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Thursday, December 31, 2009

My 2010 New Year's Resolutions

Time to start again, already? This year I'm going to be good! I'm only making five genealogy resolutions, so maybe, just maybe I'll be able to keep them! Here's my list:

1. I will not overcommit myself to research projects, lecture invitations and volunteer requests. (Yeah, right... lol!) Well at least I’ll try to do a better job of scheduling my commitments realistically, including keeping a detailed calendar and planning enough time to adequately fulfill each commitment in the time required to do so. It isn’t helping that I already received two research requests just yesterday, and I haven’t even fulfilled all of Decembers “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” requests yet.

2. For all new research projects, I will first and foremost start by developing a detailed research plan, following it strictly, and meticulously keep research logs along the way. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The trick will really be resisting the temptation to dive in head first and accumulate piles of research notes haphazardly, because that’s sooo much fun! What isn’t fun is trying to sort through it all later and try to figure out what I was thinking. I know its not just me, y’all do it too, don’t you!

3. I will actually work on my OWN family line this year. The brickwall I’m determined to bust this year will be finding the parents of Mary Prouty Hatch – or more specifically, proving that Burpee Prouty is, in fact, her father... of course, following the method I’ve outlined in #2...

4. I will schedule reading time regularly, if only monthly, for catching up on all of the journals, magazines and books in my ‘need to read’ pile.

5. I will continue to update the toolbar with cool and helpful websites for internet genealogy research. (Always open for suggestions, by the way!)

My personal new year’s resolutions are much simpler (can't claim originality on these - I saw them somewhere and loved it!)
Dance like no one is watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like no one is listening, and Live like its heaven on earth.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Other Collections for Family Stories Online

The holidays really have me thinking about family stories. With relatives packing the house, there are bound to be a few memories stirred and shared, and these always leave me wanting more. So of course, I turn to the internet, and a few more websites that are making an effort to collect personal memories, and other family history treasures.

The Library of Congress’s American Memory project is another online large scale special collection of US ephemera. The collection includes texts, audio recordings, photographs and videos, maps and even sheet music that document American life.

It is very easy to search by using the “Search All Collections” bar at the upper right of the main page, or you can browse the individual collections. From the main page you can choose the option to “List All Collections”, which will give you an overview of what all is available on the site. The other option, “More Browse Options” will show you the collections organized by time periods, etc.

Just one of the collections is "California as I Saw It: First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900". These records consist of the full texts and illustrations of 190 works documenting the early years of California's history through eyewitness accounts, from the Gold Rush through the turn of the twentieth century.

No matter how you get into it, the American Memory site is a great place to find information on history at the time or place that your ancestors lived, or maybe even a story specific to one of your ancestors.


Its always a good idea to search the area, locale, that you are researching for libraries, and poke around their website to see if they have special collections. Universities especially tend to be repositories for items of historical interest.


One that covers much of the southern states is hosted by the University of North Carolina – Documenting the American South collection online, at

If you click on the Collections tab at the top, you will get a list of the different themes they have. Many of the collections are focused on North Carolina, but several deal with the South in general.

The state of South Carolina has an excellent Digital Library, that is a collaborative effort of South Carolina schools, libraries, archives, museums and other institutions, and is found at

From the main page, you will want to “Browse SCDL Collections.” This page will give you different browsing options, by type, time period, county, region, etc. Or again, you can just search using the Search box at the top.

Browsing by regions will bring up a map, showing the counties. There are some real treasures in these collections, for example the handwritten United Spanish War Veterans Ledger.

Their Own Words” is a digital collection of “books, pamphlets, letters and diaries” from the 1700-1900s that focuses on the history of the US is hosted by Dickinson College at

You can browse by author or by dates, or you can search the entire site by title, author, or keyword or phrase.

If you are don’t want just items available online, but actually want to find archives and manuscript collections, Columbia University has CLIO - a searchable database of Archives and Manuscript collections housed in national archives and libraries, college and university collections as well as historical societies, at

If you scroll down, you can see that this website also has links to many of the major archives, museum and libraries in the US, as well as other online Special Collections such as the American Heritage Project, co-sponsored by UC Berkeley, Stanford, Duke & the University of Virginia.

One collection that isn’t extremely huge, but encompasses works from the entire world, is called World Digital Library.

From the top right you can Browse by several different options - Place, Time, Topic, Type, or Institution. The TYPE of item browse feature will give you an idea of what is available, and the number of items. The INSTITUTIONS tab will give you an idea of all of the repositories in the world that the items are from. Its pretty fascinating to look at.

