Thursday, July 30, 2015

The State of Census

The United States Federal censuses from 1790 through 1940 are some of the most valuable records that genealogists use. They enable researchers to track families in numerous ways, including: 
  • Migration patterns (or lack thereof)
  • Size (as they increase or decrease) as children are born, grow up and move out to form their own households
  • Social and economic factors (professions, trades and real estate)
Federal census records are readily accessible through, FamilySearch, or even at your local National Archives. It would be very difficult to find a researcher who has not used these federal records. However, have you ever used State census records to find your family?

State (or territorial) censuses generally fulfilled the same purpose as the federal census. They counted people, either for tax purposes or for allocation of local funding, etc. While Federal census data was collected during the years ending with “0,” a state census might have been done during the years ending with “5” or a different number. 

By examining the state censuses provided by the U.S. census bureau, you might reach a different conclusion altogether. Of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, only nine states refrained from conducting a state census or special enumeration at some point in their history. Mississippi, Iowa, Oregon and Washington top the list with over a dozen different state conducted censuses.

All state censuses were not created equally. For example, both Massachusetts and Illinois administered a census in 1855. The Massachusetts census is similar to the 1850 federal census. Each member of the household is enumerated by name, age, sex, occupation, and birthplace. In Illinois, however, the state census is similar to the 1840 federal census (or earlier). Only the head of household is enumerated and family members are noted by tick marks.

While some censuses are available online, others are not. Take New Jersey, for example. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey conducted state censuses every ten years, starting in 1855 until 1915. Ancestry’s catalog shows only one New Jersey state census for 1895. This database contains the digital images of the census. Family Search has three indexes available: 1885, 1905, and 1915. Unfortunately, none of the images are online. They are accessible on microfilm for the years 1855, 1865, 1885, 1895, 1905 and 1915. The 1875 census is not available through Family Search. The only repository with the complete collection of New Jersey state censuses is the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton.

Between the availability of state censuses online and those that can be ordered on microfilm from Salt Lake City, most people have a good chance of finding at least some of the state census records they need. However, it is simply not possible to view every state census in this manner. You can start planning your next genealogy road trip now or you can contact Our researchers can find and access the state census records that you need in the numerous archives located around the world.

Deborah Sweeney is a genealogist, blogger and author of the books Dear Mother, Love Daddy and Alfred M. Dicks of Crawford County, Illinois. She is currently working on a multiyear project to transcribe and publish the World War II letters written by her grandparents You can find Deborah online at

By Deborah Sweeney, who is a genealogist, blogger, and author of several books.  She is currently working on a multi-year project to transcribe and publish the World War II letters written by her grandparents.  You can find Deborah online at, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dating Victorian Era Photos (1840-1900)

Helpful Clothing Clues

If you’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to identifying family members in old photos from the Victorian era, you’re not alone. Even the most seasoned family historian will run into this headscratcher from time to time as Victorian fashions throughout the time period can look very similar to the untrained eye.
Dating Old Family Photos Using Men's Clothing from the Victorian Era
Photo Credit: freeparking :-| via Compfight cc
But just as you can decipher the dates of Victorian family photos by photo type,women’s clothing styles and hairstyles, you can also do so by using fashion hints found in men’s clothing from the Victorian era.
This article will help you date old family photos and identify ancestors by breaking down men’s Victorian era clothing style characteristics by decade. Keep in mind that the descriptions are generalities and you could end up coming across exceptions to these clothing clues during your research.

Victorian Era Men’s Fashion by Decade

1840s Men’s Clothing Styles

In the Victorian era, men’s daily dress was more formal than it is today. This was especially true in the 1840s when men’s clothing offered tightly tailored coats and trousers. In the early 1840s, shirts contained high straight collars with thin cravats worn in a bow tie style. Later in the decade, cravats were wider and fabric was held in place by frames.
1840 Men's Clothing Victorian Era
Photo credit:
What to look for: Low, tight-cinched waists, rounded chest and flared frock-coats giving the illusion of an hourglass figure. Cutaway coats with fitted sleeves. Wide lapels.Tight trousers and waistcoats, high upstanding collars with neckties tied around them. Hair was worn long and over the ears quite a bit. Sideburns were also popular.
Tip: If your ancestor is wearing a military uniform, a fitted double-breasted coat could let you know that the photo was taken in the 1840s.

