Links I Just Kind of Like a Lot

This week has not been great for keeping up with frankly much of anything, except maybe toothbrushing. Oh, and I somehow managed to catch my thumb in the salad-spinner mechanism, thereby proving that even fresh greens can be a dangerous thing in my house.

So instead of the usual links from all over, I’m going back to some places that have always struck me as wonderfully useful, or fun to poke around in, or just nice. Comfort links, if you will.

Birth, Death, Marriage, Infinity:

Passaic County (NJ) Cemeteries list: Need a cemetery around here? The Passaic County Genealogy Club has got you covered.

Rockland County (NY) Cemeteries: Another one of those areas right outside NYC that seems really mysterious to out-of-towners because “New York” coverage often just means five boroughs. This is a great, descriptive table, courtesy of the Genealogical Society of Rockland County.

New York City Vital Records: I can’t not list this, well-known as it is. It’s like an old friend I drop in on every so often. “Hey there! Seen any of my peeps lately?” Also I send them a little something at Christmas because they are just that cool.

Troy Irish Genealogy Society, Burden Newspaper Clippings (Deaths): Really, all the projects these guys put up are worth looking at if your people passed through the Troy, NY region. The newspaper clippings are from a file maintained by employees of Troy’s Burden Iron Company and are arranged by last name. There’s also a database of marriage clippings.

Toolbox Items: Never a dull moment plugging in a surname on this genealogy metasearch site. OK, well, there are actually quite a few dull moments — you know how it goes — but like the NYC vital records, you just never know what will pop up when. I recently found a burial record here for a baby I’d assumed I was never going to find.

The 5 Most Misused Words And Phrases In Genealogy: Because I like to wince a lot. Thanks, Michael Hait.

Cornell University Age Calculator: In case anyone lost theirs.

Heritage stuff:

Gesellschaft für Familienforschung in Franken e.V.: The Society for Family Research in Franconia! Of course you knew that! Or maybe you clicked on the button for the English translation of the site. They will even explain where Franconia is, which honestly everyone should know because my grandparents are from there.

Ireland Genealogy Projects: Tipperary: I like the links list here, especially.

Picture this:

New York Public Library Digital Gallery: A terrific browse.

Plainfield (NJ) Public LIbrary Digital Archive: Photos, blueprints and postcards. I grew up near here so I love to look around.

These are just some of my favorite links for a rainy day. What are yours?



Update (June 2012):

As indicated in the recent comment below, efforts have begun to resurrect Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. A RAOGK Wiki has some basic information. There are also two Facebook pages, one for USA-based requests and one for international requests.


An unwelcome piece of genealogy news this week, via Dick Eastman: Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is going offline for an unspecified time in the wake of computer issues and its administrator’s health problems.

Read the full announcement here. I myself have yet to utilize RAOGK — I’m lucky to live close to my ancestral stomping grounds. But it’s a sad shock for the many, many fans of the groundbreaking volunteer referral network, which in 2010 was named one of the year’s Best Big Genealogy Sites by Family Tree Magazine.

It was also a bit of a shock to realize that this was the first I’d heard the name of an actual individual behind RAOGK, although I’m sure it’s not a big state secret. It’s just interesting that something like RAOGK can be out there as a dependable genealogy livesaver, and still be sort of anonymous. (I went back and checked the Family Tree mention from 2010, and there weren’t any names there, either.)

What also strikes me is the fragility of these labors of love. We refer to them, and rely on them, and assume they’re rocks. But ultimately a lot of networking efforts are the product of just a very few hearts, minds and wills. The idea of being the actual heart and mind of an institution like that is a bit frightening. Many recognize this, even if they don’t ‘fess up to it.

All you have to do is read the commentary following an announcement such as last week’s – many, many pleas for somebody somewhere to take over the work; maybe one or two actual offers to do so.

But I don’t want to make too much hay of a case where there aren’t a lot of particulars available. Maybe it’s just a temporary shutdown and the worries are premature. Maybe the logistics of getting a temporary administrator up to speed are just one more thing the RAOGK folks do not need right now.

In any event, I wish Bridgett Schneider all the best.  And thank you.

Note: There is a Facebook page where RAOGK volunteers are posting information about their expertise and availability.

Whiff of the Past in Greenpoint

We’ve all been to museums and festivals where the sights and sounds of history are re-enacted, but … the smells of history?

That is what you’ll get when on October 22, when the Brooklyn Diggers, a collective of artists and historians, throws a 150th birthday party for the Monitor, the Union Army’s ironclad ship built in Greenpoint in 1861.

At “Monitor 1861,” an outdoor installation in McGolrick Park, wooden smell boxes filled with horse manure, tar, spices and coal will enable visitors to drink in the atmosphere of long-ago Greenpoint. Whether they will like it or not is debatable, but in any case there will also be music, food, a walking tour and a 14-foot model of the ship on offer.

More details at the link above or at the Brooklyn Diggers’ blog.

Links, 10.17.11

The links took a week off, presumably to go leaf-peeping in Vermont, where we hear (via our sister, who was just there) that they are having a beautiful season and are as hospitable as ever, despite a challenging time from Hurricane Irene. (Check out Foliage Vermont for updates, if you’re the leaf-watching type.)

