Can you imagine the excitement of stumbling into family history memorabilia that included a voice from long ago on a Voice-O-Graph record? Sometimes the challenge is not finding a family history treasure, but instead it is “unlocking” its precious contents. Here’s one Gem’s story and her request for help. Being a podcaster came in very handy in answering this email!
Voice-O-Graph Brings Her Father’s Voice Back
From our Genealogy Gems reader and podcast listener:
One of the things I love about Genealogy Gems is your appreciation of ephemera. I’m giddy when I find newspaper articles and documents for my family. I recently took everything out of my parents’ “picture closet” and found a treasure trove of documents and photos, such as the will my father wrote and sent to his parents when he entered the army air corps in WWII, the telegram my aunt sent when she eloped, and my grandfather’s WWI registration papers. I even found the scrap of paper on which my father wrote my mother’s phone number when he asked her on their first date, “Laura Lee HE5882”.
One of the items I found is a January 1944 “Voice-O-Graph” my father recorded and sent to my grandmother. It’s in the original envelope, too. I’m interested in having the recording digitized. The reason I seek guidance is that all of the websites for audio transfer services have pretty lurid landing pages. Even if it’s not possible to get a decent dub of the old record, I’d at least like to feel confident that I’d get the 78 back in one piece.
Any ideas? Thank you!
Digitizing a Voice-O-Graph Record
Entrusting your precious Voice-O-Graph record with an unknown website service could be pretty unnerving. Anytime you ship something, there’s always a rish of damage or loss. Before sending away your precious heirloom, try these do-it-yourself methods to create a digital recording.
If you have several records to digitize, I usually suggest looking at purchasing your own turntable that can record to digital. I have one that looks like an old time radio. Here’s one that is on the lower cost end.
In Lisa’s case, it sounds like she has just one record to digitize. If she has a turntable that can play 78s, she can first try playing the records and recording the sound through her computer’s microphone, a handheld recorder, or a smartphone using a free app like Evernote that can record audio.
The next option would be to purchase a converter like this one. You plug your turntable into it, and then plug an external hard drive into the converter, and play and record.
By the way, if your voice-o-graph is a bit warped, this article offers help.
When I discovered an old reel-to-reel recording in my own family, I took it to our church sound system technician. They had new digital equipment, as well as also older equipment. They were able to easily record a digital version for me.
Lisa did eventually get the record digitized. Take a listen for yourself:
As you can hear, Lisa’s father’s recording has a lot of background noise. His voice is far off in the distance and could use some enhancement. But the first challenge was to get the record digitized.
Enhancing the Quality of the Voice-O-Graph Recording
Once you have created an mp3 recording, you can then try to improve the quality of the sound with a free software program called Audacity. Sound improvement is a series of fixes and edits that you apply to the audio file. It’s a gentle process of balancing the bringing forward of the voice while keeping noise tolerable. It’s definitely an art, and not a science. Initial improvements you can easily make include:
Removing “Clicks” – These appear as tall spikes on the audio track in Audacity. Carefully highlight them and delete.
Applying Noise Reduction – Apply noise reduction sparingly, and focus on the elements of the recording that are the most important to you. Noise reduction can add a sort of warped quality to the sound if applied too heavily. Apply just enough to remove unwanted noise that is getting in the way of the voice, while keeping distortion tolerable. You’ll hear a bit of this in my edited version of Lisa’s audio file below. The recording had deteriorated so much that a lot of what is said is lost. I opted to tolerate heavier nose reduction in order to make much more of the voice understandable.
Amplifying the Audio– Apply amplification to the entire track, and then go back and reduce amplification in the areas that do not include the voice. This can be a tedious process, but as you will hear in my version of the audio below, it can pay off.
The Man Behind the Voice
“My father (Capt. C. William Beringhaus) was in the 15th Air Force, 99th Bomb Group flying B-17s. This recording was made in Salt Lake City in January, 1944 just after he completed aviation cadet training in Lubbock, Texas. He was sent to Salt Lake as part of a pilot’s pool before being sent to Sioux City, Iowa for training in the B17.
Capt. C. William Beringhaus
In the recording it sounds like he says that he is in town and is making the recording because “Woody” made one. I believe Woody might have been Capt. Morris S. Wood, the bombardier. “
Do You have a Voice-O-Graph Recording?
While I have picked up a few Voice-o-Graph records complete with mailing envelopes at antique stores over the years, I’m not fortunate enough to have found one in my own family (at least not yet!).
Do you have a Voice-O-Graph recording in your family? Leave a Comment below and tell us about it. Where did you find it? Who’s voice is on the recording? And have you digitized it yet?
Old cookbooks are among new recent online records collections. So are British newspapers, British Columbia estate files, New Zealand WWII appointments, UK Parliamentary returns, UK military indexes, US newspapers (Arkansas, Kansas, and New York) and church records for Sydney, Australia; Norfolk, England; and Stockholm, Sweden.
Featured New Records Online: Old Cookbooks and Home Remedies
The US National Library of Medicine has “recently embarked on a project to digitize and make available” its collection of historical recipes and cookbooks, according to its blog. Old recipes (also called “receipts”) may give you a glimpse into what daily life was like for your ancestors. Among these are “recipes and advice for food preparation and preservation, animal husbandry, preparing useful household concoctions, and allopathic medicines and treatments for maintaining personal health.” Find these at the National Library of Medicine Digital Collections.
Love these? Click here to find more old recipes and classic cookbooks on the Genealogy Gems website.
Australia – New South Wales – Church records
Nearly 125 years of baptism, marriage, and burial registers for the city and parish of Saint Peter’s in the greater metropolitan area of Sydney, Australia (1839-1963) are now available on Ancestry.com. Baptismal registers may include the child’s name, birth and baptismal dates, parents’ names, abode and profession of parent(s) and officiant’s name. Marriage records may list for bride and groom the names, occupations, residences, ages and marital status, along with the date and place of the wedding, names of those giving consent (if required) and the officiant. Burial registers may mention the name of the deceased; death and burial dates; abode; age; “quality” or profession, and officiant.
Britain – Dougal’s Index Register
A Findmypast.com collection of Britain’s missing beneficiaries and unclaimed estates (1910) “contains over 500 records from Dougal’s Index Register to Next of Kin, Heirs at Law and Cases of Unclaimed Money Advertisements from 1910. The publication looks specifically at properties or estates registered in chancery court, which have gone unclaimed because a deceased person did not create a will or did not have any known descendants….The lists only provide an individual’s first and last name.”
Findmypast.com subscribers may now browse among over 750,000 records of British Columbia Estate Files (1859-1949). According to the site, these “allow you to delve through probate estate files pertaining to the judicial districts of British Columbia; the County Court and the Supreme Court. Probate estate records are a valuable resource for family history research, providing vital details such as dates, names, and locations to help grow your family tree. Included in this collection is a probate index for the district of Vancouver, sorted alphabetically by last name.” Browsing tip: narrow results by year, document, court, and district.
Canada celebrated its 150th birthday in 2017!Click here to read tips for starting your Canadian research from Lisa Louise Cooke’s conversation with Library and Archives Canada staffer Claire Banton.
Fold3.com hosts a new collection of WWII Appointments, Promotions, Transfers and Resignations, extracted from the New Zealand Gazette. These give information such as name, rank, event date, and regiment for members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (including army, air force, and navy).
Ancestry.com has published a new collection of UK Military Indexes, 1920-1971. According to the site, “These lists comprise the names and service numbers of those who were discharged from the armed forces after 1920 and born before 1901. Details given for over 300,000 individuals found within this collection may include (where available): initial and surname, date of birth, their service, service number and Ministry of Defence reference number.”
