Archive for the ‘Online Genealogy’ Category

Researching Maryland land records online at no cost

Locating digitized records available online is one of my greatest interests. The compilation and publication of my ebook Online State Resources for Genealogy earlier this year was the product of this interest, containing over 300 pages of links to over 1500 record images and indexes held on non-genealogy websites. The updated edition of this ebook should be completed early next year, and all registered purchasers of the first edition will receive a free download of the second, updated edition. The new edition will contain several hundred new sites that did not appear in the first edition, as well as many resources newly available from the sites that did appear.

Dee, author of the Free Genealogy Resources and Ancestrally Challenged blogs, shares my passion for online genealogy resources.

She recently solicited her readers for guest post authors, and I volunteered. My guest post, entitled, “Guest Post by Michael Hait: Researching Maryland land records online at no cost,” appeared in the 19 December edition of Free Genealogy Resources.

Enjoy!

No “genealogical community”?

My recent article “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?” was apparently not the only response to Thomas Macentee’s Geneabloggers post entitled, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?

James Tanner posted the article, “Well Said Tom, Here’s My Response,” on his Genealogy’s Star blog. In this article, James writes,

I don’t think that historically there has been a “genealogical community.” I believe that the bloggers are in the process of creating such a community. Before there was the “professional, journal writing” genealogical group but I don’t think you could view them as a “community.”[1]

I hope that James will further explain this statement. No genealogical community?

How about the National Genealogical Society? It has been around since 1903! Or any of these societies:

  • The New England Historic Genealogical Society (est. 1845)
  • The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society (est. 1869)
  • The American Society of Genealogists (est. 1940)
  • The Board for the Certification of Genealogists (est. 1964)
  • The Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (est. 1977)
  • The Association of Professional Genealogists (est. 1979)

Or any of the hundreds of local, county, state, or regional historical and genealogical societies throughout the world?

When I was corresponding with distant historical societies and genealogical societies or other researchers working on the same families, on paper with envelopes and stamps, I felt like part of a community.

Certainly, this was a small community, especially if compared with the thousands of GeneaBloggers and members of the “online genealogy community.”

But it was a community.

To me, a community is a group of people with common interests and common goals, working together, offering each other support. How can anyone look at the accomplishments of genealogists of the past, including the organizations that they formed and progress that they made together and claim that “historically there has [not] been a ‘genealogy community'”?

Without the genealogy community of the past, we would not have the online genealogy community.

SOURCES:

[1] James Tanner, “Well Said Tom, Here’s My Response,” Genealogy’s Star blog, posted 14 Dec 2011 (http://genealogysstar.blogspot.com : accessed 18 Dec 2011).

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “No ‘genealogical community’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 18 Dec 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new “experts”?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I started this blog post back in November, but put it on the shelf. Thomas MacEntee’s recent post (see below) has inspired me to post it, with some small changes.

This past spring the world discovered that, at some point in the past two or three years, there had been a significant change in the way news is delivered and spread. Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, and the United States learned of his death–not through television news or CNN or a Presidential press conference–but through Twitter. The microblogging “social” website had scooped all of the traditional news outlets.

This is not the only evidence that Web 2.0 (as it has traditionally been called), the “social web,” has caused an incredible paradigm shift in many areas of life. Even my grandmother is on Facebook!

A similar paradigm shift seems to have occurred within the past two years in the world of genealogy.

Signs of the New Paradigm

The first mention of this change was in a post by Joan Miller written this past spring, shortly after the first RootsTech conference. On 15 April 2011 Joan posted “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies” in her LuxeGen blog. In this post, Joan wrote:

We are the New Somebodies.  Yes, in our industry we Genea-Bodies are the New Somebodies. Why?  Because a Nobody could become Some Project’s biggest cheerleader. Just look at the royal treatment the Official Bloggers received at Rootstech. (I was one).  Jay Verkler, Anne Roach, Paul Nuata et al knew what they were doing when they engaged the Genea-Bodies. We Genea-Bodies have a voice.  A collective voice.  A passionate voice.  And we talk about our passion. We blogged and tweeted and Facebooked our little hearts out about Rootstech.  Because we wanted to; because we felt the cause was warranted. And in part, because we had been noticed.  We had a job to do.  We were reporting on Rootstech! And not just the official bloggers, but all of us Genea-Bodies. We became Rootstech’s biggest cheerleaders because we cared and we were engaged.[1]

At the time, this blog post, and a comment on it by professional genealogist Marian Pierre-Louis, inspired a long discussion about professional genealogy and its place within the larger genealogy community, among other topics. This discussion also directly inspired me to resurrect my long-neglected blog (formerly called “Tricks of the Tree”) as this current blog.

