Tag Archives: National Family History Month

Persist and Prevail: African American Family Achievements

Tracing African American lineage in the United States can be very difficult, especially if one’s ancestors were slaves.  While records were kept listing slaves as property, often times they did not include the name of the slave and if they did, it was only a first name.  Please join us as Muriel “Dee Dee” Roberts and Barbara Riley Polk discuss how a 1938 Works Progress Administration slave narrative helped answer their family questions and expanded their research.  They will also touch on how DNA testing was able to confirm their findings.

Dee Dee is currently serving her 4th year as Secretary and 9th year as Membership Chairperson for the New Jersey Chapter of the Afro–American Historical and Genealogical Society.   She is also a member of the Hudson County Genealogical Society and a charter member of SDUSMP, Sons and Daughters of the United States Middle Passage.

Barbara Riley was a professional librarian for over 40 years and is an amateur historian and a collector of books of the African American experience.  She also volunteers in the Local History Department at the Plainfield Public Library.

 

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Picturing Your Research: Finding, Procuring, and Preserving Images

There is an old saying that pictures are worth a thousand words.  While this may be up for debate, what is true is that a photo is worth nothing if it is destroyed.  Many of us have family photos that we consider precious and want to pass down, but we must first preserve those images.  Michelle Novak, a professional genealogist, shared some of her secrets for not only preserving family photos, but also ways to find and procure photos that have genealogical relevance.

Photos bring life and reality to one’s genealogy.  They not only show us how an individual or location appeared at a given period of time, but also tell us more about the life they lived.  Most of the time, photos are passed down within the family, but there are other sources from which one can find personal or relevant photos to augment one’s collection or inform their research.  National repositories such as the Library of Congress, National Archives II, or Historic Aerials as great places to check, as well as local organizations such as the NJ State Archives or local historical societies.  While they may not have named individuals associated with a picture, they may have location-specific pictures that can include former properties, places of employment, or public gatherings in which a family member may appear.  Additionally, photo sharing sites such as FamilySearch or Facebook Groups are a great way to exchange photos that extended family or unknown familial connections may have.

Before we discuss how to preserve images, it is important to point out that all photos are copyrighted material.  The copyright holder of a photograph is the individual who took the picture, not the subject of the photograph.  According to U.S. copyright law, a photograph becomes public domain 70 years after the death of the copyright holder.  However, this only applies if you plan on using the images for any commercial or reproduction purposes, which includes sharing it on public sites such as Facebook.  Additionally, it is important to think about the wishes of the subject/subjects of the photograph before sharing it; is this something that they would want others to see?  One tool to help track down the origin of an image, such as one that was used as a feature image on a genealogy blog, is Google Reverse Image Search.  You can upload the file and Google will attempt to track down all of the sources where the image is found online.

So now that we have all of our photographs, how do we keep them safe?  First and foremost, all photographs will age and degrade, regardless of how we store them or try to preserve them.  However, limiting their exposure to light and storing them in archival sleeves will certainly help slow any degradation.  Sleeves that have a PAT Passed designation are certified to be of the highest archival quality.  Additionally, storing certain photos in a freezer will help slow down any degradation.

The easiest and best way to “preserve” a photograph is to make a digital scan.  Scanners are considerably cheaper than 10 years ago and have such high resolution capabilities that you can make very good copies of your photos.  Additionally, scanning photographs will allow you to enlarge small photographs to see in greater detail.  Standard flatbed scanners are the best when dealing with photographs and you should avoid All-in-One machines as their scanning software and capabilities are much worse when dealing with the details of a photograph.  Michelle’s mantra is “do it once and do it well”, which means scan your photographs using the highest resolution you can.  The minimum recommended resolution is 600 ppi (pixels per inch), with most modern scanners being able to capture images in 2,400 or 3,600 ppi.  Additionally, you can purchase flatbed scanners that will also create positive images of slides and negatives.

Once you have your photos scanned, it is important to come up with a file-naming convention that will allow you to easily identify any photograph.  Having a photo named grandma.jpg tells you very little about the photo; please see page 5 of the handout for examples of how to name your files in more detail.  Also, you can use photo-editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop, to extend the canvas of the photo to include important information, including image location, date, subject of the photo, or whatever else you feel is important to know about the image.

For more information about finding and preserving your photos, please take a look at the handout, https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Picturing-Your-Research.pdf, or contact Michelle Novak at mnovakdesign@me.com.

Using Online Polish Archives for Genealogical Research Program Recap

Researching Polish ancestry can be a difficult endeavor that requires patience and knowing where to look.  Dr. Elana Broch, Assistant Population Research Librarian and amateur genealogist, has done years of research on her Polish lineage, even visiting Poland to try and find primary documents to answer her family history.

