Friday, February 24, 2012

Did your Grandmother collect Buttons?

Button collecting was first recognized as an organized hobby through the founding of the National Button Society in 1938. Many state and local button clubs were established during the 1940's, and many of those clubs sponsored their own button shows.

We recently acquired and transcribed the member list from a copy of the National Button Society 1942-1943 Year Book. The listings include the member's present address and highlight how widespread this hobby had become just a few years after the national society was formed.

Do you collect buttons? Is this something your mother got you involved with? Did her mother collect? These are some of the questions a resource like an old membership list could help answer. In 1942, there were over 900 NBS members. Find out if any of your ancestors were members!

See also: National Button Society (official website), and Resources for the New Collector (Buttons In Time).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crescent College Students (1910-1915)

In 1908, the Eureka Springs Crescent Hotel was opened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women and served as an exclusive academy for wealthy ladies. Unfortunately, the school closed in 1924.

We recently acquired five annual catalogs for Crescent College and transcribed the names of the students and faculty. The years available include 1911-1912, 1912-1913, 1913-1914, 1914-1915 and 1915-1916. (Each catalog lists the students enrolled in the prior session)

The Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women was originally established in Little Rock, Ark., in 1898. It was non-sectarian and non-denominational, but distinctly Christian, and solicited its patronage from only the best and most refined families solely upon the merits of the institution. The building was erected originally for a high-class hotel, and nothing was spared to make it comfortable, convenient, attractive and safe. It is at once the most complete and substantial building and the most magnificent and expensively constructed property in the United States used as a young women's College.

For more details on the school, read the Crescent College historical sketch taken from the 1911-1912 catalog.

See also: Crescent College and Conservatory (The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture Project) and The Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs (Haunted Arkansas).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Was your ancestor a Commission Merchant?

National League of Commission Merchants of the United StatesWe recently posted a 1926 membership list for the National League of Commission Merchants, along with some background materials on the organization. While the list only identifies the member company owners, it offers some interesting information about their business.

For example, the A. J. Lemkau Co., Inc. in New York City was a produce distributor with a specialty of Celery. All of the sudden, you've got a unique fact that you may not have known before. What I love about these kinds of clues is that they open up new ways to search newspapers of the time. Instead of just focusing on the name, you can search for any mentions of Lemkau and CELERY!

If you'd like to learn more about the National League of Commission Merchants of the United States, I've posted an NLCM Overview and also an NLCM Historical Sketch, both from this original document.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Exclusive Data: Greene County, Tennessee Delinquent Tax List of 1892

Here is an interesting item for all you genealogy seekers. It is a small handwritten ledger of delinquent tax payers in District 6 of Greene County, Tenn. The book lists the names of each delinquent tax payer, the amount they owed, and when (if) they paid up. This is the original ledger, so you're not likely to find this information on any other genealogy website.

There are hundreds of handwritten documents in the Genealogy Today collection; however, only a few have been transcribed thus far. Expect to see more added to the database this year.

Please like/follow/recommend this item, if you agree that original materials such as this Green County tax list are helpful to your research.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Genealogy Today offers additional Real-Time Search Results

Genealogy Today logoEarlier this month, real-time search results from were added to the improved search engine at Genealogy Today. And today, results from the historical newspaper collection at were integrated.

These add-on searches work in parallel to whatever you've searched for within the Genealogy Today collection, and provide results using the same criteria. Click on one of these partner links and you'll be presented with matching listings without leaving our web site. If you find something of interest, click and visit the partner web site. As these are subscription sites, you'll need to subscribe to see the full details.

Here's what the results look like:

Examples of real-time search results at Genealogy Today

What makes these two additions different from the 19 other integrated real-time search results? Well, with these two resources, you can click down and view individual record detail; whereas, most of the other integrated searches only provide summary information on our web site, and you need to click to the partner for details. In some cases, however, the summary information may be more than you'll find at the partner web site if you're not a subscriber, making the Genealogy Today search engine an essential tool for genealogists.

