Monday, September 7, 2020

Giving Back to Your Community Through Family History

 As family historians, much of our work is to record the history of our families and try to tell the stories of our ancestors. Some of us have specialized in specific parts of our research such as DNA, photographs, or home histories. Through all of our research we have found new cousins who are thankful for the work that we have done recording these stories. But much of the information we use originates as a result of work by others. Those people, the ones who do indexing, record burial places, and provide access to the various records that we use, are the angels that we don't always recognize. There are many ways that we can give back to our community through participating in the preservation of information and making it available to others. I have participated in many of these projects and have created a few of my own over the years.

Some of the easiest projects to find are indexing or transcription of records. There are many indexing projects available online and with the isolation and closure of many repositories due to COVID-19, many more are making their records available to indexers. Here are just a few examples:

FamilySearch Indexing is the standard for indexing records. FamilySearch has a wide variety of records available for indexing in many different languages. They really need your help if you are able to read other languages. There are several interesting projects available which you can participate in. This year is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote in the United States. As part of this centennial event, FamilySearch is providing more voting records that need indexing. Additionally, they have released a large number of city directories from around the US. Some of these city directories have up to 300 names per page. FamilySearch Indexing allows you to create groups where you can work with your genealogical society, church group, or any other organization to index records together. All of the records indexed on FamilySearch are freely available to researchers.

Zooniverse is a crowd sourcing platform where organizations and researchers can place their projects for citizen volunteers to participate in. There are a variety of projects posted there including some record indexing projects. One indexing project that they are hosting is the American World War I Burial Cards Project. This project helps to record the burial locations of over 78,000 American soldiers from WW I. The Every Name Counts Project is an attempt to record the names of the millions of people who were held prisoner or killed in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The ANZACS Project works to record the stories of the men and women from New Zealand who served during WW I. Another project, the Criminal Characters Project, tells the story of the English criminals who were sent to Australia as punishment.


This period of social distancing has also made archives rethink their operating plans. Many archives have allowed their staff to work from home digitizing documents and preparing them for online access. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a Citizen Archivist Project where the public can help transcribe some of the many records held by the archive.

The Library and Archives of Canada has a similar project where volunteers can help record information so other researchers can use that information to discover their ancestor's stories.

Many states have also provided projects for volunteers to help record information. The Ohio Memory Project has their Ohio Memory Transcriptions Project where volunteers can work on several projects including the Toledoans in WW II, the Warren G. Harding Collection, and the Ohio History Collection. Search for your state to see if they also have projects.


We all need time outside to get exercise and just relax. Many of us have participated in FindAGrave and BillionGraves projects over the years. Both of these have their own mobile apps: FindAGrave app, BillionGraves app. You can see which cemeteries in your area still need burials recorded and spend a few hours in the fresh air, getting some exercise, and helping others find information on their ancestors.

BYU Linking Labs also has a variety of projects. These projects are developed by students at BYU to test many of the most advanced technologies such as handwriting recognition software. Assisting with these projects not only helps index records but is also used to develop more accurate computer algorithms. A list of their projects can be found on their Projects Page. Their African-American Families and Customized Geo Hints Projects allow you to search in a specific area or surname and attach records to their families in FamilySearch. The Automated Indexing Project uses a computer algorithm to select similar information such as surnames or cause of death. This is an easy way to index records by selecting choices that match the record you see on the screen and letting the computer program know if any of the words are not correctly matched.

There are also projects that individuals are working on to make more records available. The Family Bible Preservation Project is one such project. This project has over 5,000 pages, many of them from family bibles, which have been digitized and saved to FamilySearch Memories. Volunteers can select pages and attach them to the people on FamilySearch. Many of these family bibles have been separated from their families and found in various places such as online auctions, flea markets, antique shops, and yard sales. Without this project, many of these families would never know that there was a family bible with their ancestor's information.

You can even start your own projects. Over the years, I have purchased old photographs at antique sales and have attached them to their records in FamilySearch. Imagine doing your research and finding a picture of your great-great grandmother already attached to her profile. My current project is reading the stories in my hometown newspaper and connecting them to people from the community. My current focus is connecting stories about individuals during WW II. Some of these stories are about furlough visits, their letters, injuries, or missing or killed in action.

All of these activities are available for volunteers to participate in to make more records available to researchers. I don't always have time to contribute to these projects but last month I was able to index over 1,000 records for FamilySearch. Even if you only have a few minutes to participate in these projects, the records you contribute could be the one that someone has been looking for to break down their brick wall.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Virtual Family History Escape Rooms

Hello everyone. We have been preparing for Hurricane Isaias this weekend and now it is a tropical storm. So what do you do when you are waiting on a storm that doesn't come? You catch up on some projects that you have been planning on doing for a few months.

You might have noticed the series of Family History Scavenger Hunts that I included here during June. Since then I had been wanting to do some family history themed virtual escape rooms. So, yesterday and today I wrote up the first two. The links are posted below. Each of these escape rooms lead you to discover facts about an individual through searches in various records. Correct and incorrect answers take you down different paths and some may result in the end of the game. The ultimate goal is to escape the game by answering as many questions correctly as you can. 