From the main home page, also, you can narrow the individual results showing on the map just by moving the slide bar thru the time periods underneath the map.

Finally, if you haven’t located resources in the areas you are researching by any of these means mentioned so far, just go to Google, and search using the words “Special Collections” along with the name of the state or location you are interested in. There are bound to be several options showing up in your results, including University websites, state, county and historical society collections.

Take your time to peruse the resources, and don’t forget to write down the full citation information for any tidbits you find. You will want to be able to properly cite your sources if you decide to share the information with others, and also make it easier to return to that same site again.

You can find these websites, and more as I locate them, on my Internet Genealogy toolbar, under the "In Print" tab, then Special Collections. Download and use the toolbar, completely free, from

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Internet Archive - audio, video, texts and more!

It’s Christmas eve day, and its snowing here in Dallas, so everyone is just huddled indoors trying to stay warm, and enjoying being in the company of family... which always sets me to thinking about my ancestors and genealogy, of course.

Since the presents are all wrapped, and its just a countdown to Santa, I’ll go ahead and write about another site for finding family stories online, and we’ll call it my Christmas present to you :)

Internet Archive, at is a very large, online archive of internet treasures. This site archives video, live music, audio files, and is another great source for digital texts. One of the main features of the site is the Way Back Machine - which is an archive of over 150 billion web pages that are no longer available otherwise. So if you have a web address that you previously found some great information at, but when you return that page is no longer available, you can put the address into the Way Back Machine and hope that it is one that they have archived. If so, voila! The old web page is there for you to peruse, and, if its important stuff, print out.

The Internet Archives website has a search engine that covers all of the collections, or you can search them individually. You can search by using any keyword, such as a surname or location. I almost always include the word ‘genealogy’ in order to narrow down the results.

The audio files consist over 455,000 recordings, and the genealogy search offerings include several individual interviews, a couple of genealogy books in audio format, and even some of DearMYRTLE’s Family History Podcasts from a few years back.

The archives also has over 72,000 live music recordings, so if researching your departed ancestors gives you a hankering to listen to the Grateful Dead live at Filmore East in 1970, go ahead and stream it on your computer from this site.

There are nearly 240,000 items in the moving images archive here, including everything from movie trailers and propaganda films, to full length feature movies, all available to download and view. Watch the 1935 version of A Shot In The Dark, or the cult classic Reefer Madness - there’s lots to choose from.

The digital text collection has close to two million books digitized, and the nice thing about their text collection is that each book is presented in a few different digital formats to make reading it easier, depending on your computer’s capabilities. I like the way you can easily search the texts, and the results appear like little tabs on the pages of the virtual book that you can click on.

As always, its worth spending some time poking around any interesting website to see what all they have to offer. But be sure to spend as much time as you can with your living relatives during the holidays!

WorldCat and Online Special Collections

Every third Thursday I give a presentation in SecondLife. December’s discussion was part two of Finding Your Family Stories Online, with an emphasis on using Special Collections that are available online. While last month’s topic focused on digitized texts, part two focused on finding all sorts of other treasures – photographs, letters, oral histories, sound recordings, videos... the kinds of things that can add color and life to your family history.

Special collections can be found in libraries, universities, museums, historical societies – any place that might have an interest in collecting local ephemera. The collections are generally primary materials based on a specific subject, or location, and may include just about anything that’s been either donated or acquired that falls into the subject area for the collection.

Its such a score to find any of these collections online, too - giving you instant access to old photos, or even audio files of personal interviews. You just never know what you’ll find.

Right now I’m just going to mention my favorite website for finding these online special collections, which is now, surprisingly enough, WorldCat ( WorldCat was initially designed to be a place where libraries could post their holdings, so that anyone could find particular items in libraries near them and across the country, and world for that matter. There are thousands of participating libraries, and more constantly coming onboard. Their ‘about’ page states that they are “the world's largest network of library content and services.”

I use WorldCat regularly to locate books and journals and other text sources, but I didn’t realize until recently that they have included the databases in their catalog as well! Let me explain why this is so wonderful.

OAIster was a project developed at the University of Michigan in 2002 with the purpose of establishing, ““A retrieval service for publicly available digital library resources provided by the research library community.” Basically, it’s a network of digitized Special Collections, indexed, with hyperlinks housed at WorldCat now. The world at your fingertips!! Woohoo!

So to access all these great and wonderful goodies, simply go to the WorldCat main page, and type your search into the search bar. For example, I used a surname and a state that I knew the family had lived in - Mork Minnesota. The list of search results that comes up includes all of the resources available in the WorldCat catalog, which is definitely worth perusing. From here you can easily locate any of these resources in a library by clicking on the resource and entering your zip code. The results will list all participating libraries that have that item, and their distance in miles from your own home. Several times I have found books or other resources that I hadn't known even existed.

