Back Issues of Ancestry Magazine

What can I say? I’m a librarian, these types of announcements make me happy :-)

Megan Smolenyak posted on her weekly round-up that the back issues of Ancestry Magazine are now available in Google Books.   Ancestry announced in January that the magazine would be discontinued, so how great it is now to have access to all the issues they’ve done!  This is a great model for any other publishers/organizations that may be discontinuing.

That’s 96 issues of goodness to read through.  Where am I ever going to find the time?  Access the issues here.

VA Pension Cards 1907-1933 Going Online

For the last two months I have been actively monitoring items added to the Texts collection at the Internet Archive (IA).  By subscribing to several different RSS feeds, I’m able to check them every few days and see what is being uploaded.  For example, I learned that UNC Chapel Hill Library has been adding old issues of yearbooks and blogged about this incredible resource even well before their official announcement.  Even then, their announcement was only for the yearbooks from UNC-Chapel Hill, when they’ve added yearbooks for many other schools besides just UNC-CH.

So many goodies are being posted at the Internet Archive, but here is another one definitely worth mentioning.  The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center has started uploading NARA microfilm records of the Veterans Administration Pension Cards: 1907-1933.  Military records are still sources that I’m quite unfamiliar, but a just looking through the records themselves + Google searching quickly made me realize how valuable these can be for genealogical research.

The pension records are arranged alphabetically by surname; the entire collection has 2, 539 reels and includes about 2 million cards (Microfilm collection M850 at NARA).  Two types of cards are included – those for soldiers themselves and then the Army/Navy Widow Cards.

What kind of information can you find on them?  These listed below, plus more.

  • Veteran’s name
  • Unit of service
  • Rate and dates of payment
  • Date of death
  • Home town

And, on the widow cards you’ll find

  • Wife’s name
  • Veteran’s name
  • Rate & record of payments
  • Record of any payments made to minors

As I write this a little more than 30 reels from the “A” alphabet have been deposited to the IA.   To help keep track of them I have created a spreadsheet that lists each roll and I will continue to add to it as they add more.  I can only hope that ACPL Genealogy Center will start a list/directory on their website though and/or blogs about it soon – I may get tired before they get all 2,539 reels done!  :-)  UPDATE: Curt Witcher, Manager of the Genealogy Center, just confirmed for me via email that they do plan on putting all the reels up.

Some links for ya

If you’d like a version of the surname listing for all reels in a more accessible format, I spliced those pages off and uploaded them to Scribd. You can get it below.   I’m looking forward to seeing more of these reels come online.

VAPensionCards_1907_1933

Guest Blogger on Worldcat.org!

Guess what? I’m featured as a guest blogger on the Worldcat.org blog!  While I have not yet participated in the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy series yet this year, I was particularly interested in the goal of Week 5 – to explore Worldcat.org.  As a librarian, I’ve been familiar with Worldcat for many years and since the Worldcat.org site launched have been an avid user.   Just as Week 5 was coming to an end I emailed WorldCat to let them know that many genealogists were exploring the site and posting their experiences with it and that they may be interested in this user perspective.

Then, one the marketing directors, Alice,  emailed me back saying that she had indeed been aware of the series and even invited me to guest blog about it!  So, my post went live today.

On top of this, I also inquired about WorldCat’s possibility of more extensively linking to books that are available full-text online (for example, through Google Books or the Internet Archive).   As a user of WorldCat, I’ve recently seen a potential value as I’ve been closely monitoring books uploaded to  Internet Archive.  Alice reminded me that they do indeed already have an integration with Google Books and are exploring how to do this with the Internet Archive.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could also know of full-text of books from the WorldCat item record?  I’ve been very pleased with how responsive WorldCat has been to suggestions & feedback.  I think I’ll have to consider this as my post for Week 5 now, even though it’s about two weeks late :-)

Tombstone Tuesday: Balthazaar “Balthus” Faith

This Tombstone Tuesday post is not for someone in my family, but rather that of a co-worker.  The furthest back I’ve traced her Faith lineage is to the mother of this ancestor, Balthazaar “Balthus” Faith.

This image of his tombstone is courtesy of an upload from a FindAGrave volunteer at his gravesite in the Calvary Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois.   Balthazaar was born in April 11, 1811 in Germany, emigrating to this country from Berne, Bavaria.   His father died in Germany, but his mother, Mary, came over to this county with him and they settled in Maryland.  While in Maryland, Balthus married Emily Gordon and together they would have at least 5 children (that I know of).  My coworker is descended from their son Joseph Faith.    The family moved to Springfield in 1867.

Black Book

Even though it’s many weeks later, I wanted to share what Kalonji got for me as one of my Christmas presents in December, for I think it is a beautiful thing indeed.  It is Toni Morrison’s The Black Book. It was first published in 1974, in 2009 they published a 35th anniversary ediiton. You can read more about the book at Amazon, but I know I am going to learn each time I pick it up to browse its pages. I would only have asked one thing of the publishers – an index please?  Though, I am pleased that it is searcheable in Google Books.

