Archive for the ‘52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge’ Category

Follow Friday: Taneya’s Genealogy Blog

Friday, February 19th, 2010

taneya_facemangaIt’s high time I offered my Follow Friday endorsement of Taneya’s Genealogy Blog. Taneya Koonce is an absolute dynamo when it comes to online genealogy content. She maintains six separate blogs covering newspaper research and specific county resources for numerous localities in North Carolina. She runs her own TNG-powered personal genealogy site. She’s the webmaster for seven different USGenWeb sites, including the main one for North Carolina. All of these sites display a professionalism in content, design, and functionality that is sorely lacking in many Geocities-era pages out there on the web.

Her main blog covers pretty much every topic you’d expect from a top-tier member of the geneablogging community: her own surnames and favorite research localities; reviews of books, genealogy gadgets and web resources; geneablogging memes like Tombstone Tuesday and loads of personal research stories. Her stellar NCGebWeb work gets frequent mention too.

In a recent post, she riffed on Amy Coffin’s “52 Weeks to Better Genealogy“  WorldCat.org challenge and talked about how she’d reached out to the WorldCat folks and even snagged a guest blogging stint as a result.

Of course, I’m a little biased, since Taneya is one of our providers and offers genealogy lookups for Tennessee. But if you don’t already have Taneya’s Genealogy Blog bookmarked or subscribed in your feed reader, I heartily recommend that you do.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge #7: Google Maps

Friday, February 19th, 2010

worcester_ma_google_maps1Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog invites us to explore Google Maps as a genealogy tool this week.

After searching in vain for my grandparents’ old house in Erie, Pennsylvania, and staring for a while at the office building that now stands where I lived as a kindergartner in Menlo Park, California, I ended up focusing on Worcester, Massachusetts, where Walter F. Knapp and his eventual widow Rosamond Guilford lived for decades.

Following the Knapp Family Through the Census

On June 5th of 1900, Walter and Rosamond Knapp were enumerated with their daughter Gladys at 32 1/2 John Street, shown on the map with the red push-pin.

On 23 April 1910, four years after Walter’s death, Rosamond and her two children Gladys and Kenneth were shown in the census living at 2 Ashton Street, tagged with a green thumbtack.

On 3 January 1920, Rosamond, Gladys, Kenneth and two boarders appear in the census living on 88 Florence Street, a ways south of their previous two homes, shown with the yellow thumbtack on the map.

By the 1930 census, Rosamond was living with Gladys and her husband Joseph W. Dennis on 12 Belvidere Avenue near Burncoat Park.

Thirty years in the same city. Amazing. The longest I’ve lived anywhere is ten years.

Lessons Learned

I really enjoyed this exercise. This is the first time I’d paid much serious attention to the street addresses in the first column of the various census records. Seeing Rosamond and her children move back and forth across Worcester added to my understanding of their experiences, but it also opened several new potential avenues of research:

  • Walter’s death certificate says he died at 4 Holt Avenue in Worcester. Was that yet another Knapp family residence, or a hospital?
  • Rosamond died in 1942 in Westfield, New Jersey. What brought her there? Did Gladys and her husband move to New Jersey and take Rosamond with them?

Amy’s challenge has definitely motivated me to make better use of Google Maps, to pay attention to street address info in records I uncover, and to do a better job of tying key events in my ancestors’ lives to the places where they lived. Thanks Amy!

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy — Challenge #6: Online Databases at the WPL

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Amy’s sending us back to our local public library this week for 52WtBG Challenge #6, but we get to visit it virtually this time. That’s good, since I’m already two days late with this.

Online Genealogy Databases

The WPL has Ancestry Library Edition, but you can’t use it remotely — only at the library itself.

Here are the online databases I can access at home with my library card number via the Wilmette Public Library’s website:

With no need to enter my library card number, I can also access some hand-built newspaper indexes of local interest, including:

A vanity search of our son’s name in the Wilmette Life index yielded 23 entries, including an article for each musical performance he participated in at New Trier High School.

