Sunday, June 29, 2014

Passport Applications

If your ancestors ever traveled abroad, they may have applied for a passport. Before the 1940’s, passports were not required for international travel except during times of war (Civil War and WW I, particularly). However, many Americans applied for passports even when they were not required to do so. More than a half million passports were issued between 1810 and 1909.

Passport applications generally included the birth date and birth place of the applicant (with a sworn affidavit from someone who knew them personally), plus a physical description (height, weight, hair color, etc.). Later passports included photos. An entire family might be listed on a single passport. A woman might be listed on her husband’s passport. Missionaries who served abroad often applied for passports.

Fold3 and both have indexed collections of US passports.  FamilySearch has unindexed passport collections from Portugal and Spain. To see a list of passport collections, type "passport" in the [Filter by collection name] box in the upper left corner.

To learn more about using Passport Applications in your family history research, stop by the Family History Center.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

California Digital Newspaper Collection

Los Angeles Herald, Volume 37, Number 270, 28 June 1910 - California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, .
If your ancestors lived in California, you may find information about them in the California Digital Newspaper Collection at  Hosted by the University of California, Riverside, the website contains more than 500,000 digitized and text-searchable pages from California newspapers dating from 1846 to 1922.

Official birth and death records for California don't begin until 1905, so newspapers are an important resource for documenting lives before the 20th century. To learn more about the California Digital Newspaper Collection, stop by the Family History Center.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The faith of our fathers

Search Screen - Trinity Lutheran Church, Sangamon County, Illinois
Father's Day may find you humming "Faith of our fathers, holy faith, We will be true to thee till death!"  Knowing the faith of your fathers can be very helpful in understanding their stories, as well as finding their records.  Church records can be a rich source of family information: births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, transfers to other parishes/locations, deaths and burials.

Journal of the ... Session, Northwest Indiana
Annual Conference, the ...

 By Methodist Church (U.S.). Northwest Indiana Conference, 1909
Some denominations centralize their records, while others may be kept by individual congregations. Older records might be housed in a local public library or private archive. Church records that have been published into books (annual church directories, quarterly conference reports) may be available digitally on Google Books.

Some churches have websites that provide easy access to their records (particularly burial indexes). To find out if there are church records that might be useful to you, read the FamilySearch wiki article for the county where your ancestor lived, search the Family History Library Catalog, call the local public library reference desk, and/or try a Google search for the church (location + denomination +  church records). 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Super simple scanning to the FamilySearch Family Tree!

Click on the FamilySearch logo on the printer to get started!
Have you got a photo or document that helps tell your family story?  Have you got a login and two minutes?

Bring that photo or document (or a stack of them) to the Williamsburg Family History Center, log into your account on the Lexmark printer (yes, THE PRINTER!), place your document face down on the glass and press [Scan]. 

That's it! Your irreplaceable item is scanned directly to your Memories tab on  No cables to connect, scanner software to navigate, thumb drives to fumble, or file types to puzzle over. Just follow the prompts, and whatever you scan lands in your Memories collection on FamilySearch.

When you're finished scanning, log into FamilySearch on a computer (from home or while you're still at the FHC), tag those photos or documents, and attach them to people in the Family Tree.  For step-by-step instructions, see How to Scan Documents to Family Tree.

Preserve and share a precious memory this week. Stop by the Family History Center.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Using Find-A-Record to clean up the FamilySearch Family Tree

If a lot of information about your ancestors has been added to the FamilySearch Family Tree by others or comes from merged records from other systems, you may have difficulty figuring out where you can begin.  Find-A-Record Research Assistant is a free tool that evaluates your FamilySearch Family Tree and provides a list of opportunities:

  • records that have missing information (birth or death facts)
  • records with missing relationships (parents or spouses)
  • information not supported by a record
  • information that is obviously incorrect, duplicate, or non-standard (meaning that the date or name of a place isn't in the correct format).  

Find-A-Record is a great tool whether you're a beginner or an experienced researcher.  To get started, go to and click on [Start]. Simply log in using your user name and password, then click on each Opportunity to see what you can do!