A few weeks ago I blogged about how to translate German newspapers on Newspapers.com.
Today, someone on facebook asked a similar question, but her paper was on GenealogyBank. I knew enough to know that if you can type a name in the search box and get a hit, somewhere behind the scenes there must be a little squirrel in a cage who matches what you type with the OCR files. But where the heck is that squirrel hiding on GenealogyBank? So I asked…
Yes, those live chat opportunities on your favorite websites can be a great source of info. I asked “Mike” at GenealogyBank and he didn’t know the answer, but got back to me a while later via email. And yes, it’s doable!
Find the article you want on GenealogyBank. I’m using a German-language paper, because generally I can read the English ones, but I need help with the German ones.
My target article is the one in the red box. I can read enough of the Fraktur font to know the first couple of words in my article are “John C Horstmann gestorben” and the last words are “Pastor Otto Buess amtirte.” That will be important…
Right click anywhere in that white header at the top where my red arrow is pointing. You’ll get the dropdown box shown. Click where it says “View page source.”
Get ready, folks… it’s not pretty. You can see the little gray bar on the right, showing how long this page is. And the entire thing is filled with this little teeny tiny print. Ugh.
But Ctrl+F is your friend. That will bring up a search box. Use that to search for one of the words in your article. I figured “John” was probably on the page a lot, “Christian” not so much, so I chose that.
GenealogyBank highlighted all the instances of “Christian” in yellow, so it was pretty easy to spot the one I wanted. Interestingly, though the newspaper page is laid out in columns, the OCR goes article by article. (I haven’t experimented enough to know if this is always the case, but for this example it definitely worked. Fingers crossed for your searches.) So it was pretty easy to highlight the whole article I was looking for. (Remember where I told you above that knowing the first few and last few words of your article would be important? Now you know why!)
I pasted that text into a Word document. I also put a clipping of the article in the Word document (as an image). When I click on the article image, Word brought up the Format tab. On that I clicked on the “Wrap Text” icon and selected “Tight.” This put the image and the copied text right next to each other.
There were a few errors in the text, but surprisingly not as many as I anticipated. But with the article image and the text right next to each other, it took me a only few minutes to clean it up. Once I had what I thought was correct, I copied that and pasted it into GoogleTranslate (https://translate.google.com). And I had my translation!
I know, I know, GoogleTranslate is not perfect, but it’s perfecter than I am with my rudimentary German skills. And it’s fast. I can quickly get the gist of the article and determine if it’s of interest.
So that’s my quick trick today to translate those pesky funny-font foreign language newspapers. I hope it helps you discover more about the stories of your ancestors.
 “John C. Horstmann gestorben,” Die Gasconade Zeitung (Herman, Missouri), 28 January 1921, p. 2, col. 4; digital image, GenealogyBank (https://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 8 April 2019).
Sometimes I blog because I want to share a story with my family and friends. Sometimes I blog because I have a cool technique I think other genealogists might benefit from.
And sometimes I blog just so I will remember that cool technique. Two days ago I spent hours trying to find a 19th century map of a tiny place in California, searching for the location of a land claim. Eventually I stumbled on a website that got me there. And then this morning, I realized I’d located the wrong property in the wrong location and I wanted to recreate the search to find the right location. And for the life of me, only two days later! I couldn’t remember how I did it. It took a while, but eventually I found what is hopefully the right 160 acre parcel for Mr. X.
Immediately after, I decided I needed to write down my search strategy so in two weeks or six months when I’m once again search for maps I won’t have to recreate the wheel. And I thought I’d share with you my process and screen shot so you, too, can peek into your ancestor’s 19th century life. . (And if I need a refresher in how to do it, I can just find this blog post!) Here goes….
4. Right-click on map location to select Map Township
The site has highlighted the township. NOTE: - not every township is clickable. I tried to right click on the township immediately to the south of the desired township and I got the message shown just above the map “We could not map a land description for the requested location.”
