Post-Irene Recovery Resources

The big storm has left a big mess behind. We felt fortunate to brush by with an overnight power outage and a quick mop-up in the basement while many friends and neighboring communities continue to deal with flooding of historic proportions.

For Empire State libraries and archives who might be among those feeling the pain, the New York State Archives offers support strategies and numbers to call. Here’s hoping that records repositories in the path of the storm can keep things high and dry.


Links, 8.29.11

What will be the state of the links come Monday? Depends on the state of the power lines around here. If the links seem inappropriately cheery,  it’s because the post was scheduled to go out before the lights went out. Or it’s because the links are just stiff-upper-lip types.

Guessing game: Via Dick Eastman, a new UK genealogy show called Guess the Relative is looking for people from anyplace in the world who think they may have British ancestry. Read all about it.

1890 workaround: The 1890 census, almost entirely lost in a 1921 fire, is a famous blank spot for U.S. researchers, who must turn to a variety of local and regional resources to fill in the gap. Here is an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on a Georgia alternative: 1890 tax digests.

OMG Gaga — so cute!: updated its high school yearbook collection in a big way last week, adding 7 million images. It is time for a story with the obligatory Lady Gaga angle.

Gravedigging: The Genealogy Geek series continues with a primer on Finding the Dead.

On the road: A review of the Irish family-history program Genealogy Roadshow.

And off we go on the inevitable march towards Labor Day. Enjoy the (hopefully dry) week.

Sentimental Sunday: Rules to Live By

Truly great ideas leave a real mark –  the one that occurs when you smack yourself upside the head while wondering: “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Take this family history project from my friend Helen that is simplicity itself. She calls it her “Family Rules Project.”

Many families have the sort of rules she means. They’re the commandments of everyday life passed on by the elders, often when the elders are trying to get the kids out of their hair. They cover such basics as what constitutes fair play, when to take your hat off and who gets the last chip in the bag.

The foundations of civilization, in other words.

Helen came up with a funny and often touching compilation by canvassing her extended family. She grouped the results in categories such as “Observations,” “Tips,” and “Health and Safety.”

Some examples of her clan’s ancestral wisdom:

 If your mother is watching, wear a helmet.

Remove the Plumpy the Plumtree card from the Candyland game. No one likes to go back that far. (Ed. Note: True, too true.)

 Cook enough + some. You never know who will stop by.

 Little kids never strike out and always make it to base.

For the love of Mike,” “For Pete’s sake,” and “Son of a gunare acceptable alternatives to swear words in exasperating situations.

When she had a good bunch of these sayings, Helen sent them around again, including a final sheet tacked on to the end with blank spaces for everyone to write down favorite sayings that might have been forgotten.

It’s a simple and yet powerful idea,  awakening shared memories and humor in a direct, creative way. It would work wonderfully in partnership with vintage family photos, but the words themselves are vivid enough to stand on their own. Helen is busy packaging her research into a book to distribute to family members. I can’t think of a nicer keepsake gift for the holidays.

What were your family’s rules to live by?


Taking the opportunity to mention that the blog will do its best to keep chugging, but Hurricane Irene might have other ideas about when and how. Be safe, everybody.

Storm Links, 8.27.11

Gentle Reader,  I am assuming you are the person who bought up all the D batteries and Spaghetti-Os in my hometown, so you’ve got that taken care of. What about your genealogy treasures? A-ha! Weren’t thinking of that while you were loading up, were you?

Fortunately the Internet is full of advice. A lot of it is good to keep in mind even if you aren’t considering the ramifications of an uncooperative tropical weather system.

From Stanczyk — Internet Muse: Backups and plastic bags — stat.

Do you know what your data backup plan is? From

General preservation and disaster-preparedness tips for your keepsakes from Texana Archives.

NARA’s disaster preparedness tips. This is via Diane at Genealogy Insider, who provides other news tidbits related to Irene, the recent East Coast earthquake and their impact on the D.C.-area archives.)

Ed. Note: Back in what seems a lifetime ago, Mr. Archaeologist and I were packing the pitifully small amount of items we could squeeze into our Honda Civic as we prepared to leave our condo in advance of Hurricane Andrew. The phone rang with a call from a friend who was a lifelong Floridian: “Take the stuff you absolutely can’t replace. Your important papers. Your photo albums. Be safe.”

Still good advice, whatever you happen to be fleeing.

Index: Troy, N.Y. Clergy, 1793-1890

This right here is a lovely indexing project. Especially if you are researching ancestors in Troy, N.Y. and you have a sneaking suspicion that one of them might have belonged to the clergy. Or if you have an old Troy marriage or baptism record that mentions an officiating clergyman but not the name of the church.

The Troy Irish Genealogy Society (TIGS) announced this database last month. It’s an index of names drawn from the book Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889, by Arthur James Weise. At the TIGS page you can click on one of two Surnames buttons (A-L, M-Y) for an alphabetized list of clergy, the religious institutions in which they served, and the time frame.

One of the very best things about a database like this is that you don’t have to page through the entire original book if you don’t want to. Not to slam the long-departed Mr. Weise: Troy’s One Hundred Years is a thorough piece of work (if you like, you can read some excerpts here).

However, long-ago local histories can wear a reader down — and I write this as someone capable of whiling away an afternoon on Google Books reading century-old reports to the New York State Assembly. You can miss details in the thickets of precise accounts about who exactly was responsible for the pathbreaking drainage project on Main Street. And some of those details might be your ancestors.

Indexes like this help us not only as finding aids, but by reminding us of all the valuable information to be mined in similar histories. They’re well worth seeking out and combing through with a sharp eye, even if they’re not indexed yet.

Here’s the database link again: Troy, NY Churches and Synagogues, 1793-1890.

Links, 8.22.11

Looks like our most recent big news is the transformation of into … Fold3? What sort of name is that? It sounds like something to do with origami. Or poker. Anyway, it doesn’t sound like genealogy, is my point. Marketing is so weird sometimes.

On to the links:

Footnote notes: So starts tweaking Footnote, which it acquired last year — giving it a new name, and putting its emphasis exclusively on military records. More from Michael Hait and Dick Eastman (interesting comments here, too). Megan Smolyenak considers the Footnote changes in tandem with developments with Google News Archive with a twinge of trepidation.

Disappearing acts: This article on tracking down “runaway” husbands (and wives) offers encouragement for those tracking down people who made themselves vanish, whether it was to get married in the first place against their parents’ wishes, or to leave a marriage they no longer wanted.

Revolutionary: Reporter Cheryl Wills writes about the “ancestral revolution” born of  the current genealogy boom.

Channeling: The Deseret News reports on the expansion and refurbishing of FamilySearch’s YouTube channel.

Case study: Nice book review out of Bowling Green, Ky.: Librarian Nancy Richey takes a look at The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation and explains why it’s a great example of exciting progress in African-American family history research.

Here’s wishing you all a productive week.