Are you researching someone who owned a hotel, motel, or inn? Did you find someone enumerated in the census at one of those locations? Did your ancestor frequent a tavern at a local inn? If so, you might learn more about the structure and its history in the records of the National Register of Historic Places!
John’s post helps you dig into the descriptions of over 23,000 properties with the term hotel, motel, or inn in their title in the National Archives Catalog. We promise there’s no check-out time: You can stay in the NARA Catalog as long as you like!
NARA’s “Record Group Explorer” page at https://www.archives.gov/findingaid/record-group-explorer is a good place to get information on the number of digital images available in NARA’s online Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/ as well as the immense quantities of textual records that exist. As of July 2022, there are 179,271,436 images in the National Archives Catalog – or approximately 1.541% of 11.6 Billion textual records. (And that’s only textual records: that count does not include motion pictures, audio recordings, or data files).
Just over a year ago, in June 2021, there were 135,404,569 images in the National Archives Catalog, or about 1.175% of an estimated 11,524,683,948 textual records. That’s an increase of over 43 million digital images in a little over a year! Progress! (Back in June 2020, those numbers stood at 109,384,656 images or .95% out of an estimated 11,509,956,576 textual records).
Want to follow along and see what’s added? The “What’s New in the National Archives Catalog” page at https://www.archives.gov/research/catalog/whats-new links to record series to which digital images have been added – and may also highlight a few interesting items.
Digitization is a slow process. Records are typically one-of-a-kind items that may be fragile, bound into volumes, or otherwise unsuitable for “high speed” automatic sheet-feeding imaging systems. Records may require unfolding; removal of staples, pins, clips, and other fasteners; repair by trained records conservators; and other preparation for imaging, such as arrangement and new or improved description. Just consider the handling care required for the bundle of records shown below, which was just a small part of a small series, Records of Clerks, Wagonmasters, and Printers Employed at Various Posts, 1865-66 (National Archives Identifier 4707062), from Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General.
This small series is fully digitized. Each individual file unit is now is described in the National Archives Catalog by the name of the commanding officer and his geographic location, which vastly improves discoverability by researchers: see the screen shot below, which shows a few of the 389 file titles.
What records will you discover online in the National Archives Catalog?
On May 17, 2022, NARA’s 1950 Census website development team made a wonderful improvement to the name search feature. Names transcribed by humans are now shown in the search results above and below the census page image. What does this mean? Let’s look at an example.
Here’s the search result showing both OCR (optical character recognition) results AND human transcription results above the census page image in the upper right under “Matched Name(s).” (Click on the image for a bigger view.)’
Mildred Lauska, ED 92-47, with search result above the census page image
Here’s the same search result showing both OCR (optical character recognition) results AND human transcription results below the census page. (Click on the image for a bigger view.)
The OCR results generated by “Machine Learning (AI) Extracted Names” are shown first: Only Mildred’s husband, “Lauska melvins” is boldfaced because OCR had not transcribed Mildred or their daughters Joanne and Judith.
The “User Contributed Transcriptions” are shown second: All persons with the Lauska surname shown in bold: Melvin Lauska, Mildred Lauska, Joanne Lauska, and Judith Lauska.
Mildred Lauska, ED 92-47, with search result below the census page image
Thank you for your transcriptions! They matter! They significantly improve the search results! In the Lauska family example, all four members of the household can easily be found instead of just one.
Now You Can See Everyone’s Transcriptions at Work! Yay!
Narrowing your name search to include state and county always better if the name was significantly misread by the OCR and has not been transcribed, or contains common names (John, Smith, and so forth!)
Thank you for your suggestions for website improvements!
With all the excitement and preparation for the 1950 census over the past several months, you may have missed it: Millions of images of textual records keep being added to NARA’s online Catalog.
According to NARA’s “Record Group Explorer” webpage, as of March 2022 there are 161,492,780 scans online representing 1.393% of the approximate estimated total of 11.5 billion textual pages in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.
One month earlier, in February 2022, that number was 159,188,420 images: so in just one month, 2,304,360 images were added!
Back in August 2020, there were 111,114,108 images in the Catalog, so in 18 months, 50,378,672 images were added.
Fifty million, that’s a pretty big number. Considering that this growth happened during a pandemic that limited staff access to the buildings – and to the records – that’s pretty impressive.
The U.S. Census Bureau hosted a webinar on Monday, March 14, 2022, at 1 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, to give the media and data users an overview of 1950 Census records set to be released from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on April 1.
The webinar highlighted statistics from the 1950 Census, the historical context to how the 1950 Census was conducted, and provided information from the NARA on how to access these records when they become available to the public and what resources are available now. The presenters are:
Premiering June 15, 2021, at 1 p.m. Eastern YouTube: The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) recently accessioned the core collection of Merchant Marine Licensing Files, which are now open to the public for the first time at the National Archives at St. Louis. Theresa Fitzgerald, Director of the National Archives at St. Louis, will discuss these holdings as well as auxiliary collections of Merchant Marine records that are complex and closely connected. Presentation slides/handout here.
Premiering today, June 8, 2021, at 1 p.m.! The National Archives Building in Washington, DC contains many records about noncombatant civilians connected with the Union Army during the American Civil War. However, the records are underutilized because there is no comprehensive index, no “one” place to look, and require time-consuming research into obscure records. Digitization is slowly changing that, however! This lecture by Claire Kluskens will provide suggestions for research with emphasis on online materials that can help you get started.
Premiering today, May 11, 2021, at 1 p.m., this presentation will provide an overview of what’s available for genealogists on the archives.gov website, and demonstrate how to navigate to its many resources and tools, including the National Archives Catalog, the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) system, the Microfilm Catalog, topic pages, articles, reports, and blogs. We’ll explore the Genealogy portal page, and also see how the website is organized, which will enable you to do even more expansive searches for information.
This session is presented by Sarah Swanson of NARA’s website staff. Have specific questions? Get them answered in the live chat that accompanies the premiere.
I gave a presentation with this title during the 2018 NARA Virtual Genealogy Fair which is online. I’ve now added the “June 2019” version of the handout for that presentation to my “Research Guides” page on this website. This handout highlights of federal agencies or major records series that are useful; it is certainly not exhaustive.
In addition, it is good to remember that most documentation of enslavement will be found in property, estate, tax, and other records created primarily at the county level, not in federal records.
If you’re a regular NARA blog subscriber, you may have noticed that your expected new post notifications haven’t been arriving in your inbox lately. The problem seems to be part of some larger technical issues experienced during the recent migration from the commercial WordPress.com hosting solution to NARA’s own Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud space. While the blogs still use WordPress-created software, NARA lost access to a number of premium features due to the move, and it appears that the subscriber lists were affected. NARA is working on resolving these issues as quickly as possible, but if you want to ensure that you don’t miss another post, your best bet is to resubscribe to your favorite blogs manually.
NARA implemented a simple double opt-in system that will ask you to confirm your subscription request via an email link. While this is an extra step for readers, it will help cut down on the vast quantity of spam the blogs receive and lets NARA be sure that its subscriber lists represent real people who care about the work being done at NARA.
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