The Record isn’t Always Where You Expect to Find it.

April 14, 2017, marked the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Its passenger list went down with the ship.

However, some of its passengers were rescued by the Carpathia, and naturally, one would expect to find those persons listed on a passenger list. For many years, the Carpathia (Titanic) list was thought to be lost. In the 1990s, however, the list was discovered.

This list was erroneously filed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service with June 18, 1912, arrivals, and can be found in NARA microfilm publication T715, Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897-1957, Roll 1883, Vol. 4183, which is online on various genealogy websites. A direct link to the individual Carpathia-Titanic passenger list pages is online at the National Archives website.

Marian L. Smith wrote an article on this rediscovery: “The RMS Titanic Passenger Manifest: Record of Survivors – and Revival of a Record,” Voyage (Journal of the Titanic International Society, Inc.), Volume 29 (1999), pp. 4-9.

The record you seek may not exist … but sometimes it’s hiding in plain sight. It pays to be creative and persistent.

Accidental Genealogy! Jan. 10-11, 2017

I suspect that my colleague, Ray Bottorf, has come up with some interesting stuff. You can watch … live … or later… on YouTube…

Tuesday, January 10, 2017, at 2 p.m. EST, William G. McGowan Theater at Archives I & View on YouTube 

Accidental Genealogy—Part 1 of 2  Learn about various genealogy sources from Ray Bottorf, Jr., as he describes valuable information accidentally found in our records, including records regarding military permissions to marry, deceased military personnel, and military personnel passenger lists. This is a two-part series. Presentation materials available at www.archives.gov/calendar/know-your-records.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, at 2 p.m. EST, William G. McGowan Theater at Archives I & View on YouTube 

Accidental Genealogy—Part 2 of 2  Ray Bottorff, Jr., returns to describe valuable information accidentally found in our records, focusing on records from the Selective Service System. Presentation materials available at www.archives.gov/calendar/know-your-records.

2016 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair, Oct. 26-27, Online

The schedule for the 2016 National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair is now available, and by the time the fair starts, all the presenters’ handouts and PowerPoint presentations will be available online, too.

If you missed the 2013-2015 online fairs, not to worry! They’re still online – video, handouts, PowerPoints – just go to the 2016 Fair page and follow the links under past fair posters.

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Gen-Fed Tales of Discovery, 2016

Malissa Ruffner, Director of Gen-Fed, the unique week-long course on using federal records in the National Archives for genealogical research, recently posted a list of “Tales of Discovery” by members of the Gen-Fed Class of 2016. The discoveries they made were in original paper records that are not online and not on microfilm. Their findings broke through brick walls, shattered erroneous conclusions made by others, and enriched their understanding of their ancestors’ lives and times. Fabulous stuff.

There’s no substitute for going beyond the “easy” online pickings to the harder-to-find or harder-to-access offline material.

There’s not enough time in the day, or in one’s life, to research everything, so one strategy is to focus on those ancestors or family groups that are most dear to you, and learn as much as you can about them. And then publish–or your work will perish.

Women in the Civil War

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When we think of the Civil War, the image that likely immediately springs to mind is that of thousands of men in uniform clashing in epic battles, such as at Gettysburg.

Forgotten are the thousands of women who performed tedious, dirty, inglorious tasks–hospital matrons, hospital nurses, laundresses, cooks, and others. They were there, too, on both sides of the conflict.

Documenting their presence, identity, and contributions, is infuriatingly difficult, however, due to the paucity of records that were kept–or retained. A new article,
“Union Army Laundresses,” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 3 (July-Sept. 2016): 33-37, breaks new ground by outlining research strategies for documenting the service of hospital laundresses, fort and post laundresses, and camp laundresses.

Most of these women likely came from the poorer end of the economic spectrum. They included African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Their efforts deserved to be better remembered, and I hope this article will encourage research.

Temporary footnote: The article mentions that digital images of the “List of Female Nurses, Cooks, and Laundresses Employed in Army Hospitals During the Civil War,” have been placed online in the National Archives Catalog. Unfortunately, they are not online yet, but should be within a few weeks.

95%: Describing the National Archives’ Holdings

From the blog of David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (AOTUS).

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The National Archives Catalog has reached a milestone: we now have 95% of our holdings completely described at the series level in our online catalog. This is a monumental achievement. Why? Because the National Archives holds over 13 billion pages of records, and we are adding hundreds of millions of pages to that total every year.

Describing our records in the online Catalog means that the information for all of those holdings is in one central place for researchers anywhere to search and browse, and is vital to our strategic goal to Make Access Happen. Description enables us to provide the archival context of records as they are shared and re-used by researchers, citizen developers, and the public.

We’ve come a long way since our first online catalog was released in 2001. By 2003, only 19% of our holdings were described online for the public to view. This means…

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Those “Boring” Administrative Files….

Most novice genealogists understandably focus on finding vital records of birth, marriage, and death. More experienced researchers know that understanding an ancestor’s full life – as well as finding ways around “brick wall” problems – comes from delving into a wide range of records created by government record keepers at all levels of our federalist structure.

The “wide range of records” includes those “boring” administrative files, which, it often turns out, are not so boring after all. My recent article – “Special Examiners: Records of the Bureau of Pensions’ Efforts to Combat Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, 1862–1933” – in Volume 8 of the Federal History Journal seeks to bring greater appreciation to less-well known records in Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs.