Friday, November 20, 2009

What Amelia Earhart Can Teach You About Family Mysteries

Evaluating evidence and arriving at conclusions is a critical step in the research process. The mystery is what give genealogy much of its allure, the discovery of the unknown. Whether hurdling a brick wall or unravelling a family legend, it's important to be as objective and thorough as possible. In her article, "What Amelia Earhart Can Teach You About Family Mysteries," Rita Marshall illustrates through recently declassified information on Amelia Earhart, the challenges of evaluating evidence. As the article point out, our motivations can influence our interpretations.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?

We always  appreciate hearing about those little known and untapped genealogy resources -- this is the way we expand our knowledge and our family tree at the same time. That said, finding an ancestor among these records could be met with mixed emotion. 

In her article, "What Are the Confederate Amnesty Papers?, Melissa Slate explains The Amnesty Proclamation of December 8,1863 and outlines amnesty requirements. Being a United States record, the Confederate Amnesty Papers are housed at the National Archives. Indexes may be available for some states, such as those for Tennessee. In addition, has made these records available online. You may look for hints to amnesty among a soldier's compiled service record. According to the Civil War publication on the National Archives website, "References to oaths of allegiance and paroles from Confederate soldiers can often be found referenced in compiled military service records for captured soldiers/prisoners." Civil War paroles, also noted in that document, might be another resource to consider.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009 launches British Prisoners of War database

With the 70th anniversary of the start of World War Two (September 1, 2009) approaching, has launched online British Army Prisoners of War, 1939-1945, which contains the records for more than 100,000 prisoners of war (POW) captured during the conflict, including the names of many ancestors of living Canadians. Nearly one-third of Canada’s population claims British heritage, which means that many Canadians with ancestors who fought for or alongside the British Army may be able to find ancestors in this collection.

As one of the few World War Two archives not subject to the UK’s ‘75-year rule’,  this collection is a vital resource for anyone looking to trace British and Commonwealth soldiers captured by German Forces during the war. The majority of World War Two records are not yet available to the general public as individual records are still protected by the rule.

In addition to the POW records, has also published online the UK Army Roll of Honour, 1939-1945, featuring the records of all British Army personnel killed in action during World War Two.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

British WW I naval service records now online

As reported on the UK, "National Archives puts naval WW I service records online," the service records of 40,000 members of the World War One Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) are now accessible online via the The National Archives. The records, previously available only to those visiting The National Archives in Kew, family historians can now trace their WWI naval ancestors through this new online resource.

The records can be found at DocumentsOnline. For more information on tracing your British World War One ancestors, visit the National Archive's Military History pages.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

National Archives at Kew puts Indian Army medal index cards online

In a recent the press release, The National Archives at Kew (UK) announced the public can now search online and download the medal index cards of more than 20,000 soldiers who served in the Indian Army during World War One. The cards record the soldiers who were entitled to, or made a claim for, campaign medals - in particular the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Many soldiers were also awarded one or more clasps to go with the British War Medal, and this is also recorded on the cards. The Indian Army medal index cards can be found in the record series WO 372, within pieces WO 372/25 to WO 372/29. Unlike the other medal index cards, which have been scanned six per page, you will only receive one medal card per download.

For the first time you can now search and download service records of officers who served in the Royal Navy. These records were kept by the Admiralty from the 1840s and record service for warrant officers joining the Royal Navy up to 1931 and commissioned officers joining the service up to 1917, including King George VI.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The value of patterns in genealogy research

As noted in her article, "Mustering Up the Courage to Delve into Military Rosters," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests an otherwise dry list of facts and/or names can become interesting when you begin to observe patterns and the inklings of story beneath the surface. Perhaps examining these lists in reference to your own ancestors and others who served with them may tell you more than you might have imagined, about the unit, the politics, or even the person.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Footnote gives 1860 U. S. Census a new twist

As noted on, the 1860 U.S. Census made an appearance at historical records subscription site this past week and brings something "a bit different to the table," - allowing users to enhance census listings by adding photos, stories, comments and related documents. has included the 1860 U.S. Census to its Civil War collection which also includes service records of Confederate soldiers, a pension index for Union soldiers, and Southern Claims Commission files. Footnote is also working with FamilySearch and the National Archives to digitize the actual pension applications for Union widows -- this alone is excellent news!

The new 1860 U.S. Census database is available online to paid subscribers at, and is also available for free to users at local Family History Centers and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. If you're unable to locate someone you expect to find, don't panic. As of today the 1860 census database is only 66% complete, with the rest to come.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Keeping in mind the "margin of error"

An article in the Tampa Tribune, "Use Caution When Accessing Newly Available Army Records," provides some background on how the process involved in bringing these records to greater public access may have compromised the data. While we consider military records "primary sources," we certainly have to keep in mind the margin of error and the problems of interpretation and transcription of data. This margin of error is good to keep in mind anytime you researching records other than "original" images that you can see and interpret for yourself.

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