UK – Parliamentary Returns
The UK Parliamentary Archive has “recently uploaded the Protestation Returns for Berkshire, Cornwall and Cumbria,” according to its blog. “The Protestation Returns are the closest thing we have to a census for England in 1641-1642. They originate in the scuffling between Parliament and Charles I just before Civil War engulfed the country. It was decided that all men over the age of 18 in England and Wales should swear an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion, Parliament, and the King. Around one-third of the records for England survive.” A companion map allows users to search for these records by location.
US – Arkansas, Kansas, New York – Newspapers
Among new digitized newspaper collections at Newspapers.com are the following titles: The Frankfort Bee (Kansas, 1876-1898), The Southern Standard (Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 1878-1905), Arkansas Times and Advocate (Little Rock, 1837-1838), Cortland Register (Kansas, 1889-1924), The Frankfort Sentinel (Kansas, 1886-1892), The Marshall County Index (Frankfort, Kansas, 1905-1906), Epworth Advocate (Frankfort, Kansas, 1895-1896), Springville Journal (New York, 1867-1985) and The Ness County Pioneer (Sidney, Kansas, 1879-1880).
Are you listening to the free Genealogy Gems Podcast? This year Lisa Louise Cooke celebrates 10 years on the air. The show has more than 2.5 million downloads worldwide. Listen to hear for yourself her winning combination of technology tools, genealogy research strategies, inspiring stories–and tons of tips you can apply right away to your family history!
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Findmypast announces the new catholic church records in their Catholic Heritage Archive this week. This new partnership with British and American Archdioceses will be a monumental help to those searching their early Catholic roots. Also this week, records from Italy and the Netherlands at FamilySearch.
By JakobLazarus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Catholic Church Records in the Catholic Heritage Archive
Findmypast announced their new Catholic Heritage Archive this past week. They are releasing over 3 million exclusive records including sacramental registers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1757 to 1916 as well as for the British Archdioceses of Westminster and Birmingham from 1657 forward. This builds on last year’s publication of more than 10 million Irish Catholic parish registers.
The Catholic Church holds some of the oldest and best preserved genealogical records and in the past, have been difficult to access.
In collaboration with various Archdioceses of the Catholic Church, Findmypast is helping to bring these records online in one unified collection for the first time ever. Exclusively available on Findmypast, images of original documents will be completely free to view in many cases. Fully searchable transcripts will also be included, providing family historians from the around the world with easy access to these once closely guarded records.
Click “Play Now” below to listen to Sunny Morton’s brief interview with Findmypast about the announcement: [display_podcast]
The next phase of the Catholic Heritage Archive will include records from the archdioceses of New York and Baltimore as well as additional records from Philadelphia. There are over 30 million records in just these three dioceses. The digitization of the whole archive is a monumental undertaking and, when complete, will contain hundreds of millions of records for the USA alone.
Catholic Heritage Archive Holdings for This Week:
United States – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia – Baptisms
The Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish Baptisms at Findmypast are the first of these record releases from an agreement made with the Roman Catholic Church to digitize their records. These baptismal records will include a name, their parent’s names, and residence at the time of the event.
Additional information may include place of birth, sponsors, minister who performed the ceremony, and notice of marriage. Catholic priests were charged with noting all vital events of their parishioners. If, for instance, a parishioner married outside her home parish, the priest who performed the marriage would contact her priest to confirm she was baptized and to share the details of her marriage, hence the marriage notice in the baptism register.
United States – Pennsylvania – Philadelphia – Marriages
Information contained in these records include the couple’s names, marriage date and location, and you may find dates and locations of the couples’ baptisms.
All Philadelphia Roman Catholic Parish records are from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, covering Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.
England – Westminster – Roman Catholic Census
Another Catholic records resource from Findmypast includes the Westminster Roman Catholic Census 1893. As well as the typical information you would expect from a census (occupation, address, birth year, etc.), notes detailing the local priest’s opinion on your ancestor’s faith and dedication to the church let you find out if your ancestor was a good or bad Catholic. Scandalous!
