Open Library Just Made My Week!

This is just one of those totally geeky librarian moments you’re about to read about.

Two days ago, the Open Library project announced a soft-launch of their new interface. The Open Library is an initiative of the Internet Archive with a goal to have one page for every book.

I am a fan of the Internet Archive; you may have noticed several blog posts of mine the past few weeks announcing resources I’ve located through IA.   It is a fantastic resource.  However, the navigability of books at the IA leave much to be desired.  The Open Library project helps overcome some of the limitations and is actively seeking to encourage collaboration.

Why does the new Open Library project make me so happy?  For awhile now I’ve longed for a way to contribute information so that we can all as researchers

  • be aware when a book exists in digital format online
  • contribute to lacking information about a book if we have additional data to add (e.g.  a PDF to the index, or list the Table of Contents)

I’ve sought this out via other means:

  • FamilyLink’s GenSeek (it’s current iteration as a Facebook App) did not meet my expectations.  Though I could link to the electronic location of the book online the record did not update to reflect it’s electronic status.
  • WorldCat.org has great potential and I’ve shared feedback with the development team there.  They think it’s a great idea; already partner with Google Books, and have explored how they can further work with the Internet Archive.  It’s just later on in their development cycle.

But, Open Library let’s me do it!  Check it out (pun intended, ha!).

Step 1: I do a search for a book that was recently added to the Internet Archive yesterday,  The Ingersolls of Hampshire: a genealogical history of the family from their settlement in America, in the line of John Ingersoll of Westfield, Mass. The book was added to the IA February 18th, 2010, but the Open Library record does not have it marked an e-book.  Nor does it indicate it can be borrowed from any library.  Well, guess what?  We can change it for Open Library is a wiki!!

Step 2: To edit the record to change it’s status as not an ebook and not able to borrowed,  you go in and edit the ID Numbers section.  Clicking on Edit brings up all the data about the book and on the tab labeled What’s It About? you can edit the ID Numbers section.  There is  a drop down list of options to choose from including “Internet Archive”  & “OCLC”.     Grab the ID number from the IA URL (the portion of the URL that comes after the /details/) and get the OCLC number from the WorldCat entry and add them to the information already there:

Step 3: Go to the bottom of the page and click Save and guess what happens?

The record is immediately changed and others will now know of it’s availability as an ebook and link to the WorldCat.org record to find it at a library.

Their new site logo says “Ever Wanted to Play Librarian? It’s Okay. We All Do.”  Well, I am a librarian and I naturally want to play librarian for genealogy resources.  Open Library just helped me accomplish that.   You may still be wondering why this means so much to mean, but believe me, this has implications and stirs up many ideas and potential uses.  Expect another blog post pretty soon from me outlining some of them.    This is Librarianship 2.0  and/or Genealogy 2.o at some of it’s finest if you ask me.   :-)

Scribd Joins the Genealogy Bandwagon

Well now!  Here’s  another example of how much penetration genealogy is getting.   As I was uploading a document to Scribd.com, I saw that they have now added a designation under their Research category for genealogy!  That was not there a few weeks ago when I last uploaded a document and needless to say I am quite pleased to see it there.  I was getting tired of having to use History as the category of choice.   Of course it would help if they spelled genealogy correctly, but it’s a start right??  :-)

To explore all documents assigned to the Genealogy category – visit their browsing interface.   The browse page also suggests that this category is new as there are only 2 pages of documents so far; other categories such as History have over 200 pages to browse.  Check it out.  Upload your documents.  Help their Genealogy collection grow!

P.S. — What was I uploading? An index to a 1960s book of gravestone records for the Duplin County, NCGenWeb project.  I’m helping the new county coordinator rebuild the site and thought this would be of help for county researchers.

NARA Compiled Service Records @ Internet Archive

Last month I posted about the Allen County Public Library adding NARA microfilm records to the Internet Archive.  In following my RSS feed, today I saw that they began adding another set — the Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War (M881).

The Compiled Service Records are available as part of Footnote.com’s offerings and you can read more about them on their page.  It will be great to have freely available access to these now through the efforts of the ACPL.

The organization of the records are by regiment, so it’ s not as easy to immediately locate a person of interest, so it may be easier to search the Footnote collection and then take note of the location of the record.

As with the VA Pension List, I am maintaining a list as they become available. So far, there are 20 rolls online (out of 1,096).   And, to give an update on the VA Pension Records — when I first posted there were about 30 rolls available; there are now more than 140.

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.