I did those same steps for a different location, this time in Amador County, and you can see I was able to right click and "Map Township" for 2 different townships
My initial click was the township on the left, but I decided I really wanted the one on the right. So now I have 2 maps I could look at. How do I know which is the right one? Well, I could rely on the fact that I clicked on the one I really wanted last, so it’s at the bottom of the list, or I could read the description which read:
CALIFORNIA, Mount Diablo - Twp 007.0N Rng 010.0E
CALIFORNIA, Mount Diablo- Twp 007.0N Rng 011.0E
I can recognize that Rng 011 is higher than 010, so further east. That's the one I want.
5. Right click on the orange “Search” button. That brings up this screen in a new tab.
Pro tip: The BLM site drives me a little crazy. If I back up a tick or two, it winds up back with a waaaay zoomed out view of the entire US and I have to click and move and zoom and pan just to get back to the little teeny town I was looking for. If I right click, that view stays open. So if I have the option on this website for any button, I ALWAYS right click!
On the above screen I could look at land patent documents. But that’s not what I’m after…
6. Instead click where it says “Surveys” to get this view:
This gives me several things I can look at. I want the first one, the “Original Survey.” (But at some point I'm sure I'll circle back and look at what else might be available.)
7. Click on the yellow plat image button to bring up this view.
I find this screen really hard to navigate around, with those blue arrows.
But in the lower right on the green band at the bottom there are a couple of buttons, including “PDF”. Click on that and it will spin for a minute while it generates the pdf –
And eventually say the pdf is ready for download.
If you left click on the word “DOWNLOAD”, it will overtake the window with the pdf, but if you right click on it, it will open the PDF in a new tab. Like I said, always right click.
I now have a map I can read all at once, move around in, and most importantly download to my computer for future reference.
These maps are so detailed I can “walk” with my Great-great grandfather John Fields as he left his home in Amador City to visit the grave of his dearly departed wife Mary. Maybe he stopped in at Tucker’s House for something cool to drink. And on his way home he passed Rosie’s field and Rosie’s vineyard, noticing the grapes ripening as summer wore on. The tiny details on this 145 year old map are a window into my ancestor’s world. Which ancestor are you going to shadow in these maps?
I recently posted about how to translate German books. Today I saw a post on the "German genealogy & cultural history" Facebook groupabout how to translate from Newspapers.com. I wanted to know, too, so I figured out a solution.
It’s pretty simple. Find an article you would like to translate on Newspapers.com.
Click on the “Clip” icon above the newspaper page and draw a box around the article you want to translate.
After you’ve selected your text, click on the blue “Clip”.
A window will pop-up prompting you to “Share” or “View Clipping”. Click on “View Clipping”.
That will revise the view to show only the clipped portion.
Notice underneath the article the words “Show article text (OCR)”. Click on that. Voila! the text magically appears.
It is not perfect. I’m sure there are errors in this text. I can see an “i”, possibly because my clipping included the vertical lines on the left and right of the article. There could be other glitches, as there often are with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), depending on the quality of the image, but at least I have something.
Now I can copy the transliterated text and paste it into GoogleTranslate. , GoogleTranslate is not perfect, either, but hopefully I can get the gist of the clipped article. If I want a better translation I can hire a translator to translate the original article.
Pretty quickly I was able to be able to roughly “read” this foreign language article. What foreign language newspaper are you going to search first?
I was looking at DNA matches on Ancestry. A good match, 65 cM, came up. But when I looked at the details on my list of matches, it said “Tree Unavailable.”
When I clicked on the match name, I got to this next screen. You can see at the bottom where it says “The connected family tree is private” and it gives me a button to click to contact the match.
But up at the top, where my red arrow is pointing, I can once again click on the name to get the Member Profile for Match. Once I scrolled all the way down on that screen, below “Recently Added Content” I can see that Match does indeed have an Ancestry Public Member Tree.
Sometimes you have to dig to find the trees, but if Ancestry “shuts the door” with a “Tree Unavailable” message, be sure to walk around the whole “house” and peek in all the windows to see if you can’t find a tree hidden on the Member Profile page.