The time savings is remarkable, as you are able to click from one search partner to another without having to re-key in your search criteria and/or navigate your way to the search box on their web site. Needless to say, I've received fantastic feedback from librarians, who are often challenged to find quick results for eager patrons.

Give the improved search engine at Genealogy Today a try.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mocavo vs. Google: Post-Match Analysis

I hope you've enjoyed this little demonstration, matching the search engine capabilities of Mocavo and Google. The items that I had selected were done so at random; they are names/records that I've never looked at before, but was familiar of the sites that hosted them. It was something I wanted to do for my own understanding of the two search engines, and thought it might be helpful to share with others.

While the idea of a free genealogy search engine sounds great, there are two important factors to consider: first, limiting your search to free resources leaves out a significant number of matches in commercial resources (which include most modern books still in copyright, like all of the records compiled by companies like Genealogical Publishing Company, and the extensive newspaper collection at Genealogy Bank).

And second, who is to say what is a genealogical resource? In limiting your search to a collection deemed to be "genealogy resources" you may fail to locate mentions of your ancestors in other online materials. But that's no different to visiting a library that hosts a genealogy room; where I've found many interesting family history information in books located in other sections of the library.

Genealogists really need a comprehensive search engine that indexes all materials, free and commercial, because at the end of the day, they want to find their ancestors -- even if it means that they have to pay out a little bit of money (sites like Ancestry now offer very affordable monthly options), or travel to the library (or archive) that has a copy of the document.

This was by no means an attempt to cast a negative shadow upon Mocavo, but merely a litmus test of how well they've progressed in their mission. On February first, they announced a major partnership with the Allen County Public Library, and the addition of a historical record storage and sharing platform -- the latter being a significant move towards bringing large amounts of new information online.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mocavo vs. Google: Round #3

New Castle Public Library's Marriage/Obituary Database
Welcome to Round #3, the final round, of the free genealogy search engine challenge, where we've seen newcomer Francisco Mocavo take a beating from long-time favorite Elmer Google. In this round, each contender will be asked to locate the 1942 marriage announcement record for Lt. Carroll Smithson and Elizabeth Czar in the New Castle Public Library's Marriage/Obituary Database.

The fighters step into the ring, touch gloves and await the ring of the bell. Francisco is moving a bit slower than in the previous rounds, and Elmer looks calm and confident. This time, Elmer Google throws the first punch, just missing Francisco, with some close matches on the search for "Carroll Smithson marriage 1942." Francisco swings back, and misses with listings for Carroll County outranking any with the first name "Carroll."

Elmer quickly throws a second punch, this time landing with a four position result on the search "Smithson Czar 1942 marriage." Francisco Mocavo unsuccessfully counters with a list of results mostly from online books from the project.

Both fighters realize the end of the round is approaching and there's just one last chance to aim for a knockout... Elmer takes a swing with "Smithson, Lt. Carroll and Czar, Elizabeth marriage," landing a direct hit and a number one position in the search results. Francisco is visibly shaken, and seems to have run out of energy. The same search yields 25 matches, but since the search engine only allows you to see the first page of results without registering, the referee cannot tell if the search engine was even able to find a close match.

And there goes the final bell ring, signalling the end of Round #3. The crowd is going wild, and Ricky Ancestry, who loves to show off, steps into the ring... entering Carroll + Smithson + marriage event + 1942 yields our intended record in the number one position. Yes, that's right, Ancestry indexes free records as well, all clearly labelled with "Web:" in the title.

The referee returns to the center of the ring with the judges' scorecards and declares Elmer Google as the winner of Round #3. That makes the overall challenge winner Google in a 3-0 victory over Mocavo.

Stay tuned for our post-match analysis.

New database of Homesteaders and their Descendants under development

The Friends of Homestead National Monument of America are developing a database of homesteaders and descendants.

The Homestead Act of 1862 transferred more than 270 million acres of land, or 10% of the nation, from Federal to private ownership. The only monetary payment for each 160 acre claim was an $18 filing fee. The Act  provided a robust opportunity for westward development of this country, and the needs of the homesteaders resulted in an explosion of inventions, industrial applications, and developments in agriculture, finance, art, photography, communications, transportation, medicine and much more.

