Genealogy Education – The Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research.

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  • Want to hone your research skills?
  • Learn to write professional research reports?
  • Critically analyze documents?
  • Network with others passionate about genealogy?
  • Learn from the best of the best in the genealogy world?

Then keep reading …

My blog has been quiet for the past 3 months as I threw myself into the Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research. The course ended about 2 weeks ago and I have been thinking about my experience. A quick disclaimer – I have no association with the B.U. course except that I recently completed it.

The Boston University Certificate in Genealogical Research is a 15-week online course covering modules in Foundations of Genealogical Research, Problem-Solving Techniques and Technology, Evidence Evaluation and Documentation, Forensic Genealogical Research, and Professional Genealogy. It is taught by some of the best genealogists in the country (more about who they are can be found here), sharing their knowledge and expertise in an online setting. Together with experienced teaching assistants, they guide students through each module, encouraging discussion among the 30 or so students in each group and providing feedback on assignments.

The assignments are tough and I appreciated that. I wanted the opportunity to put into practice what I was learning and they provided an effective way to do that. Each assignment is graded and you need at least a C in each module, with a final grade of at least a B- to earn the certificate.

This course is time-consuming (20-30 hours of work a week). Many fellow students worked full time and participated in the course outside of their work day, and were able to keep up with it. I was fortunate to be able to focus exclusively on the course and many times put in more than 30 hours a week. Between online course work, all the readings (including supplemental and mandatory readings), the discussion forums and the assignments, there is certainly enough to keep one very busy.

I did many hours of research prior to signing up for the course as I wanted to spend my genealogy education dollars wisely. The course is expensive, there’s no way of getting around that fact. However, I am happy to report that I feel like my expectations were exceeded and my money well spent. My goal is to become a Certified Genealogist and I felt like this course gave me the skills and confidence to see that I am capable of achieving that. [Note: The Boston University course results in being able to say, if you pass the course, that you are a holder of a Certificate in Genealogical Research. You are not a Certified Genealogist after the course.]

One of the side benefits of this course is that you get to meet other students as passionate about genealogy as you are. Each bring their experience and knowledge to the group and that fosters great discussion. I am looking forward to meeting up with my new-found friends at upcoming genealogy conferences.

If you are thinking about genealogy education, I would highly recommend this course. I believe the next course starts in January 2018. More information can be found here.

Guest Post – Full Circle: A Transplant Michigander’s Surprise Homecoming

by Kirsten McNelly Bibbes

Orphan.  I was an “orphan” in Lansing, Michigan for many years.  Don’t get me wrong—my parents were alive and pretty perky—but lived in Arizona.  Not knowing a soul, I moved to Lansing in 1996.  I started my legal career based in Lansing, practicing in Ingham, Clinton, and the surrounding counties.  I was lucky enough to appear in many of the area’s old courthouses.

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(Ingham County Courthouse, Mason, Michigan)

Making Roots.  In time, I worked my way to partner with a historic downtown Lansing law firm, Foster Swift, founded in 1902.  From time to time, I visited old area cemeteries.  Twice each day on my way to work, I passed the beautiful Mount Hope Cemetery, opened in 1874.  Michigan was home.  I always felt that I had roots there.  I had no idea just how deep those roots ran, taking hold long before I arrived.

mt hope
(Mt. Hope Cemetery, Lansing, Michigan)

Finding Roots.  Until genealogist Sue McNelly got in touch with me, I had no idea that I had a family connection not just to Lansing, but to the area’s legal profession as far back as the mid-1800s.  Turns out, “Lansing’s oldest resident,” Daniel Case, is my fourth great grand-uncle. He and some of his family members are buried right in the Mt. Hope cemetery!

DanielCaseGrave

A “Pioneer Resident” of Lansing, Daniel L. Case.  Sue had come across (what do I call him, “Uncle Case?”) Daniel Case’s obituary while doing genealogy research.  I was fascinated to learn that my ancestor not only was one of Lansing’s pioneer residents, but he was a lawyer who practiced law in the very same counties as me.  For three years, he was Mason, Michigan’s prosecuting attorney.

McNelly discovered that along with practicing law, by 1847 Daniel Case worked as a farmer and owned one of two general stores in “Lower Town,” located where Grand River and Center Street intersect today.

Daniel Case newspaper
(April 28, 1955 State Journal article detailing the area’s first settlers)

Case’s Legacy.  My great-great-great-great uncle was an anti-slavery activist, and even, for a time, worked as trustee and resident manager at the Michigan School for the Blind (which stands today).  I try to imagine where he may have delivered the passionate anti-slavery address documented in his obituary, and wish there were a surviving transcript:

Mr. Case had always been an active Democrat until the bitter and bloody contest in Kansas between pro slavery and free state parties.  The conduct of President pierce toward the slave power forced Mr. Case to sever his relations with his party, and in 1856 he fully identified himself with the [anti-slavery] Republican party and canvassed the state for Fremont and Dayton.  During that exciting campaign, Mr. Case delivered an address to the democracy of Ingham County, giving the reason for his political change, which was considered one of its most powerful and convincing political arguments of the time.