Sometime in the 1970s my dad’s first cousin Thelma Wooster Van Alstyne typed up some genealogy information on her great-grandparents, immigrants from Germany. Her two reports provided information on my great-great grandparents, two immigrants couples, Charles Kircher and his wife Augusta Frühauf who met and married in Germany before emigrating, and Johannes Springer of “Kappeln” in Bavaria and his wife Louisa Caroline Hartman of Hanover, Germany, who came to America separately and were likely introduced to each other by common friends in Syracuse, New York. Thelma’s charts gave the birth, marriage and death dates for these couples and all their descendants she knew about at the time she prepared the charts. In addition to the charts she wrote up a dozen or two paragraphs of “Notes” on each couple. There is not one source cited on any of the notes or descendancy pages.
Thelma must have had some documents. There are photocopies of some records from Germany for the Kirchers, including an 1849 passport from the Royal Prussian States and a couple of documents reporting on baptisms which were likely provided by the couple to the pastor who married them. Thelma had the documents transcribed and translated. With some of the other documents I only have copies of the translations, and no idea where the original documents are. God bless Thelma for doing as much as she did. Without it, much of the history would have been lost.
I’ve tried to go back and prove what Thelma had in the trees and notes. Most of it was accurate, at least to a degree. I have not found a Kappeln in Bavaria, but there is Kapellen, and using microfilm and digitized records from the Family History Library I found Johannes Sprenger’s baptism record. In fact, for three of those four immigrant great-great grandparents, I found original baptism records, and in several cases I’ve been able to work back another generation or two (or more!) on German soil.
But one of them had me stumped. Louisa Caroline Hartman of Hanover. Hanover is the name of a city, as well as a former kingdom, in what is now Germany. It is neither a small nor a very specific place.
Here’s all the information about Louisa I had from Thelma’s “Notes on the Springer Family”:
Johannes Springer had four brothers and sisters.
The Hartmans in Germany had money. Louisa’s parents didn’t want her to come to America, so she probably didn’t get any of the family’s money.
The Springer’s in Liverpool were poor. Grandma (Frances) and Aunt Amelia used to pick up sticks for fuel near the salt mine.
Relatives in Liverpool and Syracuse: Hartmans (Nellie, Fred, Nick, Amelia Hartman Klassi), Getmens, Bauers (Mrs. Bauer was a Hartman).
The descendency chart started with:
LOUISA CAROLINE HARTMAN M. 1st JOHANNES SPRINGER
B. June 3, 1836 (Hanover, Germany) B. 1835 (Kappeln, State of Bavaria)
D. May 1, 1905 (Buried in Union Hill) D. Oct. 3, 187- (Age 42) Liverpool, NY
Hanover... Ugh. But the notes listed some Hartman cousins in Liverpool and Syracuse. Nellie, Fred, Nick and Amelia Hartman Klassi. I like that Klassi name – unusual enough to hopefully be easy to find. Sure enough, found an obituary, “Mrs. Frank Klassi Dies at Daughter’s Home.” The article title is wrong, but the text is just what I was looking for:
At the residence of her daughter, Mrs Frank Klassi at No. 16- [?] Strong avenue yesterday occurred the death of Mrs. Abbie Frech Hartman, aged 73 years. Surviving her are three daughters, Mrs John L. Bauer, Mrs. Frank Klassi and Miss Nellie Hartman of this city and a son, Fred G. Hartman of Newark, N. J. Funeral services will be held privately at 2:30 o’clock tomorrow afternoon and burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery.
As I searched more for this family I discovered through census records and obituaries the patriarch was Frederick August Hartman. (I think Thelma might have been slightly off listing Nick as a Hartman. He appears to be a cousin on the other, Springer, side. Nick Springer and Sarah Gettman were children of Johannes Springer’s brother Nicholas who lived next door to Louisa and Johannes in Liverpool.)
The pieces began to fit together. Louisa Hartman Springer’s daughter, Franklin Abelone was baptized on 14 June 1857 in Liverpool. Her godparents were Frederick Hartman and Abelone Hartman. Cousins. Godfather. Yes, Frederick Hartman was beginning to look a lot like he must be Louisa’s brother.