Yet it took several months for me to realize the full impact of what Joan was saying.

On 15 October 2011 the genealogy website 1000memories.com announced that it had commissioned a duplication of a seminal 2007 survey conducted by Ancestry.com. The site then invited five genealogists to comment on the survey results: David E. Rencher, of FamilySearch; Randy Whited, a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Genealogical Societies; Amy Johnson Crow, CG, a professional genealogist and genealogy blogger (formerly Amy’s Genealogy, etc.); Thomas MacEntee, of Geneabloggers; and Caroline Pointer, author of the For Your Family Story blog. In all of their announcements about the survey and the accompanying “Genealogy Roundtable” of blog posts, 1000memories.com described these five as “five of the genealogy community’s top thinkers.”[2]

I doubt it is coincidental that three of the five genealogists chosen write popular genealogy blogs. This is a perfect example of the paradigm shift in genealogy.

The Old Paradigm

If you are not familiar with the American Society of Genealogists, here is a little background:

The American Society of Genealogists (ASG) was founded in 1940 by three distinguished academicians—Arthur Adams, John Insley Coddington, and Meredith Colket …. An honorary society, ASG is limited to fifty life-time members designated as Fellows (identified by the initials fasg). At the time of its founding, nothing existed to certify competent genealogists nor was there a method to honor significant achievement in the genealogical field.

Election to the ASG is based on a candidate’s published genealogical scholarship. Emphasis is upon compiled genealogies and published works that demonstrate an ability to use primary source material; to evaluate and analyze data; to properly document evidence; and to reach sound, logical conclusions presented in a clear and proper manner.[3]

Among other accomplishments, the American Society of Genealogists founded the National Institute for Genealogical Research (NIGR) held annually at the National Archives in Washington, D. C., in 1950, and the Board for the Certification of Genealogists (BCG) in 1964. They also publish two prestigious genealogical journals, The American Genealogist and The Genealogist. Past Fellows of the Society include such legends of genealogy as Donald Lines Jacobus, Milton Rubincam, Harry Wright Newman, Dr. Gaius M. Brumbaugh, Walter Lee Sheppard, Jr., Noel C. Stevenson, Richard Stephen Lackey, and Marsha Hoffman Rising.

As noted above, there are always fifty Fellows of the American Society of Genealogists. Some of these names are instantly recognizable by most genealogists: Elizabeth Shown Mills, Christine Rose, Helen F. M. Leary, Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Thomas W. Jones. These and the other Fellows, both past and present, are the most influential genealogists in United States genealogy history.

The rise of a genealogist’s career to become a Fellow often involved writing and publishing extensively, a long career in client research, frequent lecturing, and, in more than a few cases, revolutionizing some aspect of research methodology. Since 1964, this also usually entailed achieving the status of Certified Genealogist. Unlike most societies, ASG is not an organization that anyone can join. To become a Fellow, one must be nominated by a current member and then accepted by at least 80% of the voting members at the annual meeting. In other words, these are the genealogists that “the genealogy community’s top thinkers” consider “the genealogy community’s top thinkers.”

Do you cite the sources that you use? Thank members of the ASG.

Do you research the neighbors and associates of your ancestors, using cluster genealogy? Thank members of the ASG.

Aside from the five highly-visible Fellows named above, though, how many of the fifty current Fellows can you name? Do you recognize the work and accomplishments of John Frederick Dorman, Peter Wilson Coldham, George Ely Russell, or Henry Z. Jones, Jr.? [HINT: They are all currently-living FASGs.]

How about the names DearMYRTLE, Thomas MacEntee, Dick Eastman, or Randy Seaver? [HINT: They are not FASG, CG, or AG.]

The paradigm shift has occurred based on the exponential growth of the online genealogy community. Many new genealogists are learning to research by reading blogs.