But for now, I want to know what I can find ONLINE... right now... from home, in my jammies! So over on the left side of the page, under the heading “Refine Your Search”, and then under “Format”, cross your fingers and hope you see the sub-heading “Internet Resources”. If its there, the number in parenthesis is how many items are available online.. The more the better, of course!

If there are resources available, click on that heading “Internet Resources”, which will bring up the list of your search results that are available online. You can then choose the item that interests you and after clicking on it, you’ll be redirected to the website hosting the original image, or whatever the item is.

Each item's description will tell you what type of media the item is - a 2D photograph, postcard, maps, e-books, downloadable computer files, etc. Once you've chosen the specific item you want to find out more about, you can then either scroll down under its description just a bit to "Find A Copy Online" which will have the direct URL address for that specific item - click that and you're at the original online image.

Or, you can click on the item's highlighted title or author to be led to the entire collection from which it came. This is always worth doing too, since there may very well be more than one item in that collection that may interest you. Consider looking for other surnames - friends, neighbors, in-laws, that might also have been in the area. As always, you never know what you might find.

Again, not all every library is participating in WorldCat, but more and more are joining the site all the time. It is definitely a major resource for genealogists, and worth spending some time checking out.

(If you're using my toolbar, WorldCat is under the "In Print" tab, under Libraries. If you're not, it's a free download at

Friday, December 11, 2009

Aw shucks...

Just a quick post today, but this week has been amazing. Along with putting the finishing touches on an ancestry report for a good friend in which I was able to introduce him to his grandparents for the first time (well in print at least, since they're long deceased), meeting new friends and genealogists in SecondLife, and some really wonderful holiday parties and preparations, I was honored by the British website to be interviewed for their weblog. And they said such nice things about me too! Here's a link to that post, if you want to read the interview.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Dear Santa...

This week’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun from Randy Seaver over at Genea-musings, we are to write a letter to Genea-Santa asking for one gift for Christmas, and telling Genea-Santa what good genea-boys we have been.

Dear Genea-Santa,

Well at least I’ve tried to be good this year. I’ve done my best to find great websites and share them with people, and I even put together a cool toolbar of genealogy links and let anyone download and use it for free. I’ve tried to keep my Relatively Curious About Genealogy blog updated reasonably regularly and include as much useful information as I can. Evidently someone is reading it because since June, over 1,850 people have stopped by my pages! I volunteer at two libraries, and fulfill about 5-10 research requests per week that come thru Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, and have helped several of my friends find their own elusive ancestors.

I’ve already been blessed this year to have broken two major brickwalls, partly due to the kindness of others, so I almost feel guilty asking for yet another miracle for Christmas. But Santa, if you would be so kind, could you please help me prove that my 3rd great grandmother, Mary Prouty Hatch, who’s obituary and tombstone both state that she was born 18 Jan 1800 in Weathersfield, Vermont, is the same Mary Prouty that was born in September 1800 in Weathersfield, Vermont, the daughter of Burpee Prouty and one of his three wives? I mean, it shouldn’t really be that hard, considering Burpee was the only Prouty living in Weathersfield at that time, and happened to have also been the only Prouty living in Hartford, Vermont the same year that “my” Mary Prouty married Ira Hatch, in 1823. I’ve poured through Burpy Prouty’s 80+ page Revolutionary War pension applications and papers, but that hasn’t clinched it, despite the fact that Ira Hatch’s mother testified in regards to one of Burpy’s marriages, stating she was living next door to him and had a ‘babe in arms’ at the time (which had to have been Ira!).

Anyway, Genea-Santa, I know that might be a pretty big request, so what I think I’d really like instead would be to have all of my family together around Christmas – a plan already in the works, so all you need to do is make sure they all get here safely. Since my oldest daughter and her fiancĂ©, Hocine, are coming from Algeria, my dad, my sister and her husband, one sister & brother in law and their boys, a nephew and his kids, and niece, her husband and their sweet baby boy are all coming to meet and greet my new soon-to-be son-in-law and welcome him to the family. (Hmm on second thought, Santa, could you please just make sure that Hocine doesn’t bolt after meeting our crazy bunch?)

I can’t think of anything I’d like better, than being with the people I love the most for Christmas.

Thanks Genea-santa, you’re the best.

Sincerely, Tami

ps - If connecting Burpy Prouty, or delivering family joy and harmony are too tall of an order, I certainly wouldn’t mind a renewal on my subscription :)