I ordered both Frederick and Louisa’s death certificates. Not cheap to get New York vital records, but surely one of them would tell me the parents’ names and the birthplace in Hanover… And the records came! Louisa was born in… Germany. Her father was Anthony Hartman, born in… Germany. Her mother was Mollie Hartman, born in… Germany. Louisa was 68 years [months and days not givene] at her death on 1 May 1905. Not exactly the specific details I hoped for.
What about Fred? Fred’k A. Hartmann, died 19 May 1902 at age 79 years, 3 months and 25 days. He was born in… Germany. He’d been in the US 55 years. His father was Anton and his mother was Amelia, both from… well, you know… Germany. But at least there was some math I could do. I calculated a birthdate of 24 January 1823. If, of course, the unnamed informant on the death certificate knew what they were talking about.
The details on the two certificates meshed well enough. Anton and Anthony seemed a solid fit. Mollie is not a far stretch as a nickname for Amelia. Both Frederick and Louisa named daughters Amelia.
And there things sat for a year and a half. I tried to work on the problem off and on. My attempts to find a marriage record in Liverpool for Johannes and Louisa met with stonewalling from the likely church where the baptisms of their children and probably their marriage occurred. I reached out to distant cousins, looking for a family bible which might say something. No bible, but my “new” cousin Amy had a fabulous photo album from Louisa’s daughter, Amelia. The album contained several Hartman pictures, including one of Abelone Frech Hartman with all her children, and one of Frederick and Abbie together.
But I’m afraid with the scant clues I had: - aprobable birthdate for Fred, first names for parents but no maiden name for Mama, a Kingdom comprising about 14,600 square miles (roughly twice the size of New Jersey), - and little in the way of online records, I just didn’t have the stamina to tackle that problem. So many ancestors, so little time…
In January I took a class at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) from Warren Bittner, Baerbel Johnson and Daniel Jones on reading Gothic Script and Fraktur. It was a delightful experience, one of the most fun weeks of learning I have ever had. Five days of “code breaking” flew by, not one moment feeling like work. But now I have the confidence to take on those “chicken scratch” records which used to scare me to death.
A couple of weeks after SLIG I had to go back to Salt Lake City for some meetings, and I built in some time for more research at the Family History Library. I was getting a bit of help from Daniel on a few bits I couldn’t read in a couple of records. Herr Bitter was there as well and I couldn’t resist sharing how excited I was about my new-found skills. I sat next to him later in the day and he worked at one computer and I at another, but every once in a while he offered a little advice on this or that. I saw him at the library several more times in the next few days. (I do hope I wasn't too much of a pest.)
My Hartmann problem in the back of my mind, I thought I’d see if Warren had any ideas. I guess I was right about the size of the problem. When he asked who I was looking for and I said “Frederick Hartman in Hannover,” his response was a brief two words. “I’m sorry.”
But a little later he wanted to see what I had on him and I showed him the 1855 New York census for Frederick in Syracuse. It showed he’d been in Syracuse 5 years. He was married and living with his in-laws who reported being in Syracuse 3 years, so it pointed pretty strongly to an immigration year within a couple of years of 1850. Warren said, “Why don’t you look for a passenger list for Frederick. You might find a few, you might find a lot. But it’s worth a shot.”
Yeah, right, I thought. My experience with passenger lists has rarely been fruitful. I don’t know the name of the ship my guy came on, I don’t know when, I don’t know if the list for the ship he did come on survived, I don’t know if it was microfilmed… or indexed… or digitized. Was it legible enough that the indexer could come up with a reasonable approximation of the name? If it made it through all those hoops would it say anything more than “Frederick Hartman, age 25, laborer from Germany?”
Below is my “typical” passenger list. The columns are: Number on the manifest, Name, Age, Gender, Occupation, The country to which they severally belong, and The country in which they intend to become inhabitants.
The name, age and gender columns at least have a bit of variety. The other three are laborer, Germany and U.S. of America. Even a 2-month-old baby on the next pages was a “laborer.”
So, no… I didn’t jump right on Warren’s suggestion. But after a few more days of research, I’d exhausted the questions on the other “findable” lines and so I thought I’d at least give it a shot. I searched in Ancestry’s New York Passenger Lists database for a Frederick Hartman arriving in 1850 +/- two years. I got only 20 hits, so not too many to go through. Some I could immediately throw out based on the passenger’s age. Only one had a birth year of 1823, so I checked that one first. The Columbus arrived 6 April 1850 from Bremen. What I saw on that list had me drooling.
