06 October 2017

Online Newspaper Archives - Armchair Genealogy

Newspapers have been around for a long time. They are a very interesting look into the lives of your ancestors. What's nice about old newspapers is that it's not just the rich and famous that get written about, regular people get written about all the time, and not just birth, death, and marriage notices. I have a small blurb from an old newspaper about one of my ancestors going to visit her sister a few towns over, and one about someone being sick and then getting better. How fun to have that little snapshot of their lives.

There are increasing amounts of newspapers being digitized, indexed, and put online. When they get indexed they are more easily searchable. The indexing might not be perfectly accurate, but it can get you pretty close. Some newspaper sites aren't indexed, so you must look through the pages one-by-one. Not all communities had a daily newspaper, and others had more than one. Be sure to do a little location research to find out where and when to look. Many state archives have newspapers in their online catalog, so be sure to look locally and not just the big database sites.

Some things that might be written about in a newspaper, that you can search for, include: birth announcements, engagements and marriages, divorces, obituaries, legal notices, military service, advertisements, community news, and social events.

Here is a list of just a few of the sites I like to use for newspaper research:
Elephind (free)
Chronicling America (free)
American Antiquarian Society
Google News Archives (free)
Readex (world newspaper archives)

Places with links to other newspaper sites:
Cyndi's List
Wikipedia newspaper archives list
International Coalition on Newspapers
Online Historical Newspapers Site

Did I miss your favorite site for newspapers? Tell me about it in the comments!

05 October 2017

Free Online Databases - Armchair Genealogy

Not too many years ago, genealogically relevant records were kept in courthouses and archives. Today, more and more records are being put online from those various archives, libraries, and courthouses. Online databases are websites where you can access digital copies of these original records.

So many things are online these days. You can find everything from basic vital records to gravestones to newspapers. Many of these records are even accessed for free! There are different kinds of  online databases from which you can access the information and search the records, some are paid sites others are free. The following is a list of some of the sites I use most. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Mega Data Sites

Foreign Databases
US National Archives
Free BMD (UK records)
Country national archives - many European countries have online archive databases (e.g. Sweden, Belgium, Germany)

US Databases
Ellis Island
Castle Garden
Civil War Research Database
Find A Grave (mostly US, some international)
Chronicling America

04 October 2017

Blogging Your Genealogy - Armchair Genealogy

Blogging or having a genealogy website can be a great way to share your family history. There are as many ways to do it as there are families. Yesterday's post was about posting a tree online, particularly through one of the big database sites. Today I'm focusing on creating a more stand-alone site just for you.

When it comes to blogging, the two main places people use are blogger and wordpress.com. Both offer great pre-made layout options and easy creation of blog posts, they also offer private blog options if you don't want to have your information publicly available. With these you can choose to share it with specific people or keep it entirely to yourself.

With a blog you can easily tell stories, share photos, post a family tree, or even share what research you are doing at any given time. It can be a nice way of keeping track of your research, like a log, but one that others can see and maybe even help with. Genealogists of all types read blogs, and can connect with you even if you don't share family members. It's a great way to create a community.

If you do make a blog, you can join the geneabloggers community to help you connect with other bloggers. You can join groups doing different blog prompts or projects (like the 52 Ancestors project I participated in a couple years ago). These can help direct your writing or give you something new to research if you ever get stuck and need a change.

Putting together a genealogy website is similar to making a book, but much less expensive. Depending on exactly what you want in a website, it can also be super easy. In fact, some of the genealogy software programs even have an option of automatically creating a website with clickable links. Doesn't get easier than that.

As with a blog or family tree, you have to decide what exactly you want to include on your website. You can do just your direct line, a surname study, a descendency study from one ancestor, your whole tree, and so on. Just make sure to protect the privacy of living people. Using genealogy software to create a website should automatically hide all information on living people.

Starting with a basic tree, through your software, is a great place to start when it comes to building your website. But it doesn't have to end there. You can make changes to each individuals page to include stories and photos. Overall changes to the site like colors, fonts, and layout can be tweaked to make things look more professional and make things more user-friendly.

If this is something you are interested in creating, I highly recommend looking at Cyndi's List, where she has a large collection of links to help you get started with website creation.

03 October 2017

Putting Your Tree Online - Armchair Genealogy

Putting your genealogy online can be a daunting task. I'm going to limit today's post to just the big genealogy websites with tree-making capabilities, and not include personal websites or blogs. 

The big 4 genealogy websites are: FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage.

Most people use these sites to have a tree online and do research within the sites. They all have the ability to search for historical records and 'attach' them to your tree, to keep track of your research and information. You can do research on the sites without having a tree on the site, so why should you bother putting your tree there?

Why should I put my tree online?
There are 3 main reasons people might put their family tree online: to connect with distant cousins and possibly collaborate, to search for more records and information, and to preserve family stories/memories.

What website(s) should I use?
All of the big sites let you put at least a small tree online for free. I recommend having at least a small/basic family tree on all the sites if you are looking for distant relatives and collaborative work, or if you are searching for records. If you are looking to preserve your family photos, stories, and other memories you probably only need to go to one site, keeping things in a central location.