This excerpt from Bill Cosby’s original introduction describes it aptly.

Suppose a three-hundred-year-old black man had decided, oh say, when he was about ten, to keep a scrapbook – a record of what it was like for himself and his people in these United States. He would newspaper articles that interested him , old family photos, trading cards, advertisements, letters, handbills, dreambooks, and posters – all sorts of stuff.

He would remember things too, and put those in: stories he’d heard, rumors, dates. He’d remember the first March on Washington, how John Quincy Adams defended Joseph Cinque, the black slaveship rebel — and won; the Jewish Hospital that opened its doors to the wounded during the Civil War Draft Riots.

He would know about black goldminers, and pirates and factory owners and inventors. And, he would keep records of blacks who owned slaves, lyrics of songs he’d sung, voodoo recipes he’d tried — all of that he would put in his book.

And he would end up with a folk journey of Black America a book just like this one – beautiful, haunting, curious, informative, and human. — Bill Cosby, September 1973

Faces of America: Episode 1

Last night I eagerly watched the first episode in the new PBS Series, Faces of America, facilitated by Henry Louis Gates.   There’s been a lot of buzz in the genealogy community in anticipation of the show.  It comes at the heels of Gates’ popular African-American Lives & African-American Lives 2 series. After the show, I then participated in a fun post-show chat hosted over at Geneabloggers to talk about our perceptions and thoughts.

Thomas has put together a RSS feed to see the geneablogsphere reactions to the show that are all interesting to read.   Here are my thoughts:

  • Many have commented on the desire to have seen more of the research process explained in the show.  I understand the show producers may have wanted to focus more on the emotional connections for the show, but in the books that have been written to compliment the African American Lives series and the Finding Oprah’s Roots show, there is more detail and emphasis on the research process.  I have both books, In Search of Our Roots & Finding Oprah’s Roots and even learned a few tips and strategies while reading them.   The benefit of the show is that in can increase the awareness among the general population and I am hopeful that those that are more serious will take the time to read the books by either looking for them at their local public library or by purchasing outright.  I would like to see a companion book published for Faces of America as well.
  • I’m a big proponent of the social web.  I’ve posted before on this topic, but I’ll say it again – I do think there is a missed opportunity from the show producers to leverage the interest and use it for greater genealogical good. With African-American Lives 2, they did establish an online forum for users to share their personal stories and used tagging to help structure the stories that were being shared. But, can you imagine the database that could be built if they also asked people to fill in 3 or 4 generation ancestor charts?  They could have an online “facilitator” to help answer people’s questions and guide them to well-established resources, or host their own chat sessions for interested parties.  With 4 episodes to air, this could have been a several weeks long endeavor and really capitalize on the generated interest (the website pretty much crashed last night; there was interest!). Many of the stories presented on the older show sites have details, but much of it is unstructured. As a knowledge management and information professional I highly encourage structure.
  • After watching the show last night, I began to think about the upcoming Who Do You Think You Are series.  I’ve never seen the UK show, so off to YouTube I went in search of episodes.  I watched two last night – that of actor David Suchet and also that of Zoe Wannamaker.  They were excellent!  It was cool to see David Suchet b/c he’s known for playing the Agatha Christie character Hercule Poirot. I’ve not seen the British shows with him, but I have read many a Hercule Poirot mystery. I think I have found a new television series to watch and I posted part 1 of his episode as my Featured Video in the sidebar on the right. I am eager to see the NBC show even more now after watching these episodes.
  • Did you promote the show among your friends and family? I certainly did! I have some coworkers who I dabble in their family trees every now and then and so I told them all and sent them each a little extra piece of family history  — one of them is a descendant of long lineage associated with eastern tennessee whom I recently found a book in the Internet Archive with information about the emigrating ancestor that was written in the 1920s; another has ties to Hawaii and I shared with her a new website/blog focusing on Hawaiian genealogy that could be a useful resource moving forward; and the third I was able to send pictures of her ancestors headstones that were just added to FindAGrave within the past two months. Just a little bit to keep the motivation going :-)

So, I’m excited at the prospects and do still look forward to the additional episodes.  It had its strenghts and weaknesses, but overall I am glad for this opportunity to promote the need for us all to more closely study and understand our family histories.   If you missed it, you can watch in online.

New on My Genealogy Bookshelf

Last week I learned that the NC Office of Archives & History was having a sale on some of their publications so I ordered a couple of books.

Onslow County: A Brief History by Alan D. Watson –  as the county coordinator for Onslow County, NCGenWeb project, I thought it was a good idea to have this book for reference to help me learn more about the county.

