Category Archives: Resources

Cyndi’s List Turns 25 Today!

One of my favorite colleagues is Cyndi Ingle, the grand web-mistress behind the ever invaluable Cyndi’s List. She is also one of the co-founders for one of the best genealogical Facebook Groups out there, The Genealogy Squad (last year they asked me to join their ranks as one of the administrators). She also teaches classes, webinars, institute course, etc. on technology topics, how to utilized websites better, how to organize your computer, how to use some cool technology tools to make your life easier, and so on. She has also become a discussion group leader for the study groups I offer after demand got larger and my time got smaller.

Cyndi is a powerhouse in the genealogy field, always helpful and generous with her time and knowledge.

Her website, Cyndi’s List, is turning 25 today, March 4, 2021. She has been providing this free service to genealogists for a quarter of a century! I remember when I first heard about Cyndi’s List. It was from my friend and mentor, Birdie Holsclaw. She was a huge fan of Cyndi and her list. She pointed me to using Cyndi’s List quite early in my genealogical life and I’m so grateful.

Cyndi’s List is a collection of links on just about every topic relating to genealogical research that you can think of. And if she doesn’t have a section for a topic, she’ll add one! You just have to let her know.

Why should you use Cyndi’s List when you can simply use Google these days?

For one thing, Google only indexes about 4-5% of the internet. The little Google bots that crawl the web to index it for their search engine, only drill down a few levels into a website. So, if you have a deep and complicated site, like a University for example, Google isn’t going to crawl all the way down into those layers and index the items you are probably looking for. For example, if you are looking for a digitized record on a University library website, the layers may look like this: University > Libraries > That Particular Library > Digital Collections > History/Genealogy > County/State/City or whatever identifying layer > Digitized Marriage Collection. That is at least seven layers on my hypothetical scenario here, and I’ve been on sites where it’s more. Google typically goes maybe four levels deep.

A second reason, you don’t always know what to Google for! Cyndi’s site is broken up into categories. If you start by browsing her categories, you will find something valuable that you didn’t know you should Google for! You will get keywords and phrases you hadn’t thought to use for your searches.

A third reason, Cyndi has hand-picked these links, vetted them as useful for genealogists before including them on her site. So the links you find are applicable. With Google you get all kinds of links and have to wade through a lot before you might find something that applies to your research.

I have a concrete example that happened just last week. I was on a Zoom with Cyndi and telling her I was having a hard time reading the name of an Irish town that was listed on a birth record. On Google, if you type in a place “close enough” Google will ask “Did you mean…?” and give you some results that may or may not be correct. I have had this help me many times when trying to decipher handwriting when it comes to old town names. However, this Irish town name was not coming up. And in fact, Google kept separating it so that it would become a celebrity’s name. (“Did you mean Tony Shaloub?” No Google. I certainly did not.)

While I was Googling, Cyndi was pulling up Cyndi’s List, going to her Irish category, pulling up an Irish atlas database that would show you all of the towns in a county alphabetically, and she came up with the answer in no time!

I just did the same at Cyndi’s List to write this blog post and found a broken link. Oh no! Cyndi depends on her users to help keep the site up-to-date. She has thousands of links to keep track of and can’t do it alone. On the left side of the page is a “report a broken link” button that will allow you to quickly let her know something has moved or is just missing. Do this. It takes a few seconds and helps her out tremendously!

We have to get out of the habit of Googling. Or only Googling. Sometimes Google is the right tool. However, Cyndi has provided us this fantastic free resource of genealogy-related links! AND she is a one-woman operation.

I have two requests:

  1. Visit Cyndi’s List. Examine her categories. Discover what you didn’t know you needed! Or find something to help answer your mysteries. (If you find a broken link, click that report button.)
  2. Send her a donation. Any amount is appreciated, I’m sure. Every penny helps her keep the site up and running! She foots the bill for all of the web costs (design, hosting, security) and puts hours and hours into maintaining those links!

Happy Birthday, Cyndi’s List! I for one appreciate you very much!

Marriage Announcements

You may have noticed that in October, Ancestry released a new database from Newspapers.com “U.S., Newspapers.com Marriage Index, 1800s-1999.” I have found the database to be a fantastic resource. From the Corporate blog:

“The Newspapers.com Marriage Index collection adds to the world’s largest, searchable digital archive of newspaper published historical wedding announcements. Since the early 1800s, newspapers across the country have been publishing rich information about engagements, marriage license applications, wedding announcements, and more.”1

I have been using the database for a couple of months now and I have to say I am quite impressed with some of the articles that I’ve found that I missed during other search sessions. I can’t say why I missed them, except that this database is narrowed down to marriage announcements only thereby narrowing down results you might otherwise get by doing a general search at Newspapers.com. I have found that it weeds out some of the “noise” for me in search results, allowing me to more easily spot articles that pertain to my research.

Of course, not every database is going to be flawless. And while machine learning algorithms can help, nothing beats human eyes and interpretation of the articles as we see them. So don’t rely solely on this database, especially if you know something should be there. However, it can help eliminate some of the chaff (we have millions of pages of digitized newspapers these days!) and perhaps bring forward some items you didn’t know existed.

