Thanks very much to DK of the Newberry Library, who was kind enough to drop me a note about the recently-completed Digital Atlas of Historical County Boundaries from the Newberry Library. This atlas is organized by state and documents every change in US counties from 1634 to 2000. This makes my little genealogist heart go patter patter patter. The maps are a little clunky, but the work that must have gone into this is unbelievable. I forgive slightly clunky maps. The project is available at http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/.
You start with a map of the US. Pick a state and you’re off and running. When you first pick a state you’ll get lots of options, including links to a full list of all counties ever to have existed in the state with historical details, commentary, and a bibliography with sources. There’s also an option to look at an interactive map of a state, and that’s where I spent my time.
The map lets you choose a date, then gives you a state map with two sets of boundaries: black lines for historical boundaries, and white lines for modern boundaries. A series of checkboxes lets you specify map layers — you can include the modern county names, look at modern county seats, proposed counties, and so on. Be sure to use the Refresh Maps button — this ain’t Ajax. Sometimes it’s a little hard to read the modern and the historical county names together on the same map, so I had to switch that layer on and off when looking at some states.
A nav on the left lets you move around the map a bit, as well as get individual county information, data on groups of counties, and details about county formation and existence.
If you are doing genealogy research and you go back far enough, you are at some point going to find yourself confused with county designations or location. Just looking around in this atlas for a few moments explained something I had always wondered about Virginia and why Brunswick County suddenly vanished from my genealogy notations around 1780, to be replaced with Greensville.
The maps are not as slick as the more modern maps, but really, who cares? This resource is free and the information is amazing. The only thing I would recommend (and I’m not sure this is possible) would be some way to link from a historic county outline to a modern Google Map, in order to get information on city and town locations. TERRIFIC STUFF.
A story in yesterday’s Guardian pointed me toward a very cool new site called London Lives, an online archive covering 1690 and 1800 (these are not absolute dates — the records I saw stretched a little before and a little after this span.) The archive contains 240,000 manuscripts from eight archives and fifteen datasets. That’s over 3.3 million names. It’s available at http://www.londonlives.org/.
There are several ways to go through the content on this site. You can browse by record type, or you can browse a selected list of names or go through a tag cloud. And of course on the front page you can do a search by first name and surname, with the additional option of specifying a time span.
I did a search for John Smith across the entire history of the site. Initially the page showed I got 20 results, but by clicking on the “Calculate Total” link I discovered that it was actually 6752 results. Results included name, record type, and relevant extract. For example: “John Smith, minor[es] / Records of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1681-1709, 1st January 1659 / 5712 Baptism John Smith male “born ye .18. January baptizd ye 1st”. Click on the name or the record type name for a detail page which will also allow you to page through additional records in this collection.
I did a second search for John Pratt (long story) and got a much shorter list of 203 results. This set of results eemed more diverse than the first result, with records including baptisms, proven wills, and tax records.
While searching I did not see any way to look at the original pages of the records, but if you browse the documents by record types you’ll have the option of going through an entire document, looking at a transcription and the original document image at the same time. Run your mouse over the original image and it acts as an instant magnifying glass, showing you close up views of individual lines as you pull your mouse pointer down the document. Very nice.
For additional information about this project, check out the <a href="http://www.londonlives.org/static/Background.jsp" historic background page and information on how this particular project was put together. There was an astounding amount of work put into this: well done.
Hat tip to MyHeritage Blog for the pointer to the 1901 Irish census, now available online. It’s freely available at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/. That link actually has search forms for both the 1911 Irish census (about which I have written before) and the 1901 census.
You can search the census by first and last name, county, street, and DED (District Electoral Division). You can also specify an age and gender. (If you have a good knowledge of Ireland and are feeling some mad census skillz, you can also try browsing by place..)
I did a search for Shea and got over 8900 results. The result listings only include name, townland/street, DED, county, age, and sex, but clicking on a name will bring you more detailed page. Click on that “Show All Information” link in the upper right corner and your results will include religion, birthplace, occupation, literacy level, Irish language status, and marital status. And it’s already transcribed, so you need do no squinting. If you want to squint, original census images are available at the bottom of the result details page.
Kudos to Ireland for getting this done; it was clearly a lot of time and effort!
Woo! Hat tip to the recent post at the Syracuse.com CNY blog about a new database from the New Jersey State Archives indexing Civil War vouchers, 1861-1865. You can access the free database at https://wwwnet1.state.nj.us/DOS/Admin/ArchivesDBPortal/CivilWarVouchers.aspx.
This collection includes soldiers’ discharge certificates for final pay (over 9000 items), affidavits for pay due to deceased soldiers (over 1400 items) and returns listing the names of soldiers’ families and dependent mothers who received subsistence pay. There are almost 114,000 index entries, but search as closely as you can, because you can’t get more than 500 results at a time.
How to search? You can search by first and last name, regiment, county (you can also note “Out of State”), and years. You can use stemming with % followed by the string you want to find. (The site notes that personal name spelling is “inconsistent,” which is the polite word for it.) I did a search for Stackhouse and got 21 results. Results include name, rank/regiment/company, description (“Payment to Francis Stackhouse / Pay due at discharge. Discharged 8/1/65 at Washington by specail order No. 60.. Total Payment: $7.13″), location (sometimes this is noted as “Unrecorded”), date, and citation.