The column headings might be a bit hard to read due to the ink splotches, but they are: Name, Last Dwelling Place, Occupation, Age, Destination, [no heading, but the entries show number of boxes of possessions] and Sex.
Look at those letters! Thank you D. Meyer, Master of Columbus. You are my hero! Your second grade teacher who taught you that beautiful penmanship is my hero, too!
So what do we have here? Frederick Hartmann, from Makensen, a farmer, age 27, uncertain about his destination, one box, male. Next line, Caroline Hartmann, [ditto, also from Makensen], 22, destination Pitsville [?], 1 box, female. Could this be Louisa Caroline? She’s a little old from what I know about Louisa, but if she subtracted a little in her later years (many women did) and added a few on this manifest (maybe she worried about appearing too young to support herself, so she tried to be a little older) she might be within range to be Louisa. But I’m pretty sure Frederick and, Caroline aren’t a married couple because they’re not going to the same destination. And look at 8, 9 and 11 lines below Caroline – Wilhelm Benzinger, Matthias Zimmermann and August Zimmermann – all three of them are going to Syracuse, where Frederick wound up.
Imagine if you will, a ship full of people, lining up to give super scribe, D. Meyer, their particulars. Frederick really can’t decide where he’s going but there’s a trio just a bit behind him in line, all of them talking up the many opportunities of Salt City and Frederick is convinced. Do I know this is really what happened? Nope. But hey, it makes sense, right?
I really like this passenger list. I could find it. It is legible. It has really specific information like Makensen and Syracuse. I sooooo want this list to be mine!
Allow me a little digression… When I was a kid, I chewed a lot of Bazooka bubblegum, the pink stuff with the comics inside the wrappers. Often hard as a rock, but enough spit and you could get a pretty good chew. I cannot tell you much about the comics. But one, for some obscure reason, has stuck with me the last 50 years. Bazooka Joe is on his knees beneath a street lamp, clearly looking for something. His friend offers to help. Next frame his friend asks if this is where Joe lost his thingamabob. “No,” says Joe. “I lost it over there.” “Then why are we looking here?” “The light’s better over here.”
I feel that way a lot in genealogy. Some record isn’t from where my ancestor was from, and it’s probably not them, but the “light” is better on the record. It’s legible. It’s got places - “Makensen!” and “Syracuse!” That is some great light! It just HAS to be my people. Please, please, please, genealogy gods, can this be my people? Pretty pretty please. The light is so good on this one.
Well, I have absolutely no idea if the Hartmanns on the Columbus are my people. But Warren has given me the name of Detlef, a researcher in Hannover, who used to work at the Landeskirchliches Archiv Hannover. I’ve already emailed Detlef about a baptism record on a family in Einbeck, maybe he could look for a Mackensen record, too. So I gave Detlef those details, and crossed my fingers.
Three days ago I heard back from Detlef. The microfiche from Mackensen was horrid, difficult to read and not worth taking a picture of. But it was legible enough at least to find some relevant entries. He found two baptisms on that crummy microfiche. Two children of Heinrich Anton Hartmann, a Schumacher [shoemaker], and his wife Johanne Amalie, born Schollens. Friedrich August Hartman, born in Mackensen 24 January 1823. And Johanne Dorothee Caroline Hartmann, born in Mackensen 14 March 1828. Frederick’s was exact date calculated from his death certificate. That informant did know what they were talking about!
Caroline’s baptism name doesn’t include the name Louisa. The birthdate is consistent with the Columbus passenger Caroline Hartmann, but the birthdate does not match Thelma’s details on Louisa Caroline. I think this might be another sister. My experience with my German families indicates children are often christened with three or even four names. The “first” name is often the name of a godparent, but the child may be called by one of the other names. When you’re doling the names out three-to-a-kid you run through them pretty quickly, so often the “extra” names are used for multiple children. So Louisa Caroline’s baptism record is still waiting for me to lay eyes on it, but I’m pretty darn sure I’ll find it in the parish registers of Mackensen. Can’t wait!
