52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy — Week 34: Flickr

Here is the challenge this week:

Week 34: Browse Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/). This is a photo-sharing web site allowing users to upload their photos, tag them with specific keywords and share them with the public if desired. Images pertaining to your genealogy research interests may be on this site. For example, one user has photographed and compiled a set of Texas Historical Markers (http://www.flickr.com/photos/texashistoricalmarkers/sets/). Experiment wi…th Flickr for this week’s challenge. Use different search terms related to locations, surnames and cemeteries. Notice how people label their photos. If you have a genealogy blog, describe what you find, or how this tool can benefit genealogy researchers.

I’ve been a Flickr user for quite a while and often will post scans of my family photos on there. You can tag photos with your surnames, place names and other information so that others who share these details with you can find you easily. You also can tag people in your photos and add them to a map. A cousin found me after finding one of my photos.

Other times, I’ll upload the images I’ve used in my blog posts and link back to my blog from Flickr. Using tagging as mentioned above, it’s another way to drive traffic to my blog and to find others with common interests.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Week 21: Maryland State Archives

I visited the Maryland State Archives for a client this week, in search of an elusive marriage record that the client’s family had sought for more than 60 years. I did my homework beforehand and knew exactly what to ask for when I showed up. The archives website provided all the information I needed to prepare ahead of time.

From the homepage, I clicked on Reference and Research in the left-hand sidebar. In the How to Find Specific Records section, I clicked on the link for Marriage Records.

There is an enormous amount of historical background available on this page! Be sure to read the information on how and when the state and counties started tracking marriages — it will make your search that much more fruitful if you are armed with this knowledge.

Since I knew the exact date and county of the marriage record I sought, I found the appropriate date range (Marriage Records 1776-1886) and then clicked on the links for the appropriate county (in this case, Talbot).

Here’s an example “Pull Slip” for one of the records I needed to search. I printed these pull slips out and took them with me to the archives. It was hard for me to tell from the information given in what format the records would be, so I was able to go over the pull slips with one of the archives staff. Some of the records were available online (some password protected and some not; the archives staff make the password available upon request).

In this particular case, I found two records referring to the marriage in question. One was a hand-written copy of the index and licenses transcribed from the original in the year 1861. I was able to view scans of this index online at the Archives and printed out the pertinent pages for my client. The other record contained the original pages from the county marriage license files, preserved and stored at the Archives. I was able to page through the book and take photos of the pages my client needed.

It was useful for my client to have both versions of the record. Why? She had found the marriage license indexed on Ancestry.com, but one of the surnames was spelled completely different. The client felt certain it was the right record because the other name, the date and the location all were correct. It appears the Ancestry.com record was indexed based on the 1861 hand-written copy, where we could see that a spelling error was introduced after comparing it to the original record, which showed the correct spelling of the name.

My email to the client after my trip to the archives elicited a “Yippee!” and “That’s it!!!!!  This is the proof my mother was seeking in 1950!!!!” (What a priceless feeling!)

If you are seeking similar records from a Marylander ancestor, I highly recommend exploring their site to see if you too can find the tools there to break down your brickwall. There are folks like me who can go to the archives for you to search for records (advisable if you need someone to do a bit of extra hunting because of missing or misinformation, as in the case above) or you can order them yourself.

I’ve posted previously on how to order death records from the MSA. If you live in Maryland, I highly recommend stopping by the archives and getting acquainted with all they have to offer. Be sure to use their web site first to make your trip a productive one!

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Google Maps

Here’s this week’s challenge from Amy at We Tree:

“Play with Google Maps. This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, a parking lot or a field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses in Google Maps, don’t forget to use the Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you were right there where your ancestors once stood. If you’ve used this tool before, take sometime and play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.”

I decided to look up the address my paternal grandfather listed on his WWI draft registration card. The address is in Northwest Washington, D.C. By looking at the various views on Google Maps, I was able to determine that he lived near the National Zoo:

And that the location is now nestled between a bank and a Verizon Wireless store:

Google Maps states that a management company (with some pretty negative reviews) currently is housed at the address, but there’s a For Rent sign in the window on Street View.

My grandfather was a physician and it’s likely that his practice was housed in this building as well, especially since it appears to be a mixed use area. I know that the family used to live on the premises because I have other documents, including a letter written by my father as a teenager, bearing the address.

What I want to know is if some of the photos I have of my dad were taken at this address, including his ever-popular Rick Astley shot, which would have been taken around the time the family lived at this address. Has the neighborhood changed that much or was this photo taken at a different location?

Folks who like this kind of task may get a kick out of the Historical Aerials web site. It’s not comprehensive, but you may luck out and be able to see what your ancestral locations looked like from the air decades ago. I was able to find a view of the above street corner from 1963.

[This post constitutes Task A in the Expand Your Knowledge Event of the GeneaBloggers 2010 Winter Games and earns me a bronze medal!]

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Online Databases at Your Public Library

I’m just squeezing in this week’s challenge:

“Online databases at your public library. Search your library’s web site and see if your card grants you access to online databases. Libraries (even small ones) often have wonderful online tools including genealogy databases, historical newspapers and more! Take some time and play with these little perks that come with a library card. You just may get some help in your own genealogy research and gain some free research tools to boot. If you don’t know how to access online library databases or you’re not sure if your branch has them, ask a librarian for guidance. If you have a blog, discuss which databases (if any) to which your library subscribes.”

I constantly turn to the online databases available through the Talbot County Free Library, especially their genealogy and newspaper databases, most of which I can access from the comfort of my own home using my library card number.