Geneabloggers have become viewed as “experts,” without following the traditional path followed by earlier generations of genealogists: submitting a case study to a peer-reviewed journal like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, or The American Genealogist, or getting certified through BCG or accredited through ICAPGen. (In other words, prove your expertise by allowing your research to be judged by other experts.)

The new paradigm is that the most influential genealogists are those that are most skilled with social media, not necessarily those that are most skilled at research. This is not to say that any specific GeneaBloggers or Bloggers-in-general are not good researchers. From what I have read on their blogs, the skill level of bloggers runs the gamut. Among the geneablogging community are the greenest of newbies and the most experienced of professionals. Quite a few professional genealogists (myself included) and Certified Genealogists (myself included) also blog.

I am proud to call myself a “GeneaBlogger.” The geneablogging community is a perfect representation of the genealogy community as a whole.

But is this really what we as a community need?

Do we need experts that represent us, or experts that are more skilled than us? Experts that we can learn from?

Is the Genealogy Paradigm Shift a good thing or a bad thing?

On 14 December 2011 Thomas MacEntee of the Geneabloggers blog and online radio show wrote, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?” In this post Thomas writes,

When I first got started in the online genealogy community, I was too concerned with how bloggers and others appeared to vendors as well as other entities.  I’m sure they thought we were rambunctious, sometimes out of control, and sought to destroy rather than build alliances. I sometimes focused too much on how we looked to outsiders.[4]

Almost single-handedly Thomas has led the charge in gaining respectability for genealogy bloggers. To be sure, there were blogs and bloggers around before he got started in his quest–folks like DearMYRTLE, Dick Eastman, and others. But Thomas has been a true geneablogging evangelist, and not only raised the visibility of smaller bloggers but also brought bloggers together as a community.

From where I stand, the Genealogy Paradigm Shift has both positive and negative aspects.

As noted by Joan and Thomas, the online genealogy community–Geneabloggers, and the denizens of Facebook, Twitter, and Second Life, as well as other sites–have a voice that is being heard.

The community has been mobilized to promote genealogy conferences and websites and software programs. The community also works to inform each other about issues like records access, especially the recent changes to the Social Security Death Index.

Genealogy blogs can also be used to educate about research techniques, experiences, etc. This is the main goal of the blog you are currently reading, as well as many others.

Thomas Macentee and many of the other bloggers are also active in the offline genealogy community, in organizations like the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National Genealogical Society, and the Association of Professional Genealogists, as well as hundreds of smaller historical and genealogical societies worldwide. Many of us started as genealogists, before we were “online genealogists” or, as Thomas phrases it “hi-def genealogists.”

A new generation of genealogists has already started to be born. They are not genealogists first and online genealogists second. They will be raised under the new paradigm, and may start by thinking that “everything is online.” Even once we dispel this notion, we will have to deal with another issue that is far more frightening.

The “online genealogy community” that everyone is so fond of is replacing the traditional local genealogy community. While the GeneaBloggers website lists a few thousand genealogy blogs, with about a dozen or so new ones every few weeks, genealogical societies across the country are literally dying from a lack of new members.

You might ask, so what if those old local societies disappear? We have the GeneaBlogger community or that Facebook group to support us.

Moral support, yes–definitely. Research support, far less:

  • GeneaBloggers do not generally scour every cemetery in a specific county and publish full listings of the gravestones. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers do not abstract all of the obituaries of some small county newspaper from the mid-19th century and publish them. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers do not maintain genealogical libraries containing decades of work on local families. Genealogical societies do.
  • GeneaBloggers cannot go back to 1965 and reproduce the resources that were transcribed by the local genealogical society before that big hurricane or tornado hit and destroyed everything.

These resources can only remain available as long as we continue to support the societies that provide them.

Every single one of us, as genealogists, lives somewhere. Are you a member of your local genealogical society and/or your ancestral genealogical society?

I would like to ask–even plead–with other geneabloggers to devote at least one post to a local genealogical society. Not the big ones like the National Genealogical Society or the New England Historic Genealogical Society, but a county genealogical society. Describe the society–its meetings, its accomplishments, its publications. If you are a member of more than one local society, write a separate post about each one.

And if you are not a member of a local genealogical or historical society, please join one. It can be the one where you live, or one on the other side of the country, where your ancestors lived 200 years ago. But pay your dues, write for the newsletter, and help these societies stay alive.

The future?

