World Vital Records Launches Scottish Death Records 1747-1868

Over 13,000 geo-coded Scots deaths records have been posted at the new www.WorldVitalRecords.com website. This unique set of Scottish Death Records was extracted from parish records of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Specific parishes include Cockpen, Midlothian; Cranston; Crichton; Dalkeith; Dunfermline, Fife; Edinburgh; Fala; Gladsmuir; Heriot; Humbie; Newbattle; Pencaitland, Midlothian; Prestonpans, East Lothian; Salton; Shotts; Tranent, and East Lothian. The folks at World Vital Records continue to launch new data, almost on a daily basis.

Ancestry.com Adds About 300 New Online Resources from GPC

On August 24, Ancestry.com posted 301 new items, including many books that I’m familiar with. In running through the list, I find that the books seem to all be those published by Genealogical Publishing Company. These books cover many topics including: Irish, Germanic, Revolutionary War, and various countywide and statewide titles (including many for New York State). This is a major expansion of digitized books at Ancestry.com. Previously, the majority of digitized books at Ancestry.com were duplicates of those available at HeritageQuest Online.

Google to Digitize 3 Million Books at the University of California

Google has added another partner to its controversial library-book scanning project – the University of California, which is also working with a team led by Yahoo, Microsoft and the Internet Archive.

Google will be scanning and digitizing millions of books from the University of California’s more than 100 libraries across its 10 campuses and making those titles fully searchable.

WorldCat Search from OCLC Online with Free Access

Most of us are familiar with OCLC, available at most good libraries. Their new WorldCat Search is now online and in the clear. It’s in Beta format, and a very worldcat-logosimple search engine, but it’s about the most powerful library catalog I’ve ever tried. I just typed in a few of my surnames of interest, and was amazed at the results.

WorldCat is meant to be accessed through your local public library – and may be available as one of their remote access databases, allowing access from your home. The version you can get through your library allows for an advanced search and “similar items” capabilities, as well as published reviews and excerpts to help you better evaluate an item. The advanced search would be an advantage, allowing you to narrow your search. See: http://worldcat.org/

Ancestry.com Posts Digitized Images of the 1850-1880 Mortality Schedules

At one time, the U.S. Federal Census included a mortality schedule enumerating the individuals who had died in the previous year. These documents exist for the years 1850 through 1880. Although many of the original documents reside in various archives, a good number have been microfilmed and are available through NARA – and now of course, the Family History Library.

Ancestry.com has digitized the documents that have previously just been available on microfilm, now making them available online at the Ancestry.com website. These documents are indexed, allowing you to search the entire database in one search.

Keep in mind that the “census year” began on June 1, so the mortality schedules which we can access dealt with deaths taking place during the 4 years of June 1 1849 through May 31, 1850; June 1, 1859 through May 31, 1860; June 1, 1869 through May 31, 1870, and June 1, 1879 through May 31, 1880. These documents are available to Ancestry.com subscribers.

Rochester, New York, Library Launches New Online Indexes

Larry Naukam, Head of Local History and Genealogy, at the Rochester Public Library just announced the launch of their new web site, which contains a link to the local history department.

A series of indexes, totaling over 130,000 names, in addition to another 800,000 in the Life Records Database is now available. The Life Records Database is made up of Births, marriages, deaths, etc.

See the new Monroe County Library System website at: www2.libraryweb.org/

1910 Every-name Index Posted at Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has posted an every-name index to the 1910 U.S. Federal Census. The posting of this index completes Ancestry.com’s every-name index project for all Federal censuses currently available to the public – 1790 through 1930.

Folks – this is really big news. The 1910 census microfilm from which the digital images were made was by far the worst census film of any year available to us. After the microfilming of the census schedules, they were destroyed – leaving us with this terrible and difficult to read microfilm. There was good reason for why the 1910 every-name index was done last. It’s because it was extremely hard to do. Every genealogist who has attempted to read much of the 1910 film will agree that to produce an index of this nature was a herculean task. Congratulations to Ancestry.com for finally getting the job done.

Now for the downside. Note that I just said that the film was hard to read. As you know, much of it is illegible! If you can’t read it, how can you produce an accurate index? You can’t. Also, keep in mind that Ancestry.com didn’t pull this off using scholars from Harvard in the transcription process. No. For many years now, the census indexes have been transcribed in places like India, and Bangladesh. No American company has been able to pay American workers the amount they require per hour to transcribe census – so the work goes “off-shore.” The AP is reporting that 6.6 million hours were spent on the project (1790-1930). I can assure you that most of those hours were not in the good old U.S. of A. Sure – the transcribers know English, but keep in mind that their mother-tongue and language is much different than ours. It’s just logical that error will be made because of language differences.