I can’t express how much I would like to sit down and talk with Daniel L. Case.  Putting aside modern conveniences, I can’t imagine his life was all that different than mine.  I am proud to be descended from this man, and now better understand why I have always felt at home in Lansing.

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(12/8/1898 Ingham County Democrat)

Kirsten McNelly Bibbes is a litigation attorney who practiced in Lansing, Michigan from 1997-2011.  She now practices in San Francisco and can be reached at kmcnelly@gmail.com.  

Discover … eGGSA (The virtual branch of the South African Genealogical Society)

Discover-eGGSA

eGGSA is the acronym for the virtual branch of the Genealogical Society of South Africa.  According to their website the ‘Genealogical Society of South Africa (GSSA) is an international organization of people engaged in the study of genealogy, family trees and family history with a South African connection’.

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Home page of eGGSA.org

From the first small colony established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 in what is now Cape Town to the British government settler schemes of the 1820s, to the men seeking their fortunes on the diamond and gold fields in the 1860s – settlers, soldiers and missionaries flocked to what is now South Africa.  Records were created as they lived their lives.  eGGSA has an incredibly rich variety of records on their site, including transcripts and databases (1820 Settler correspondence, newspaper extracts, passenger lists, church and burial records); photographic collections of gravestones (now containing over 700 000 gravestone photographs), family bibles and postcards, and an incredibly useful page of links to other websites which may help with research in South Africa.

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eGGSA.org

Almost all the records on the site are freely available. Membership does offer the perks of receiving eGGSA’s quarterly publication, Genesis.  Members also receive FAMILIA, the quarterly journal of the parent body, the Genealogical Society of South Africa and are eligible for a reduced rate when ordering documents from the South African Archives at Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

If you have ancestors with connections to South Africa this is an excellent resource to start your research with.

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Discover … Internet Archive

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Internet Archive:  Described as ‘a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.’[1] Internet Archive is a great site to search for just about anything. The “Wayback Machine” allows the archives of the web to be searched.  Users are then able to view archived web pages even for web sites which no longer exist.

In terms of genealogical research there is a wealth of information available.  Clicking on their American Libraries collection, for example, pulls up over 2,450,000 different items in over 1000 collections.  A quick look under North Carolina Directories shows 925 city and business directories with a wide range of years.

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Internet Archive. https://archive.org/

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You can then select a specific directory to look at.  Each directory is fully searchable and easily downloaded.  All collections on Internet Archive can be filtered by Media Type, Year, Topic and Subject, Creator, and Language.

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Internet Archive. http://www.archive.org/details/bransonnorthcar1869rale

The Internet Archive collection for World War II contains almost 6000 items including 2,839 movies, newsreels and audio recordings.   Did you know you can see census records on Internet Archive?  The United States Census collection holds over 23,000 items, with approximately 13,004,791 page images.

Several historical societies provide content to Internet Archive as a means of preserving it for the future.  The Minnesota Historical Society provides newspapers and manuscripts in the 2,661 items on Internet Archive and the Georgia Historical Society has several old journals and books in its’ collection.

You can even listen to Winston Churchill as he sends his thoughts to American troops and citizens on Thanksgiving 1944, or to President Roosevelt as he calls on Congress to declare war on Japan on 8 December 1941.  Both can be found in Internet Archive’s Community Audio collection.

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Internet Archive. https://archive.org/details/FDR_Declares_War_19411208

This brief introduction doesn’t do justice to the incredible resource that Internet Archive is.  It’s a great tool to add to your genealogy toolbox.

[1] Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/. accessed March 31, 2017

Discover … Fulton History

Discover-Fulton

Fulton History is a historical newspaper site containing over 37 million newspaper pages (as of December 2016)[1] from the USA and Canada, as well as a few other locations. Even more remarkable is that the site is run by one person, Tom Tryniski, of Fulton, New York. Besides access to millions of newspaper pages, there are also postcards, maps and photographs.

The site is searchable and each newspaper page can be downloaded as a PDF. There is help available in the FAQ including different ways to search the database.

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fultonhistory.com FAQs

To see which newspapers are available, click on the FAQ-Help-Index button at the top of the page. The first few lines contain the link to view all the newspapers available on the site.   Instead of going through the index page by page, download the index as a Microsoft Excel file.  The link to download it is at the top of the screen in blue.

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Index of Newspapers, Fultonhistory.com

The downloaded Excel file gives you a list of newspaper titles arranged alphabetically by County.   It’s an easy way to see which counties are covered and by which newspapers.

If you have ancestors in New York State, then you have at your fingertips an incredible free resource thanks to the efforts of Mr Tryniski.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fultonhistory.com

Discover … The Arizona Memory Project

Discover-AZ-Memory

The Arizona Memory Project is a project of the Arizona State Library, Archives and  Public Records. The site provides access to a wealth of primary source documents, photographs, maps and other multimedia items showcasing Arizona’s past and present.

