Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finding Prussian Ancestors

Hundreds of thousands of marriage records from 19th century Catholic and Lutheran parishes in the Poznan (Posen) region of Prussia have been indexed by volunteers and are available for you to search at The Poznan Project website.

If you find your ancestor in the index, you then have the parish and can search the Family History Library Catalog at for additional information available on microfilm through your local Family History Center

Check the status of available records indexed to date, and more are being added as additional parishes are completed. This is a database to re-check periodically. Check out and the Poland page on the FamilySearch wiki to learn more about Polish and Prussian records.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Irish Research - Griffith's Valuation

If you have Irish ancestors, you’ll be interested to hear about a new web site that provides free, searchable access to the Griffith’s Valuation.

Between 1848 and 1868, the Valuation Office in Ireland surveyed property owners to assign taxes for the support of the poor. A man named Griffith was the director of the office, so the listing became known as “Griffith’s Valuation.” If your Irish ancestors rented or owned property during that timeframe, you may be able to find them listed in their county, barony, and civil parish – key pieces of information for successful Irish research.

To Search the Griffith's Valuation, go to Ask About Ireland. To learn more about Irish taxation, including Griffith's Primary Valuation, see the FamilySearch Wiki on Irish Taxation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FindAGrave Cemetery and Burial Information

Cemeteries are a great place to “dig up” information about your family! But what if you don’t live near where your ancestors are buried? Try searching Find A Grave. 

Go to and click on [Search 92 million grave records]. (It was only 20 million back in 2008 when I first wrote this!  The site is growing fast!  If you don't find anything helpful today, check back in a week or two!)  

Enter basic information about your ancestor (start with Last Name, year they died, and state, if you know those details) and see what you find! The more unique the name, the less information you should provide in the search screen.

Find A Grave is a volunteer-contributor site. Not every grave in every state is recorded. You may be fortunate and find that your ancestor’s grave has been documented by a kind volunteer. Another way you can be involved in Family History is to BE that kind volunteer! Documenting cemeteries and posting names and headstone photos on Find A Grave would be a great family or Scout service project, or Young Woman’s Value Project.


If you learn best by seeing a demonstration, RootsTelevision is for you! Whether you’re interested in learning to scan photos or use FireFox Search tools, want to know more about Canadian census records, Jewish research or Google books, you’ll find it (and much, much more!) on RootsTelevision.

Watch the PBS series Ancestors, any episode, any time. View genealogy-related videos on RootsTube (similar to YouTube) that individuals like you create and post, like the series of classes on photo scanning and restoration posted by the Naperville, Illinois Family History Center. Tour 1920’s London, or hear the story of Rosemary and burnt peas for dinner. Watch an interview with the CEO of Learn something new today, and energize your Family History efforts.

Going Digital

Recent floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and other disasters remind us that documents and photos are fragile and often irreplaceable. There are several ways to protect your family’s precious history. Photos and important documents can be scanned easily and inexpensively. Family details (names, dates, places) can be entered into PAF or other genealogy software. Copies can then be shared digitally via CD or DVD, thumb drive, e-mail, or web page.

There are at least two good reasons to enter your family information into genealogy software, and to scan documents and photos. The first is that it is much easier to share information with others if it is in digital form. (How many descendants can have the original of great grandpa’s immigration papers?) The second reason is that if disaster strikes, you can view and print copies of documents and photos that have been lost or destroyed.

Digital copies don’t hold quite the same nostalgia as the original. But every descendant’s life can be blessed by seeing the faces and reading the stories of our ancestors’ lives – if we will protect them and share them!

Social Security Death Index

The Society Security Death Index (SSDI) is a great resource for documenting death (and often birth) information for ancestors who died within the last 20 or 30 years. Several websites have SSDI databases, including and

Access to the SSDI is free. If you find your ancestor listed in the SSDI, you can contact the Social Security Administration to obtain a copy of his/her Social Security application, which would provide details including date and place of birth, and parents’ names.

Instead of relying on someone’s recollections, make sure your records are accurate by taking the time to verify the information you have on ancestors who have died more recently! You can read more about the SSDI by going to and searching for SSDI.

HeritageQuest from Home with Your Library Card

You may have free access to HeritageQuest on-line from home through your public library. HeritageQuest collections include census records, Freedman's Bank records, digitized books, PERSI, and a variety of other information sources - all from home. 

Find your library's home page and look for a list of databases available through the library.  Every library's page will be a bit different, so look!  If you live in Williamsburg, Virginia, you'd get to Heritage Quest as follows:
  1. Go to and move your cursor to hover over [What We Have], then click to select  [Research and Databases].
  2. Select [Genealogy and Biography] from the "Find it online" list.
  3. Scroll down to [HeritageQuest Online] and click to access the database.
  4. Enter the barcode number from the back of your library card (leaving out the spaces).
Search away! Remember to start broad and general (last name, state), and narrow your search, if necessary.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Premium Content Databases at the FHC

Where is the best place to work on your family history? In many instances, it is at home. However, there are three great new reasons to make a trip to the Williamsburg Family History Center:, Godfrey Memorial Library, and WorldVitalRecords genealogy web sites are now available for free at Family History Centers.

Some of the resources available at include indexed images of US immigration and naturalization papers, Revolutionary War and Civil War pension files, FBI case files, small town newspapers, and Civil War photographs. Godfrey Memorial Library focuses on records from Connecticut and surrounding areas, including church, mortuary, obituaries, Jewish cemetery, and Bible records; newspapers, Who’s Who, biographical records, and more. WorldVitalRecords includes birth, marriage, death and other records from all over the world.

Come to the Family History center this week! Let us help you figure out where to look next!

Family Health History

Family history isn’t just for “turning hearts.” It may also be about heart disease… high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, too! Knowing your family health history can help you better protect your own health. What kinds of things do you need to know? How can that help you be healthier?

The US Surgeon General’s Office has a web site to help you collect and print important family health history information in a way that health care professionals can use. Studies have shown that knowing your family health history and sharing it with your doctor in this way can help you receive more appropriate treatment than you would otherwise receive.

To create your own family health history pedigree, go to
(Check out your personal Body Mass Index while you’re there!)

Searching Ellis Island Records

If your ancestors immigrated to the United States between 1892 and 1954, or traveled abroad and then returned to the US, they may have passed through Ellis Island Immigration Station. Some 12 million immigrants were “processed” at Ellis Island during those years.

There is no cost to search for an Ellis Island passenger or to see a ship’s manifest list. Important information including the immigrant’s age at arrival, occupation, family members, and homeland are often included on the manifest. Ships’ manifests from more recent years may provide exact date and place of birth, passport number (if a US citizen returning from abroad), and home address.

To search for your immigrant ancestors, go to . You can also check your own citizenship credentials by taking the Ellis Island Citizenship Test on-line!