Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finding Aids

Much has been said about the majority of historical and genealogical records being unavailable online.

FamilySearch estimates that at least 90% of records are not available in a digital format. So how does a genealogist find and take advantage of the vast collections of paper records? One way is through the use of Genealogists.com to find the hardcopy records in the world's numerous archives and repositories.  Another way is through online finding aids.  This article discusses the latter.

Finding aids have been around for as long as there have been archives. A finding aid is a document that allows a researcher to find detailed information about a collection of records. Finding aids can take many forms. They can be as simple as a single page spreadsheet or as comprehensive as a website. 

The old style library card catalog was a finding aid. Nowadays, most libraries have their catalogs published online. While library catalogs focus on locating a specific book, finding aids direct researchers to specific collections within the larger archive. For example, the Massachusetts Historical Society houses several collections including the Adams Family Papers. Their website contains an online findingaid (or collection guide) that describes the complete Adams Family Papers. The collection includes diaries, letters of John, Abigail and several of their children as well as other miscellany like poetry and account books.

In larger archives and historical societies, a finding aid contains some or all of the following parts:
  • Overview of the collection
  • Biographical or historical information about the collection
  • Scope and Contents of the collection
  • Terms of use/access to the collection
  • Relevant information on the materials in the collection
  • Search terms or subject headings related to the collection
  • Content List (How the collection is stored and what it contains)
While many of the typical online records (used for genealogy) can provide a basic framework (such as census records, vital records, etc.) for our ancestors’ lives, archival collections may unlock our ancestors’ individual stories. 

The Library of Congress has hundreds of unique collections listed on their website. Each collection has an online finding aid. One collection is the “Louise Bates Ames papers, 1815-1996.” According to this finding aid, Louise was a child psychologist and educator. Her papers include diaries, photographs, and newspaper clippings. There are 52 boxes of materials. The collection has also been indexed; two of the indexed people are Dr. Benjamin Spock and Margaret Meed! 

While most of us do not have famous relatives, we might have an ancestor who knew someone famous, or perhaps served in a military unit led by someone noteworthy. The possibilities are endless! The Library of Congress is just one of hundreds of archives in the United States that publishes online finding aids to their collections.

The National Archives is another example of an archive with great online finding aids. Always check the archives in the regions near where your ancestors lived, keeping in mind that sometimes, manuscripts end up where you least expect them.

When you examine an archive's online finding aids and locate an intriguing box or diary in a special collection, notify Genealogists.com and their researchers will obtain the record for you.  Remember that Genealogists.com has researchers who work in the numerous archives and repositories located around the country and can access and send you the desired records. 

by Deborah Sweeney © 2015, Genealogists.com, All rights reserved

  © 2015, Genealogists.com, All rights reserved

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

7 Common Genealogy Research Mistakes to Avoid

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Guest Article by Lisa Lisson, Genealogist & Family Historian

Top Mistakes to Avoid When Researching Family's GenealogyGenealogy is one of today’s fastest growing hobbies, but getting started can be a bit overwhelming. Those new to genealogy often make mistakes. (That’s okay!)  Let’s talk about some common mistakes genealogists often make. After all, no one wants to spend all their time researching  a family only to discover they have connected to the wrong family tree!

