Thursday, February 19, 2009

African American History Month

Hi everyone, I am back. I keep getting side tracked. This time it was the beta testing of new FamilySearch (nFS) and FamilySearch Tree. There are some new things coming with these updates. Can't talk about them, but it makes some of the functions much easier. Also, I have been trying to sync my AncestralQuest file with nFS. The interface between the two works great. I have also been teaching my Family History classes and have been busy getting things ready for them. Now back to business.

February is African American History Month. The theme this year is "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas."

A proclamation by President Obama states "This year's theme, "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas," is a chance to examine the evolution of our country and how African Americans helped draw us ever closer to becoming a more perfect union.

The narrative of the African American pursuit of full citizenship with all of the rights and privileges afforded others in this country is also the story of a maturing young Nation. The voices and examples of the African American people worked collectively to remove the boulders of systemic racism and discrimination that pervaded our laws and our public consciousness for decades. Through the work of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall, the African American community has steadily made progress toward the dreams within its grasp and the promise of our Nation. Meanwhile, the belief that those dreams might one day be realized by all of our citizens gave African American men and women the same sense of duty and love of country that led them to shed blood in every war we have ever fought, to invest hard-earned resources in their communities with the hope of self empowerment, and to pass the ideals of this great land down to their children and grandchildren.

If you have tried to do African American genealogy research you know that it can be difficult to find records. So I decided to focus on some site that may be helpful in getting the research done.

First of all, FamilySearch Records pilot ( site has the Freedman Bank Records (1864-1874) and the Freedman's Burea Virginia Marriage Records (1815-1866) available online. Additionally, the 1850 US Census Slave Schedule is also available at this site.

Another useful site is Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database ( This site has information on almost 35,000 slave trading voyages with a total of over 10 million slaves who were brought to the Americas. You can research the various ships or look at the slave name database for information.

AfriGeneas ( is another site that may be useful. Their goal is to encourage and support the research of African ancestored individuals in researching their roots. This site has received awards from DearMyrtle and Dynastree and is consistently listed as one of FamilyTree Magazine's Top 101 Best Websites. This site provides great how-to guides for researching African American ancestory.

Access Genealogy ( has a fairly comprehensive list of websites that are available to assist in your research. It will probably take a while to go through all of the resources listed on this site and hopefully you will be able to find several that are especially of use to you.

I just ran across another great website this morning while doing some research. This website is from Suriname and includes a searchable database of 6,364 emancipated Surinamese slaves from 1832-1863. The site is located at The site is in Dutch so you will have to use a translator such as Google Translator or Babblefish. 

I also want to highlight a couple of websites associated with PBS. These are African American Lives 2006 ( and African American Lives 2 ( These sites have copies of interviews for famous African Americans such as Oprah, Chris Rock, Maya Angelou and others. Some of these stories are in video format and just send chills up your spine as you listen to them describe what it was like to find their ancestors. I especially liked Chris Rock's interview. These sites also include lesson plans for teachers to use.

I hope this discussion gives you some ideas on how to expand on African American History Month while doing genealogy research.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oh Canada!

Hi again, I know that it has been over a week since my last blog. I have been busy getting a new computer setup in our Family History Center. We have a little problem with it accessing our wireless network properly and it takes some skill to make it work. Hopefully that will be fixed by this weekend when I start my next 8 week Family History class during Sunday School.

I have been following a discussion thread on one of the boards concerning the Canada 1916 census. This census was on the FamiySearch Records site ( for a few days for testing and then was taken down due to contractual agreements. Several users were upset to see it go. After reading this discussion I decided to focus today's blog on online Canadian records.

Canada has a rich supply of online records for your genealogical research. I don't use the Canadian databases much since we only have one small line that settled in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia regions. 

FamilySearch Records pilot site currently has two sets of Canadian records indexed. These include the Ontario Death Records (1869-1939 and 1939-1947 overseas deaths only) and the Quebec Catholic Parish Registers (1621-1900). Currently there are no images posted for the Ontario Death Records but the index is fairly complete. Also, the volunteers at FamilySearch Indexing ( are working on parts of the 1861 census. These volunteers are doing an incredible job and just last month were able to add 40 million new records to the FamilySearch Records site. If you have some free time I would encourage you to volunteer and assist in the indexing of these records.

The Canadian Archives has a large number of records available. There are a couple of sites that I recommend when looking through the Canadian Archives. 

The first is Archives Canada ( This site is the gateway for archival resources found in over 800 repositories throughout Canada and is maintained by the Canadian Council of Archives. This site allows you to search archival holdings across Canada, access Provincial and Territorial archive networks, view digitized photographs, maps and documents, and find where materials are located so you can view the actual records. My luck in finding digital records within this database has not been great but I suppose that is because I haven't used it very often to do research. It does give great details about the collections and their locations as well as telling you whether these colections are open to the public or have restricted access.

The Libaray and Archives Canada collection ( is another great site for researching Canadian roots. They have a searchable database called the Canadian Genealogy Center which provides access to many of the records that you will need during your research. You can select to search all records, only those that are online or only those that are not online. For example, I searched for Smith and had 37,000 results but only 8,000 of those were online records. You can also narrow your search by using a range of years or the record type. The site contains birth, death, and marriage records along with military, employment, immigration, census and land records. The images are high quality, easy to read and easy to copy to your own records. Another thing I like about this site is their Youth Corner. This part of the site is currently down but it is expected to be available by the end of the month. The goal here is to promote interaction between the generations.

That's My Family ( is a site run by the National Archives of Quebec. This search tool leads to genealogy and family history databases hosted by federal, provincial and territorial archives and libraries as well as other partners. This is another very useful search tool since it covers a wide variety of records and has a fairly easy to use interface.

I hope that some of these sites prove useful in your research. And remember, it is cold in Canada during the winter, so curl up next to a nice warm fire with your laptop and do some research for your ancestors from the great white north. Eh?