1850s Men’s Clothing Styles

1850s men’s fashion was still considered formal, but clothing was looser, less tailored and made a statement with embellishments. During this time, men’s frock coats had wider lapels and waistcoats were adorned with metal buttons and patterns. The sack coat — a loosely fitted jacket — was also introduced. Cravats were heavily starched and tied in asymmetrical fashion during the early 1850s, but toward the end of the decade, softer cravat styles emerged.
1850s Men's Clothing Styles Victorian Era
Photo credit:
What to look for: Matching trousers, waistcoats and frock coats. Thigh-length sack coats. Oversized jackets. Large bow ties. Tight and high-fastening frock coats. Trousers worn down to the floor or with stirrups. Black velvet jacket collars. Wide lapels. Square-toed boots. Mutton-chop sideburns and mustaches.
Tip: Look for bowler hats which were invented in the early 1850s. These hats were largely seen in the working classes.

1860s Men’s Clothing Styles

Men’s clothing of the 1860s featured single-breasted and semi-fitted coats and jackets that fell to the mid-thigh. Waistcoats during this decade came without collars. Men also wore their collars highly-starched with neckties and elaborate cravats during the earlier part of the century, and by the late 1860s, string-style cravats that were more narrow emerged.
1860's Men's Fashion Victorian Era
Photo credit: Photos Made Perfect
What to look for: Single-breasted, semi-fitted coats falling to mid-thigh. Collarless waistcoats. Turned down collars. Small, narrow bow ties. Narrow lapels. Hair parted in center and waved. Long side-whiskers with full beards.

1870s Men’s Clothing Styles

Every fashionable gentleman could be seen wearing narrowly tailored sack suits during the 1870s. Frock coats were still considered fashionable for daywear, as well. And even though matching suits were still worn, men’s fashion began to shift toward mismatched separates. Very slim cravats with tiny bow ties were also popular.
1870s Men's Fashion Victorian Era
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
What to look for: Lighter-colored trousers and black coats. Tiny bow ties and slim cravats. Semi-fitted coats and jackets, buttoned high. Stiff shirt collars with tips turned down. Hair parted in the center. Many type of facial hair: full mustaches, full beards, walrus mustaches that droop down and are oiled.
Tip: During the 1870s it was rare to see a man with a clean-shaven face.

1880s Men’s Clothing Styles

As the Victorian era neared its ending during the 1880s, fashionable men preferred lounge suits over more formal suit styles for daywear. Lounge suits offered slim silhouettes and jackets were worn partially undone, showing off a more relaxed style and revealing high-buttoned waistcoats and watch chains.
1880s Men's Clothing with Watch Chain Victorian Era
Photo credit:
What to look for: Jackets worn unbuttoned. High-buttoned waistcoats. Narrow lapels. Stiff collars, turned down. Watch fob chains. Narrow bow ties. Knotted ‘four in hand’ neckties. Shorter hairstyles.

1890s Men’s Clothing Styles

Lounge suits continued to trend well into the 1890s with trousers sporting creases down the front. Older gentlemen still wore frock coats, but younger conservative men would sometimes do so, as well. Shirt collars were still worn high and starched with tips turned down into wings during the earlier part of the 1890s. Collars were then worn down with long, knotted ties during the latter part of the decade.
1890s Men's Clothing Victorian Era
Photo credit: gretagreengoril on Pinterest
What to look for: Three-piece lounge suits. Stand up wing tip collars. Wide lapels with contrasting fabric. Four-in-hand large knot ties. Military uniforms with stand up collars. Short hair parted on the side without sideburns. Heavy mustaches.
Tip: Older men sported beards during this decade, while more and more younger men were opting for clean shaves.

Early 1900s Men’s Clothing Styles

Victorian era fashions drew to a close in the early 1900s to make way for Edwardian era styles. Due to the growth in the fashion industry, the ability to mass-produce clothing made it more affordable for any man to be fashionable — not just the elite. Norfolk jackets were introduced during this time period and sack coats were still worn over evening attire. Cuffed trousers were also fashionable during the early 1900s.
Early 1900s Men's Clothing
What to look for: Knee-length topcoats. Calf-length overcoats. Norfolk jackets (look for box pleats over the chest and matching fabric belts). Sack coats. Lounge coats. Tightly-fitted, short trousers with cuffs and creases on front and back. Tall, stiff shirt collars, turned down. Shirt studs. Shirts with stripes. Ascot ties. White bow ties. Top hats. Bowler hats. Straw boater hats with flat crowns and brims. Ribbons tied around crowns of boater hats. Wide lapels. Facial hair. Left off center part in flat hair styles.
Have you stumbled upon these Victorian men’s clothing styles while searching through old family pictures? Let us know in the comments! 
This entry was originally posted by Crestleaf in Family Photos, Genealogy Tips and tagged , ,  on July 15, 2015 by 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 Free Historical Photo Sites for Finding Your Ancestors

