Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Additions to Wikipedia Newspaper Archives Page

I just love the fact that so many newspapers are scanned and available online!  Here's a round-up of the latest links I have added to my favorite newspaper resource, the Wikipedia page for online newspaper archives:

• Cuba:  seventeen volumes of the Cuba Review (it's amazing what you can find on the Internet Archive!)
• England:  issues 1–384 of The Strand (more from the Internet Archive)
• New Zealand:  DigitalNZ, a new collection that includes newspapers (but I didn't see a list of what's there)
• Oklahoma:  Gateway to Oklahoma History, with newspapers in Cherokee, Choctaw, English, and German
• USS Cumberland Sound:  six issues of Crew's News, the ship's newsletter
• Accessible Archives:  a pay site with historical black, abolitionist, and women's newspapers, along with some Pennsylvania and South Carolina papers

I think I found an article about someone I'm researching in the Cuba Review.  Now I need to look at those South Carolina newspapers and see if they can solve a brick wall for me . . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Legislative History of Prince Edward Island Online

A partnership between the Prince Edward Island Public Archives, Government Services Library, and Legislative Assembly and the University of Prince Edward Island's Robertson Library has brought about the digitization and posting online of legislature documents from March 1894 (the beginning of the modern legislature) through 2011.  The Prince Edward Island Legislative Documents Online archive also includes images, sound recordings, and biographies of former legislature members.

Obviously, this is a great resource if you had relatives who served in the legislature.  But there are also gems such as the list of machine operators and others who were paid by the Department of Public Works (and the amounts they were paid) during the fiscal period of September 30, 1911 to December 31, 1912, on page 90 of a report by that department.  The names include Charles Diamond, Joseph A. Gallant, William Folland, Gallant Gideon, Ernest Currie, and S. W. Crabbe (see the image above).  So if you had any relatives who lived in Prince Edward Island, search for their names and see what you find.

Judging from the text displayed in the "snippet" results (e.g., "Gontin ued"), it appears that the records were digitized using optical character recognition (OCR) software, which means letters can be misread if the original document was not in perfect condition.  A report about the online archive mentions that some of the materials were extremely fragile.  If you don't find someone you think should be there, you may need to use creative search techniques.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

U.S. National Archives Regional Residency Fellowship Program

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has announced its Request for Proposals for the 2013 Regional Residency Fellowship Program.  The program has generous support from the Foundation for the National Archives.

The 2013 Regional Residency Fellowship Program gives researchers the opportunity to conduct original research using records held at National Archives regional locations in Boston, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; Fort Worth, Texas; Riverside, California; San Francisco, California; and St. Louis, Missouri.  The program offers researchers an opportunity to explore often overlooked records held by the National Archives and to learn what many other researchers have discovered -- you do not need to go to Washington, D.C. to do research at the National Archives.

For 2013, one fellow will be assigned to each of the participating National Archives facilities, for a total of six fellowships.  Each fellow will receive a $3,000.00 stipend, funded by the Foundation, to assist with travel and research expenses.

Fellowship recipients are expected to complete a research project that results in a publishable work product.  In addition, within one year of receiving the fellowship, each recipient will be asked to prepare a short report for publication by the National Archives that describes the research experience:  the discovery, methods, and use of the records at the chosen facility.

The use of social media to share information about the experience is encouraged.  Fellows also will be asked to conduct a staff briefing at the end of their research visit to share information regarding what was found during the research process.

Academic and independent historians, public and local historians, and writers are encouraged to apply.  Current National Archives employees and contractors and their immediate family members are not eligible.

Proposals may be submitted by e-mail or postal mail and must be received by March 15, 2013. Awards will be announced May 1, 2013.

For application instructions and more information about the program, visit:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Civil War Materials from Michigan Online

McClellan and Group, 1860's
In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections staff started a project to transcribe and digitize material from their collections relating to the war.  The material is being posted online for free access and use by the public.  (Hooray for free!)  The Civil War materials are currently described on a dedicated page on the archives site.

In the archives are several collections of letters from Michigan families that the university has acquired over the years.  Students and volunteers have been transcribing the letters, and these are being added to the online material.  If you had any family in Michigan who served in the war, perhaps there's a letter in the collection.  An article from Michigan Radio has excerpts from some of the letters, including a "steamy" relationship (or what passed for steamy in the 1860's).

