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.
From colonial times to the early 20th century horses were the primary means of transporting the mail, whether by a single rider on horseback or by wagon or stage coach pulled by a team. Certainly mail was also transported by railroad as as the network of “iron horses” developed, as well as by river- and ocean-going vessels.
The image below is a detail from a poor quality photo postcard from circa 1916. There are two men on horseback. The man on the right is identified as W. H. Bennett of McKee, Kentucky, whose age (in 1959) was 87 years. His horse has two mailbags, one on each side to distribute the burden. The other man is not identified. There are trees and other vegetation behind them but no buildings are visible.
This postcard was privately printed. It is in the U.S. National Archives by an accident of history. On 11 August 1959, Postmaster D. N. Thomas of McKeesville forwarded the postcard along with two leather saddlebags to the Post Office in Cincinnati, Ohio, as “Items for a Postal Museum.” The mailbags were “not desired” and thus were “left in Cincinnati.” The postcard, however, ended up in a collection of “Exhibit Materials Relating to Postal History, 1905-1958” (National Archives Identifier 17027514) assembled by the Post Office Department Library that was subsequently accessioned into the National Archives.
The staff of the National Archives Catalog has a bimonthly newsletter to which anyone can subscribe; a pop-up invitation appears just about every time you visit the basic Catalog search page at https://catalog.archives.gov.
Recent past issues of the newsletter are archived here: https://us11.campaign-archive.com/home/?u=bfeaf03e7b0b1636c0b375892&id=921cecd7dd.
“Using the National Archives Websites (Plural)” and “The Online National Archives Catalog: Understand and Do More With It“ are now posted on this website. I hope you find them useful.
The California Genealogical Society has a number of great online programs scheduled for the next several weeks. Check them out here. There’s even one called “Using the National Archives Websites (Plural)” tomorrow, Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 9 p.m. Eastern (6 p.m. Pacific) that will be presented by a NARA staff member.
It’s not considered one of the “traditional” genealogy record groups, but Record Group 33, Records of the Extension Service, is a treasure trove of information about farm life across the United States from about 1910 to 1950 or so. Even if one’s own ancestors are not mentioned in the records, they provide excellent county-level context on rural life. I lectured on these records on the 2011 NARA genealogy fair and have written about them a couple times, as well. My research guide, “Agricultural Extension Service Annual Reports, 1909-1968, and Related Records“ will help you get started.
NARA is working on digitizing the the Service’s microfilmed annual reports (ca. 1908-1944) so they are not yet available online. I am delighted to report, however, that nearly 350 motion picture films from RG 33 have been digitized and are available for viewing or download from the National Archives Catalog. (Some may be restricted by copyright or other intellectual property right restrictions.) Happy viewing!
Premiering today, June 1, 2021, at 1 p.m.! Researching ancestors who worked for federal agencies is a popular topic at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This presentation will tie together the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Official Personnel Files (OPF) held in St. Louis with agency records located in various NARA field sites.
The session will open with what can be found in the OPFs and how to request them. Cara Moore Lebonick, Reference Archives Specialist from the National Archives at St. Louis, Missouri, will conduct a deep dive into several OPF’s of Native women employed by the BIA.
Cody White, Archivist and Native American Related Records Subject Matter Expert from the National Archives at Denver, Colorado, will then explore how further information can be found in the regional records of the BIA.
Together Cara and Cody will show how the holdings across the National Archives can provide a more complete genealogical story.
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.
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.
To sign up for notifications, visit each blog homepage and enter your email in the Subscribe to Email Updates box in the right hand side bar, and click the Submit button.
Once you submit your address, you’ll get a message alerting you to check your email for a confirmation link.
Please check your email and follow the link to confirm your subscription.
You’ll then receive a final email thanking you for your confirmation.
If you have any questions or run into problems during the process, please email email@example.com, and we’ll make sure you’re successfully signed up.
National Archives Hosts Genealogy Series in May & June
Participate in our genealogy series – free and online!
WHAT: WASHINGTON, April 19, 2021–In lieu of the autumn 2020 Virtual Genealogy Fair that could not be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased to offer a new Genealogy Series! Instead of a single-day event, the program sessions will be broadcast individually during May and June. You are invited to watch and participate in real time with the presenters and family historians from around the world on YouTube.
Over the two months, the sessions will offer family history research tools on federal records for all skill levels. The May sessions are broad and will appeal to the beginner and beyond. The June sessions are focused on specific topics and may be better suited for the experienced researcher. All are welcome! Session descriptions, videos, handouts, and participation instructions are available at the Genealogy Series web page.
WHEN: May & June—all sessions begin at 1 p.m. ET
May 4 — Preserving and Digitizing Personal Photo Albums and Scrapbooks
May 12 — Finding Genealogy Resources and Tools on Archives.gov
May 19 — Tips and Tools for Engaging Family with Your Research Finds
June 1 — From Here to There: Researching Office of Indian Affairs Employees
June 8 — Civil War Union Noncombatant Personnel: Teamsters, Laundresses, Nurses, Sutlers, and More
June 15 — Merchant Marine Records at the National Archives at St. Louis
WHO: Staff experts in government records from National Archives facilities nationwide.
WHERE: Anywhere! The series will be broadcast on the U.S. National Archives YouTube channel.
HOW: Visit the Genealogy Series web page to watch the broadcasts on YouTube. Participants can watch individual sessions, download materials, ask questions, and interact with presenters and other family historians. No need to register—just click the links on the schedule to view the sessions! Videos and handouts will remain available after the event.
Captioning: Live captioning will be available online with StreamText. If you require an alternative or additional accommodation for the event, please email KYR@nara.gov.
Background: The National Archives holds the permanently valuable records of the federal government. These include records of interest to genealogists, such as pension files, ship passenger lists, census, and Freedmen’s Bureau materials. See “Resources for Genealogists” online.
Follow the National Archives on Twitter @USNatArchives and join the Genealogy Series conversation using #GenieSeries2021.