Going Digital, One Twig or Leaf at a Time

If you haven’t tried a surname search in the National Archives Catalog in awhile, it’s time to try it again. Additional information about records, as well as actual digital images of records, are added frequently.

A search for the surname “Twigg” provides good examples of what’s been added thus far. In no particular order, there are references to persons named Twigg for which there are–

  • Alien Case Files
  • Personnel Files
  • Cherokee Indian Records
  • Compiled Military Service Records–Civil War (Union)
  • Compiled Military Service Records–Civil War (Confederate)
  • Correspondence (Letters Sent or Received)
  • Seaman’s Protection Certificates
  • Draft Registration (World War II)
  • Compiled Military Service Records (Spanish-American War)
  • Official Military Personnel Files
  • Mentions in a roster of hospital matrons at U.S. Army posts
  • Mentions in summaries of World War II casualties
  • Mentions in applications for inclusion of properties on the National Register of Historic Places
  • Mentions in various other records

Certainly, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Obviously, when the surname is included in the file or item description, it’s easier to determine potential relevance, than when it’s necessary to ferret out the name by searching a PDF or other multipage items. Nonetheless, it is a free resource available to anyone with an internet connection. It will continue to grow in usefulness in the years to come.

Give it a try. What might you find?

 

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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:

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.

Finding Nemo, Finding Amelia, Finding Your Family

In Finding Nemo, Marlin has many adventures in the big, wide ocean during his journey to rescue his son, Nemo, who was captured by a diver. The journey to his destination is neither straightforward or simple.

July 2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan during their attempt to fly around the world. The public’s fascination with the mystery of their disappearance continues to spur researchers to explore the vast ocean of archival records for new clues, as well as to revisit records previously viewed by themselves or others for fresh perspectives.

Millions of people, including, hopefully, readers of this blog, search archival records for evidence of their ancestors’ lives. It’s a big ocean of records that’s getting easier to swim through. FamilySearch previously announced plans to digitize all its microfilm. Numerous commercial genealogy sites vie for your business. Publicly-funded libraries and archives continually add to their online records collections also. It pays to go back and revisit online collections for “new” information.

Have you tried the National Archives Catalog recently? There’s both a “basic” search and an “advanced search” function. Try them both. What will you find? There are now some 66 million entries in the National Archives Catalog, according to my best understanding of it. Those entries can be descriptions of governmental entities, record series, files from within those record entries, individual items, and digital images of actual records. There are also many bibliographic entries, such as persons, places, and subjects.

The journey to learning your ancestors’ life stories is often neither straightforward or simple. Like Marlin, you can’t stop in the middle of the ocean. Keep swimming, and keep searching in new places. Revisit what you’ve already found for new understandings.

 

World War I Records Online

April 6, 2017, marked the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into the Great War. After remaining neutral for three years, the United States reluctantly entered what was supposed to be “The War to End All Wars.” By declaring war, President Woodrow Wilson committed the nation to join the other Allied countries in their efforts to defeat the German-led Central Powers.

As the largest repository of American World War I records, the National Archives invites you to browse the wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in this conflict, including photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events from its new World War I Centennial portal. This portal links to selected digitized records.

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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.