I particularly enjoyed browsing the photograph collections.  Among them were William Seward, John Fremont, Admiral David Farragut, John Wilkes Booth, and Abraham Lincoln with his son Tad.  There are several unidentified men; maybe you'll recognize someone from your family.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

European Christian Burials in Malabar, India

Earlier this month a new book on Christian burials and memorials in towns of the Malabar coast was published.  Malabar:  Christian Memorials 1737–1990 was written by Dr. John C. Roberts, a social anthropologist, and N. P. Chekkutty, a journalist in Calicut.  It details Portuguese, Dutch, French, and English gravestones in the region. The book includes a transcribed list of Europeans buried in several cemeteries in Kannur, Thalassery, and Mahe during the past two centuries, based on burial registers maintained in various churches.

The book lists burials at St. John's Anglican Church and Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Kannur, St. John’s Anglican Church and Holy Rosary Roman Catholic Church at Thalassery, and St. Theresa’s Church and cemetery at Mahe.  Burials at the German Basel Mission cemeteries at Kannur and Thalassery are also included.

There is information about European regiments and native troops stationed at the Cannanore Cantonment and details on deaths in the armed forces.  Most entries have information on the cause of death.

The book was published by the South India Research Associates (SIRA), a network of researchers and scholars registered in New York.  It has two maps and many photographs.  The current publication is a limited deluxe edition with historic illustrations.  It can be ordered through info.sira@yahoo.in; the order will be processed through Thejas Books in Calicut.  A less expensive second printing is scheduled to be available on Flipkart in India and Alibris internationally in the near future.

Dr. Roberts has finished a second book, this one on churches and planter burials in the Nilgiri Hills.  Plans are to release it in early 2014.  He is now working on other areas of Malabar, including Portuguese burials and the Dutch Cemetery at Kochin.

Some of Dr. Roberts' research led him to Thrissur, where the tombstone of a man with a family connection to Christopher Columbus is now located.  The article mentions that all this information being collected could be good for tourism, as people look for where their ancestors are buried.  Gee, you think?

World War II Home Front Stories

The Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park and the city of Richmond are working with the Regional Oral History Office of the UC Berkeley Library and Bancroft Library to collect stories from people in the San Francisco Bay area who remember what life was like on the home front during World War II.  They are looking for personal accounts and memorabilia relating to civilians on the home front:  workers, volunteers, homemakers, children, etc.  Stories become part of the Rosie the Riveter park archives and are also available at the Richmond Central Library.  Several of the interviews are available on the Rosie the Riveter park Web site.

Some of the topics they are looking for stories about are the Civilian Defense Corps, rationing, unions, work in defense factories, V-mail, volunteering, and victory gardens.

For more information contact museum curator Veronica Rodriguez at (510) 234-1544 x6643 or veronica_rodriguez@nps.gov.

Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 San Francisco History Expo

The third annual San Francisco History Expo will bring together more than 40 local and neighborhood history groups in the Old Mint at 5th and Mission Streets. This is an opportunity to learn (and participate in) San Francisco history though displays, presentations, photos, videos, children's activities, and historical reenactments.  Over the last two years more than 7,000 people have attended the weekend-long event and viewed exhibits from the California Historical Society, GLBT Historical Society, San Francisco History Center, and many others.

This year's Expo will be on Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, at the Old Mint, 88 Fifth Street, San Francisco.  Hours are 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Sunday.

Last year the Expo added a genealogy-focused room, with the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, California Genealogical Society, and SFGenealogy.  Our three groups will be together again this year.  Come by, visit our tables, and learn a little about San Francisco Bay area family history!

The event is totally free, though the organizers hope you'll help offset the costs by making a small donation or buying a raffle ticket.  More information is available at http://www.sfhistoryexpo.org/.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

IIJG Call for Research Proposals

From Emanuel Elyasaf, Executive Director, International Institute of Jewish Genealogy:

The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) has issued its annual Call for Research Proposals for original research in the field of Jewish genealogy, to be carried out in the academic year of 2013-2014.  Successful applicants will be awarded grants of up to $10,000.

Proposals are requested by May 31, 2013.  Those meeting strict standards of academic excellence will be judged by the extent to which they broaden the horizons of Jewish genealogical research and/or create innovative tools or technologies to assist Jewish genealogists and family historians in their work.

The CFRP and Instructions to Applicants can be found on the Institute's Web site under Research/Research Grants.  These instructions should be followed carefully, as only applications in the correct form will be considered.

Successful applicants will be announced on September 1, 2011.

Free Online Resources from Institute of Historical Research

The Institute of Historical Research is part of the University of London.  While its focus is on education for historians, it has several free resources available on the Internet that look as though they could be useful for family historians also.

A few free online courses are offered.  "Sources for British History on the Internet" sounds like a good resource if you have British ancestry.  "Palaeography Learning Materials" sounds really interesting, even though its emphasis is on Medieval manuscripts.  The process of learning how to read those scripts probably would be good experience for learning to read other difficult handwriting, such as Colonial American or Old German.  And if you are lucky enough to trace your family back to the Medieval period, you'll be prepared for the materials you'll be reading!