Many bloggers might think to themselves, “I’m no expert. I never claimed to be one.” But to a new genealogist who stumbles onto your blog because it came up in their Google search, you may be viewed as one. Though writing a blog feels like writing in a private journal, this is not the case. Blogs are public. Geneabloggers are quickly becoming the public face of genealogy.

The online genealogy community needs to recognize this. We need to join the genealogy community as a whole. This must necessarily move beyond simply joining your local society. Treat your blog the way you would treat anything else done publicly. Put your best face forward. You don’t have to change your voice to sound professional, or anything like that. But at least cite the sources that you discuss in your blog post. Try to learn new techniques and apply them to your research, then write about what you learned. Not only will your ancestors thank you for that, but so will those new genealogists who look to your blog for guidance.

SOURCES:

[1] Joan Miller, “Genea-Bodies: The New Somebodies,” Luxegen Genealogy and Family History blog, posted 15 April 2011 (http://www.luxegen.ca/ : accessed 1 November 2011).

[2] Michael Katchen, “Survey shows family history knowledge declining despite growing interest,” 1000memories.com blog, posted 15 October 2011 (http://1000memories.com/blog : accessed 1 November 2011).

[3] “The Society,” American Society of Genealogists (http://www.fasg.org/ : accessed 1 November 2011).

[4] Thomas Macentee, “Open Thread Thursday: Do We Eat Our Own In The Genealogy Industry?,” Geneabloggers blog, posted 15 December 2011 (http://www.geneabloggers.com/eat-our-own-genealogy-industry/ : accessed 16 December 2011).

If you would like to cite this post:

Michael Hait, CG, “The Genealogy Paradigm Shift: Are bloggers the new ‘experts’?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 16 Dec 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]). [Please also feel free to include a hyperlink to the specific article if you are citing this post in an online forum.]

Does a “reasonably exhaustive search” include online family trees?

There is a lot of junk on the Internet.

More experienced genealogists, both professionals and hobbyists, know this. We repeat it in our blogs, in our research plans, in our conversations with other genealogists. We stay away from the Public Family Trees on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch‘s International Genealogical Index. After all, these all just have junk put online by those “shaky leaf” clickers, right?

One should by no means trust an online family tree.

But neither should one trust a death certificate or a 19th-century county history or a federal census record or an obituary.

Just because it’s online does not make it more or less garbage than any other source. You still should evaluate the information the same way you would in any other record. Identify the informant. Determine their involvement in the reported event or the source of their information (if secondary).

Two cases are perfect examples of this philosophy:

Almost fifteen years ago, when “Internet genealogy” barely had an existence, I came across a family tree that contained my then-earliest known ancestor in my male line: Myron Grant Hait, my great-great-grandfather. I contacted the owner, who turned out to be my grandfather’s first cousin. My great-grandfather, who lived in New York, was one of six brothers, all of whom lived in different and distant states: California, Montana, North Carolina, Louisiana, etc. In those pre-Facebook days, distant relatives did not always maintain close contact. When my grandfather moved to Washington, D. C., to work for the federal government, he had even less contact with the extended family. He knew his uncles, but did not know any of his cousins.

This cousin, Linda, just so happened to have quite a number of family records in her possession, including letters to and from my great-grandparents from back in the 1970s when she started researching, and a family history written by my great-great-grandmother in the 1930s. She also put me in touch with another cousin who had in her possession a copy of a family bible, several old family photos, and a collection of Civil War letters!

Of course not all of her research was completely accurate, but much of it was, and of course the original records in the possession of these long-lost (to me) branches of the family were indispensible. Had I ignored this online family tree, I would have never obtained many of these records.

The second case involves a family that I was working on for a client. While searching for records on Ancestry, I discovered a public family tree. Though not a single offline source was cited, the information was extremely specific. I jotted down a few notes from the tree for confirmation, but then went on along my merry research way.

The next day at the Maryland State Archives I happened to run into a friend of mine: also a professional genealogist, member of my APG chapter, and a fellow Certified Genealogist. I knew that she did a lot of research in this particular county, so I asked her if she was familiar with the families I was researching. To make a long story short, the owner of the Ancestry public family tree was her client, who had uploaded the results of her research to the site without any source citations. In other words, though it looked like “junk” because it did not have any sources cited for any of the information, the tree actually reflected the work of a Certified professional genealogist. As I continued to research the family, I was able to confirm all of the information that was in the public tree.