 A note on the names – the records in Germany use the spelling “Sprenger.” In America they use “Springer.” I will use the Springer variant unless I am talking about a record which uses Sprenger.
 Liverpool is a small town on Lake Onondaga, northwest of Syracuse, where Johannes and Louisa settled.
 “John” Sprenger died 3 October 1867 in Liverpool. His gravestone says he was 42 years old. This is close to the baptism record I found for Johannes Sprenger, born 30 April 1827, son of Jakob Sprenger and Elisabeth Scheib in the church register for Drusweiler, FHL microfilm 1457537
 “Mrs Frank Klassi Dies at Daughter’s Home,” Syracuse Post Standard, 3 December 1909, p. 7, col. 3; digital images FultonHistory (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html : accessed 22 February 2019).
 Monroe County, New York, death certificate no. 114 (1905), Louisa Bowman; Office of Vital Records, Rochester.
 Onondaga County, Verified Transcript from the Register of Deaths, Register no. Vol. F, p. 101 (1902), Fred’k A. Hartmann; Office of Vital Statistics, Syracuse.
“Hannover,”GlobalSecurity.org (https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/de-hanover.htm : accessed 22 February 2019).
 “Size of States,” State Symbols USA (https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/national-us/uncategorized/states-size : accessed 22 February 2019).
 Utah Genealogical Association, SLIG - https://ugagenealogy.org/aem.php?eid=36
 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 14
December 2018), manifest, Bark Davenport, 9 May 1849, page not numbered, lines 125-130; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), microfilm publication M237 (1820-1897), Roll 79. age 2 months; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), microfilm publication M237 (1820-1897), Roll 87.
 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8
February 2019), manifest, Columbus, arrival 6 May 1850, page 1 > New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 > Roll M237, 1820-1897 > Roll 087 > image 451.
 Ibid, pg. 3, image 453.
 According to Meyersgaz.org, the standard spelling is Mackensen.
 Detlef Baehre, Hannover, Germany [(E-Address for private use)], to author, email, 19 February 2019, “Re: Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Kircher 1789 birth record at Kirchenbuchamt on Hildesheimer Str.”
I recently found a book which included some great information about my 4th great-grandfather and his brother who were book printers in Eimbeck and Goslar in Germany (Hannover and Hildesheim). I’d like to thank fellow genealogist Jim Beidler for pointing me to the book.
The book, however, hid its secrets from me behind a couple of walls – a foreign language and a foreign font. You mean a book written in 1840 by a German man about printers in Germany is written German, not English?!!! Um, yes. And not only German, but it’s printed in a Fraktur font, not the standard Roman font I learned to read in my California kindergarten. That give this wonderful resource two strikes against it.
Oh, but I’m not going to let that stop me! Fortunately, last month I took a week-long course at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) where I learned how to decipher that funny foreign font. It’s still work to decipher, but I’m finding I’m much quicker at the process.
My translation procedure consisted of Step 1, Transliterating - typing the Fraktur characters on the pages of the book into a Word document, and then, Step 2, Translating - using Google Translate to convert the words into English. Thanks to my class, I getting pretty speedy at the transliterating part. I know E is an E and G is a G. But still, typing the text into Word is a rather tedious process.
As I was doing it, my mind kept thinking, “If a Google search can find the book, when I enter search terms like ‘Kircher’ and ‘Goslar’ into the search engine, surely Google is itself “reading” and transliterating that text. Where the heck is Google hiding the transliterated words?! If I could only find those, that would save all the work in Step 1.” And where do I go to get answers to my questions? Google of course!
Do you know where to find those Google transliterations? Let me show you. Here’s a screenshot from the book I found on GoogleBooks.
See that little pair of scissors in the tool bar? If I click on that, I can highlight the entire page of the book. You use it sort of like you’d use your snipping tool to capture the page..
Once I’ve “clipped” what I want, I can do things with the clip. See where it says translate? Click on that. Up pops the GoogleTranslate window with the TEXT from that “picture” I just grabbed all copied into the left-hand pane, and my translation into the right-hand pane!