But don’t let me sit here and throw cold water on the project! I’m thrilled that we now have this data available to us – and will use the new index with glee! And if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I’ll get “inventive” as I use the index. No change there – we’ve always had to use indexes with caution and intellect. And if the index still doesn’t help, I may have to revert to the old method – searching page after page of difficult-to-read microfilm trying to find my family. I say “microfilm,” for I’ve found that the microfilm of the 1910 census is still easier to read than the digital images made there from. So it’s off to the Family History Library in those rare instances that I can’t read the digital images.

To check out the new 1910 every-name census index, visit, www.ancestry.com.

ProQuest Cuts Service to Societies

ProQuest has announced that it’s cutting service to genealogical societies. Service to Everton Publishers and Godfrey Memorial Library was cut some time ago. It is recommended that you first check with your local library to find out if they offer the service. If not, encourage them to do so. In many cases, entire states have signed up for HeritageQuest Online.

World War II Old Men’s Draft Cards Now Online

I finally got the chance to jump over to Ancestry.com’s site, and try out the new WWII Old Men’s draft registration cards that they posted.

Boy, oh, boy – did I find relatives. Note that the old men’s draft registration was conducted on 27 April 1942 and was for men born on or after April 28, 1877 and on or before February 16, 1897. The “old men” would have been between 45 and 64 years old.

Following is an example of the information found on the typical card. I’m using an example of a card dealing with my own family.

  • Serial #1340
  • Order #: none listed
  • Name: Grover Hurley Cornett
  • Place of Residence: Flatridge, Grayson County, Virginia
  • Mailing address: Same
  • Telephone: none listed
  • Age in years: 48
  • Place of Birth (town or county: Grayson [county]
  • Date of Birth: Aug. 20, 1843
  • State or Country of Birth: Virginia
  • Name and address of person who will always know your address: Mrs. Grover H. Cornett, Flatridge, Va.
  • Employer’s name and address: Hercules Powder Co., Radford, Va.
  • Place of employment: Radford, Va.
  • Registrant’s Signature: Grover H. Cornett

As I’ve said before. Good stuff… Of course, you have to be an Ancestry.com subscriber to access this data. Visit the Ancestry.com website to use these records.

New Browser for the 1790―1930 Census Images

Steve Morse has posted a new 1790―1930 federal census browser that allows the user to go directly to any particular image on any roll of federal census microfilm posted on Ancestry.com’s website. Once there, the utility allows the user to move back and forth within the images, not just a page at a time, but by 1, 2, 3, or even 4 pages.

The utility also allows anyone to browse the film roll descriptions 1790―1930, and ascertain exactly what counties are on what rolls.

If you are an Ancestry.com subscriber and you wish to use the utility to browse images, click on the “year” arrow in the lower left corner of your screen, highlight the year of interest, and click on enter. Then pick the roll number (which has the state 2-letter abbreviation attached to it). Enter an image number if you know it. Click on “Display Frame.” You’ll find yourself in Ancestry.com’s website looking at the image you selected. You may then browse within that roll as mentioned above.

If you don’t know which exact roll to go to to get started, click on the “View all Rolls” button at the top of the browsing page in Steve’s site. You will go to the Census Schedules Descriptions page –find the roll number by browsing down the page until you come to the year and county you’re looking for. Make note of the roll number there – and go back to the original browsing page. Enter the image number, and click on “display frame.”

To use Steve Morse’s new browser, go to: www.stevemorse.org/census/censusbrowser.html

GPC Announces New Book Search

Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., (GPC) of Baltimore, Maryland, is America’s foremost publisher of genealogical books & CDs. The company recently revamped its website, which now features a free name search to over 2 million names, indexed from over 2,000 publications GPC has published over the past 45 years. Whether you buy a book from them or not, a quick search in the index may be worthwhile.

GPC also has an e-newsletter, called Genealogy Pointers, which is free to anyone. The newsletter is sent to all who register for it, e-mailed every Tuesday.
Visit www.genealogical.com/ for more information.

New Colorado Genealogy Blog

Birdie Holsclaw, CG and Julie Miller, CG announce the creation of Colorado Genealogy Blog and invite you to visit the blog at www.cogenblog.com. The purpose of COGenBlog is to share news and tips about genealogy in Colorado.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been reading this new blog – and highly recommend it. I happen to have Colorado roots, and I’ve found Birdie and Julie’s blog to be very helpful.