Bad, bad, bad: This destruction of historic grave markers at a Greenwich (UK) cemetery looks so mindless and heartless that it just had to be the work of vandals, right? Amazingly, however, it was part of a park revitalization effort. Oddly enough, nobody is rushing forward to claim they know just why it happened. h/t Dick Eastman.

Women warriors: An intriguing story to think about in these weeks leading up to Veterans’ Day: Danville (Ill.) columnist Joan Griffis draws our attention to a NARA Prologue publication about women soldiers of the Civil War. If, like me, you hadn’t heard of this three-part article before, it’s worth a look.

List-savvy: See, this is why I still like old-fashioned email lists. A very nice person on the NY-IRISH list forwarded this Google Books link to an 1850 report to the New York State Senate, which records expenses and payments related to canal work in West Troy (now Watervliet), N.Y. Included are many lists of laborers, many with Irish surnames. Just the sort of fascinating find I love on Google Books. If you have an ancestor who might have been in that area and time frame, check it out.

Embroidered facts: Oh, my. I knew computer-smart sewing machines were capable of greatness, but even so: T-shirts embroidered with fan charts? That is something. As Dick Eastman reports, these Embroidery Charts are an outgrowth of the Charting Companion program from Progeny Genealogy. (Edited to add: See also Tamura Jones, who wrote an interesting post about this and Progeny software in general a few weeks ago. h/t to Patricia in comments.)

On with the week!

Cemetery Database: Newark (NJ) Archdiocese

I don’t honestly know how long it’s been there, I saw a very nice thing the other day: a searchable database to several cemeteries overseen by the Archdiocese of Newark. Lots of thanks to the email listers from the Genealogical Society of New Jersey, who posted this great link.

Entries include name, burial date and detailed grave location information. Included are:

  • Gate of Heaven Cemetery and Mausoleum
  • Saint Gertrude Cemetery and Mausoleum
  • Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleum
  • Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
  • Mount Olivet Cemetery and Mausoleum
  • Christ the King Cemetery

I haven’t been able to track down any background on how complete this database is. Personally, I hit paydirt searching a surname of interest I have from Jersey City; it turned up several hits on burials from 1914 through 2009.

Poking around with a couple of searches on common surnames like King and Smith, I noticed that most of the hits seemed to be 20th-century, but there were certainly quite a few from the 1880s and 1890s, as well. The earliest entries I saw were from the 1860s, but this was just a quick exploration, so don’t assume that’s the extent of the range.

Hope this helps someone hunting for ancestors in northern New Jersey.

Editorial Courtesies (Cough)

Blogging has been light lately because I am in the middle of a real live Genealogy Study Course™, which means (in the words of one of my beloved children) that I “never get up from that desk chair anymore.”

I also have been writing papers in a somewhat more formal vein than has been the case on this blog, scholarly as it is. (No, really! Who else is going to fill you guys in on the historical roots of slumgullion?) Anyway, this writing has been good for my soul, settling me down and focusing my thoughts in a productive way.

But … there is still an unruly voice in my head sometimes, arguing vociferously with the polite phrasing that must be used by a polished professional to describe documents, no matter what state those documents are in.

To relieve my feelings, I offer these heavily edited (and entirely fictional) outtakes:

… The handwriting on the entry is a freakin’ trainwreck somewhat challenging to interpret. However, after three beers careful examination, it is apparent that John Thorne did unload deed this wasteland to his son-in-law in return for one dollar (a complete ripoff), probably in retaliation as a wedding gift. The marriage between Thorne’s daughter Eliza and Gabriel Ashforth had taken place three weeks before the transaction, and six months before all hell broke loose the birth of their first child.

… The entries in this particular baptismal register are positively Dadaist somewhat erratically recorded.

… The census taker that year a Tammany hack, let’s face it, possibly inexperienced, unfortunately omitted the house numbers for the entire block of this Greenpoint avenue assuming he actually knocked on the doors in the first place.

… The entry for the McManus family is puzzling, given data in previous censuses compiled by enumerators who had a clue. Possibly the informant was Mickey Mouse a neighbor, which could account for the booze-addled fantasies inconsistencies.

There, I feel better now. Back to work.

Links, 10.3.11

As I type, the chill of fall is in the air, finally. How’s that for an well-worn opening sentence? Next thing you know, I’ll be starting off with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Sheesh. Better just start listing links.

Information please: A gaggle of new databases went up at Here is one rundown, from Leland Meitzler.

Um, easy?!?: Sharon Tate Moody takes a sharp look at a well-meant genealogy-for-beginners pep talk and makes the excellent point that while genealogy is certainly fun, it is not always easy.

Workshopping it: For those of us having genealogy fun here in New Jersey, Jersey Journal columnist Daniel Klein has our back with a look at the fall season of genealogy workshops in the Garden State.

Delaware finds: Meanwhile, a little further south down the road, Delaware residents (Delawarians?) can access Delaware naturalizations from 1796 through 1850 on by using a portal through their state library and their state library cards. Sweet.

Online gold: Everyone searches online, but not everyone has James Tanner’s laser focus. Read his case study of how a well-chosen variety of online sources can make effective headway in documenting an ancestor. Also this week, Mr. Tanner reassured us Mac users that You Can Do Genealogy On a Mac.

And they all lived happily ever after. There, you’ve had your official timeworn ending sentence, too. Have a nice week.