Top Mistakes to Avoid When Researching Your Family’s Genealogy

1. Researching without a plan.
What do you want to learn about your family? Decide what you want to know before your start your research. You will stay more focused and be more successful in your research.
2. Failing to ask what information your family already knows.
In my early research on the Howard line of NC, I dutifully tracked the Howards through the census records…..until I couldn’t. I lost the Howards. After much research I discovered the family’s surname was originally Harward. I had been searching under the wrong surname. Once this was determined, I was back on track. I excitedly shared this information with my family. Their response? “You didn’t know that?” This was apparently common knowledge among the older generations of the family. I had failed to gather what family members already knew about our family prior to beginning my research. Be more efficient in your research by finding out what is already known.
3. Assuming everything you need for your research is online.
It is NOT. This cannot be stressed enough. More and more records used in genealogy research are coming online. This is a great benefit to the genealogist. But….not everything you need to research your ancestors thoroughly or break down those brick walls will be found in the records online. The online records really are just the “tip of the iceberg.” You will need to utilize “offline” records in archives and court houses, etc.
4. Assuming the family tree containing your ancestors found online is correct.
Researchers are people, so mistakes and incorrect assumptions happen. Just because someone posted a family tree online does not make it correct. If you fail to confirm your ancestor in the tree with your own research, then a mistake can be copied over and over. Use the online family trees as clues, but do your own research.
5. Failing to be broad enough in the spellings (or misspellings) of surnames.
Spelling of names is extremely variable as you go further back in the records! Take the surname Howard. In the process of extensive research, I have found the name spelled 12 different ways! Imagine the spelling variations of a more complex surname.
Tip: Think of the various ways a name might be spelled phonetically.
6. Believing everything you read!
Does the information make sense? People who created the documents genealogists research were human and human errors certainly occurred in the records. For example: Is there a child attributed to parents, but the child’s birth date is before the mother’s birth date? Obviously, this would be incorrect. The child’s birth date is wrong or the child is attached to the wrong mother. Pay careful attention to what the document is saying. If the information does not make sense, research a little more.
7. Failing to cite your sources.
Even if you have no intentions of publishing your research, cite your sources! You will be able to go back to a source quickly for more information or confidently share the information with another family researcher. Tip: Cite your sources as you go.
I have made every one of these mistakes at some point in my research. I have also spent a lot of time correcting my mistakes. You do not have to!
Avoiding these genealogy research mistakes will help you become an efficient and accurate researcher. Are there any other mistakes you’d add to the list? 
About Lisa:
Lisa Lisson is a genealogist, blogger and Etsy-preneur who writes about her never-ending pursuit of ancestors, the “how” of genealogy research and the importance of sharing genealogy research with our families. Specializing in North Carolina and southern Virginia research, she also provides genealogical research services to clients. In researching her own family history, Lisa discovered a passion for oral history and its role in genealogy research.
When not tracking ancestors through the records, Lisa enjoys spending time with her husband and two “almost” grown children.
You can find Lisa online at LisaLisson.comTwitterPinterest, and her Etsy storeEsther’s Place – Heritage Inspired Gifts

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  © 2015, Genealogists.com, All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dating Old Family Photos – Victorian Era (1840-1900)

If you’ve been researching your family history for a while or just beginning the process, you’ve likely caught the genealogy detective bug. But even if you’re the best genealogy sleuth of the bunch, you can still often run into some brick walls, especially when  attempting to identify family members in photos from the Victorian era. During the span of the late 1930s and up to the 1900s, it can be difficult to decipher which decade those vintage photographs were actually taken as hair and clothing styles looked much the same.

How to Date Old Photos by Women's Hairstyles
But just as you can date photographs by photo type, you can also identify ancestors and date photos by equipping yourself with the knowledge of women’s hairstyles of yesteryear.
Knowing how to identify Victorian era female hairstyles can be one of the most surefire ways of dating old family photos. Remember, however, that the descriptions below are generalities and you very well could stumble upon exceptions to these rules.

Victorian Era Hairstyle Types by Decade

1840s Hairstyles

When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in the late 1830s, her style had a heavy influence on trends in women’s hairstyles in the 1840s.
1940 Style Bun
“Thomas Sully 001 detail 1″ by Thomas Sully – The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
What to look for: Ringlets and coils with ears hidden by puffs, with hair parted down the center. Topknots were also worn toward the back of the head as opposed to the front (an 1830s style).
Photo credit: 1840s Hair Dos
Photo credit: 1840s Hair Dos
Tip: If you see a female child with hair parted on the side from this time period, it was likely a boy dressed as a girl. 

1850s Hairstyles

In the 1850s, photography was still considered a new technology. But as photo processes became more advanced and less expensive with the introduction of ambrotype portraits, women wanted to look more sophisticated in their photos.
1850s Women's Hairstyle
Photo credit: gracefullady on Flickr
What to look for: Hair parted in the front with a bun set back halfway. Sides of hair should be smoothly waved and ears still hidden by puffs. Puffs were worn bigger in the evenings with thin ringlets coming out of the bun at times.
1856 Female Hairstyle
Photo credit: cynthiarxx on Pinterest
Tip: Look also for modestly-sized caps with flowers and ribbons dangling from the bun, as well as flat-lace caps set back far on the head with tapered ends and long tails on the sides. 