More than 200 archived Podcasts are on the site.  Topics range over all geographical areas, ancient to modern history, and specific topics such as agriculture, maritime history, medicine, oral history, and Christian missions in global history (these are just a few among dozens).  This type of information is wonderful for learning about the context of your ancestors' lives and the times they lived in.

The Digital Resources page has many links, including "Bibliography of British and Irish History", "British History Online" (Middle Ages to about 1900), and "Connected Histories:  Sources for Building British History, 1500-1900", which allows searches across fifteen databases (among them Old Bailey Proceedings Online, Convict Transportation Registers Database, and London Lives 1600-1800). And there's a blog called History Spot, to help you keep up-to-date on all the Podcasts and seminars offered.

There is so much great material here!  I think I'm going to start with the palaeography course ....

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Free Access to "ProQuest Dissertations and Theses" for February 2013

Samuel Brainin (z''l), USC, 1966
Every month those who have signed up for the ProQuest Discover More Corps social network have free access to one database.  This month's database is "Dissertations and Theses."  Unfortunately, the dissertations themselves are not part of the database; it is actually only an index.  Some entries have abstracts.  For most you are given the option of purchasing a copy of the dissertation.

It was still fun to poke around in the index.  I have a photo (left) of my cousin when he graduated from the University of Southern California with his Ph.D.  Now I know that it was in 1966, his dissertation topic was "The Estimation of Randomly Varying Parameters in Linear Systems", and it was in Electrical Engineering.  I also found my sister-in-law's Mathematics dissertation from Howard University.  And that's about it for my family that I know of (although my sister is threatening to go for a Ph.D.).

In the San Francisco Bay area, we have three Steve's with Ph.D.'s who are involved with genealogy (Danko, Harris, and Morse).  All of them are in the database.

Finding a relative's dissertation topic usually isn't going to take your research back further generations, but it adds richness to the information you have.  So who are the academics in your family?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The African Diaspora to the East

Nawab Sidi Mohammed
Haider Khan, 1930
In the U.S. we are accustomed to thinking about Africans who came to North America, voluntarily or otherwise, but another diaspora went to the east.  The New York Public Library currently is running an exhibit called "Africans in India:  From Slaves to Generals and Rulers", which began on February 1, 2013 and will end July 6, 2013.

The emphasis in this exhibit is on East Africans, who logically would have been the majority to go east.  Known as Habshis (Abyssinians) and Siddis, they attained authoritative positions in India as generals, commanders, admirals, architects, prime ministers, and rulers.

If, like me, you can't go to New York in person to see the exhibit, you can view the related online exhibit of "The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World."  Using images, maps, essays, and multimedia, this site discusses Africans from Sudan to Mozambique who went to the Arabian Peninsula, Persian Gulf, Indian subcontinent, and outlying areas.  In addition to Habshi and Siddi, the terms Kaffir and Zanji are used for the descendants of East Africans.  Along with covering a broader area, this exhibit has information on people of more social classes, including soldiers, sailors, merchants, servants, and musicians.  A bibliography for further study is also included.

Both of these exhibits relate a history that is not well known.  They are presented through the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Skeletons in the Closet: Divorce

This is the first of what will be an occasional series of posts. The idea behind this series is to discuss subjects which are often denied, covered up, or in some way obfuscated when relatives talk about family history.  When information is hidden, family history research becomes more difficult and can be derailed.  I'm starting with divorce because it's somewhat less volatile than some of the other topics.

It can be difficult for many people in our modern world to understand why divorce might be such a touchy subject in one's family history, but for previous generations divorce was a much more significant event.  Approaching the situation with gravity was even part of the legal procedure.  A couple did not simply get divorced.  Cause had to be shown, and then an interlocutory decree would be issued.  The divorce would be finalized a year later, and then only after one of the parties followed through.  That intervening year was to allow the couple to really, really, make sure they wanted to go through with the divorce.

Because of the social stigma attached to being divorced, women in particular did not want to admit to it.  A lot of "widows" in the census were actually divorcées.

Some of the trepidation about divorce is a holdover from Catholicism, which still does not permit divorce.  The most that Catholicism allows is legal separation, which, in all ways but the final dissolution of the marriage, is just like a divorce.  Paperwork is drawn up, assets are divided, child custody is accounted for -- the same things you see in a divorce.  Legally, however, the couple is still married.  Most other religions allow divorce through some mechanism.

