Tag: Technology


For no specific reason this week, I decided to do some more research of my paternal French lines. I decided to start with my gateway French ancestor, Claude-Françoise QUINET, or as she is mostly known, Frances (Quinet) THOMPSON. She is my 4th-great-grandmother and probably the most distant ancestor that I have a photo.

I started at the FamilySearch wiki, which is always a good place to start when researching a new location. It has great articles on the best resources and where to find them. Much to my surprise, France has digitized and made available all of the civil and church records, at least from the Department I needed, Haute-Saône. The website was very easy to use once I was able to determine the locations I needed, even if it was in French.

I had a lot of the information for Frances and many generations back, but just the information, no sources or proof. This was probably entered back when I just found info and entered it like a rabid accountant. Fortunately, finding the actual records was made a bit easier as I had dates to work from. Most of them lined up perfectly and I was able to confirm and source dozens of baptisms, marriages, and deaths. I was even able to add one new generation back. I started my search in the early 1800s, but I was able to find records back to the late 1600s available on the site. Those were more hit-and-miss as I wasn’t able to find any of my ancestors in them.

Entry for the marriage of my 8th-great-grandparents, Claude Barbut (Claudius Barbu) & Jeanne Laurence Mignard (Joanna Laurentia Mignard) on 15 Jun 1716 in Contréglise.

Early on in my research, the records were in French, so just memorizing important genealogical words (i.e., baptism, marriage) and numbers was very helpful. At some point in the 1700s, everything switch over to Latin, which is a bit different to read (see the record above.)

I’m not completely finished digging through for the missing records and I have yet to see if any of my other possible French ancestors can be found in these digitized records. If you have French ancestors, make sure to look at the FamilySearch wiki.

MJSUnfortunately, due to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel removing their archives from Google News and “moving to a new vendor”, my Milwaukee Death Index will probably no longer be updated. Unless I can find another, preferably free, source of data, it will be difficult to do this in my spare time. The information that is already transcribed will always stay online and active.

Full disclosure, I currently work for the company that owns the MJS, which is why I’m a bit torn on how I feel, though I have no control over this aspect. A bit of a back story, which follows the story of many old newspapers, may help. When I started working for this company, it was called Journal Communications and the only daily newspaper it owned, basically from the beginning, was the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, along with a few dozen radio and TV stations. In 2015, the company shed it’s broadcast properties and picked up 13 more newspapers during a split/merge with another large media company. After that, it became Journal Media Group. At the end of 2015, Gannett Co., Inc purchased JMG. MJS is now under Gannett, which owns a lot of other newspapers. It seems they use another contractor for their newspaper archives, so they removed them from Google News. I know nothing more about that process and I found out like everyone else, when I tried to access it. Let’s hope it comes back, it was an immense collection of historical data for this whole area going back to about 1889.

RedditThere is a site out there that a lot of you may not be using for genealogy and/or history, reddit.com. Reddit usually does lean a bit toward the younger audience and I think it may sometimes get a bad rap in the mainstream media due to some of it’s more shady users, but it has a lot of helpful potential if you know what to look for.

This post isn’t for explaining the basics of Reddit or as a beginner’s guide, other people do a better job of that. Reddit is sometimes described as the “front page of the Internet.” Down to its core, Reddit is “a message board wherein users submit links. What differentiates it from a real-time information network like Twitter is that the stream of content is curated by the community” according to the article I linked previously.

Reddit itself is nothing without what they call subreddits. These are basically forums split up by category, but they are much more than that. More than likely, if you’re looking mostly for genealogy and history, the “main” subreddits you see by default won’t interest you as much. The power of Reddit comes in when you find that one subreddit for that one specific topic that you’re passionate about. Here you will find many other passionate users who you can interact with and share knowledge. And believe me, they probably have a subreddit for every niche you can think of.

Here are some of the most interesting subreddits (in no particular order) that I subscribe to for genealogy and/or history.
FYI: You do not need an account on Reddit to view content (in most cases) but you need one to subscribe to subreddits, comment, upvote, or save things.

