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Exciting changes at Family Search

I have written a number of columns about changes going on at Family History Centers, from film ordering changes to the Family Search web site. Today is no exception! I am writing this column at the Buffalo Grove Family History Center but these changes are happening worldwide and apply to all centers. This column deals exclusively with web sites you can ONLY access while visiting a Family History Center.

The familysearch web site has changed significantly (and may need to be described in its own column) but when you are at the Family History Center, your home page is the Family History Center Services Portal, as seen below.

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From the portal, you can get to all the major areas of familysearch.

I want to focus on the “Premium Family History Websites” which can only be accessed for free while at a center. You can get to the portal from home but you won’t be able to get into these sites unless you are already a subscriber. These sites frequently are not cheap, so you should take advantage of the free access available at centers.

The first website is “19th Century British Newspaper Digital Archive.” Not very useful if you’re full blooded Italian. But if you have family or in-laws who descend from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales, there just might be some juicy tidbits in the ol’ papers. They’re mostly from the bigger cities, due to the high taxes on the use of paper in the 19th entury.

The second is “Access Newspaper Archive” which covers newspapers from the USA and many worldwide as well. Some of the papers go back to the 1800s and some are recent archives. The Daily Herald is archived from 1901 to the present (not sure if it is complete). South-siders can find 1921-1974 Southtown Economist. I have found a lot of death notices and news stories on family all over the country in this archive — it’s worth a look! (Sorry no Trib or Sun Times or Daily News)

Website No. 3 is the Alexander Street Press American Civil War Research Database. It contains data on 4 million soldiers, thousands of battles, and 17,000 photographs. Civil War buffs probably already know about this. I found my cousins’ great-great-grandfather in the Confederate Army, 50th Alabama Regiment.

Website No. 4 is Ancestry.com, which we have discussed in many columns. It is a very limited version of Ancestry, with a simple search screen. You might be able to use more of Ancestry.com at a public library.

Website No. 5, “ArkivDigital Online” offers access to the Norwegian National Archives.

Website No. 6 is “FindMyPast,” which focuses on records from the United Kingdom, mostly vital records, census records, British newspapers, parish records, military records, and passenger lists for ships that left the U.K.

Website No. 7 is “Fold3” (referring to the folding of an American flag), which used to be called footnote.com. It is a database of military data taken from the National Archives. But it is not to be confused with service records (most of which were burned in a fire in 1973). It also contains a search of the Vietnam Memorial and shows a picture of the wall and the name itself.

Website No. 8, “The Genealogist,” again focuses on the United Kingdom. The search engine is quite sophisticated, assuming you have some British ancestry.

Website No. 9, “Godfrey Online,” refers to databases supported by the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, CT. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to allow searching without a subscription. I think this is a mistake.

Website No. 10, “Heritage Quest Online,” was one of the premier genealogy database sites before Ancestry jumped way ahead of it. The options shown below are mostly self-explanatory:

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PERSI (Periodical Source Index) references genealogy publications from all over the world. If anyone wrote an article mentioning a family member, town or anything else, it is in this index. So some obscure article from 1934 about Uncle J. Penmore Worthington can be found. I have friends who claim the census pages are better to read than the ones found at Ancestry.com. So if you can’t read the ones you find at Ancestry, try to find the same page at HQ and see if that helps.

Website No. 11, Historic Map Works Library Edition, shows old maps of places worldwide. I don’t know if the link will work but this URL will bring you to the Italy maps page: http://www.proquest.historicmapworks.com/Browse/country.php?country=Italy&cont=Europe

There are also a great deal of Chicago and Cook County maps as well.

Website No. 12, “LegacyStories,” is a site that lets you begin writing a family history and then use sources found in Familysearch as background for the stories.

Website No. 13, “PaperTrail,” is a guide to records of pioneers crossing the plains….ok. Not useful for us I’m afraid.

and Website No. 14, “World Vital Records,” searches a lot of other sites. Very few of the records are for Italy. Some of the search results will point you to other web sites where you have to pay to see the records themselves. The most useful database is the “My Heritage” Family Trees, which were submitted by “My Heritage” subscribers over the years, containing almost 800 million names. Some of the newspaper databases overlap with “Access Newspaper Archive”.

As I have brooded about in many a column, there are very few databases or websites focused exclusively or even partially on records from Italy. Keep your eye out for more records from familysearch as they add more and index more. If you gain nothing more from this column, you can see these databases and sites at any Family History center at no cost and look for your non-Italian relatives. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a surprise!

Write to Dan at italianroots@comcast.net and please put “Fra Noi” in the subject line.

About Dan Niemiec

Dan Niemiec has been the genealogy columnist for Fra Noi since 2004. For the past 25 years, he has researched his genealogy back 17 generations, plus tracing descendants of his ancestors, yielding 74,000 relatives. His major focus is on civil and church records in Italy, Chicago vital records, Chicago Catholic records and most major genealogy web sites. He has given dozens of presentations to many local and some national genealogy societies on topics such as cemetery research, Catholic records, Italian records, Ellis Island and newspaper research, among others.