Once you find something interesting, you can select that record and up to four others to be automatically added to an order form. Ordering copies of the vouchers from New Jersey will run you $5 a record, with a maximum 5 records per order. I couldn’t see a note on the order form that noted how long it would take to turn around a records request.
The Oregon State Archives has a new database devoted to people who lived in Oregon prior to its statehood — the Early Oregonians Database, available at http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/news/eo/eo (that’s actually a gateway URL, but the actual site/search URL is messy.)
This site contains about 105,000 entries, pulling information from census death, probate, and other records. Essentially the people outlined in the database lived in Oregon from 1800 to 1860, but there are gaps for Native Americans and those of multiracial descent.
The basic search page lets you search only by name, year span, and county, but there are additional search options will let you expand the number of names you’re searching for around that person. I did a search for John Smith . I got 130 results arranged in a table. The table has a space for name, date and place of birth, date and place of death, and father and mother’s name. For this search most of the spaces were empty.
Each person has their own page too. I chose a John Smith that had both a listed birth and death date. His profile page that contained details including information on associated records, names of associated people (in this case, his wife) and census record associations if available. Just like the search results, not all information represented by the tabs are available for all people.
This site is considered to be a work in progress and will be refined and updated over time. Project volunteers at the moment are going through the Native American censuses taken on reservations between 1885 and 1940, and material extracted from that work will be added to the database as well.
Footnote.com, my favorite genealogy Web site that periodically gives terrific levels of free access, has announced that it’s making access to its US census documents available for “a limited time.”
First: what’s “a limited time”? Don’t know. And what’s “the Census”? You can get to the census documents at http://go.footnote.com/census/?iid=642 but don’t expect to see everything here. At the moment the most complete censuses are the 1860 census (100%) and the 1930 census (98%), with partial availability from the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses (none of these three censuses are over 5% complete.)
Now, what is available is kind of interesting; Footnote believes in crowdsourcing of genealogy documents. Once you’ve found someone in the census and you’re looking at their listing (note you have to have a Footnote.com account to view census images, but they’re free) you can add things. You can add photos, stories, comments, or related documents. You can also post a particular person to Facebook, bookmark them, or “like” them.
Most of my experience exploring the US Census has been via Ancestry, and it does seem that Ancestry has more data. But I kind of like the way Footnote.com lets you explore the census. In comparing it to Ancestry.com’s census explorer, it presents a more manageable set of results in a way that seems to me easier to review. Most of my ancestors were kind enough to have names that are spelled about eight different ways, and Ancestry.com gets really enthused about the possibilities. Footnote.com is more restrained, and the way the search form is set up it’s very easy to swap out different spellings and narrow down search results.
If recent TV shows about genealogy have gotten interested in your ancestors, this free collection from Footnote is a good way to dip your toe in the water. If after this you want more, though, check out one of the many sites on the Web that point the way to genealogy data. Cyndi’s List, at http://www.cyndislist.com/, is one of my favorites.
Wow! I had no idea West Virginia had such a great online vital record collection. I found out thanks to this article in the Charleston Daily Mail.
What am I going on about? I’m talking about the West Virginia Vital Research Records, available at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_select.aspx. Not only does this site have vital record lookup, it also has online images of vital records.
At the moment, birth, marriage and death records are available. All the birth records I saw were listings on a registry, not in certificate form, and are available from 1853 through 1908 because of privacy laws. Also because of privacy laws, the death certificates from the entire state are available for the years 1917 through 1958. (Batches of records will be added every year as the privacy restrictions expire.) Marriage certificates look like they’re available through roughly the 1970s. Each vital record type has varying availability depending on county and time; the search page for each record type has a list of counties and year spans available.
I searched birth records for smith and got 14,789 records presented in a simple table that shows name, birth date, and county, with a link to the vital record image. (The site warns that “there may be multiple records on each image.”) The first result is for an Amanda J. Smith, born May 12, 1853. Here she is:
The registries do contain much of the same information that a birth certificate would contain, like parent’s name and occupation, but they can be a bit hard to read. And the WV Vital Research Records site does not have a image viewer for panning, zooming, etc. When you get the image, you get the image. I recommend downloading it and opening it in a graphics program so you can scale it, move it around, etc.
A death record search for smith found 26864 records. In this case some of the early records I looked at were indeed registries, but the later ones (much later) were death certificates. And in the case of 1945, it looked like a bound book of abbreviated death certificates — the same information, just several names to a page. (And they were TYPED. It was so lovely. Anybody who’s done genealogy research and tried to interpret handwriting will appreciate the wonderfulness of typed vital records.)
I did notice in the record summary pages that there wasn’t as much information about the birth/death/marriage as there was on the record itself. So don’t look at the summary and think you’re seeing everything; download the images.
The marriage records let you search by bride or groom last name. Early data is contained in a registry, while later data is in certificate form and typed. This is the largest span of data — the search form lets you specify search dates from 1780 to 1971, though what’s actually available varies by county.
If you’re into genealogy and you have folks in West Virginia, do a happy dance! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your ancestors’ county was one that has been digitized and made available.