Other sites that let you create a family tree for free include:
Rootsweb.com (an Ancestry.com community)
WeRelate.org (a collaborative tree)
WikiTree.com (a collaborative tree)

Should I make my tree public or private?
Again it depends on why you are putting your tree online, and how you feel about privacy issues. If you are wanting more collaboration, and to share your work, a public tree might be the best option. Preserving photos and stories might be more appropriate for a private tree. Even private trees have a way for people to contact you to collaborate if they desire. FamilySearch is a collaborative tree, so you can't keep deceased people private at all, to take advantage of multiple people researching the same lines. All the big websites privatize living people, even on public trees. For FamilySearch living people aren't searchable at all, on Ancestry they are listed as 'Private', etc. Ultimately it is a matter of personal preference.

How much of my tree should go online?
How much of your tree to put online is a personal decision. You might want it to be just your direct line, or maybe you want to include as many aunts, uncles, and cousins as you can find. You may want to have just a particular line/ancestors family online, or have several separate trees for each line. Maybe you want a private tree or site for all your living relatives with little of your deceased ancestors. What you post online is completely up to you.

I hope you do choose to put a tree online. Everyone can share something, whether it is a photo, a resource, or just your time. With the connectedness of the internet it is wonderful to find others who share your interest in genealogy and maybe even share your family members.

02 October 2017

Choose a Software - Armchair Genealogy

While having a family tree online is a wonderful way to keep track of your work, you might also want to have genealogy software on your computer to keep track of things offline. 

Armchair Genealogy - Choosing a Software

When it comes to genealogy software there are a number great of choices. What is the right one for me might not be the right one for you. There are lots of things to consider, so you should take the time to really understand the options and make an informed choice. After all, your genealogy research depends on it.

The main thing to look at are the features that are important to you.
Do you want to be able to sync with an online tree? 
Do you have a Mac or PC? 
Do you want a mobile option? 
Does it come in your language? 
Can it handle special characters from other languages? 
What kinds of charts or reports can you make with it?
How easy is it for you to use?
Do you like the way it is set up/the display?
How is their tech support? Tutorials? FAQs?
How much does it cost?

If there is a free version, or free trial of the software(s) you are interested in, give the software a try. Test out the features that are most important to you. If there is a forum or Facebook page for users of the program, check it out and find what actual users like or have problems with.
Some of the most popular software programs are:
Legacy, RootsMagic, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, and Ancestral Quest. There are lots of others out there though, so don't feel limited to the big name programs, they might not be what you are looking for.
Choosing the best software for your research is a big decision, and a personal one. Don't feel pressured into needing to make a decision in one afternoon. With a little research and trying things out you'll find the one that works for you.

01 October 2017

Armchair Genealogy - Intro

An Armchair Genealogist is someone who does most or all of their genealogy work from the comfort of their own home. They don't have to leave their armchair to get stuff done. In the past this might have meant writing a lot of letters or sending away to courthouses for documents. But now we have vast computer and internet resources at our fingertips, which makes being an armchair genealogist even easier.

October is Family History Month. I will be posting each weekday about something you can do from your home computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone to work on your family history. Welcome to the age of armchair genealogy!

25 February 2017

Breaking Through My Brick Wall

One of my most frustrating brick walls has been my 2x great-grandfather Dietrich Heinrich Hasemeyer. I knew he was born in Germany, went to Illinois, then on to Colorado (where he married my 2x great-grandmother), and died in Utah. But I didn't know much about his family, where he came from, or how/when he came to America.

You would think there would be a record of his coming to America, since it would have been around 1880. His Naturalization papers don't give any specifics, just a signed oath of allegiance. I just couldn't figure it out.

Then I remembered that his obituary mentioned his family. His obituary in Utah, 1925, stated that he had 3 brothers living in Illinois. This was the key.

One thing I like about Ancestry.com is the ability to make multiple trees, private ones, and it gives record hints even when the person has no death date listed (potentially living people). I made a Hasemeyer tree just for this investigation.

I looked up the 1920 census and found everyone named Hasemeyer (and other various spellings of the name), and put them all into a tree together. I knew many would not actually be related, but this was just to help keep track of/find other records for them.

I discovered that 3 of the Hasemeyer men I found were brothers, living in the same county in Illinois in 1920. And they all had birth records in Germany, that were searchable! They had the same parents (that's how I know they were brothers and not just people with the same last name).

From there I looked up the parents, to find all the children they had in those German records. Low and behold, they had a son named Heinrich Diedrich Ferdinand Haesemeier, with the exact same birth day as my Dietrich Heinrich Hasemeyer! I know that (in this family at least) the people went by their 2nd given name rather than their 1st given name, so Heinrich Diedrich would have gone by Diedrich/Dietrich most of the time. I had found my family!

All I had left to do was copy the information for my newly found family members from my private Hasemeyer tree onto my regular tree, and attach the sources.

All the other Hasemeyers in Illinois were totally wrong to be my family, the years and places didn't add up at all.

It pays to look up the FAN club of your ancestor and not just the person you are actually looking for (FAN stands for Family, Associates, and Neighbors). Now I am climbing this branch of the tree, finding cousins and grandparents, and so excited to finally break through that brick wall.

Update Mar 11:
I have a DNA match with another Hasemeyer, confirming that I found the right Hasemeyer family!

I saw that I had 2 matches through AncestryDNA with the name Hasemeyer in their family trees. One was related to my known Hasemeyer ancestor, and the other had a private tree. I messaged them, and they responded, confirming that they are directly descended from my ancestors brother. Looks like I have a new cousin (3rd cousin once removed for those who want to know)!