If you have an Ancestry account, go to the card catalog and type in “U.S., Newspapers.com Marriage Index, 1800s-1999” in the title field, or the link directly to the database is here.2

I hope you find this new index as valuable as I have.


1. See “Ancestry® Debuts World’s Largest, Searchable Digital Archive of Newspaper Published Historical Wedding Announcements,” Ancestry Corporate (https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/blog/ancestry-debuts-worlds-largest-searchable-digital-archive-newspaper-published-historical : viewed 9 February 2021), published 19 October 2020.

2. Please note that Newspapers.com is a separate subscription from Ancestry unless you have one of their combined subscriptions. Also, if a newspaper article is in a newer issue of the newspaper, it might fall under their “Publishers Extra” subscription which is a separate fee. Among other things, this extra fee covers the extra licensing fees required to publish newspaper images that are still under copyright.

Use ArchiveGrid to Assist Your Search

One of my absolute favorite websites for helping with the task of locating items of interest to MY research project is ArchiveGrid.

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You can read in detail about how ArchiveGrid works, its history, and so on, on the website. The summary from the website: “ArchiveGrid includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.”

It is like WorldCat is to libraries. It is an online catalog of holdings from libraries, manuscript collections, and archives from across the globe. Of course, they have to be participating with the OCLC system to be included, but so many are! And some of the participating collections are not your typical collection you might think about in terms of genealogy. Just reading through the “recent additions” I see Indiana University’s Latin American Music Center, United States Marine Band Library and Archives, the American Bookbinders Museum, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Museum of Flight Archives.

ArchiveGrid is very easy to use. It employs a simple keyword search and then a filter system is available when you click on “Summary View.” There are also more advanced ways to search. As always, read the help pages and “how to search” instructions for better results. For example, if you remember the leather pocketbook from the last post, it belonged to Thomas Jefferson Johnson. If you search ArchiveGrid for Thomas Jefferson Johnson you will get all kinds of hits for the president Thomas Jefferson. However, ArchiveGrid, like many databases, allows you to put the name in quotes. When I did that search, I found a collection of papers down at the Austin History Center that includes family correspondence dating back to 1853. It is very likely that some of those family papers complement the collection I viewed at Southwestern University’s Special Collection.

Access ArchiveGrid, enter some family names or topics relating to your research, and see what you find. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Digital Collection Feature: Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

I have been working on a client project this week that took me into Buffalo, Erie County, New York, one of my favorite areas to research because of its vital role in the westward movement of the United States. Buffalo was in a prime location between the time of the Erie Canal and Lake Erie, shipping and passenger travel could occur from the east coast in New York all the way inland to the frontier via the Great Lakes, and even down the Mississippi River to areas to the south and west. The growth, opportunities, and migration through that location is amazing from an ancestral and historical point of view.

a795f06d1b6363c80fe67c7c01d6ff88One of my favorite things to do when researching at a local public library is to examine pages named “digital collections” or something similar. Today, I happened upon a new collection at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library: ERIE COUNTY POOR HOUSE LEDGERS. This is a wonderful collection! The poor house books cover a range of years from 1851 to 1952. The pages have been beautifully digitized and the on-screen viewer is very easy to use. Zoom in to see very high-quality images.

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Screenshot of the page view of one of the ledger books. Erie County Home and Infirmary (Alden, N.Y.), “Erie County Poor House Ledgers, Volume 8. Register of Deaths, Erie County Home & Infirmary, August 16, 1926-December 30, 1941,” B&ECPL Digital Collections, accessed May 30, 2018, http://digital.buffalolib.org/document/93.

I am always so excited when I find digitized records such as these. To be able to access high-quality digitized records from Buffalo, NY while sitting in my office in Austin, TX is truly a blessing.

There are other items in their digitized collections and if you have Erie County, NY ancestors, I hope you’ll be heading over to their website! The URL is: http://www.buffalolib.org/content/digital-collections for the entire Digital Collections page.

I hope you are examining local public library websites when you are researching your ancestors, and I especially hope you like to poke around in their “digital collections.” You just never know what treasures you might find!

Take advantage of your state’s offerings!

We moved to Texas about three and a half years ago now…my how time flies! Through learning the library systems in the state, which are very different to how they worked in Colorado, I discovered that as a Texas state resident, I am allowed a FREE library card to the Texas State Library, and in particular to their online digital collections! This means that I can access HeinOnline and other useful databases for FREE!

HeinOnline logo

HeinOnline is quite expensive but so useful when doing any law research as it relates to your ancestors, which you should be doing! I also discovered on the Texas State Law Library website that all of the historical Texas statutes are nicely listed and available to anyone (library card or not).

If you live in Texas and would like to get your library card, it can be done online. Click here for instructions. If you live outside of Texas, ask your local librarian or do some online searching to see what offerings are available in your state. There are valuable resources available. Be sure not to miss them!