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BYU Family History Archive

By Dick Eastman

One of the greatest online genealogy resources seems to receive little publicity. The Harold B. Lee Library at BYU has a major project underway of offering genealogy history books online. Staff members are scanning the books and placing them online at the rate of about 100 titles per week. The 5,000 titles already available include diaries, biographies, and numerous family history books. The books are easily searched.

The Family History Archive can be searched by surname, geographic area, book title, author, or any combination of those search fields. When you include the Full Text option in your search, the database will locate every page containing the words you included in your search and may return up to10,000 of those pages in your results. For example, a full-text search for the name "Young" in the collection will bring back 10,000 pages.

You can easily narrow your search by using the keyword searches. Each of the histories has been cataloged by a professional librarian who analyzes the contents of the history and provides appropriate terms, called keywords, for family names, locations, authors, and other important topics. The keyword searches use the information provided by the cataloger to locate family histories, and this is the best way to quickly find the histories most likely to be of use to you.

The actual pages appear on the user’s screen as PDF files (Portable Document Format). This is a good choice as the pages are easily viewed and printed on Windows, Macintosh, Linux, and other operating systems.

The pages displayed are facsimiles, or copies, of the original pages. Many of the images that I saw appear to have been made from microfilm copies of the books. The quality of the images depends on several factors, beginning with their original creation.

In addition to providing access to images of the pages, BYU also attempted to convert the original text into a machine-readable format. This effort should make the histories more useful by allowing you to search through text, using your computer. The process of converting the text is called Optical Character Recognition, or OCR. In the OCR process a computer program looks at the scanned images of the pages and replaces the printed alphanumeric characters as the program "sees" them with the same characters as digital type. The quality of the OCR is directly related to the quality of the image. In most cases, the OCR is quite successful in accurately reading the text. However, in the case of some of the older histories, the results are not as good. The text is not always 100% accurate. You should always carefully examine the actual pages of the family histories – or their actual scanned pages – and not depend completely on full-text search results.

The BYU Family History Archive is available to everyone free of charge at http://www.lib.byu.edu/fhc

FamilySearch Archive Adds Large West Virgina Online Genelogy Database

by Dick Eastman

Salt Lake City, Utah-Thanks to the help of FamilySearch Archive (Genealogy Society of Utah), searching those elusive ancestors with West Virginian origins or connections may now be just a mouse click away. FamilySearch scanned and indexed the records and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History is hosting them online. The free database consists of millions of West Virginia births, deaths, and marriages-a goldmine for genealogists and historians. Researchers and curiosity seekers can now search and view scanned images of original birth, death, and marriage records from six counties, as well as most statewide death certificates from 1917-54 at www.wvculture.org/vrr.

The database has over 3.5 million names linked to 1.4 million original images of birth, marriage, and death records from Calhoun, Gilmer, Hardy, Harrison, Mineral and Pendleton counties. The record dates vary by county and type of record, but typically range from 1816 to 1929. Birth records are for the period 1853-1930, county death records for 1853-1969/1970, and county marriage records from the creation of the county until the late 1960s, all of which are searchable by name, county, and date.

FamilySearch filmed, scanned, and created the automatic index at the heart of the online database. Paul Nauta, manager of Public Affairs for FamilySearch said, “Birth, marriage, and death records together in a single database are particularly attractive to researchers because multiple generations of ancestors can be found on one document, and you can track their growth and whereabouts over time as noted by births, marriages, and deaths in the family.” All users have to do is type in an ancestor’s name to search the free database. They can also view a high quality, scanned image of the original document. The project required 2,500 volunteers and 64,000 hours to complete. West Virginia plans to add records from additional counties in the future.

FamilySearch is a nonprofit entity committed to preserving and increasing access to vital records of genealogical significance and producing high-quality products and services for the family historian. FamilySearch maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources with vital records from over 110 countries, territories, and possessions and provides free access through FamilySearch.org, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, and over 5000 branches (family history centers) in 70 countries.

Personal Historian Software

Personal Historian is software which assists you in writing personal histories about yourself and other individuals.   Many people want to write a personal history about themselves or a family member but they just become lost or overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the project. That’s where Personal Historian comes in.

Civil War Slave Compensation Claims From Compiled Military Service Records

The St. Louis County Library Special Collections Department has posted an index to 300 slave compensation claims from the records of soldiers in the U.S. Colored Troops. The following is from their website:

During the Civil War, two acts of Congress allowed loyal slave owners whose slaves enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. military to file a claim against the Federal government for loss of the slave’s services. for more information…

Since each slave compensation claim was based on the service of a specific soldier, a copy of the claim’s paperwork was placed in that soldier’s compiled military service record. The regiments of U.S. Colored Troops that have a large number of these claims are the regiments formed in the border-states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri) or in neighboring states.

Ancestry of Rosa Parks