Category Archives: Collections

Morning reports

Fire at National Personnel Records Center, 1973. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fold3.com, in partnership with the National Archives, recently launched a new collection, U.S. Morning Reports 1912-1946. This collection is a huge opportunity for genealogists studying their military ancestors during World War I and World War II. It is currently only about halfway digitized. The records appear to be complete through 1939. Continue reading Morning reports

OCRing the 1950 census

The greatest achievement of the release of the 1950 Census is not the records themselves, but the technology used to index the records. On April 1, 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration released the census on a dedicated website using a unique optical character recognition (OCR) software designed to translate the handwritten names into text that can be searched online. This made 6.4 million digitized pages of the 1950 Census immediately available. Think about that – immediately available…?! It seemed too good to be true. Continue reading OCRing the 1950 census

Land records in Bohemia

Two years ago, I wrote about my success using Bohemian church books to further my research into my grandfather’s Czech ancestry. Church records are key for Czech/Bohemian research, as is true for genealogical research in many European countries. However, they are not the only source of genealogical material available to us. Recently, FamilySearch.org has been adding collections of land records for many locations in the Czech Republic. As of this writing, many of these collections are still marked as “preliminary,” to “allow immediate online access.” Recent uploads appear to be from the State Regional Archive in Litoměřice. Continue reading Land records in Bohemia

A ray of light

Click on images to expand them.

One of the places I have been researching is the townland of Kilcruaig in Kilflyn parish, County Limerick. My husband has ancestors from Kilcruaig who were born there in the early 1800s. However, it has been difficult to learn much about these families. The local Catholic records did not begin until 1853 and the people I want to research were born much earlier. And almost all died before civil registration began in 1864. The area felt like a bit of a black hole. Continue reading A ray of light

A cultural heritage database

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Wouldn’t you know it. No sooner had I submitted a blog post about the MACRIS database to Vita Brevis then I discovered the entire website had been redesigned. So, it was back to the drawing board to learn how to re-navigate it. It was worth it, however, to be able to rewrite this post and share this database.

For those who might be undertaking research about historic properties and landmarks in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) is well worth a visit, filled as it is with fascinating information documented over several decades – generally from the 1960s thru the 1990s – by local historical commissions, some of whose members were more intrepid than others, and collected under one umbrella by the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC). Continue reading A cultural heritage database

Tips for preserving family papers

Courtesy of the National Archives

Genealogical research is possible because people preserved their family papers and photographs, allowing us to use them ten, twenty, even hundreds of years later to piece together their lives. Preservation of these items can seem a daunting task, filled with pitfalls, expensive materials, and hours and hours of time. However, it doesn’t have to feel so tough, and here are some basic tips to get started!

The first thing about preserving your family history is to think about where you are storing the materials. It can be hard to find a good location to keep them within your house. Continue reading Tips for preserving family papers

A milestone

Late in the day on Wednesday, Vita Brevis marked an important milestone: 3,000,000 page views since it launched in January 2014. In that period, 151 bloggers have published 1,774 posts on a wide range of subjects of interest to genealogists.

Looking back at the top ten most popular posts for the period 2014-2022, I am struck by the top three: Jean Maguire’s announcement that the legendary Boston Transcript genealogical column (1911-41) was now available online, and Penny Stratton’s twin posts on elements of style: how not to make words plural, and how to feature dates in genealogical works. These three posts, from 2015 and 2016, account for about 77,000 page views, and no doubt they have driven traffic to other posts over the years. Continue reading A milestone

Dartmouth Quaker records

Apponagansett Meeting House in Dartmouth. Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

We recently added a new database to AmericanAncestors.org, Dartmouth, MA: Quaker Records, 1699-1920. This database is a collaboration between the New England Historic Genealogical Society | American Ancestors and the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society (DHAS).

DHAS has digitized and is transcribing the original record books for the Dartmouth monthly meeting of Friends (Quakers). These transcriptions and the images of the manuscripts will be available on the DHAS website. Continue reading Dartmouth Quaker records

2021: the year in review

“May you live in interesting times” is supposed to be a curse – it’s certainly an exhausting way to go through life. As 2021 rolls over to 2022, here is a look back at 2021 in Vita Brevis:

In January, Ann Lawthers urged genealogists visiting cemeteries to apply some of the insights garnered from their research, in this case about how the changing cultural norms around death translated into stone: Continue reading 2021: the year in review

JHC year in review

JHC archivist Lindsay Sprechman Murphy with Debbie Kardon Schwartz, Executive Director of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry.

It was a busy and exciting year for the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center (JHC). In a belated celebration of the eight nights of Hanukkah, which began November 28 and ended on December 6, here are our top eight achievements for the year!

1. After the pandemic postponed what was meant to be the first annual conference in March 2020, the JHC hosted an online event to launch the New England Jewish History Collaborative in January 2021. A partnership between Jewish history organizations in all six New England states, including the JHC, the collaborative created a website and resource guide for researchers interested in New England Jewish history. Visit the website and stay tuned for more programming in 2022.

Continue reading JHC year in review