  • /r/genealogy – this one is self-explanatory. A lot of helpful people here sometimes doing lookups, doing transcriptions, asking interesting questions, sharing brick wall stories, etc. A good place to start.
  • /r/100yearsago – a subreddit for interesting things that happened 100 years ago to the day, every day.
  • /r/VictorianEra – Images, video, and articles from the Victorian Era.
  • /r/earlyphotography – A place to post images from the early days of photography.
  • /r/1920s – Images, video, and articles from and about the 1920s.
  • /r/1950s – Images, video, and articles from and about the 1950s.
  • /r/CemeteryPorn – I know that it has that word in the title, but don’t worry. They use it to mean exciting images from that specific topic. In this case, cemeteries. I’ve always loved photos from old, beautiful cemeteries.
  • /r/ColorizedHistory – Old, historic photos that have been manually colorized by very talented people. Changes the way you see certain historical events and people.
  • /r/23andme – Posts about testing at 23andme.com. Questions, comments, finding matches, etc.
  • /r/AncientMigrations – If you’re interested in your deep, deep ancestry, this subreddit involves ancient human migration, genetic genealogy and DNA ancestry.
  • /r/history – Everything and anything about historical events or people. It has some really interesting posts and conversation.
  • /r/AskHistorians – A place where users ask questions about history and historical events and get answers from experts in that area. Sometimes fascinating.
  • /r/historynetwork – This subreddit is sort of a aggregation of many different history related subreddits.
  • /r/TheWayWeWere – Described as “What was normal everyday life like for people living 50, 100, or more years ago?” Neat pictures of normal things in the past.
  • /r/TheWayWeWereOnVideo – A sister subreddit to the one above, but specializing in videos rather than photos.

I hope you find something interesting and amazing in those subreddits. Be aware, you may get lost in one and never return due to all of the neat things in it.

Richard & Mary Jane Zalewski

I am slowly entering the realm of using video for genealogy. I literally just started my genealogy YouTube channel yesterday. I have two videos up there now, but they are just an old home movie and a slideshow I made awhile back. In most browsers, the following links to my videos should pop open a video player right on the site without requiring you to leave.

The old home movie is a collection of clips from the 1940s of my Corrigan family. It’s probably not super exciting to non-family members, but it is a neat look into that time period in video format. Though, there is no audio except for some music. I did try to do some stabilization to the original video as it gets hard to watch sometimes. Those 1940s video cameras didn’t really have stabilization technology.

The slideshow video is the same one I have posted of this site before that I made for my grandmother’s funeral in 2011. Though, since some of the music I used is copyright, it had some issues on YouTube. I had to remove the flagged songs from that version, so it just wasn’t the same. I have since re-uploaded the video with some royalty-free music. You can still view the un-edited original here on this site using my local video player.

My long-term plan is to do some more videos about my family, how-tos, etc. I have some ideas, but I need to figure out the logistics of getting them done, especially with two small children at home and not a very good recording setup. I get inspiration from channels like Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems channel.

I do feel that YouTube and video are going to be the next leap in terms of genealogy. There is a lot that can be done with video that is tough to do with text or pictures only. Wish me luck.

Frank Zalewski

TimelineI’ve been playing with an open source tool called Timeline JS that builds a visually-rich, interactive timeline based on whatever data I tell it to use.

One of the options it has is to use data from a Google Docs spreadsheet. Add that ability along with their option to embed one right from their site and almost anyone can set one up. I personally like to host the scripts on my own site and do more advanced things, so I did it differently, but I am still using a Google Docs  spreadsheet.

It’s very cool. Take a look at how I transformed my Everything I Know About Frank Zalewski information using it. Feel free to contact me if you want to use it and need help with it.

I ran across a website recently that is a really clever idea. I know I’ve stumbled upon it before, but for some reason I never stayed. Now I’m hooked. BillionGraves.com is a site, similar is some ways to Find-A-Grave. To be honest, while I love Find-A-Grave and I will always use it, its age is showing. The site has not changed since I first found it over 10 years ago. The user interface is lacking, the headstone-adding process is getting clunkier every day, and it’s old and archaic. BillionGraves just feels fresh, new, and powerful. The sites, while having the same goal, work in a very different way.

I know I’ve had a similar idea in the past, though I never did much with it. I did transcribe one cemetery by hand once about 12 years ago, St. Finbar’s Cemetery in Saukville, Wisconsin, which is still online at interment.net. That was a small cemetery and it was a lot of work requiring going to the cemetery, visiting each stone, transcribing the info, writing it down in a notebook, taking it home, typing it into a computer, etc. I used a whole day just on that little cemetery. I love digitizing old records and other family information for people to find online. I had an idea to take pictures of every headstone in a cemetery and make some sort of website, but it still sounded like a lot of work for me, so I never did anything with it. Well, now Billion Graves has done it, and much better than I ever could have on my own.

Let them show you how they take people and technology to make the process extremely powerful:

So, if you have a smart phone of the iPhone or Android variety, you can download the BillionGraves.com app (iTunes link) and then visit your local cemetery and just start taking photos. The app will automatically capture the GPS coordinates on the cemetery and headstone and upload the photo to their servers.