1860s Hairstyles

The 1860s saw some of the same hairstyle trends as the 1850s but changed somewhat with the hair still parted center, but those familiar “puffs” soon disappeared.
1860s Women's Hairstyles from Front
Photo credit: The Winding Ascent
What to look for: Hair parted down the center with hair drawn behind the years tightly into a bun worn at the back of the head, sometimes with lace, flowers, netting or arranged in braids and loops. If hair was worn over the ears, puffs were no longer worn. Bangs were also obsolete. Female children wore their hair similarly at times, but with just one side curled and puffed, held in place with grease. As the 1860s progressed, the front of these hairstyles began to lose their parts, with hair falling around the face and curled into ringlets then combed.
1860s Hair Braids in Bun Back View
Photo credit: meganmiso on Pinterest
Tip: Formal hairstyles were rounder and fuller in the back and the sides, often enhanced with false animal hair, ribbons, silver, gold and other embellishments.  

1870s Hairstyles

In the 1870s, women took elegant, feminine fashion cues from Queen Victoria and well-known actresses as the decade advanced.
1870s Women's Hairstyles
Photo credit: UVM.edu
What to look for: Hair that is pulled back at the sides showing the ears in full. Shorter styles were also introduced, but knots, ringlets and additions of false hair supplemented the shorter styles. Bangs also came back. Elaborate hairstyles with lace, ribbons and flowers.  Mullets were also introduced during this time period with long tails down the back and a high top with the sides of hair pulled back.
1870s Women's Hairstyle Short
Photo credit: Photo Tree
Tip: If you had family members from the “Wild West” hair was typically worn longer over the shoulders and back and often curled. 

1880s Hairstyles

Fashionable hairstyles for women in the 1880s became increasingly shorter and more man-like as the demand for survival far outweighed the importance of elegance, yet styles still came with feminine touches.
1880s Women's Hairstyles
Photo credit: UVM.edu
What to look for: Shorter hair, pulled back from the sides pulled on top of the head or curled into ringlets. Shorter bangs were sometimes cut for an extra feminine touch and ears were shown. Longer hair was also still worn in some societal circles but considered uncivilized. If hair was longer, it could be worn in buns off the face.

1890s Hairstyles

The hairstyles of the 1890s reflected the lives of the women living in industrialized nations as either mothers or workers if they were without children.
What to look for: Longer, feminine locks were worn by those women who lived a more leisurely life. Buns were also worn further back with ringlets and shorter bangs if the woman was a worker.
Tip: Look for huge hats that were introduced in the 1890s with larger-than-life feathers.

Early 1900s Hairstyles

The optimistic, science-driven, post-Victorian world emerged in the 1900s and hairstyles reflected these new advancements.
1900s Female Hairstyle
Photo credit: mote history
What to look for: Full, and large hairstyles — this goes for long and short hair. Long, flowing curls. Sausage curls and ringlets worn down or in pompadour style (back of hair pulled into a flat coil then drawn onto the crown of the head).
Have you stumbled upon these hairstyles while looking at old family photos? Let us know in the comments! Now that you’re equipped with women’s Victorian era hairstyle knowledge, add those old family photos to your Crestleaf Family Tree!

This entry was originally posted by Crestleaf in Family PhotosGenealogy Tips and tagged  on April 15, 2015.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Accessing Offline Records

As the world's largest and fastest growing family history research firm,  Genealogists.com is often asked what is the key to our success. Our reply commonly includes one or both of the following facts:

1. Genealogists.com is not limited to the resources of any one archive, such as the Family History Library, but instead we can access most of the world's archives and repositories through our over 1,000 professional genealogists and researchers.

2. Genealogists.com is able to access the over 90% of family history records that are not yet online. This second response sometimes results in some skepticism from others. 