England – Birmingham & Westminster – Roman Catholic Church & Parish Records
Four separate collections, also in the Catholic Heritage Archive at Findmypast, include Roman Catholic baptismal, burial, marriage, and congregational records for locales in England. The records released this week are for the areas covering the Birmingham and Westminster archdioceses. The amount of information in each of these record sets will vary on the age of the record, legibility, and the amount of information recorded by the parish priest. You will find both a transcription and a digital image of the record.
Provided by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Findmypast brings you a large collection of vital records. The first is titled Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Births & Baptisms. These records include images from a variety of sources spanning years from the late 1600s to the mid 1900s.
It is important to note this may not be the only place to find births or baptisms—and there may be records included that are not births or baptisms in this material from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Deaths & Burials collection will include records that may contain the following information: decedent’s name, date of death and burial, parish and diocese, and could include additional information such as military service, age, and birth date.
United States – Pennsylvania – Congregational Records
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Congregational Records is a unique collection that may give you insight into your ancestor and the church they attended. Not only will images include lists of past ministers, but you may find additional lists of those persons baptized and confirmed. Some of these records may also be used as a source to discover the names of your ancestor’s parents and spouses.
United States – Pennsylvania – WWII Records
Screenshot from Findmypast of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, WWII Casualty Cards.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Word War II Casualty Cards collection is a group of records created by the Army so if something happened to a local soldier, the newspaper wouldn’t have to scramble for information. These records are particularly relevant in light of the fire at the National Archives and Records Administration in the 1970s when most World War II personnel files were destroyed.
Netherlands – Miscellaneous Records
We have brought you many collections from Findmypast, which require a subscription. However, these next few collections are brought to you by FamilySearch and are free to access.
Netherlands, Archival Indexes, Miscellaneous Records collection has been updated this week at FamilySearch. These records include many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records. These records cover events like birth, marriage, death, burial, emigration and immigration, military enrollment, and more. These indexes were originally collected, combined and published by OpenArchives. For the entire index collection and more information visit www.openarch.nl.
Italy – Trapani, Civil Registration
FamilySearch brings you updates to the Italy, Trapani, Civil Registration (State Archive), 1906-1928 collection. This collection consists of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths within the custody of the State Archive of Trapani. Availability of records is largely dependent on time period and locality. This collection of civil registrations records covers the years 1906-1928 and may also include:
Learn More about Institutional Records Research
From schools and orphanages to prisons, hospitals, asylums, workhouses, and more, there’s a good chance one or more of your ancestors might be found on record in one of the many types of institutions. In this Premium eLearning video, Institutional Records Research Methods, Lisa Louise Cooke presents methods for finding your ancestors in institutional records, from establishing a workflow and investigating clues found in the census and other records to resources and strategies for digging up the records. This 40-minute video includes a downloadable handout and is available right now to all Premium eLearning members. Click here to sign up!
We begin this YouTube journey with the historical footage of the funeral procession of Hiram Cronk. Cronk was the last known surviving veteran of the War of 1812 when he died in 1905, at the age of 105. The clip found on YouTube shows row after row of marching men passing by on the screen. A YouTube comment identifies them as “Civil War veterans in their 60s [and] Mexican-American War veterans in their 80s.” Another comment identifies the last group of marching soldiers as re-enactors wearing War of 1812 soldier’s uniforms.
In fact, YouTube offers us many opportunities to see the faces and actions of earlier generations of soldiers. Have you seen the famous footage of the storming of the beaches at Normandy? It’s on YouTube!
After sharing our last post, The Faces of U.S. Military Veterans through the Centuries, I received a comment from Stephen, a Genealogy Gems reader. Stephen’s father served in the U.S. Army during WWII and was in the Aleutian Islands. That caught my eye because my father-in-law also served in the Aleutian Islands. It was a challenging landscape in which to serve, which is evident in the YouTube video I found online.