Newspapers are possibly my favorite records. I can find many details of my ancestors’ lives. I recommend searching by name, of course. But have you thought about other ways to search? My new favorite way seems to be searching by location.
I have relatives who moved from one small town in one state to another small town in another state. When I learned this, questions arose. Why? And more specifically, why that town? More questions – Did they ever go back home to visit or live? Did anyone from the home town visit them in the new place?
And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find an article where the names were butchered, either by an author or typesetter spelling mistake, or an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) translation mistake.
I recently searched in an Osage County, Kansas newspaper for “Webster, New York,” the hometown of several family members. And I found a perfectly readable (to the naked eye) article with perfect spellings of my relative’s name. It had never come up on a search by name.
Here’s the article:
It’s pretty easy to read the article. You can read the names, right? A. E. Billings. Anna Kircher.
But here is what the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software “read.”
“ Marmkd. At the Baptist church, in Webster, N. Y,, June 11th. by the Rev. E. F. Waine, Mr. A. E. Bili.ings, of Burlingame, Kansa, to Miss Axxa Kirches, of Webster, New York. We heartily wish our iViend Asa and his fair young bride long life and a world of happiness, contentment and prosperty.”
I’ve shown in red the OCR mistakes, and in green the one word misspelled in the newspaper, (not an OCR mistake). The surnames of both bride and groom were misread by OCR. I never would have found this record, never would have known about this marriage, if I had not searched by place.
Next time you search in online newspapers, try searching by place. Who knows what you’ll dig up.
I was recently looking at an agricultural census schedule. For those not familiar with the Agricultural “Ag” censuses, they were taken in 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. If your ancestor listed “Farmer” as his occupation, you definitely want to look for the “matching” agricultural census which will tell you about livestock he owned, acres planted, how many bushels of this or pounds of that he grew and more. It is a great snapshot into your ancestor’s life as a farmer. Take the opportunity to compare your ancestor to his neighbors – calculate things like yield per acre, etc. to see how productive he might have been in relation to his fellow farmers. And look at him over time – if you can find him in 1860 and 1870, does he have more land? Does he have more cows? Did he drop that unproductive rye crop and plant more acres in wheat?
Ancestry has filmed these agricultural censuses as well as some other “non-population” schedules.
The way the 1850 schedules are arranged, the farmers’ names are written down the left side of the page and boxes were filled in for each column as they applied. There are 19 columns on the front side of the page. After the enumerator asked Farmer John all the details on the front side, he’d flip the page over and ask another 27 columns (up to column 46). Lots and lots of data!
The schedules were microfilmed and the images are available on Ancestry. But there is a little bit of a problem. Ancestry has arranged them by State, then county, then township, in alphabetical order of town. Easy, right? Well… if your ancestor is has is name on the last page of the town, you can’t “flip the page” to get to the
back side of Farmer John’s page. How are you going to know how many pounds of maple sugar or bushels of peas he produced????
I was looking at Franklin Township, Delaware County, New York. “My” guy, “Enas B. Tisher” is on line 1 of image 10. As you can see, that is image 10 of 10. Where’s the back side of his page?!! I can’t type 11 in the box at the bottom- that won’t work.
If I click on the filmstrip icon next to the 10 I see the start of another township, Hamden, which apparently has 5 images. Maybe that will be it…
But nooooooo. Look in the upper right hand corner of Enas Tisher’s page. In (sloppy) black marker it says 313. Hamden’s first page has the number 259. So… somebody somewhere had a stack of these agricultural enumerations and started numbering the pages in numerical order (I mean really, how else would you number pages?!) But Ancestry, thought these should really be in alphabetical order, by town name.
So how did I finally find Mr. Tisher’s back page? I looked at the filmstrip, scrolled forward or backward to the first image for every town, and when I finally got to the town of Masonville, I could see, right there in that same old black marker, “315.” The numbers on the left side of the page? Yep, that’s exactly the data I was seeking for my old buddy Enas. 3 Bushels of peas, and 400 lbs of maple sugar (I think…)
Don’t take my word for it, compare the data numbers on the left side of the image with those on Enas Tisher’s page on image 10 in Fisher. The same. But the numbers on image 1 of Masonville, “black marker” page 315, were written in someone else’s handwriting.