There’s still plenty more for me to explore here… though these resources might not be of great help in my own research yet, it’ll be nice to be able to share them with patrons at the Wilmette Family History Center when they come in asking. We’re hoping that the current run of genealogy-focused television shows bring us some new first-timers over the next few months.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge #5: Trying Out Worldcat.org

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

logo_wcmasthead_enThis week Amy Coffin‘s 52WtBG challenge directed us to explore the online library catalog aggregator Worldcat.org. Here’s how Worldcat defines itself:

WorldCat.org lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world. WorldCat grows every day thanks to the efforts of librarians and other information professionals.

I wasn’t sure what to expect here… would I find lots of historical records about my distant ancestors, or would most of the results returned in searches be modern ones?

Initial Success

After creating an account and a profile (you don’t need to but I was interested in the social features a personal account offered) I started out by typing ancestors’ names into the search box. My first try was Benjamin Trafford, my great-great grandfather who eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the Civil War. I had heard he’d authored a book on military tactics, but no luck there. Instead, the following entry was second in the results list:

worldcat_benjamin_trafford_results1

It’s hard to read at this resolution, but the catalog entry was quite a find: military orders issued by Benjamin Trafford to the 71st Regiment, N.G.S.N.Y., New York, February 6th 1865.

Can I View It Online?

Naturally I was hoping Worldcat actually had digitized the “book” so I could view it and download it. But alas, no. Instead, I was shown a list of repositories from which I could theoretically inter-library loan the record (or retrieve it in person if I lived near any of them.) Turns out the New York Historical Society has it.

Sounds Like a Job for Genlighten

Since Genlighten has several lookup providers who live in the New York City area, I could go create a custom lookup request and ask for a provider to retrieve this document, scan it and upload the resulting image to my account. Or, since our daughter works reasonably close to the New York Historical Society, I could ask her to make the trip. Either way, it sounds like it’d be worth it. I would have had no idea this record existed if WorldCat hadn’t found it for me.

What Else Can I Do on WorldCat?

The site offers all the Web 2.0 features you’d want in a modern online catalog. Using nearby links, I can:

  • Add the record to a list of my favorite finds (I can even customize different lists with different titles)
  • Tag the entry to help future searchers
  • Write a review or rate the document from zero to five stars
  • Share a link to the entry via email, on the usual social networks like Facebook or Twitter, or via social bookmarking sites like Digg or Delicious
  • Find similar items in the WorldCat catalog (in this case, a great collection of books about the 71st Regiment, NY State National Guard.)

I promptly created a personal User List (one of the benefits of actually registering and creating an account) and added the Benjamin Trafford entry to it.

Wouldn’t it be Cool…

As I tried each of these social features out, I couldn’t help but wish that WorldCat had the Family History Library Catalog entries available with all of this functionality. But of course, that’s where Genseek is supposed to come in, right?

“Click Here to Order Digital Images of this Item”

Missing of course, was the feature we at Genlighten are particularly eager to see: the “Click Here to Order Digital Images of this Item from Genlighten.com” button. Not to worry, we’re working on that.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge #4: Inter-Library Loan

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This week Amy Coffin asks us to:

Learn about your local public library’s inter-library loan (ILL) policy. Pick a genealogy-related book that you want to read that is not in your library’s collection. Ask the librarian how to request the book from another library.

I’m feeling a little lazy tonight (and it’s been about 15 degrees out every night this week here in Wilmette) so I decided to just fulfill this assignment online. The Wilmette Public Library website lets me scan both their local catalog and a broader selection of materials available at other Illinois libraries.

As mentioned in my previous 52WtBGC posts, the WPL — my local community library — has a good selection of popular genealogy how-to books and local resources that I haven’t even touched yet. But after a brief scan of the online catalog, I picked a book that looked like a good candidate to borrow via ILL: Elizabeth Powell Crowe’s Genealogy Online, eighth edition.

wpl_ill_search

As you can see, lots of libraries near me have copies of this book on their shelves. I clicked on the “Place Hold” button to submit an ILL request. I then entered my wife’s library card number and password (mine wasn’t handy for some reason) and that was it. She’ll be notified via email when the book arrives.

As Amy mentions, ILL is a great way to expand the reach of the materials you can access from your local library. And it’s a lot cheaper than just ordering the books I want from Amazon, which unfortunately tends to be my default search strategy. Thanks, Amy, for helping me build some more frugal research habits!