Here are my go-to resources offered by TCFL:

  • HeritageQuest Online: provides access to census records, books and articles, Revolutionary War files, Freedman’s Bank records and the U.S. Serials Set.
  • Sanborn Maps of Maryland: great resource for viewing historical maps of towns across Maryland.
  • Archives of the Easton Star-Democrat newspaper via Newsbank (I only wish these went back further).
  • Archives of the Baltimore Sun via ProQuest.

I also can access the databases available through the Caroline County Public Library. When I did research in their Maryland Room, I registered my TCFL library card with them so I could access their databases too.

Their archives of the Denton Journal through Newspaper Archive are spectacular and have provided much needed clues for some of my research projects.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Week 5: WorldCat

Ha! Finally caught up. I must profess my love for WorldCat — I use it all the time when helping patrons at the Internet Public Library because it’s the easiest way for me to tell what libraries are closest to them (if they’ve given me their location). It’s easy enough to show folks how to look up a book on this service and locate the closest copy, even if they haven’t given me their location.

If you find a book on Google Books, you can click through from there (use the “Find in a library” link) to see the book’s WorldCat results including which libraries near you may have it. Often when I stumble upon a book this way, I check out the subject headings for the book (see the red box below; click on the image for a larger version):

If you’re really lucky, the subject headings for your book will include surnames — click on the related headings for more titles focused on these subjects. It’s a serendipitous way to discover new resources.

52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy: Inter-Library Loan

I’m late (again) for this weekly series, but I’m also going to take a different spin on the original mission from We Tree:
“Learn about your local public library’s inter-library loan (ILL) policy. Pick a genealogy-related book that you want to read that is not in your library’s collection. Ask the librarian how to request the book from another library. Find the different library systems from which you can request books through your own library, as this can dramatically increase the number of genealogy books to which you have access. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experience with requesting items through your library’s ILL service.”

I’ve used and am a huge proponent of inter-library loan (ILL) services. Through my volunteer work with the Internet Public Library, I constantly refer patrons to their local libraries because even if their library doesn’t have a particular book that they may need or want, they usually can request it via inter-library loan.

The state of Maryland actually maintains a fleet of vehicles for this purpose (and if I could find my spring 2008 class notes, I could tell you exactly how many). The other morning, I saw a van belonging to the Eastern Shore Regional Library heading west on Route 50 here on the Shore. I wonder if they were transporting books for the ILL program.

Here’s how the ILL loan process works at my library: once I determine that a book I need is not available in my library’s catalog, but is available at another library in the system (either via WorldCat [more on this in a future post] or on Marina, the state’s library holdings database), I simply call or email the library and ask them to request the book for me. They also can request books from out-of-state institutions, but there is a $5 charge for this (still cheaper than having to buy your own copy of most books!). The hitch is that if a book is in high demand, you may have to wait a while before it becomes available to send your way.

I’ve also used the ILL system within the University System of Maryland libraries. I work on the College Park campus, but when I needed a book at one of the campuses in Baltimore, I was able to request that it be sent to one of the libraries on the College Park campus for me to pick up. Way more convenient!


52 Weeks to a Better Genealogy, Challenge #3

I’m a wee bit late for WeTree’s Week 3 challenge: “Assess yourself! You’re great at researching everyone else’s history, but how much of your own have you recorded? Do an assessment of your personal records and timeline events to ensure your own life is as well-documented as that of your ancestors. If you have a genealogy blog, write about the status of your own research and steps you may take to fill gaps and document your own life.”

I jumped into my family’s genealogy about 5 years ago, whilst assembling a scrapbook about my father’s life. But I really do need to do a better job of organizing my personal documents, photos and other stuff.

The good news is that there is plenty of stuff to organize. One of the saddest things that a genealogist faces is a lack of artifacts and sources to work with. Not so with my life! I was quite the packrat in my childhood. Sure, I’ve purged a lot over the past decade or so, but there’s still plenty left to document my life thus far.

I’m slowly starting to take apart the old magnetic and other albums that store my childhood photos. These I’m organizing into photo-safe scrapbooks from Creative Memories. Some will be traditional scrapbooks and some will be digital (using scans of photos). Others are more like traditional photo albums (you slip the photos into individual sleeves rather than laying them out on 12×12 or 8×8 pages). This latter option can be put together much faster, but journaling boxes and other scrapbooking materials can also be incorporated to tell stories and add fun touches to the photo pages.

I still have items like my childhood medical records, my elementary school ephemera, my high school and college newspaper clippings and more. These will have to be stored carefully as many of the items are very fragile. Luckily, Creative Memories has many options to help me with this endeavor as well.

This organization and preservation process doesn’t happen overnight, but the results will be well-worth it years from now when my personal history is still in good shape. Some might see this type of project as a chore, but I enjoy stirring up old memories as I go through old photo albums and create new ones.

Still not convinced you want to take on a project like preserving your own history? Then I’m here to help you. Drop me a line!

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #2

I’m lucky that the Easton branch of the Talbot County Free Library system houses the county’s Maryland Room. I’ve used the Maryland Room several times to access resources like county land records, the vertical file, rare biographies and more.

Talbot County has a rich history and this is reflected in the Maryland Room’s collection, which features manuscripts by James Michener (author of Chesapeake) and also papers related to Frederick Douglass.

The Maryland Room also houses photo collections, genealogies, map collections and ephemera representing the region’s history. It is an impressive archive and worthy of a visit to see what’s there even if you don’t have a particular project to work on.

I’ve gotten to know the Maryland Room’s librarian, Becky Riti, as she has helped me with my research projects many times. I was able to return the favor earlier this year by helping her to scour the vertical file and local history books for Easton history tidbits to be included in the town’s tricentennial calendar (2010 marks Easton’s 300th anniversary).