See: www.cogenblog.com/

Los Angeles Times Obituary Index Now Online

The Southern California Genealogical Society has added a valuable database to its website, The database is a fully-searchable index of decedent names listed in obituaries and death notices published in the Los Angeles Times. The database currently covers the years 1988 through 1993 plus 1995, and eventually will be expanded to include a 20-year index. In addition to the standard obituaries and death notices, the index includes entries for In Memoriam, Cards of Thanks, Funeral Notices, etc. The online obituary index provides the name and year the notice was printed.

The online index is available for use by all researchers at no charge. Individuals interested in obtaining a copy of the actual obituary or death notice can contact the Research Department of the Southern California Genealogical Society and request a copy for a nominal fee. See: www.scgsgenealogy.com

Ancestry.com vs HeritageQuest Online Digital Images

I find that I use both Ancestry.com as well as HeritageQuest Online when doing census research. There a several reasons for this.

First – the digitizing was done by two totally different companies. A little history might be in line here. I was working for Heritage Quest when Brad Steuart made the decision that he would digitize the United States Census records. Brad purchased several “SunRise” microfilm digitizers to do the job. This was back in the days when these machines were extremely expensive, so the dozen or so machines that would have been nice were not in the budget. Instead, our machines ran around the clock. Brad made the decision – which I still believe was the right one – that he would digitize the film in a bi-tonal – or black and white – format. He could have done it in a grayscale format. However, grayscale produces a much larger image, making download time longer. Grayscale also produces what I believe is a much poorer image – if the microfilm image is good in the first place. The bi-tonal image makes black even blacker – and that can be good. If the image is very light (as much of the 1910 film is), grayscale images are often easier to read. However, the vast majority of film isn’t bad. After weighing the pros and cons, Brad went with bi-tonal images.

Following the digitizing, but prior to launch, there was negotiation between Heritage Quest and Ancestry about possible collaboration between the companies in the posting of the data to the Internet. Ancestry decided against it and proceeded to digitize the records again – this time in grayscale.

There is one other issue that should be mentioned as deals with digitizing. During the process, we heard much about enhancement of the images. Most of this was done automatically, but some images took a fair amount of hand work to get dark film corners to lighten, and light images to darken. How good an image we have today is not only because of the original quality of the film, or whether it was imaged as bi-tonal or grayscale, but also on how good the “SunRise” operator happened to be. The operator that was on shift as that image came through the machine often made the difference.

So – to make a long story short – today we have two separate digital databases with two separate digitizations. As you know, sometimes you can read one when you can’t read the other. Most active genealogists use both, if they are available. Sometimes we make a run to the Family History Library to read the microfilm itself.

HeritageQuest Online doesn’t have anywhere near the indexes available that Ancestry does. Many of us use the Ancestry indexes and the Ancestry digital images first. If the images aren’t legible, we move over to HeritageQuest Online. This happened to me last night. I had a 1900 census image out of Webster County, Nebraska that was absolutely black in the lower left corner – and that’s where my family was listed. I couldn’t read the names at all using the Ancestry image. So I moved over to the HeritageQuest Online image. I got lucky. The HeritageQuest Online image was legible and I was able to not only save good image to my hard drive, but I transcribed the entire family into my personal Roots Magic database.

Don’t get the idea from my above illustration that it always works this way. Often it’s the other way around. The Ancestry.com image (especially of “light” handwriting) is sometimes better. And there are times when neither image is any better than the other. However, there are enough times that they are, that I would be very unhappy if I didn’t have access to both. Thank God and Davis County, Utah, that I do…

ProQuest Enters the Obituary Database Field

ProQuest Information and Learning announces ProQuest Obituaries (tentative title), offering access to obituaries and death notices from the full runs of major national newspapers dating back to 1851. ProQuest Obituaries enables users to easily find ancestors and historical figures, and to trace their family histories through a database of more than 10 million names.

ProQuest Obituaries will provide obituaries and death notices in image format from the complete runs of major national newspapers dating back to 1851, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Constitution, The Boston Globe, and The Chicago Defender. No other product offers access to obituaries and death notices from the complete historical runs of these major national newspapers…

ProQuest Obituaries will launch in the summer of 2006. The first release of ProQuest Obituaries will focus on deep historical records, and will then grow to include over 150 current newspapers.

From the March 21, 2006 ProQuestNews Release.