One of the most important things to recognize about Polish ancestry is Polish history.  Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, Poland as a country often did not exist.  Parts were under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ukraine, Germany, and Russia.  Therefore, depending on the time period, document languages and location names may have changed depending on who was in power.  Additionally, if you are looking for Jewish ancestry, family and town names may be Jewish or Yiddish, adding yet another layer to deciphering someone’s lineage.  JewishGen has a wonderful Communities Database that is worth looking at even if you did not have Jewish Ancestry.  The database maps the location names over time so you can better understand where records may be and in what languages.  Additionally, Poland was a crossroads of conflict in World War 1 and 2 so many records were destroyed, leaving gaps in civil registration collections and vital records.

On the bright side, the Mormon Church, responsible for Ancestry.com (subscription) and FamilySearch (free) have digitized countless Polish related records during their mission trips so some (but not all) records are available through those sites.  It is highly recommended to check Ancestry and FamilySearch first to see what information and records you can find on your Polish ancestors before moving forward.  The best place to find information would be the United States and specific state censuses, which during the later half of the 19th century and forward, list places of birth and all of the names within a household, rather than just the head of household.  This information can be critical in tracing a relative back in Poland, but remember, that if the place of birth was listed as Russia or Germany, they may have actually been living within the borders of present-day Poland.

If you have exhausted these resources and are looking to find records in Poland, be aware that there are multiple archival institutions and locations, depending on what you are looking to find.  Also, you will need to write to the specific archive or employ a professional genealogist in Poland to obtain the records as a vast majority of their records (outside of those digitized on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch) are not digitized.  The Central Archives of Historical Records (AGAD), are the official repository for materials that are no longer under Polish privacy restrictions.  This includes birth records that are over 100 years old and marriage and death records over 80 years old.  Additionally, the AGAD contains information from Ukraine.  The Civil Registry Office (Urząd Stanu Cywilnego) contains vital records that are still protected under their privacy laws.  There are many regional archives where most records are currently housed, which is why it is critical to determine the location an ancestor lived to accurately determine which region or district archives to contact.  Lastly, there are local parish or archdiocesan archives that will contain important genealogical records such as baptism and marriage records.

The Polish Archives does have a searchable website that comprises of 4 different databases, however all of the information is in Polish, which means you will need to use a translation service such as Google Translate or a browser extension that can translate the page for you.  While some of the filters and headings are in English, all of the collection titles, descriptions, and notes are all in Polish.

It is highly recommended to check out the FamilySearch Wiki on Poland Genealogy to help determine what records to look for and where to find those records.  For more information on the presentation or help with Polish genealogy, please contact Elana Broch at ebroch@princeton.edu.  For a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/assets/PolishArchivesPresentation.pdf.

Using Online Polish Archives for Genealogical Research

Elana Broch is an amateur genealogist who has spent much of her research efforts trying to find out about her grandfather, Saul Lichtman, a 1941 Holocaust victim.  Although Lichtman’s birth town (Bilshivtsi) is now in Ukraine, the town (Bolszowce) was Polish until after World War II.  Many Polish records of that era defy the rules of archival provenance and are in the Polish Archives in Warsaw (AGAD).  Her genealogical quest took her to the Polish historical archives in Warsaw in 2018. It was a long way to go to find out that the archival records aren’t freely available.  Fortunately, many of them are available online. Her presentation will focus on Ancestry.com and the Polish archives online at https://www.szukajwarchiwach.gov.pl/en/strona_glowna.

 

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Documenting Your Past with iBiographer Program Recap

Thank you to Sofia Milner, founder of iBiographer, for her presentation and demonstration on how her product can help us all document and preserve our family stories.  iBiographer fills a gap in the storage of genealogical and familial information, allowing users to create family histories and family trees that are interconnected.  One of the biggest draws to iBiographer is that is free to use without any restrictions.   Some of the main features include:

  •   Family Trees
    • You can create unlimited amounts of family trees and you are able to link between family trees to ensure they are neat, less-cluttered, and more manageable
    • You can attach biographies to members on your tree to enhance the information related to each person in your tree
    • You cannot import family trees from other programs or websites
  • Biography Box
    • You can write your own biographies on anyone you wish
    • Biographies can be broken down into chapters that you can arrange in any order
    • You can upload photos, videos up to 1 minute, music, and documents to your biographies
      • There is no limit to the amount of material you can add to a biography or chapter
    • You can invite others to contribute to any part of your biography, for free, and they cannot make changes to anything you have done – a great way to involve family members from across the globe to more fully develop your biographies and family tree
  • Baby Bio
    • You can track the growth of children with the Growth Chart up to 14 years old
    • The Baby Health feature allows you to add all of your child’s medical information so that it is easily accessible and a quick reference for things such as immunization dates
  • Chatterbox
    • A chat feature where you can exchange messages with people that you have invited to contribute to your items, an vice-a-versa, as long as they are online at the same time

For more information, please visit the iBiographer website at https://www.ibiographer.com/.  To view videos about iBiographer and its features, please visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJQWtiSyzsDtxmnrgGhIgsQ.  You can view the iBiographer pamphlet here.