Apparently my family was very "forward thinking" regarding divorce.  My grandmother was divorced in the early 1920's -- I wonder if it caused scandal in the family!  My grandfather divorced for the first time in the mid-1950's, when it still was not a common occurrence.  (Before that happened, he and my grandmother were together and my father was born.  That, however, is a different kind of skeleton in the closet, a discussion for another day.)  One time I sat down and counted and came up with twenty divorces through four generations of one branch of my family.

From a family history perspective, a divorce can provide incredibly helpful information.  I have not yet found a divorce file that did not include the date and location of the marriage.  If you have not found that through other research, obtaining the divorce paperwork can give you a lead.  If the couple had children, their names and birthdates are usually included, particularly if the children are minors.  There may be a full inventory of the couple's assets and property, which can give you an idea of their economic status.  The file may also include addresses of the two parties if legal paperwork was served to them.

Divorce is a civil matter and the records are usually not found in the same department as birth, marriage, and death records.  They are usually available at the county level in the U.S.  Some divorce indices are linked from the German Roots site.  You can also use your favorite search engine with the county name (and state, in case more than one county has that name) and the words divorce records.  (Make sure you find a county site and not a for-profit third party.)  For example, I searched for "okaloosa county divorce records" (not in quotation marks) and found the Okaloosa County Clerk of Court site (which I discovered has scanned images online!).  If the county does not have images or a searchable index online, there will be information on how to request a search and how to order records.

Even though divorce is more commonplace in today's society, it still causes great emotional effects to all parties involved.  If you are researching a divorce in your family and you talk to family members about it, keep people's feelings in mind and be diplomatic and gentle in your discussions.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Black Family History Day, February 10, 2013

For the third year, the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California and Oakland FamilySearch Library are presenting a Black Family History Day in honor of Black History Month.  This year's event will take place Sunday, February 10, from 1:00-5:00 p.m. at the Oakland FamilySearch Library, 4766 Lincoln Avenue, Oakland.  As usual, the event is free, but you are encouraged to register for a free consultation, either through the Web site or by calling (877) 884-2843.  This is particularly important for the February event, as we usually have more attendees during Black History Month.

When people arrive they will register, then beginners will go to a short introductory workshop and have guidance in filling out a basic four-generation family chart, and then some one-on-one assistance in research and looking for information on their families.  Intermediate researchers and those who already have some solid information on their families will register and go straight to the one-on-one research.

I've invited some friends again who have said they want to get going on their own family history research.  I'm looking forward to seeing them and everyone else next Sunday!

An Online Archival Collection of the New York Public Library

I often tell people that most material in archives will probably never be online because it is not cost effective.  It costs money to scan everything, prepare the files, and create and maintain a Web site.  This is why companies such as Ancestry.com charge subscriptions.  A lot of archival material is of limited appeal to the general public and it would be difficult to recoup operating costs.

That said, it's nice when a benefactor steps in to cover the costs of digitization and material can be made available freely.  This is what has happened with one of the New York Public Library's archival collections, the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection.  Thanks to a gift from the Polonsky Foundation, the collection is now available online in its entirety.

The Thomas Addis Emmet Collection contains more than 10,000 handwritten letters and documents from the time of America's founding and earlier, including a manuscript copy of the Declaration of Independence in Thomas Jefferson's handwriting.  The dates of the documents range from 1483 to 1876, with the majority falling between 1700 and 1800.  Previously, researchers needed to visit the library in person to read the materials in the collection. Now this resource is freely available online to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

The main link above takes you to an overview of the collection.  Clicking on "Detailed description" takes you to the digitized collection itself, which is broken up into 28 topics.  Some examples of the topics in the collection are the Continental Congress of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, Signers to the Declaration of Independence, the Siege of Savannah 1779, Irving's Life of Washington, and Boundary Line Controversy.

At the end of the list is Miscellaneous Manuscripts.  I decided to look in there to see what was classified as miscellaneous.  I found a two-page letter dated September 18, 1757 to Mr. David Mendes Dacosta, a contractor for 100 bread wagons for Hessian troops.  His name sounds like a Sephardic Jewish one.  Maybe a descendant of his will find the collection and read the letter written to his ancestor.

Warning:  I have a pretty fast Internet connection, but I found the site painfully slow to load, both on the overview page and the pages with documents.  The image viewer appears to be designed to prevent downloading of images; when I tried to save an image, I would get one piece of it (similar to the Ellis Island Database).  I am using a Mac, however, so perhaps it works differently on a PC.

There does not appear to be an index or a finding aid for the collection.  (If I missed it, please tell me where it is!)  There is a link on the bottom of the page to "Find Archival Materials", but when I tried searching there for the Mendes Dacosta letter, it was not found.  So, as is common with many archival collections, it looks like you will need to browse and see what's there.