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Find Old Family Photos Using These Free Sites

10 Free Historical Photo Sites for Finding Your Ancestors
Photo Credit: Robin Hutton via Compfight cc
If you’re like us, you love flipping through old family photo albums to discover more about your family’s history. And if you’ve been fortunate enough to interview your elderly or extended family members, they’ve likely divulged some fun and interesting stories behind those photos that you’ve happily added to your family tree.
In addition to your old family photo albums, there are other great places to find old photographs of your ancestors, including historical photo websites you can use for free!
Whether you’re looking for a specific family member, or wish to find old photos of your ancestral hometowns, these 10 free historical photo sites will allow you to search for and discover more about your family’s history online.

10 Free Historical Photo Sites for Family Historians

1. Ancestor Search – Photo Search Engine

An interactive directory of the best, free genealogy and historic photo search engines. Search top world-wide and specialized databases. To search for photos, enter a surname and discover long-lost ancestors.

2. Ellis Island Passenger Ship Search

If your ancestors immigrated to Ellis Island, you should use this passenger ship photo search tool by Steve Morse. Find pictures of the ships that brought your immigrant ancestors to America by searching the official Ellis Island website as well as other passenger ship databases.
Passenger Ship Historical Photo
Photo Credit: amphalon via Compfight cc

3. Family Old Photos

Search this free historic photo archive that contains over 32,000 old photographs. Discover ancestors and the towns in which they lived. You can also search for your family surnames as well as old pictures of family members. There is even an option to add your own family photos.

4. The Francis Frith Collection

Explore your British roots by searching over 138,000 old photos of 32,000 UK towns and villages taken between 1860 and 1970. You can also sift through 1,700 local and nostalgic books, 27,000 old maps and close to 50,000 shared memories.
UK Historical Village Photo
Photo Credit: postaletrice via Compfight cc

5. Images of England

Images of England allows you to view over 370,000 images of your English ancestors’ villages. This digital library of photos includes England’s buildings recorded at the turn of the 21st century. You’ll find everything from gravestones, to historic houses, churchyard monuments and more.

6. Library of Congress Historic Photos Flickr Project

Explore this amazing collection of historic photos from the Library of Congress archives. These digital versions of popular Library of Congress image collections rely on the identifying information that came with the original photos. Because the text can be incomplete, viewers can add names, descriptions, locations and tags to make the images even easier for people to discover their ancestral roots.
American Ancestor Historical Photo Portrait
Photo Credit: j2dread via Compfight cc

7. Military History Institute Photographs

Did your ancestor serve in the United States military? If so, you’ll want to explore this collection of photographs containing Civil War and Vietnam War soldiers. Other wars are also represented in this diverse collection.

8. The National Archives and Records Administration

The National Archives and Records Administration provides excellent download quality of public domain historic images. The search engine (ARC) also offers detailed search queries to make finding images from government agencies even easier. From EPA photographs of 1970s Texas to the Labor Bureau’s child labor images, you’re bound to find something interesting about your ancestors here.
Child Laborers HIstorical Photo
Photo Credit: postaletrice via Compfight cc

9. National Portrait Gallery

Search through over 100,000 portraits of historically significant Americans and other photographs by American artists. The gallery also contains images from the Catalog of American Portraits. Could you find a long lost ancestor here? There’s only one way to find out!

10. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum – Photo Archives

To aid in your Jewish genealogy research, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum offers searchable photo collections of historic photographs from the Holocaust given by institutions and individuals. These photos document anti-Jewish activities in Europe from 1933 to 1945.
Jewish Family HIstorical Photo
Photo credit: Yossi Nevo via Wikimedia Commons

Are there other free historical photo websites we should know about? Tell us about them in the comments!