As I develop more virtual escape rooms I will add them below.


I hope you have fun exploring these virtual family history escape rooms. Please provide feedback if you find any problems or have suggestions. Feel free to use these and my scavenger hunt events for your own activities.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Family History Scavenger Hunt - Day 27

Overview & Purpose

Today is the last day of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. I hope those who participated enjoyed themselves and learned about some new sites. We all love scavenger hunts, hunting for the clues and discovering new things. All of the Scavenger Hunt activities are posted on my genealogy blog at https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/ along with a link to the answers.
I hope you have fun with today's tasks.

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form found at https://forms.gle/xzUj8s7AKgKLLMdZ7.   
Today’s Challenge

We are now on Day #27 of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. Today we are going to explore the Digital Public Library of America (https://dp.la/).

Hint

  • The Digital Public Library of America (https://dp.la/) gathers the digital collections of many sites including the Hathi trust, Google Books, and various universities.


Questions

  1. Search for the Decennial record of the class of 1903, Princeton University. Read the full text version of the book. Who was the class president?
  2. Search for the Postmaster Appointments for Mercer County, Ohio. Who are the two people listed as Postmasters in New Bremen during 1835 and 1837?
  3. Search for William V Westerheide.  What war did he fight in?
  4. Search for the Petition for Naturalization of William E. Harris. Where was he born?
  5. Search for Sylvester Reeder. What college did he attend in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia?


Bonus Points (Optional)

  • Search for Francis Marion Coker and find a letter from W. B. C. Coker written on July 28, 1861. Look at the first page of the letter. Who did India Coker marry?

Action

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form (https://forms.gle/xzUj8s7AKgKLLMdZ7).  I will provide the answers to all who have completed the scavenger hunt by 8:00 pm EST on June 30.  I hope you had fun participating in the Family History Scavenger Hunt during June. The answers for all scavenger hunt events are being posted to my blog https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Family History Scavenger Hunt - Day 26

Overview & Purpose

We all love scavenger hunts, hunting for the clues and discovering new things. This scavenger hunt will occur daily during the month of June.

The clues will be posted each evening on the Indian River Genealogy Conference Facebook page (www.facebook.com/IRGConf), Friends of Vero Beach Family History Center Facebook group (www.facebook.com/159642411143167) and the genealogy blog at https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/.

The tasks will introduce you to a variety of online sources and help you learn new research sites and how to use them effectively to discover your ancestors. 

Join in the fun, discover new sites, and learn how to research on sites that you may have never used before. 

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form found at https://forms.gle/5NjEZ7CYxQRFe7JX6.    

Today’s Challenge

We are now on Day #26 of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. Today we are going to explore the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System database managed by the National park System (https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm). 

Hint

The Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System can be used to search for individuals, regiments, cemeteries, battles, prisoners, monuments, and medals of honor.

Questions
  1. Search for James F Coker from Georgia. What battle unit was he a member of?
  2. Click on the battle unit that James F Coker was a member of. How many members of this unit were present at Gettysburg?
  3. Click on the Battle of Gettysburg link. How long was the train of wounded Confederate soldiers?
  4. Search for the 37th Ohio Infantry memorial. At which battlefield is it located?
  5. Search for William E Harris from Florida who fought for the Confederacy. What battle unit was he with?

Bonus Points (Optional)
  • How many armed conflicts occurred during the Civil War?

Action

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form (https://forms.gle/rYeJbTSh5MGemAi66).  I will provide the answers to all who have completed the scavenger hunt by 8:00 pm EST on June 29.  Even though we no longer have any prizes, I hope that you will continue to participate and invite your friends to join in the fun.

Family History Scavenger Hunt - Day 25

Overview & Purpose

We all love scavenger hunts, hunting for the clues and discovering new things. This scavenger hunt will occur daily during the month of June.

The clues will be posted each evening on the Indian River Genealogy Conference Facebook page (www.facebook.com/IRGConf), Friends of Vero Beach Family History Center Facebook group (www.facebook.com/159642411143167) and the genealogy blog at https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/.

The tasks will introduce you to a variety of online sources and help you learn new research sites and how to use them effectively to discover your ancestors.

Join in the fun, discover new sites, and learn how to research on sites that you may have never used before.

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form found at https://forms.gle/rYeJbTSh5MGemAi66.   

Today’s Challenge

We are now on Day #25 of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. Today we are going to explore a newspaper search engine called Elephind (https://elephind.com).

Hint

Elephind (https://elephind.com) allows you to search many of the large newspaper databases simultaneously with a total of over 4,000 titles. Try this site before you go to the other databases. Sometimes when searching a name you will want to place the name in quotes “Jim Smith” to narrow down your results. Try the searches with and without the quote marks.