As this graphic points out, FamilySearch estimates that 93% to 94% of the records needed for family history research are still not online. FamilySearch points out that they have preserved 5.3 billion records. However, they freely admit that an additional 70 billion records still need to be preserved. In other words, only 6% of records have been preserved so far. Plus, FamilySearch points out that it will take 200 to 300 years to index online just the 5 billion records they have already preserved.

In addition, FamilySearch has determined that only 1 billion of the 28 billion (3.5%) people who have lived on the earth have been identified and their information linked online. In other words, 96.5% of the world's population still needs to have their family history recorded. Talk about job security!

No other firm is as ideally suited to access the world's records as Genealogists.com. No other research firm has anywhere close to the number of professional researchers that Genealogists.com has. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today to get your free quote and see how we can work together to bring your past to life.

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Mother's Day -- Research Special

This mother's day, give the gift of family to your mother or grandmother. 

For the next 8 days, Genealogists.com is offering our Introductory Research Package for only $495 -- a $300 savings!  This offer is valid now through May 10, 2015 for any new research project. 

For only $495, we will provide 6 to 8 hours of research, which can include an initial analysis of your family tree, a survey of what records are available for the area and time period in question, development of a research strategy, and research toward project objectives. We will provide digital results of everything found as well as a calendar/log showing our searches and the results. 

Now is an excellent time to take advantage of the resources of world's largest family history research firm to add to your family's stories and history. We have over 1,000 professional genealogists, historians, DNA experts, university professors, scholars, and archivists working worldwide in over 2,000 archives around the globe. Our experts access and analyze the over 90% of family history records that are not yet online. 

We provide high quality family history research services with prices customized to your specific research needs. 

To take advantage of this Mother's Day special, click the following link and enter your payment before May 10, 2015: Mother's Day Special.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.   We look forward to helping you make this Mother's Day one your mother will remember for the rest of her life. 

Note: This offer cannot be used on any previously requested or in process research.  For all clients on new projects only. This offer is only good through May 10, 2015.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read All About ... Your Family

When you think of using newspapers for genealogy research, be honest, what do you think of first? Obituaries! In general, most people automatically think of obituaries, too. However, newspapers are a resource that can be used for much more. They are a useful tool for finding your ancestor’s unique story, as well as for building an understanding of the historical events that may have shaped your ancestor’s life. For example, if your ancestor wrote or talked about an historical event, finding contemporary documentation can add more depth to your family narrative. If great Aunt Susannah mentioned the horrible flooding in Denver, Colorado, in July 1912, checking the local or national newspapers might reveal more details than Aunt Susannah was saying.

Some of the many reasons why ancestors can be found in newspapers:
Birth announcements
School reports, graduation announcements, scholarships awarded
Marriage and engagement announcements
Divorce decrees
Land sales and purchases
Political associations or careers
Criminal activities, legal disputes
Military pensions granted
Invention patents recorded
Social activities
Charitable work
Church activities
Musical or theatrical performances
Notice of movement, such as a visit to a faraway relative, relocation to a new city, a vacation or business trip
Accidents or Illnesses
Special anniversaries or birthdays
Business advertisements
Medical advertisements with testimonials
Funeral notices
Estate sales

Newspapers are great resources, but sometimes they are difficult to find. The Library of Congress has a great resource for locating newspapers, as well as their own digital collection of newspapers at Chronicling America.  The website also includes the index “U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690-Present.” This is a comprehensive database with over 150,000 titles from all 50 states. Information on each newspaper ranges from when and where the paper was published to which repositories contain copies of the paper today. 

There are several resources for digital newspapers online though the vast majorities remain in local archives. By starting with the U.S. Newspaper Directory, you can determine whether or not a local paper existed in the area where your ancestor lived, and then, you can find the repository that houses the newspaper. Some repositories have staff members that are able to help locate specific articles. Many have limited manpower and time restraints, and do not have hours to spend searching through reels of microfilm. 

This is where a member from the Genealogists.com team can help. With access to repositories around the country (and the world), they can access historical newspapers and take the time to locate those news worthy items that highlighted your ancestors’ lives.

Article by Deborah Sweeney, the Genealogy Lady 

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