Blog Archives

Ancestry Adds West Point Applications, Free Access Until Sunday announced yesterday that it had added more than 115,000 US Military Academy Cadet Application Papers (1805-1866) from West Point to its Web site. These applications will be added to its pay service, these papers and the rest of the US Military collection will be free through Sunday. You can access the collections at

The collections here that are free until Sunday include World War I and II draft registration cards, U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, and U.S. Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles, but we’re looking at the West Point applications, which are available at

You can search by first and last name as well as date and keyword. Results include registries of applicants, applicant letters, letters of recommendation, and notifications of acceptance as well as letters of acceptance. After some searching around I looked around the papers for Lewis J Ford. I got a few details about the record but had to go to the image to get an idea of what the record really was. (Registration is required to view records, but it’s free.)

The image showed me what appears to be a recommendation letter; I couldn’t find a transcript and it was kind of hard to read. Other records I looked at included a name index, a registry, and a couple other letters that are almost impossible to read. (Maybe I’m missing the transcripts.)

When it comes to the military records collection I find the draft registration cards a much more usable resource, but I can’t imagine you’d find the application papers/information in the West Point collection available in many other places … and it is available for free until Sunday. Check it out.

Footnote Teams With Lowcountry Africana for Historical Records Collection

This is great. and Lowcountry Africana announced on Monday that they had teamed up to launch a new free collection of historical records from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History. This new collection contains estate inventories and bills of sale for Colonial and Charleston, South Carolina, 1732-1862. You can browse the new collection here. According to the Web site there 1,249 records here. They are free; you don’t even need to be logged in to see them.

If you’ve used before this’ll look familiar; records on the right with several options for narrowing down results on the left, including first name, city, and document type. I would not count the indexing as complete. In fact, Lowcountry Africana has announced a volunteer program to create a searchable index for the collection. You can learn more about that at

At random, I looked at the documents from 1857. I found 58 documents, starting with an estate reckoning for George Brown (with a whopping 43 annotations, all as far as I could tell from Lowcountry Africana) and ending with what looks like a record of sales transactions (this one with over 50 annotations.)

Because of the time and the place, these inventory records and bills of sales include many records of slave trade. By indexing all the names in these documents, Lowcountry Africana is going to make a tremendous contribution to African-American genealogy. Great job from both Lowcountry Africana and .

Digital Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

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

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.

An Archive of London History Through Documents

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

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="; 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.

1901 Ireland Census Available Online

Hat tip to MyHeritage Blog for the pointer to the 1901 Irish census, now available online. It’s freely available at 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!

New Jersey Offers Civil War Vouchers Database

Woo! Hat tip to the recent post at the 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

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.

Early Oregonians, Archived

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 (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.


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