Homestead National Monument of America, located in Southeast Nebraska, commemorates this Act and the far-reaching effects it had upon the landscape and people. And now the HNMA is seeking your help in locating people who filed claims under the Homestead Act. The goal is to locate and record the experiences of remaining homesteaders before the opportunity is lost.

For details, refer to the "Are You a Homesteader or Descendant?" section on the National Park Service home page.

Additional reading:
"Genealogy and Homestead Records" (PDF)
"Daniel Freeman 1st Homesteader"
"Homestead Records Groundbreaking Genealogy Research"

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mocavo vs. Google: Round #2

Welcome to Round #2 of the free genealogy search engine challenge. While newcomer Francisco Mocavo took some blows from the crowd favorite Elmer Google; he looks well-rested and ready for more action. In this round, each contender will be asked to locate a certificate of citizenship for Henry A. Foye in Arapahoe County, Colorado, 1894. I found this document at the Naturalization Records web site hosted by Olive Tree Genealogy.

The fighters step into the ring, touch gloves and await the ring of the bell. Francisco, eager to prove himself, charges at Elmer, but isn't able to connect on the search for "Henry Foye." While Mocavo provided about 4,488 search results, none on the first page were the citizenship certificate. Elmer tries to counter, but also misses with this broad criteria.

Francisco shuffles around a bit, then winds up what looks to be a knockout punch, but misses again, this time in the search for "Foye 1894 citizenship." Elmer spins around and his Francsico cleanly on the chin with the number one result being the page.

Francisco looks visibly shaken, but still musters the energy for one more attempt, but strikes out on the search for "Foye 1894 Arapahoe." Elmer lands another punch, with the number one result again.

The bell rings, and that's the end of Round #2. As the fighters return to their corners, here comes Ricky Ancestry again looking to show off. Ricky dazzles the crowd with an 1890 Denver, Colorado city directory listing, and a 1900 U.S. Census record showing Henry A. Foye living with his wife, Mary and their five children on South Pennsylvania Ave.(1)

The referee returns to the center of the ring with the judges' scorecards and declares Elmer Google as the winner of Round #2. Looks like the fighters need a break, check back tomorrow for Round #3 of the free genealogy search engine challenge.

(1) United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. (Courtesy

Thursday, February 2, 2012

U.K. Genealogy Company enters U.S. Market with a Census Splash

Today at RootsTech 2012, brightsolid announced its entry into the US genealogy market with the launch of a "pay-as-you-go" web site named that will let customers search all US census records from 1790 to 1930 and will house the 1940 US census records when they are released later this year.

"In short, will offer greater choice, flexibility and affordability," says Chris van der Kuyl, CEO of brightsolid. "Those researching their family histories will now be able to choose which payment method best suits their needs and their budget."

Visitors to will be able to search for free, but will have to pay if they wish to view documents, and download them to their computer. They will be offered the option of either buying a subscription in the conventional way or buying pay-as-you-go credits, starting at $7.95. Pay-as-you-go customers will be able to buy further credits at any time, giving them the freedom to spend as much or as little time and money on their research as they want. This approach to online database access has been commonplace in the U.K. for many years, but has yet to be successfully deployed in the U.S. market.

"The launch of is just our first offering to the US market," added van der Kuyl. "It will be followed later this year by the launch of, which will be our flagship American brand."

Since 1994, the brightsolid group has been delivering online innovation and pioneering the expansion of the genealogy market with leading family history websites including the findmypast global network, ScotlandsPeople, a partnership between the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and the Court of the Lord Lyon, and GenesReunited, together servicing over 18 million registered customers worldwide.

Genealogists get ready for an interesting year, filled with new resources ( and service options (pay-as-you-go), as overseas companies like brightsold and MyHeritage bring their years of experience to the U.S. market. This should prove to be more exciting than the 2006 launch of Footnote (now and owned by Ancestry) and WorldVitalRecords (turned and now owned by MyHeritage).

