within a few miles of her. She is seventy-one years old and an active lady, does all her milking, cooking and other housework, and enjoys the very best of health. — Georgetown (Ky.) News.