National Archives 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair Online on Oct. 25, 2017

The National Archives and Records Administration will have its 2017 Virtual Genealogy Fair online on Oct. 25, 2017. If you miss any part of it, don’t worry, it will be posted online at a later date.

If you missed the 2013 to 2016 Virtual Genealogy Fairs, you’re still in luck – all the videos, PowerPoints, and other handouts are still online. Just follow these links:

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19th and Early 20th Century Federal Employees

Researching the career of a 19th or early 20th century federal employee requires delving into specialized records. Twenty-three years ago my article, “Documenting the Career of Federal Employees” was published in NARA’s Prologue magazine. The advice given then is still relevant today. There are still three basic steps in this research process. What has changed is online access to publications, finding aids, and–to some extent–records.

Step 1: Determine When, Where, and By Whom Employed. The Official Register of the United States is still the basic resource for this task. You can read more about it in John P. Deeben’s 2004 article. Fortunately, many of them are now online on Hathitrust.org. This important step enables the researcher to identify the federal agency or agencies that employed the ancestor. Knowing the agency means the researcher can then identify the appropriate Record Group(s) of interest in the National Archives and Records Administration.

Step 2: Identify Records Series that Might Provide Information. In the days before digital access, researchers had to consult inventories, preliminary inventories, and other finding aids onsite at the National Archives, or find them in a library, or obtain copies of them to peruse at home. Now, nearly every record series for every Record Group can be found in NARA’s online Catalog. Although using the Catalog can be daunting, it is accessible from home, and at your convenience.

Step 3: Examine Relevant Records. In most cases, the researcher will have to examine these records onsite at the NARA facility that holds the records. However, online access is slowly increasing through (1) enhanced description and/or (2) digital images.

  • Enhanced Description provides detailed information to allow the researcher to decide whether the records will be useful. For example, each of the 22 files in the series, Records Relating to the Protection of Mail Transport by Armed Guards, 1926-1932 indicates which postmasters and post offices (primarily larger cities) are included in the series. Here is the direct link to the Indiana file as an example. The records can then be perused onsite in the National Archives Building, or specific records can be requested by mail. If your ancestor was the postmaster or a postal employee of that post office, the records will provide insight into some of the work processes involved at that post office.

 

Learning more about an ancestor’s federal career will add biographical details to incorporate into their life story. You’ll get to know that person better.

National Archives Draft Strategic Plan for FY 2018-2022

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced a Draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022 in August, and has just issued its revised plan, based on public and staff comments. This is a process that every federal agency goes through every four years.

One of the goals is to digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available through our online Catalog. This is ambitious; there are about 37 million images in the Catalog currently.

The future: it will be interesting. Never a doubt about that.

Dangerous Assumptions!

We all do it. We make assumptions all the time. About everything.

In genealogy, we make assumptions about our ancestors, although their worlds were far different than ours.

We make assumptions about the records. Beginners often assume there’s “no record” of an ancestor simply because they cannot find it–for any one of a myriad of reasons. A researcher might assume that absence of one kind of record means that related records are also lost. Experienced genealogists are not immune from the assumption disease, either.

The 1820 population census schedules of New Jersey are long gone. They were lost long before there was a National Archives. But are all 1820 census records for New Jersey lost? No.

The 1820 manufacturing census schedules for New Jersey did survive, and they are published on National Archives Microfilm Publication M279, Records of the 1820 Census of Manufactures, Roll 17. There are schedules for over 300 men and firms, and it’s great stuff.

Here’s the list of New Jersey marshals, types of industries, and manufacturers found in the 1820 manufacturing schedules. The schedules are arranged by county (although not in alphabetical order), but they are also arranged in numerical order. Before microfilming, National Archives staff arranged the records geographically according to the arrangement in the published Digest of Manufactures compiled from these records in the 1820s, and then by any discernible system employed by the marshals. This arrangement permits the searcher to compare the individual schedules with the marshals’ abstracts and the Digest of Manufacturers tabulations.

Certainly, the records show that these (presumed) heads of families lived in a particular geographic location in 1820. Better than that, however, the manufacturing census schedules document the economic underpinnings of these households and their communities. Here is the two page record for a cotton textile factory owned by D. Holsman in Paterson town, Aquacknonk township, Essex County (sorry for the blurriness in my photos). Page 1:

1820NJManufacturing23a.jpg

Page 2:

1820NJManufacturing23b.jpg

Some Assistant Marshals used pre-printed forms, as shown by this one dated at New York [City], December 1820, by J. Prall, part owner of the Rutgers Cotton Factory, also in Patterson [sic].

1820NJManufacturing.jpg

Great  stuff. Both of the factories I’ve highlighted were “large” concerns, but there were also plenty of small shops included in the manufacturing schedules. If you had ancestors in New Jersey (or any state) in 1820, take a look at M279. You’ll be glad you did.

M279 Roll List:
1 – Maine and New Hampshire
2 – Massachusetts and Rhode Island
3 – Vermont
4 – Connecticut
5 -New York
6 – New York
7 – New York
8 – New York
9 – New York
10 – New York
11 – New York
12 – Pennsylvania
13 – Pennsylvania
14 – Pennsylvania
15 – Pennsylvania
16 – Maryland
17 – New Jersey, Delaware, and District of Columbia
18 – Virginia
19 – North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia
20 – Kentucky and Indiana
21 – Ohio
22 – Ohio
23 – Ohio
24 – Ohio
25 – Ohio
26 – Eastern District of Tennessee
27 – Western District of Tennessee, Illinois, and pages from the published Digest of Manufactures for Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, and Arkansas

I have not found M279 online. Viewing copies are available at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC, and at National Archives Regional Archives in Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City (Missouri), Philadelphia, and Riverside (California). It can also be found at libraries with large genealogical collections.

Here is an easily accessible copy of the descriptive pamphlet (DP) for M279, which also describes and identifies where manufacturing data embedded within the 1810 population census can be found.

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.

95%: Describing the National Archives’ Holdings

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

AOTUS

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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Civil War Chaplains

My colleague, John P. Deeben, recently published an excellent article on records in the National Archives about Union and Confederate Civil War chaplains. It is “Faith on the Firing Line: Army Chaplains in the Civil War,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2016).  Researchers will find it informative and useful.chaplains-cooke-l