Even if you don’t have a smart phone device, you can help by visiting the website and transcribing headstone photos that others have uploaded. I, myself, have transcribed almost 100 headstone photos already. It’s quick and easy and hopefully it’ll help countless people around the world.

In 27 days, on April 2nd, the sixteenth census of the United States, the 1940 US Census, will be released to the public. Due to privacy laws, the census reports are released to the public 72 years after they’ve been taken. The last one, the 1930 US Census, was released back in 2002. 1940 is not that long ago in terms of generations. Do you know anyone who is in it?

Unlike previous census years, images of the the 1940 US Census will be made available as free digital images on Day 1. While this is awesome, only the images are being released. The job of indexing these census records so they can be easily searched relies on us. Wonder how you can help or have more questions about the census? Visit the 1940 US Census Community Project website.

I’m not expecting to find any amazing, new information in this census since all 4 of my grandparents were in the 1930 Census. Though, there will be a few things that may be interesting. It’s the first census after my great-great grandmother passed away in 1939. There is also supposed to be some new questions for random individuals that may give us more info than normal. Hopefully, I have a few family members that answered those.

While doing genealogy research, I end up going to Wikipedia a lot to do many things from finding locations of cities in Europe to finding which county a city is in. It takes a few steps to browse to Wikipedia, then to the English version, and then try to find my entry.

Google Chrome  and Mozilla Firefox have a nice feature that allows you to add custom search engines to your browser that can be tied to a short-hand keyword. For example, in both my versions of Firefox and Chrome, I just need to type “w Poland” in my address bar and I will be taken to the “Poland” page on Wikipedia.

Here is how you set that up in both browsers:

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My wife, Darcy, made me aware of Pinterest. She does a lot of work with the web and is always finding these new, interesting sites. Pinterest is best described by a story about it on the MySanAntonio website:

[Pinterest is] a “virtual pinboard.” Creative types often use actual pinboards or corkboards for inspiration on projects, adhering to it magazine clippings and printouts of images, quotations and typography; fabric swatches; cards; and other ephemera. In the business world, it’s more commonly referred to as a “vision board” but contains the same elements. With Pinterest, users – called “pinners” – can organize and “pin” photos of items they find on the Web to various boards on their page.

It may not sound exciting, but it can be pretty addicting like she says in her article. I think, for the genealogy folks, that it can be put to good use for inspiration or even collecting great old photos that you find around the web that you love. I’ve personally pinned some neat ideas for a family tree wall. I see a lot of other people using it (it seems to lean heavily female at the moment) for craft ideas, food ideas, and even fashion ideas. Another fun use is pinning places you’d love to visit or even people that inspire you. Maybe it will create some discussion on the site.

Here is my page if you’d like to browse around. The site looks to be invite-only right now, but I think I can invite you if you’d like. Just leave me a comment on here.

[Photo: AuntyCookie@flickr]

Geniaus created The Tech-Savvy Genealogist Meme, I borrowed it from Genea-Musings. This one is more up my alley since I’ve been involved in technology since I was a little boy.

The list should be annotated in the following manner:
Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

Feel free to add extra comments in brackets after each item

Which of these apply to you?

  1. Own an Android or Windows tablet or an iPad [not a tablet, but both an Android phone and an iPhone]
  2. Use a tablet or iPad for genealogy related purposes
  3. Use a Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader for genealogy related purposes [Have a Kindle, but have only read fiction on it so far]
  4. Have used Skype or Google Video Chat to for genealogy purposes
  5. Have used a camera to capture images in a library/archives/ancestor’s home
  6. Use a genealogy software program on your computer to manage your family tree [RootsMagic, mainly]
  7. Use multiple genealogy software programs because they each have different functionalities.
  8. Have a Twitter account [@brianjz]
  9. Tweet daily
  10. Have a genealogy blog. [How’d you guess?]
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I thought I would write a post on how to convert one of your ancestor’s Land Records into an actual physical location. Right now, I only have the information on how to do this in Wisconsin with the resources that they have available. Other states may have these items available too. Your mileage may vary.

I have Wisconsin Land Records for two of my ancestors, Mathias FIRMENICH and Jean Baptiste LAURENT. I will use Mathias’ Land Record for this example. You can view his Land Record on my Mathias site’s “Land Purchase” entry.

Step One

Find the spot on the record that lists the exact location that your ancestor purchased from the US Government. On Mathias’ record, in the first paragraph, it reads

..the claim of Mathias B. Firmenich has has been established and duly consummated in conformity to law for the southeast quarter of Section 18 in Township 46 north of Range 4 west of the 4th Principal Meridian in Wisconsin containing 160 acres.

To most people, this just looks like gibberish. It did to me at first. I knew what it meant, but I had no idea where to even start to look for it.
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