Questions

  1. Bernard Garmann was ordained a priest in 1909. In what seminary did he study?
  2. Henry Aufderhaar was shot and killed by his father-in-law in 1872. What was the name of the murderer?
  3. Artrude Westerhedie was married in 1933. What was the name of her husband?
  4. Homer Wesner and his wife Gertrude filed for divorce in 1921. What monthly amount was Homer ordered to pay his wife for child support?
  5. Viola Truesdale died in 1914. What was the cause of her death?


Bonus Points (Optional)

  • How many newspapers (not newspaper titles) can be searched with the Elephind search engine?


Action

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form (https://forms.gle/rYeJbTSh5MGemAi66).  I will provide the answers to all who have completed the scavenger hunt by 8:00 pm EST on June 28.  Even though we no longer have any prizes, I hope that you will continue to participate and invite your friends to join in the fun.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Family History Scavenger Hunt - Day 24

Overview & Purpose

We all love scavenger hunts, hunting for the clues and discovering new things. This scavenger hunt will occur daily during the month of June.

The clues will be posted each evening on the Indian River Genealogy Conference Facebook page (www.facebook.com/IRGConf), Friends of Vero Beach Family History Center Facebook group (www.facebook.com/159642411143167) and the genealogy blog at https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/.

The tasks will introduce you to a variety of online sources and help you learn new research sites and how to use them effectively to discover your ancestors.

Join in the fun, discover new sites, and learn how to research on sites that you may have never used before.

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form found at https://forms.gle/8AQm7o2SLZ63n7SN9.   

Today’s Challenge

We are now on Day #24 of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. Today we are going to explore the genealogy resources available at the National Archives Resources for Genealogists (https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy).

Hint

Before you dive into the National Archives you may want to read through the Catalog Guide (https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy/catalog-guide) to become familiar with how records are searched on the site.

Questions

  1. Visit the National Archives Catalog (https://catalog.archives.gov/) and search for WWII Army Casualties: Ohio. In the search results select Web Pages and click on the link to WWII Army Casualties: Ohio. Read the Forward pages so you understand what is in this collection. Select Auglaize County and find Robert L Griner. What was his rank and type of casualty?
  2. Return to the National Archives Catalog and search for John Westerheide. During the Civil War, what was his military unit?
  3. Search the Catalog for Samuel Truesdell in the Revolutionary War pension and Bounty Land Warrant records. What is his file number?
  4. Search the Catalog for Minster Ohio. Find the National Register of Historic Places record for Minster Elementary School. What year was the school constructed?
  5. Search the Catalog for Joseph Bornhorst living in Auglaize County, Ohio in the 1900 US Census. What is his birth month and year?


Bonus Points (Optional)

  • Search for the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit for Bernard Garmann. Read through the pages of his file to find some very important genealogical information. What was his occupation?


Action

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form (https://forms.gle/8AQm7o2SLZ63n7SN9).  I will provide the answers to all who have completed the scavenger hunt by 8:00 pm EST on June 27.  Even though we no longer have any prizes, I hope that you will continue to participate and invite your friends to join in the fun.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Family History Scavenger Hunt - Day 23

Overview & Purpose

We all love scavenger hunts, hunting for the clues and discovering new things. This scavenger hunt will occur daily during the month of June.

The clues will be posted each evening on the Indian River Genealogy Conference Facebook page (www.facebook.com/IRGConf), Friends of Vero Beach Family History Center Facebook group (www.facebook.com/159642411143167) and the genealogy blog at https://milesgenealogy.blogspot.com/.

The tasks will introduce you to a variety of online sources and help you learn new research sites and how to use them effectively to discover your ancestors. 

Join in the fun, discover new sites, and learn how to research on sites that you may have never used before. 

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form found at https://forms.gle/xbMskbi8bq3sZGTU9.    

Today’s Challenge

Yesterday’s scavenger hunt was a bit more challenging than previous days. I wanted to give you a new resource but also demonstrate how different sites can be harder to navigate, especially foreign language sites. We are now on Day #23 of the Family History Scavenger Hunt. Today we are going to return to the US and look at veteran’s records. The US Department of Veterans Affairs maintains the National Gravesite Locator database (https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/) where you can find the burial locations of your veteran ancestors.

Hint
The National Gravesite Locator (https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/) database is updated daily. You can search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker.

Questions
Search for burials with the surname Westerheide. How many individuals with this last name are listed in the database?
Locate the burial information for Vernon J Westerheide. What branch of the military did he serve in?
What war was Vernon Westerheide a veteran of?
Search for William H Coker who died in 1861. Where is he buried?
Search for Estill Herbert Walker and click on the cemetery he is buried in. Read about the history of the cemetery. What was the battle that the original soldiers who were buried here fought in?

Bonus Points (Optional)
The American Battle Monuments Commission (https://www.abmc.gov/) provides information on service members buried in overseas cemeteries. Go to this website and search for Lexow. What was this individual’s name, rank and where was he interred?

Action

Answers will be submitted using a Google Form (https://forms.gle/xbMskbi8bq3sZGTU9).  I will provide the answers to all who have completed the scavenger hunt by 8:00 pm EST on June 26.  Even though we no longer have any prizes, I hope that you will continue to participate and invite your friends to join in the fun.