Category Archives: Technology

The 1950 census: just the beginning

My colleague Chris Child wrote a controversial post last month about the merits of the 1950 Census. The title of the post was triggering, but I must admit that I agree with his overall argument. According to Chris, “…the census has spoiled us. Because it is often so quick to search, we might overlook other valuable resources because of how long looking through those records might take us. This is not meant to diminish the importance of the census, only to partially explain why it is used more than other records.” Continue reading The 1950 census: just the beginning

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

Searching the 1950 census

The Truman family fills out the 1950 census.

The 1950 Census was released right on time, exactly 72 years after 142,000 enumerators set out to record the booming post-war population of the United States. Today, in 2022, we will be able to search for the names of our family members among more than 150 million other Americans.

At midnight on April 1, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) made available the 6.4 million digitized pages of the 1950 Census. Continue reading Searching the 1950 census

The 1950 census – who cares?

What IS this?

Okay, I know the title of this post is not going to be popular amongst many of our readers. My original title contained at least one curse word! It’s not that I do not care about the 1950 census, it’s more of an overall appreciation of how many more records are now available at our fingertips, as well as the rise, and partial fall, of the U.S. census as a go-to resource in genealogy. Continue reading The 1950 census – who cares?

New York City vital records now available online

Last week the New York City Municipal Archives revealed a new online platform where anyone around the world can now access full color scans of more than 9 million historic New York City vital records. The collection encompasses birth, marriage, and death records from 1855 to 1949 (with some gaps).

Founded in 1950, the New York City Municipal Archives is the largest local government archive in North America. In 2013 funding was granted to begin work on the digitization of the Archive’s historic vital record collection and the multi-million-dollar project has been ongoing ever since. Continue reading New York City vital records now available online

Sailors will be sailors?

Portrait of Minoru Yasui (1916-1986), displayed in the National Portrait Gallery in 2018.

As I was driving to the grocery store recently, I saw an electronic billboard featuring a design of colored barbed wire with the date February 19, 1942. I realized instantly that this is a second “date which will live in infamy,”[1] and one that quickly followed the first. On that date President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans living along the West Coast … two-thirds of whom were American citizens.

As a young girl, I had heard a bit about what happened from my grandparents. Many neighbors of Japanese descent had been required to assemble at Portland’s Pacific International Livestock Exposition Center, where they lived in repurposed animal buildings until rudimentary camps were constructed throughout the West and Midwest. Continue reading Sailors will be sailors?

A cultural heritage database

Click on images to enlarge them.

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

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