I worked on my home cookbook, gardened and read a lot this summer and didn’t do as much genealogy research as I would like. But, I took a four-day trip to Albany for some New York research in July. (More on that in my next column.)Now that the weather is cooler, it’s time to buckle down and get to work. Here are a interesting tidbits and websites I’ve come across in recent months.
• Wikimedia Commons is an amazing, free website that has a sampling of images from the National Archives. One of the sections is of illustrated family records from people who applied for Revolutionary War pensions. The 200 records are so beautifully done. However, many are barely legible and quite a few are in German (although you can still read the names). I went through those that are scanned so far and had no luck. But, you might find a Revolutionary War veteran in there. And, they’re fun to see.
The National Archives started sharing images with Wikimedia last year and there are 107,511 content pages so far. Go to http://commons.wikimedia.org and view the selection of topics on the righthand side of the page. The selection in the NARA section alone is staggering — photos and sketches from the Civil War, American Indians in the 1800s, World War I and II diaries, photos and posters, many artists’ sketches and photographs, aerial photographs, photos from individual states, maps, diaries, all types of records, a collection of presidential signatures, court files and much, much more.
There is so much information here it’s overwhelming, but there are gems to be found. The easiest way to find something is the search feature. Type in “archives” and “pensions” instead of wading through the 13,724 collections in the U.S. Archives series alone. Even typing in genealogy garnered 138,577 hits.
• Planning for the 12th New England Regional Genealogical Conference is under way. It will take place on Wednesday to Sunday, April 17 to 21, in Manchester, N.H. I went to the conference that was held there in 2009 and enjoyed the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center, restaurants and setting very much. This year’s theme is “Woven in History: The Fabric of New England.”
There will be talks on everything from research methodology to ethnic genealogy of many types. Featured speakers include Colleen Fitzpatrick and Stephen Morse (just love his website). New this year is a Tech Day on Wednesday to give guidance on all those new gadgets out there and online options. To stay up on the conference news as it becomes available, visit www.nergc. org.
• If you haven’t checked out the 1940 census yet, ancestry.com now has all the states indexed by surname. Hooray! I know it’s a paid site, but researching online has saved me so much time, money and energy over the years, I consider it well worth the price. And, they keep adding more and more each year.
• Looking at the federal census brings new questions when your ancestor’s occupation is listed and you haven’t a clue what it means. Jane Hewitt’s “Dictionary of Old Occupations” is at www.familyresearcher.co.uk/glossary/Dictionary-of-Old-Occupations-Index.html. So, now when it says he was a cordwainer, you will know that he made leather goods, probably boots and shoes.
• Another great place to head once you find out how much an ancestor earned or paid for rent or taxes is www.measuringworth. com/uscompare. At this site you can find out what today’s dollars were worth at a certain date in history from 1774 to 2011.
• The We Relate Wiki is offering a project that will create a database of name variations at www.werelate.org/wiki/WeRelate:Variant_names_project. My (mostly) English ancestors had pretty straightforward names, but I still have a few lines with a variety of spellings, such as Blouf, Plouffe, Plouff and Ploof on my French-Canadian line. The project got a head start when We Relate and Ancestry.com worked together to create an advanced algorithm that recognizes the similarity between names. There are 200,000 of the most frequent surnames and 70,000 of the most common given names in Ancestry’s database. Then they added names from BehindTheName. They ask users to look and add any variations that are missing or to remove any that don’t make sense.
• www.cubagenweb.org is where The Cuban Genealogy Center offers resources for those searching for their Cuban roots. It’s been on the Web since 1996 and includes Cuban family trees and personal genealogy pages, a passengers database, military records, marriages in Santiago from 1670 to 1799, census of deaths in Ceuta, Cuban newspapers, a queries bulletin board, historic photos, cemetery transcriptions, founding families and more, including advice on finding vital information.
• I love looking at old maps. It seems to bring more life to a family when you can put them into a time and place. And, seeing who their neighbors were or what was near their property, such as a river, can explain how and why things happened. A new subscription website is at historygeo.com ($20 for three months). They have 40,000 maps so far, from historic maps, family land grant maps and atlases to county and state maps. Click on Map Library to learn what they have for each state.
Lynda Rego has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lynda.rego where she shares tips on genealogy and other topics. Stop by, click on Like and share any interests you have for upcoming columns.