National Library of Scotland Post Office Directories Collection

Doing some research in/about/for Scotland? The National Library of Scotland has the Scottish Post Office Directories site at http://digital.nls.uk/directories/index.html. This site has over 700 digitized directories spanning 1773 to 1911.

The directories are browsable so you can, if you wish, page through them, but searching is available as well. I found the online browser mechanism slow, but the NLS also offers the ability to download the directories. And that is why I have a copy of “Pigot & Co.’s new commercial directory of Scotland for 1825-6″ sitting on my desktop, but man, that 169MB was a slow download. (You can also download high-quality individual pages as well, if you don’t have hours to hang around.)

Search allows you to search the first several letters of a last name, a place, and a year. (There is an advanced search as well but I thought the basic search enough, as long as you can narrow down by year or place.) A search for Cal, covering 1871-1889, found 821 results. Results are presented in a gallery with a thumbnail of the relevant directory, and a link to take you to the page where the partial name is found. Click on that link for a larger version.

What you’ll get depends on the directory. Looking at the Inverness County Directory from 1887 I found names, addresses, and yearly rent or values, while looking at the County Directory of Scotland from 1872, I found names, addresses, and in many cases occupations. For the most part the scans were excellent and easily readable, but I did have a problem with the “Royal national commercial directory and topography of Scotland” from 1872, as it was pretty faded. Downloading a high-resolution single page fixed that, however.

If you just want to get a sense of what’s available in the collectoin, the NLS has put together a few goodies for you. There’s a pointer to several pages of advertising in a Glasgow directory, a page from the 1809 Dundee directory, and a directory title page. An about the directory section gives you a good overview of what you might find (and why it might be wrong.)

A fascinating collection. Worth a browse but I recommend downloading anything you want to do a lot of research on.

National Archives Puts Genealogy Workshops on YouTube

National Archives on YouTube

The National Archives announced yesterday that video of some of its genealogy how-to workshops have now hit YouTube (though looking at the dates on some of these they appear to have been up for a while, BUT ANYWAY.) The URL for the archive’s YouTube channel is http://www.youtube.com/user/usnationalarchives. Videos available include:

“Genealogy Introduction — Military Research at the National Archives: Regular Service” (available here.)

“Genealogy Introduction — Immigration Records at the National Archives” (available here.)

“Genealogy Introduction: Census Records at the National Archives” (available here.) (This appers to be, by far, the most popular of these three!)

The channel has 878 videos in total, with playlists that include “Inside the Vault,” “Public Programs from the National Archives,” and “ARC Film Clips.” So you’ll be better prepared this spring, there’s also a series of four short films, produced around 1940, about the 1940 Census.

As you might imagine, 878 videos equals a LOT to see here.

Ancestry Adds West Point Applications, Free Access Until Sunday

Ancestry.com 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 Ancestry.com US Military collection will be free through Sunday. You can access the collections at http://www.ancestry.com/military.

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 http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1299.

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. Footnote.com 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 Footnote.com 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 http://lowcountryafricana.net/indexing-project-sc-estate-inv.asp.

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 Footnote.com .

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 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.