Aleutian Islands WWII Campaign: Combat runs over Kiska, Alaska
There are other military history gems found on YouTube you may never have expected to see. This next video is a collection of early combat photos beginning in 1863 with the U.S. Civil War. The creator of this video gave some background on combat photography. He said:
“The first war photography took place in the Mexican-American War by an anonymous photographer, but it wasn’t until the American Civil War that the first combat photos were taken…The limitations posed by the time and complexity it took to take a photo in the mid-to-late 1800’s made it difficult to obtain images during battles, but a few of naval actions did emerge. There was also not a tradition of journalists and artists putting their lives on the line for an image. The overall amount of combat photography before World War I was small, but a few images did emerge from a few courageous and pioneering people. By the time of World War I, governments saw the value in having large numbers of photographers to document conflicts for propaganda purposes and improved camera technology allowed combat photographers to routinely capture most iconic images of many conflicts.”
Newspapers can fill in the gaps to the long-lost stories of your ancestors. These tips will help you narrow your search in digitized WWII newspapers for experiences directly relating to the war and to the lives of your ancestors.
In this previous post, I provided step-by-step tips for locating WWII-era newspapers. Those tips helped you locate the actual newspapers. In this post, I’ve got 7 tips for to help you focus on narrowing down a large list of results in search of war-related family stories.
Tip 1: Try Various Name Combinations in WWII Newpapers
If you are keyword searching in digitized newspapers, remember to try different name combinations. A man may be identified by just his first initial and last name. During the 1940s, a woman might be referred to as “Mrs. Ted Johnson” instead of Barbara Johnson.
Tip 2: Search for Addresses
You might find a family identified as “the Johnson’s of 132 Cherry Lane,” so try using street addresses in your searches, remembering that “Lane” might be spelled out or abbreviated. You may also find the family listed by their town or township. An example of this might be “the Johnson’s of Brown township,” or “the Johnson’s of Conover.”
Tip 3: Expand Your Search to Events and Organizations
Use any search terms you already know about for your family in World War II: a military unit, a battle or local service organization, or a war effort project that the folks back home may have helped out with. Do family stories mention rationing, air raid drills, bomb shelters, blackout rules, or one of the women getting a job at a certain factory? All these make excellent search terms.
Tip 4: Take Time to Browse
Browsing the pages will give you a sense of how the war affected everyday life at home. You may find recipes that make the most of ration allowances and reminders about blackout rules and curfews. You may even find tips on how to conserve gasoline or how to be fashionable without silk stockings!
Almost every news item on the front page of this Jan 8, 1943 issue of the Euclid News Journal (OH) has to do with the war. It’s easy to see how the war affected everyday life of this small Ohio city on the shores of Lake Erie. Issues of this paper are searchable at the Euclid Public Library website (click image to view more issues.)
Tip 5: Be Aware of Newspaper Stoppages
If your family lived in an area that came under attack or was occupied, the local newspapers may have stopped printing. In that case, search other papers to see if they reported what was going on in your ancestor’s town.
Tip 6: Keep an Eye on the Homefront
For relatives who served in the military, watch for updates in local papers about how they were faring on the fronts during the war. Watch for casualty lists of the wounded, dead, and missing. Here’s something cool: newspapers also printed maps showing the progress of the war on the various fronts.
Tip 7: History Provides Hints
If you’re looking for reports about soldiers’ bodies returning home and funeral services, it will help to know that according to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the War Department didn’t start bringing back remains until the fall of 1947 because of the huge logistical challenges involved. Over 93,000 American soldiers who died in World War II are buried overseas in one of the American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries.
Making the Most of Newspapers for Family History
Find more tips like these in my book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for my foolproof research process, along with everything you need for success: worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources (and websites worth paying a few bucks for), a massive amount of location-specific websites (U.S. and international)–and a case study that puts it all to the test!