Memorial Day Remembrance: Beneath His Shirt Sleeves

On this Memorial Day, as we remember the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives to defend our freedoms and preserve one United States of America, I respectfully direct your attention to an excellent two-part article by archives specialist Jackie Budell entitled “Beneath His Shirt Sleeves: Evidence of Injury” with Part I here and Part II here. This article highlights the sacrifice and stories of eight Union Civil War veterans who lost most – or part – of an arm during their war service.

1950 Census Website Improvement:  Transcribed Names are Now Shown in Search Results!

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.

Let’s search for Mildred Lauska in Ohio.  Fortunately, some human transcribed her name.

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

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Important Takeaways:

  • 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!

ICYMI: 50 Million Images Added to NARA’s Catalog Since August 2020

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.

NARA 1950 Census Webpages Now Online

This week the National Archives launched several webpages devoted to the 1950 census, including the main page, 1950 Census Records, at https://www.archives.gov/research/census/1950. Information on these pages will undoubtedly evolve over time. The supporting informational pages include:

As noted on 1950 Census Records, you will be able to search the 1950 Census website by name and location beginning on Day 1 — April 1, 2022. To develop the initial name index, NARA used Amazon Web Services’ artificial intelligence / optical character recognition (AI/OCR) Textract tool to extract the handwritten names from the digitized 1950 Census population schedules. Because the initial name index is built on optical character recognition (OCR) technology, it will not be 100-percent accurate. The National Archives is asking for your help in submitting name updates to the index using a transcription tool that will be available on the 1950 Census website. You can help us improve the accuracy of the name index and make the records more accessible for everyone. More information on this volunteer opportunity will be forthcoming.

Researchers can learn more about this census from the 1950 Census blog posts at the History Hub and watch for news at National Archives News.

Tintypes and Photos in Civil War Pension Files

If you’ve ever wondered why some U.S. Civil War pension files have tintypes and photos – wonder no more! NARA archives specialist Jackie Budell details the reasons in three excellent recent blog posts at The Text Message:

(1) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Your Questions Answered

(2) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Why Private William Carman Sent a Tintype to His Wife

(3) Civil War-Era Personal Tintypes Exposed: Why William Carman’s Tintype Was in His Widow’s Pension File

Exciting 1950 Census News from NARA

When the 1950 Census becomes available on a NARA website on April 1, 2022, there will be a name search function powered by an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology tool. Granted, it will be imperfect on opening day – but that just means that all of us will have the opportunity to make it better through a transcription tool that will also be available. Exciting times! Read more about it at 1950 Census Release Will Offer Enhanced Digital Access, Public Collaboration Opportunity, a December 14, 2021 press release.

1810 Census for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts

In 1810, Salem, Massachusetts, was the 9th largest city in the United States, with 12,613 people. New York City was first with 96,373, and nearby Boston was fourth with 33,787.

From 1790 to 1870, U.S. Marshals and their assistants conducted the census. Preliminary Inventory 161, Records of the Bureau of the Census, on page 94, states:  “Under the provisions of the decennial census acts, 1790-1820, the population schedules were to be deposited with the district court clerks, ‘who were to receive and carefully preserve the same.’ …  A resolution of May 28, 1830 (4 Stat. 430), directed the clerks of the district courts to forward the population schedules for the first four censuses to the Secretary of State.  …  It is known that the 1790 schedules for Rhode Island were forwarded to Washington on June 22, 1830, as a result of the May 28 resolution. Presumably other extant population schedules, 1790-1820, were forwarded at about the same time, but no documentation of such action has been found.”

The Bureau of the Census bound the extant 1810 census schedules into volumes sometime between 1902 and 1934, but the volume that included Essex County lacked the town of Salem. Decades later these same records were microfilmed as National Archives Microfilm Publication M252, Third Census of the United States, 1810, which can be found digitally on popular genealogy websites. It’s likely that many people looking through the 1810 census schedules for Essex County have wondered why Salem was omitted. The answer finally came to light this year.

For unknown reasons, the 1810 census schedules for Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, became aliened (separated) from Federal custody. Somehow, they eventually came into the custody of the Peabody Essex Museum Library in Salem, Massachusetts. A National Archives staff member noticed a reference to these records on Instagram in February 2021, which set NARA’s Permanent Records Capture team on a mission to return these important records to federal custody. Read more about it here: “Instagram Post Leads to Recovery of 1810 Census Rolls.”

Digital images of the 1810 census for Salem can be viewed in the National Archives Catalog at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/205601220.

Review of “Married at Ellis Island….”

If you missed last Tuesday’s USCIS History Office webinar, “Married at Ellis Island…., 1892-1924,” you missed a good one. I won’t review all the details, but here are a few tidbits: It’s estimated that perhaps 300 women a year “married at Ellis Island” to their intended spouse in lieu of deportation on the grounds of “likely to become a public charge” or risk of falling into prostitution. The “Record of Detained Aliens” (title may vary) that follows the regular passenger lists for a given vessel (on microfilm or online) may have the notation “married” or similar words as a part of the information for the detained woman. The marriage record will be found in the New York City marriage records for that period which are online on Ancestry.com. A marriage on the alien woman’s date of arrival or during the day(s) she was detained is a good clue that the marriage happened “at Ellis Island” and was a requirement for her admission to the United States.

The Digital Future of Prologue

Revised 7 February 2021

For 48 years, beginning in the Spring of 1969, the National Archives published a quarterly magazine, Prologue, that brought readers stories based on the rich holdings and programs of the National Archives across the nation—from Washington, DC, to the regional archives and the Presidential libraries. For many of those years, each issue also included a genealogy-focused article. The Winter 2017–18 issue was the last printed edition of Prologue.

So, the question is, what happened after the final print issue?  The answer is not surprising:  Blogs.

NARA staff in many parts of the agency are sharing information and stories found in the records through blog posts. There’s the Pieces of History Blog at https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov as well as 18 others listed on the web page, “The National Archives Blogs.” Some of them have specialized audiences; others will appeal to genealogical researchers and others with a general interest in history.  Check them out!