Lesson learned, those “flip side” of the pages are somewhere. You just need to be a little creative to find them.
Oh, the many problems with Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Documents may use a plain font. But in specialty publications, yearbooks, for example, the typeface might be a bit fancier. This leads to problems in text recognition. The scanning, digitizing or interpreting software may preclude finding what you’re looking for.
I had a few details on a woman my friend JoAnne was researching. I found her on a FamilySearch family tree and discovered in the notes on the subject that she was a 1906 graduate of Smith College. I searched for the subject, Harriet Leitch in Ancestry’s “U.S. School Yearbooks, 1900-1990 Database.” I couldn’t find her on a name search, but I was able to find the 1906 Smith yearbook. A page-by-page search yielded Harriet’s picture right where it should have been, with the other L names. I suspected the fancy font might have been a problem when I saw it.
Afterwards, I did a search on Ancestry by location, using the college’s name as a keyword, specifying only the year, but no student’s name. It took a few pages to get to the Ls but along the way I saw many butchered names and words – try a few of these on for size:
Jsentor Bvamattcs - yep, that’s Senior Dramatics
Jswbstttute Sasfeetball Eeam – that’s Substitute Basketball Team
Those two were set in a Gothic font. But even with a hopefully clearer font, what appears to me to be Cambria, there are many errors, particularly regarding the letter H.
Iiavex Hol'sii – that, my friends, is Haven House, one of the dormitories.
My new friend Harriet Elizabeth Leitch? She did OK until they got to the back end of her name. She became “Harriet Elizabeth Leitcii”. Her next-door-neighbor on the page, Helen Mae Larmouth, had a similar problem – “Helen Mae Larmoutii”. It seems a small capital H is definitely a problem for the eyes of Ancestry’s computers.
When you’re searching specialty publications such as yearbooks, be willing to expand your search. Maybe search by first name only, last name only, use a lot of wildcards, or just resort to a page-by-page search. It’d be a shame to let a little OCR hiccup stand between you and a picture of your ancestor.
1 “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1900-1990,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1265 : accessed 13 August 2018) > Massachusetts > Northampton > Smith College > 1906, image 34, Harriet Elizabeth Leitch.
How thorough is your research? When Ancestry gives you an index record with at least six solid pieces of information –full name (including middle name), birth date and place, death date and parents’ names (first name, middle initial and last name) – how often do you think, “That’s good enough”? Especially when the alternative is to spend $21 on… what? I mean… there’s all the information I really need, right?
I had this experience recently with a record that came up for a guy I’m researching. Ancestry pointed me to an entry in the “U.S. Social Security Application and Claims Index, 1936-2007.” I already knew everything the (no-image) record was telling me. And one more detail, seemed to be telling me a piece of information I really wanted would NOT be on the record.
One of the fields on the record Ancestry shows is “Relationship of Signature,” and the Index record says “Not signed, SSA prepared.” Well, shoot… so I’m not going to get the signature I need to compare with other documents, I already know all the other stuff, so really, WHY DO I NEED TO SPEND $21?!!!!
The very specific answer for me, is because I am seriously considering becoming a Certified Genealogist® and my application needs to document reasonably exhaustive research. An index record ain’t gonna cut it. So I bit the bullet and ordered the record.
In my mind, I ordered the record ONLY so the citations in my certification portfolio would be up to snuff and demonstrate the scope of my research. Because without that signature for comparison, the record wasn’t going to be helpful.
It finally arrived Saturday and there was much more than that index led me to believe was there:
When you think that index is “good enough”, think again. Order that record. You’ll be glad you did.
I wish I could tell more stories about this guy. I apologize for my dearth of blog posts recently. Much of my research and writing time lately has involved material for my certification portfolio and I need to keep kinda mum about my work until I submit the portfolio. I promise to try to find lessons like this one that I can write about and share them with you.
For more about becoming a Certified Genealogist® see https://bcgcertification.org/
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.