Mocavo vs. Google: Round #1

Gate of Heaven Cemetery and Mausoleum
Welcome to Round #1 of the free genealogy search engine challenge, pitting newcomer Francisco Mocavo against the crowd favorite Elmer Google. In this round, each contender will be asked to locate the burial record for Silvio Archilei, b. 1915, d. 1995. I randomly picked this name from a transcription of the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover, New Jersey located at -- probably the largest online collection of cemetery records.

Throwing the first punch, Francisco Mocavo misses, with 1 result found for "Silvio Archilei," at Find A Grave. Elmer Google attempts to counter, and scores with a link to the Interment listing in position number four on the first page.

After dancing around the ring for a few moments, Francisco Movaco throws a left jab, and misses again in the search for "Archilei 1915 1995." Elmer ducks to avoid the jab, tries to counter and lands another punch, with the Interment listing at position number three.

Francisco looks a little shaken, but gathers himself and takes one last shot at Elmer, but misses in the search for "Silvio Archilei burial 1995," with no results. Elmer, barely breaking a sweat, returns the Interment link in the number one position for this query.

The bell rings, and that's the end of Round #1. As the fighters return to their corners, Ricky Ancestry steps down from the bleachers, beats his chest and offers the SSDI record and a 1930 U.S. Census record on a search for "Silvio Archilei." The 1930 Census shows Silvio (age 14) living with his widowed mother, Erminia, in Orange, New Jersey.(1)

The referee returns to the center of the ring with the judges' scorecards and declares Elmer Google as the winner of Round #1. Looks like the fighters need a rest, check back tomorrow for Round #2 of the free genealogy search engine challenge.

(1) United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930. (Courtesy of

Mocavo vs. Google: The 2012 Showdown

In the past year, genealogists have been given a new option for locating free online resources. So, has it helped? While there have been a lot of positive reviews of Mocavo, launched in March 2011; I thought it would be interesting to put it to a test against the search market leader, Google.

Please note, this is a fictional portrayal of a bout between two search engines. The searches will be real, but the rest is simply intended to make this challenge more entertaining.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the 2012 genealogy search engine showdown. This three-round title fight will challenge each search engine to locate a specific ancestor (that I have already located online). The winner of each round will be decided by the number of clicks and/or search attempts until the pre-determined record appears on the first page of search results. Failure to locate a record may result in the referee declaring a technical knock-out. In the event of a tie at the end of the three rounds, there will be a sudden-death-record search off.

In the red corner, weighing in at 150 pounds, Francisco Mocavo, who trains in Boulder, Colorado with coach Cliff Shaw. Cliff has been quoted as saying, "The market has been begging for it for over a decade. It's tough to say why others haven't tried, but there are definitely some serious technical hurdles to building a large-scale search engine, especially one as fast as Mocavo."(1)

And in the blue corner, weighing in at 175 pounds, Elmer Google, who has traveled all the way from Mountain View, California, with coaches Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Assisting in the blue corner is genealogical advisor, Dan Lynch -- author of Google Your Family Tree -- who tosses his own thoughts into the ring: "Sure, the fact that these services are free doesn't hurt . . . genealogists like free . . . but it's the relevancy of results and spectacular finds that keep us coming back day after day."(2)

Here are the challenges: Round #1: Burial record of Silvio Archilei, b. 1915, d. 1995. Round #2: Citizenship record for Henry A. Foye, 1894. Round #3: Marriage record for Carroll Smithson, 1942. The referee will start each round by searching for the name alone, and then adding one more fact with each search attempt. At the end of each round, there will be a brief intermission where heavyweight Ricky "Tricky" Ancestry with coach Tim Sullivan will attempt to locate the same ancestor.

What's your favorite search engine for genealogy research? Will you be cheering for Team Movaco? Or Team Google? Stay tuned as Round #1 of the free genealogy search engine challenge match takes place later today.

This event is neither endorsed nor sanctioned by any of the people mentioned above.

(1) "LAUNCH Instant 001: Mocavo," March 18, 2011.
(2) "Google Filtering Techniques For Family History Research," January 28, 2011.