Recently we received this inspiring story from Brian Zalewski, a longtime Genealogy Gems podcast listener. He found a valuable genealogy resource and made it easier for others to access. Thank you, Brian!
“Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time looking for death listings in the archive of The Milwaukee Journal on Google News. These entries are usually so small (or too bad of quality) that they don’t get picked up by the character-recognition software….This means you can’t search for [ancestors’ names in them via OCR]. Also, depending on the date of the paper, the death may be recorded in a normal obituary, a full article (like my great-great grandfather, fortunately), a tiny single-line burial permit, or a small death notice.
“I decided to start recording all of the deaths I can find. I try to note the date, individual’s name, paper, type of record, age, and address. So far, I’ve recorded over 1000 entries (some duplicates due to similar entries on multiple days), mainly from the years of 1884, 1885 and 1910.
“The benefit of doing this is two-fold. This data will be recorded and searchable for everyone, and I will probably find information on my family somewhere. Also, who knows how long Google will keep the archives online. These papers are available elsewhere on microfilm, etc, but I’ll do what I can when I can.
“I have also spent some time adding a few helpful features. Within the details of a death entry, you can automatically search for the individual in a few burial index sites. Currently, this includes the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries burial index, Find-A-Grave, and BillionGraves. The search, while helpful, is not perfect. I can only search using the information included in the entry. Sometimes this does not work if the name is spelled differently in both places, though you can always tweak the search variables once you’re at the indexing site. If I happened to find a matching entry from one of those sites, that URL is now linked directly from the entry. The entry will also be flagged with the little headstone icon.
“Currently, it’s not a massive database, but it’s constantly growing. Hopefully it will be helpful to somebody with research in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area.” Click here to search his database of Milwaukee Journal obituaries.
Want to learn more about searching for obituaries in newspapers? Click to read the blog posts below:
If you have New England roots, you need to know about New England’s Hidden Histories, an ongoing project of the Congregational Library in Boston, Massachusetts. This project is collecting, digitizing, indexing and posting online New England church records, a vital source for finding your family’s vital records in New England.
“Congregational church records are an unparalleled source of information about the religious activities of the early colonists, and about many other aspects of early American life as well,” says the Congregational Library website. ” They provide a richly detailed view of town governments and social customs, data on births and marriages and deaths, and demonstrate the ways that ordinary people participated in community-wide decision-making — information that is simply not available in any other records from that time.”
Until recently, many Congregational church records were “mostly scattered across New England, in church closets, bank vaults, or the offices of town clerks,” explains the site. “Many have been left exposed to the elements and are in danger of deterioration, or are all but impossible for the average researcher to locate.”
The Congregational Library is spearheading the effort to collect, digitize, index and make available to researchers as many of these records as possible. To date, says Digital Archivist Sari Mauro, “We currently have 17 collections online, and several more at various places in our workflow. Of these collections, two are fully transcribed. We eventually hope to be able to display all of our collections with full-text transcriptions.”
They are looking for more volunteers to transcribe these records. Would you like to help? Click here to learn more.
By the way, this collection goes beyond just baptism, marriage and death records, in an attempt to fully document church life of the times. “Our current collections vary in size from 20 pages to 2,000+ pages and address a number of topics including church founding, church membership, births and deaths, church discipline, pastoral salary, church and community controversy, and issues of doctrine and practice.”
Hands up, who wants to help prep the 1950 U.S. census for us all to explore?
The 1950 census won’t be released to the public for seven more years, but it took just longer than that to create the locational tools that millions of researchers have used to find their families on the 1940 census.
The dynamic duo of Steve Morse and Joel Weintraub, who produced the locational tools for the 1940 census on the Morse One-Step site, are recruiting 200+ volunteers to help transcribe enumeration district definitions and create urban area street indexes for the 1950 census.
Their “job description” for these volunteers sounds really meaty and hands-on: “These projects aren’t for everybody. Volunteers should have basic computer skills, typing skills, have access to the Internet, be detail people but not perfectionists, be independent workers and able to follow instructions, be patient enough to handle large amounts of information, and be comfortable with projects that may take weeks or months, not hours, to accomplish. You should be able to handle and manipulate images (jpgs) of maps and Enumeration District (ED) definition scans. A large computer monitor would be desirable but not essential. We will provide instructions for carrying out the work, and a place to ask questions. Volunteers may use some free programs to help speed up the entry process. We expect volunteers to make steady progress on their assignments, and we have the luxury of time right now to do it well.”
Learn more about the project here, and try the 1940 One-Step locational tools here.