An Index to North Carolina Newspapers, 1784-1789 by Alan D. Watson – my general interest in newspapers led me to order this one.

I’m looking forward to perusing these more in-depth over the next few weeks.

What I Want From Footnote

I’m in the middle of working on a presentation that I have due tomorrow, but I had to take a break to do this post before I forget about it.

So, today I’m in the car on the way home listening to my first Genealogy Guys Podcast.  A few minutes into it, I learn from them that Footnote has released another virtual wall – this time it’s the USS Arizona Memorial in honor of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.  I visited Pearl Harbor in May, so I perked up when I heard about it.  (the fact that I missed this announcement in the first place goes to show “out of it” I’ve been w/ my genealogy news of late).

In any case, I just visited the online, interactive memorial and I have to say I’m a little disappointed.  Why? Because to date, while I think Footnote has a great idea to create the ability to contribute to a Person’s Page, they seem to be creating so many duplicate Person Pages that it detracts from the appeal for me.  Is there a way to get Footnote to “merge” individual Person Pages rather than just “Link” two together?  Footnote now has it so that there are Person Pages for the individual collections of the 1930 census, the Vietnam Memorial, the Arizona Memorial, the Social Security Death Index, plus anyone can create a Person Page.

In my own family tree, there are two pages that exist for my great-grandmother, Josephine Holloway Koonce (page 1 and page 2).  I have added information to both of them because at first I didn’t realize there were two different pages.  I do know that one comes from the 1930 census but I don’t remember how the other was generated.  But, I would love to able to merge these two pages as one instead of having Footnote build up multiple copies of her “page” each time a collection came around that included her in it.  Understandably I recognize that there could be data control issues as people could be merged erroneously, but I’d love to see some approaches to how this could be enabled.  Kinda like how Ancestry does their member trees – a person looking can see a “compilation” record of an individual, as well as still see all the separate trees that include what the system thinks may be the same person.   Footnote could let actual people initiate the merge and possibly combine that with computer algorithms.

The “Link” option just does not take care of this concern for me, and until I’m able to initiate a merge, I doubt I’ll be an active user of Person Page Beta.

Another wish item for Footnote? Instead of just “linking” a relative as a Related page, actually create fields for relationships on that person’s page for parents, siblings, spouses, children etc.  The potential to build up a Footnote Family Tree is there, it just needs to be further developed.

Don’t get me wrong, I do like FootNote a lot! Last year, I found an extremely moving account of someone I’ve been researching in the Missing Air Crew Reports, But, I also have big dreams.  I believe Footnote is dreaming big too in order to even start such a large project.

Okay, back to my work. :-)

Update 12/10 — a Footnote representative responded to my comment on their blog post and explained how you can make a suggestion to merge two individuals.  They do plan to enable such a feature in the future, so submit your suggestions now and they will make sure to address them when they make further progress with the project. Thanks Peter!

RSS Feeds for Rootsweb/Ancestry Boards

It’s been quiet lately here on my blog. My schooling has been full force these past few weeks, so I don’t have a lot of spare time to blog. But, I did want to do a quick post to give a quick tip.

Tonight, Randy did a blog post on Eastman’s new GenQueries site. In the comments, there were a couple of people who commented that to their knowledge, neither Rootsweb nor GenForum message boards offered RSS feeds, and Thomas stated that perhaps the RSS feeds are an advantage the GenQueries site offers. Well, you CAN do RSS feeds on Rootsweb/Ancestry mailing boards! Since discovering this last year, I’ve been a big fan – I’m all about content being pushed to me rather than me going to go get it.

The trick to Rootsweb though is that you have to be on the Ancestry.com side to access the feed. Remember, message boards on Ancestry are freely accessible! How do you find the RSS feed?

Let’s say you start off at Rootsweb and you find a board that you like. I’ll use the Koonce surname board as my example. The URL for this message board at Rootsweb is http://boards.rootsweb.com/surnames.koonce/mb.ashx. If you replace the word “rootsweb” with “ancestry” in the URL, you are then taken to the Ancestry side where the same message board exists. Remember, the message boards are FREE on Ancestry, so you don’t have to worry with a membership to view them if you’re not interested in joining.

The difference is that with Ancestry, there is a link to an RSS feed. Here is the same board in both views:

’tis a glorious thing! I love using the RSS feeds here. When I first discovered them, there was a programming error in how new messages displayed, but they finally got around to fixing that and they work very well now. Just grab the feed URL and stick it in your favorite feed aggregator.

You will likely need to change the name of the feed. I typically begin them with whether this is a feed for a County or Surname, and then list the specifics. As you can see, I have some reading I need to catch up on.

I still have not found a way to do this with GenForum boards. I’m sure I could try one of the many services out there to generate feeds for pages that don’t have them, but I have not yet gone through this additional step. Has anyone out there done so?