Thrifty Thursday – new states added to 1940 Census at Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com has added twelve more states which can be searched for free.  I found out about it from today’s genealogy insider’s blog post.

So I’m interrupting my research plan for Little Eddy to look for my Missouri relatives!  Hopefully I can find my elusive great grandparents:  3 of them have been hiding from me!

The genealogy insider also has links to the full list of states available on FamilySearch.org as well as on Ancestry.

Hope you enjoy this great information which is available free!

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Thrifty Thursday – Even More Free Websites

This week I’ve been talking about free websites, their importance in my Journey of Genealogy in the Recession, but also their importance to the genealogy community.  In response to Thomas MacEntee’s post What Do You Mean It Isn’t Free?, I want to make it clear that I do place great value on the contributions of genealogists, certainly do not expect them to work for free, and believe that most of the internet genealogy companies provide a very valuable service at a fair price.  I am also extremely grateful for all of the volunteers who do provide free resources, whatever their motivation.

Today I want to highlight some more of the wonderful free websites that I use.

The US GenWeb Project
This is one of the first places that I go to find information for a certain area. There is often a good overview of the state’s history, a clickable map of counties as well as an alphabetical listing.  Sometimes there are contacts for the counties.

The motto of this group of volunteers is “Keeping Internet Genealogy Free.”  Its organization is by county and by state — and what is available varies greatly.  In some counties, there are transcriptions of census, tax lists, military rosters, cemeteries and more.  There may be family biographies and contacts for surnames.  Sometimes there is very little, and sometimes the links don’t work.  Don’t give up, though; often if you Google the county you can find an active link.  Or you can find a backdoor through another county — they often have links to other counties, especially adjacent ones.  Here is another page with links to states and special projects:  USGenWeb Archives.  Take some time to explore the states and counties you are researching — I’ll bet you’ll find some information you can use.

Genealogy Trails
I have discovered some incredible things on this site, which I found a few months ago.  This group of volunteers started in 2000 providing data for Illinois and expanded to other states in 2006.  On the home page of Genealogy Trails History Group, the first thing you see is

Our goal is to help you track your ancestors through time by transcribing genealogical and historical data for the free use of all researchers.

As with USGenWeb, Genealogy Trails is built by state and county and varies to the amount of content within these divisions.

Here is an example of something I found and what it led me to.  Perry County, Illinois, has a dizzying amount of information, including photos of the destruction caused by a tornado in  Willisville, Illinois.  Googling “Willisville Illinois tornado” I then found several newspaper articles which reported tornadoes in 1912 and 1917.  An interesting tidbit was the description of the town in each:

22 Apr 1912
“The tornado…swept over central & southern Illinois and northwestern Indiana….Five persons are known to be dead and 21 injured at Willisville, a town of 3000, in the southwestern corner of Perry county.” “…and 16 houses were demolished.”

26 May 1917
“The village of Willisville, in southern Illinois, near St. Louis, was practically wiped out by the tornado. No accurate reports of the loss of life in the little village of 700 souls could be obtained.”

Seeing these photos and reading stories of the devastation and the changes in the town leads me to an entirely different picture of life between the 1910 and 1920 Census than I had before.

RootsWeb
RootsWeb has been around for a long time, with the purpose of connecting people in order to facilitate their genealogical research.  Since its purchase by Ancestry in 2000, there have been quite a few changes, including the most recent removal of the social security index from RootsWeb, the free site.  I like the mailing lists for surnames, counties and topics of interest, such as Irish in Saint Louis. The message boards can be searched through RootsWeb or Ancestry.  Check out the older posts; I find a lot of discussion in the 1999-2000 time period.  It just might provide you with an important clue.  And although it is usually difficult to track down those who posted back then, you might find enough information to do so.  Also, use the Search Thingy — “a silly name for our powerful site-wide search engine” — to explore RootsWeb using keywords.

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With these three super-links, you’ll be busy for a very long time.  Enjoy!

Thrifty Thursday – The Free Part of NEHGS

The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) was the first genealogical society established in the United States.  Millions of documents, manuscripts, records, books, microfilms, photographs, artifacts, and electronic resources are housed in its library, and there are 500 searchable online databases available to members.  What many people don’t know is that there are also Free Databases available to everyone.  All you have to do is complete a guest registration on their site, AmericanAncestors.org.

A membership in NEHGS includes many valuable benefits, and they sometimes offer discounts on the $79.95 annual membership fee.  The NEHGS Library catalog is searchable online, and you can determine if their holdings include items of interest to you and your research.  However, if you are like me and your genealogy budget is $0, then free databases are a wonderful find.

Ancestry.com recently pulled the Social Security Death Index from RootsWeb, the free site, leaving it available on its paid site.  It is quite nice to find that it is still available free at NEHGS.

Another database which I have found useful is New York Wills.  I have Dutch ancestors who were in New York in the 1600s so I love this Calendar of Wills.

The Irish Immigrant Advertisements is from The Boston Pilot “Missing Friends” column with ads from people looking for “lost” friends and relatives who had immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland.  I haven’t found any of my Irish family yet, but I hope that someday I will see a familiar name.

You can also sign up for NEHGS’ weekly newsletter, The Weekly Genealogist — it’s free, too.  I highly recommend it.  My favorite part is the weekly survey.  Last week’s survey asked if any of your ancestors were living in the thirteen American colonies on July 4, 1776.  This week’s survey wants to know if your research has debunked a family myth.  I look forward to the answers each week and to finding out what the new question is.

I hope that you find the NEHGS as helpful as I have.  There is a lot more on the website to explore (as there always is in genealogy).   It’s so much fun to find that some of it is free!