This entry was originally posted by Crestleaf in Family Photos, Family Tree, Genealogy Records, Genealogy Resources,Genealogy Tips and tagged , ,  on July 7, 2015 by 

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

20 Best Online Family Tree Builders

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These Web-Based Family Tree Makers Are a Must for Every Family Historian

Best Online Family Tree Builders
Starting a family tree can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of researching your family’s history. Not only does family tree creation offer you a chance to see how you’re connected to your extended family, but it can be an especially fun process as you begin to uncover fascinating stories from your family’s past.
Online family tree builders have become so popular in recent years, that a new web-based tool seems to sprout up every day! And with big benefits such as the ability to digitally preserve your family memories, back up your family stories and photos and even collaborate with family members all over the globe, it’s no surprise that their popularity continues to rise.
Whether you want to jump start your family history research, digitally preserve your family’s legacy or back up your digitized family photos, these 20 family tree builders will provide you with easy access for discovering, sharing and saving your family stories online.

20 Best Online Family Tree Builders 

1. Ancestry: Online Family Tree 

Online Family Tree Maker Ancestry makes it even easier to discover your family’s past. Simply enter the facts you know about yourself and your family to begin. As you fill in more details and find yourself stumped, Ancestry will offer pop-up hints to help you fill in the missing pieces of your family history puzzle. Plus, with over 12 billion historical records in their database, you’re sure to discover some interesting family stories and ancestors to add to your tree! Build your online family tree

2. My Heritage: Family Tree

Online Family Tree Builder My Heritage

My Heritage has a few family tree products including their free online family tree builder. The site provides you with free online family tree search capabilities, tutorials on how to make your tree and billions of international, searchable genealogy records to discover your ancestors. In addition to their free online family tree tool, they also offer a paid version of a family tree builder you can download to your computer. Build your online family tree

3Findmypast: Family Tree

Online Family Tree Maker Find My Past

With the Findmypast online family tree builder, you can easily build a family tree and access it anywhere. In addition to the benefit of digitally preserving your family history research, Findmypast offers you accurate ancestor search results thanks to their genealogical society partners. Their search filters are quite nice, too, as they narrow your ancestor search results to save you valuable time. Build your online family tree

4. Family Tree Now

Online Family Tree Builder Family Tree Now
Family Tree Now offers you a free online family tree building experience. With one of the largest collections of genealogy records (census records, birth records, death records, marriage & divorce records, living people records and military records), you’re sure to find some long lost ancestors by using their search features. The best part about the Family Tree Now family tree builder is that you will never be charged fees to search,  view details or fill in your tree. Build your online family tree

5. Crestleaf Family Tree & Timeline

Online Family Tree Builder Crestleaf
Crestleaf is an online family tree collaboration tool for families to document their family history. With 90 million family records in the United States alone, Crestleaf is a leading provider of free genealogy information. Our team feels there is a story trapped behind every family photo, and the Crestleaf online family tree builder and timeline both help to digitally preserve your family memories in chronological order — for a lifetime. The timeline feature offers you ease of collaboration with your family members and the chance to engage with them by uploading family photos and bringing your family stories to life.  Store up to 1 GB of photographs free of charge! Build your online family tree.
6. Ages Online: Internet Family Tree Builder – An online family tree maker made by genealogists, for genealogists that offers secure protection of your research data.
7. Ancestral Forest - This online family tree builder provides you with tools to build, share, store and organize your research.
8. DrAlex FamiliaBuilder – An online family tree builder that allows you to import GEDCOM files, pictures, video clips and more to create a beautiful, secure family tree website.
9. FacesTree – Another great, always free online family tree tool.
10. Famberry – A collaborative online family tree builder that doubles as a private family social network.
11. Family Echo – An easy-to-use online family tree tool for drawing and sharing family trees. It offers GEDOM import and export, as well.
12. Family Mingle - A family meeting place that enables you to build an online family tree, plus stay in touch with family members via message boards, event scheduling and photo album sharing features.
13. Family Pursuit – An online family tree builder and genealogy service that allows you to coordinate family research with other family members all over the world.
14. Family Tree Online – Design an online family tree, easily. Enter family data and photos for free.
15. Famlu – Build your online family tree while collaborating with family members via forums, polls, chat and more.
16. LetMeTree - An online family tree maker that allows you to easily create your free family tree with GEDCOM export features.
17. Mozart.MD - The free online family tree maker with health benefits. Analyze your genetic history to improve your health!
18. - This online family tree builder saves your stories, photos and videos on a shareable, collaborative timeline.
19. The Family Link - Build your online family tree, share your family history and reconnect with relatives.
20. Tribal Pages: Free Family Tree Maker - An online family tree creator that is secure and private. Build your family tree online and invite your family members to view and update the tree.

Do you know of another online family tree builder we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

This entry was originally posted in CrestleafFamily TreeGenealogy RecordsGenealogy Resources and tagged on June 30, 2015 by .

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