Az memory home

A specific collection can be searched (of which there are over 270) or a general search of the entire site can be done.  You can narrow your search by creator, coverage, date, subject or type.

AZ Memory search

I conducted a few different searches to see how the search engine worked and was impressed with the results.  From a search on a specific ancestor’s name which resulted in finding an oral interview with an extended family member speaking about a second great grand-uncle and his settling of Alpine, Arizona to a general search on territorial stage-coach routes and a book detailing those routes across Arizona.  A location search for the settlement of Maricopa Wells (a settlement which developed as a watering hole and rest area along the Butterfield Overland mail route and which no longer exists) resulted in several photographs of Indian ruins close to Maricopa Wells as well as photographs of various named and unnamed people standing outside their homes in the area.

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A search for a specific event, in this case, for the ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ yielded scans of original documents including the recently discovered ‘Coroner’s Transmittal Page to the Clerk of the District Court concerning the Inquest of the gunfight at the OK Corral’. These missing documents were discovered in the Cochise County Courthouse in 2010 and were transferred to the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records where they were scanned and preserved.

The Arizona Memory Project is a rich resource for anyone conducting research in Arizona.

He registered for the Draft but did he serve? Using Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939

troop ship
803rd Pioneer Infantry Battalion on the U.S.S. Philippine docked at Brest Harbor, France, July 18, 1919. Photographs, prints, ephemera from the Gladstone collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-11458

Ancestry’s new collection U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939, consists of passenger lists detailing all those departing from or arriving at U.S. ports on Army Transport ships.  World War 1 Draft registrations show who registered for the draft but that does not mean they served. The Army Transport Services Lists show the men enlisted at the time of the war.  It is important to note that these are not military service records.  They include the ship name, arrival and departure date and place and the service member’s name, rank, service number, age, residence, next of kin with relationship and the regiment that they were attached to.

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U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939. ancestry.com. Accessed April 6, 2017.

Private Henry Edwin Zimmerman departed Brooklyn, New York on 15 August 1918 on board the Briton sailing for Bordeaux, France.  Further U.S. Army Transport Service Lists in which Henry Edwin Zimmerman appears show him departing Bordeaux, France on 7 June 1919, arriving back at the port of Hoboken, New Jersey on 18 June 1919.  If we previously did not have the regiment Henry Zimmerman served with, these Army Transport Service lists provide that information.  Further research can then be done on that regiment to learn more about their role in the war.

Comparing Draft Registrations with U.S. Army Transport Service Passenger Lists

An interesting comparison can be made between a Draft Registration and the Army Transport Service Lists to determine if someone who registered for the Draft ultimately ended up serving.

Henry Edwin Zimmerman was one of five Zimmerman brothers eligible for service during World War 1.  All five registered for the Draft.  Two of the brothers claimed exemption, one on medical grounds and one based on his employment in the farming industry. Of the three who did not claim any exemption, one was aged 32, married with an infant and was a farmer.  He was temporarily exempted under Draft Category III: ‘Temporarily exempted but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_Act_of_1917)

Youngest brother, Charles Stephen Zimmerman, aged 21, was drafted under the second Draft registration, on June 5, 1918, for those men who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles S. Zimmerman was training with the Merchant Marines which exempted him from military duty.  The third brother who did not claim an exemption was 22-year-old Otto Emil Zimmerman.  He registered for the draft on 5 June 1917.  As of this post, military service records for him have not been found. Otto Emil Zimmerman was single with no dependents and would have been eligible and liable for military service.

It is interesting to note that the two brothers, Henry Edwin Zimmerman and Louis William Zimmerman who both claimed an exemption, were called up for service.

Name Draft Registration Date
Age & Occupation
Claimed exception? Served?
George Everett Zimmerman 12 Sep 1918; 32; Farmer No No.[1]
Henry Edwin Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 25; Salesman Expert Yes. Grounds – hernia. Yes[2]
Louis William Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 24; Shipping Clerk Yes.  Grounds – employed by farmer making farming implements Yes[3]
Otto Emil Zimmerman 5 June 1917; 22; Book keeper No No records found
Charles Stephen Zimmerman 5 June 1918; 21; Office Work – Shipping No Training with Merchant Marines[4]

[1] Third Draft Registration for men aged 18 to 35.  George had married in 1917 and had a 4-month-old child in September 1918.  Perhaps exempted Class III: ‘Temporarily exempted, but available for military service. Registrants employed in agricultural labor or industrial enterprises essential to the war effort’.

[2] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917, was for all men between the ages of 21 and 31. Henry was unmarried with no dependents therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[3] First Draft Registration, on June 5, 1917.  Louis was unmarried with no dependents, therefore was eligible and liable for military service.

[4] Second Draft Registration, on June 5, 1918, registered those who attained age 21 after June 5, 1917. Charles was in training with the Merchant Marines in June 1918 and therefore exempt from military service.

Army Transport Service Passenger Lists are another great resource for research into World War 1.  In addition to troop information, this collection also contains information on non-military passengers traveling on these ships, including any family members traveling with their military spouses.