Resource Spotlight: Photogrammar

Look, I’m completely gobsmacked over here, clicking madly through photo after photo and saying to nobody in particular: “Will you just look at THAT!” Don’t expect any pearls of prose. Why don’t we just go with the description provided:

Photogrammar

“… a web-based platform for organizing, searching, and visualizing the 170,000 photographs from 1935 to 1945 created by the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI).”

Then hit that “Start Exploring” link and start clicking on any location on that map of the United States. Use the sliding tool bar at the top left to narrow or broaden your time frame as desired.

Leave a note for your loved ones explaining that you’re going to be away from them for a while.

You’re welcome.

(and a BIG h/t to my friend Jodie Slothower at the English Department of Illinois State University.)


Resource Spotlight: Old German Occupations

Been a while since I did one of these — and this sure came in handy the other day:

List of Old German Professions

Befuddled by someone’s Beruf? This is a collection of  dozens of archaic German words describing what people did for a living. For me, it cleared up the designation “Komiss” on a manifest. This term (and similar ones such as Kommerziant) were used to describe sales clerks and the like.

I found it easiest to use when I did a text search on the term I was wondering about. Lots and lots of words here — maybe you’ll find one of them useful.

We have Milan Tyler-Pohontsch at European Roots to thank for this fascinating list.

 

 

 


Resource Spotlight: Staten Island Maps

If you have a vintage document with a Staten Island address, and Googling it gets you nowhere, you should visit this site:

Mapping Staten Island

This invaluable tool comes courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the Richmond County Savings Foundation, and it uses the overlapping-image technique to perfection.

From the home page, click “Explore the Maps.” You’ll open a window whereupon a map of present-day Staten Island is on your left, and a drop-down menu of historic maps is on the right.

Zoom in on the area  of present-day Staten Island that interests you. Then, on the drop-down menu, click on a vintage map. Your map image will change to show you how the present-day area was drawn on the historic map.

One important caveat: Great as the site is, you must do your homework to get the most out of it. For example, I recently used it to gain insight into an address on a 1920 death certificate: 12 Ocean Avenue. There is an Ocean Avenue in present-day Staten Island, not far from Fort Wadsworth and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. That could have been the place I sought, except that the full address on the death certificate was 12 Ocean Avenue, Oakwood Beach. The 1917 and 1922 maps at Mapping Staten Island confirmed that this 1920 death occurred in a different neighborhood altogether from present-day Ocean Avenue.

(Note: Oakwood Beach took a devastating blow from Superstorm Sandy last year, and the road to recovery continues to be a long one. This article is a great look at the courage and resourcefulness of neighborhood residents in the face of the challenge.)

Resource Spotlight is a continuing look at useful resources I’ve bookmarked over the years.


Resource Spotlight: NYC Newspapers

Although I studied this stuff in my journalism classes, I admit that every so often I look up and say to myself, “Geez, New York City had a lot of newspapers.”

I mean lots. Some had short runs, some went on for decades. Besides the usual general-interest, all-the-news-that’s-fit-to-print publications, there are dozens targeted to specific populations, whether by ethnicity or simply interests. Ergo:

New York City Newspapers (New York Public Library)

This is a .pdf format list of what the NYPL has available on microfilm. It is a nice thing to consult before a trip to the NYPL’s microform research room. The NYPL is a lot like the FHL in Salt Lake City that way. You don’t want to waste precious time there figuring out where to look — you really, really should do that beforehand and hit the ground running.

Anyway — for newspapers, check out this list. And note the large numbers of publications in languages other than English. These can contain hidden gems, as this story of research into victims of the Triangle Fire indicates. So if you have even a little reading ability in the language of interest, they are worth checking out. Happy hunting, etc.

Resource Spotlight provides a look at handy toolbox items I’ve bookmarked over the years.


Resource Spotlight: Money Matters

This sort of thing is always fun:

Inflation Calculator: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Inflation Calculator: 1774-present

Great stuff for writing about U.S. pocket change!

The first one only goes back to 1913, which is the first year the bureau began keeping this sort of statistic. But it is the BLS, so I like to use it whenever I’ve got more recent frames of reference.

The second tool, a feature of business news/economics website DaveManuel.com, uses data from Oregon State University. I’m sure there are lots of these if you need earlier dates, although the earlier you go, the harder it can be to arrive at true equivalencies.

Still, both of these calculators are nice to have around if you’re writing about money and your ancestors. For example, in 1877 a Patrick Connors (who I think was my great-great-grandfather Patrick) took the New York State canal commissioners to task over damages to his property from Erie Canal flooding. The initial claim was for $900, or about $19,000 today. The case dragged on for several years. In 1884, Patrick’s widow Bridget Connors accepted an award of $75, or about $1,785 in current cash.

If you’re going to write about what your ancestors were paid/were fined/inherited, your first priority is to be as accurate as possible about the actual, historical amount. But giving a present-day equivalent can certainly heighten your readers’ understanding of the lives your ancestors lived.

Resource Spotlight provides a look at handy toolbox items I’ve bookmarked over the years.


Resource Spotlight: Manifest Markings

Pssst! You over there!

Yes, you, the one peering at the Ellis Island passenger manifest on the high-resolution monitor. You need this:

A Guide To Interpreting Passenger List Annotations.

This comes courtesy of JewishGen. The chart focuses on U.S. passenger lists, and is an encyclopedic look at all the squiggles, cryptic initialings, stamped words and everything else that makes a manifest such a joy to interpret (cough).

As they always say, finding the document is the fun part. Reading it is another matter. And with passenger lists, the annotations can tell an important part of the story, so you really should know what it is you are looking at. Annotations are an education in themselves, and this guide is a great place to start.

Resource Spotlight provides a look at handy toolbox items I’ve bookmarked over the years.


Resource Spotlight: NYC Directories

City directories and telephone books are indispensable for the urban researcher whose forebears are inconveniently changing apartment leases every year or two.  Obviously the major paid directory databases at Ancestry and Fold3.com are extremely helpful. I am especially in love with Fold3’s filmstrip view for quick navigation through those closely printed pages.

But for New York City, there are also a couple of open-access sources of note:

Brooklyn City Directories: Brooklyn Public Library [Current coverage: 1856-1908]

Direct Me NYC: 1940 Telephone Directories [New York Public Library]

DirectMe began as a 1940 census ED finder, but I continue to find it useful even now that 1940 is indexed. It can help you with contextual details like employment locations and businesses. And it’s always good to have another source for locating relatives who appear to have eluded the census enumerators.

Resource Spotlight provides a look at handy toolbox items I’ve bookmarked over the years.


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