Documenting Your Past with iBiographer

Genealogy is an ongoing process that requires time and dedication.  While we may feel a sense of relief after hunting down elusive documents or references, we often forget that we still need to compile this information in a way that is easy to share with others as well as survive the test of time.  Determining how to organize your research, whether for publication or personal use, as well as how to store your information can be a hassle.  Please join us as we conclude our National Family History Month programming as Sofia Milner, creator of iBiographer, presents a wonderful tool to help you wrap up your many hours of research and toil.  iBiographer is a free secure website for people to write biographies about themselves and their family members. You can create a family tree, upload photos, videos, music and documents to the biography. It’s a place you can preserve your family history for present and future generations to see.

 

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Some New, Free and Exciting Genealogy Websites

The internet has made many things in our lives easier, including genealogy research.  As a result, there are many electronic resources out there for any caliber of genealogist.  Lew Meixler, Chair of the Mercer County Jewish Genealogy Society at Beth El Synagogue will present on a wide variety of online genealogical sites, both popular and hidden gems.  While many of the sites are free, he will cover some fee sites.  The talk will provide examples of how using a number of sites together help to provide information about family ancestors both here in the U.S. and in other countries.  While most of the examples will be centered on Jewish genealogy, the information is very applicable to all types of genealogy research.  Please join us and Lew as we continue to celebrate National Family History Month!

 

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WEBINAR – Researching Your Pre-May 1848 Ancestors

Vital records are a critical resource for any genealogist, but they are not always easy to find, especially as your travel farther up your family tree.  May 1848 marks the start of New Jersey’s State Vital Records (birth, marriage, and death) collections, the most authoritative source of personal information about your ancestors.  So, how do we find and research our ancestors who lived before then?  Join New Jersey State Library Genealogy librarian Regina Fitzpatrick to find out and help us kick off National Family History Month!

Want to get started before the class?
Check out the Genealogy LibGuide!

*Please Note: This program is a webinar and space is limited to the first 100 attendees, not registrants*

Click here to register!

 

Genealogy Research Stories Recap

Thank you all for coming to Genealogy Research Stories yesterday!  I hope you had a great time hearing some neat stories about my research.  Thank you to the audience members who shared their own interesting research stories as well!  I just wanted to quickly provide you with some citations for my research materials for the stories, in case any of you would like to see any of the original materials.

James Harris, Jr.

The Rapalje Children by John Durand

Find A Grave entries for James, James Sr., Ann, and David

Will of James Harris Sr.  Calendar of New Jersey Wills…V.8 p. 166 (abstract) 8443-8448 L Middlesex County (Full Text, available to order online or view on microfilm at NJ State Archives)

Will of James Harris Jr. Calendar of New Jersey Wills…v.12 p. 168 (abstract) 10405L Middlesex County (Full Text, same ordering or viewing options above)

Extracts from Colonial Newspapers article, plus one additional

Colonial Marriage Bond for James Harris Sr. and Anne VanBuskirk 21 June 1748 BK H (part 1) p.77 (available for online ordering or on microfilm at the NJ State Archives)

Supreme Court Case File King vs. Howell, Buskirk, and Harris Middlesex County 1770 #20872* (available for online ordering, also viewable at the NJ State Archives)

Supreme Court Case File King vs. Howell Middlesex County 1770 #20872** (for assault of John Giles, also on January 9th, 1770)

Frederick Dennelsbeck

Detail from Romeo and Juliet by Frank Dicksee

Will abstract of Frederick Dennelsbeck, Sr.  Full Text available via NJ State Archives Book 12 p.308 (recorded copy)

Colonial Marriage Bond for Frederick Dendlesbeck and Barbary Elwell 9th Dec 1766 BK D p.226

Family Search death record for Frederick and Barbara Dennelsbeck

Find A Grave records for Frederick and Barbara


Clara Madden

Women Holding Umbrellas to Provide Shade from the Sun

1870, 1880, 1900, 1905 (Emma Rayner), 1910 (Emma Rayner), 1915 (Clara), 1920 (Emma and daughter Alice Itson), and 1930 (Alice Randall and husband Charles) Censuses

Clara’s death record was found by searching the 1916 death records under her last name “Madden”.  (Remember, New Jersey Death Certificates from 1904-1948 are organized in alphabetical order by last name within the calendar year.)

Here’s a Find a Grave page for Alice Randall, her husband Charles, and Emma Rayner, who died in 1929.  Ada Crist may be Alice Randall’s aunt and Emma’s sister, as one of Clara’s daughters was named Ada.

 

We will be having additional lectures to celebrate National Family History Month on Wednesday October 18th, Tuesday October 24th, and Tuesday October 31st, 2017.  I hope you’ll join us for these upcoming programs.  Please also feel free to contact me for assistance with your research questions, and check out the Genealogy Research Guide.  I’d love to help you uncover some cool Genealogy stories of your own!

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