As the first example shows, online family trees are often a great way to identify other descendants of the families you are researching. Some of these distant cousins may have family records passed down in their lines that you do not have access to: items like family bibles, old family photos, etc.

The first condition of the Genealogical Proof Standard is that we conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all records relevant to our research problem. If you have ignored the search for family records in other lines, have you met this requirement?

The limits of online genealogy research

Rarely do I mention my other columns (though the RSS feeds show up over on the right) on Examiner.com. But I wanted to point readers to a series of posts that I wrapped up today.

Since February 2010 I have been working on an online case study concerning the family history of a former slave named Jefferson Clark. I call this an online case study because I specifically chose to use only records available online. My subject was chosen at random from African American families living in Texas in 1870.

I would like to invite you all to read this case study. The techniques that I use throughout the series of posts demonstrate the importance of skillful analysis and correlation of information in your research. When access to records is limited, it is vital to utilize indirect evidence to form conclusions.

Because the subject was chosen at random, the case study also demonstrates how a professional genealogist operates. In beginning this research, I had no family records that had been passed down, no older relatives to interview, and no previous research to consult. I truly had to start from scratch. Many of my client projects begin the same way. In a project I worked on last week, the only information I was provided was a newspaper marriage announcement for the client’s grandparents.

The first post in this series–“The Jefferson Clark family of Leon County, Texas: an online case study (part one)“–appeared on 21 February 2010. Because this was not a client project, and was being conducted strictly for use in my “National African American Genealogy” column, I had to fit research in when I had time.

Today’s article, the final word on this online case study, is entitled “The strengths and limits of online genealogy research.” I may continue this case study, in a more limited capacity, using records not available online.

You can find links to all of the articles in this series under the “Case Studies” section of my webpage. Unfortunately I was unable to edit some of the earlier articles to include links to the later ones, due to a change in Examiner‘s article publishing platform. However, from the “Case Studies” page of my website, you can easily open each article in a new browser tab.

Let me know what you think, either here or on the Examiner pages.

Follow Friday/A Friend of Friends Friday: The Dead Librarian

I normally do not mention genealogy-specific blogs in my “Follow Friday” posts. But when I have the opportunity to combine my two favorite Friday blogging memes–Follow Friday and A Friend of Friends Friday–I will make an exception.

This week I would like to highlight the blog of a librarian in South Carolina that I met at the Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research at Samford University in 2010: Debbie Bloom’s Dead Librarian. She was able to attend the Institute that year as awardee of the

The specific reason that I want to bring attention to Debbie’s blog, however, is that she recently discovered how to create blog pages. You can read about this discovery, and the page she has now created, in the post “Dangerous Dead Librarian.”

Specifically, she has created a new page on her blog called, simply, “SC Slave Marriages.” She describes the birth of this page:

Brent Holcomb’s SC Marriages book includes slave and FPOC marriages but those names are not indexed.  A very skilled and devoted librarian (not me!) indexed all those missing names.  Brent Holcomb kindly told us about some other resources he published and the next thing I know is we have a nifty new index with almost 400 names for helping African American genealogists.[1]

What the librarian (not Debbie!) indexed appears as a link to a Google Docs spreadsheet from the “SC Slave Marriages” page. The spreadsheet is not as user-friendly as one might hope, unfortunately. The owner’s names are listed in a single column by first name, or more often by “Mr.,” and are not alphabetized. The spreadsheet is alphabetized by the first name of the groom. This is probably the least helpful way to organize the information. Any children born as a result of these marriages (and therefore probably the route through which one would encounter these ancestors) would have, by law, belonged to the owner of the mother. A spreadsheet alphabetized by the first name of the bride would be more helpful to researchers. It would also be far more helpful to remove the “Mr.” and “Mrs.” titles, and list the owners of both groom and bride surname-first. This would make it far more easy to scan the list for the name of a specific slave owner or slave-owning family. The spreadsheet is also locked, making it impossible for researchers to resort the data by the column of their choice.

Another weakness with both the blog page and the spreadsheet are the poor and incomplete source citations. The blog page cites the sources as follows:

1. SC Marriages by Brent Holcomb
2. Fairforest Presbyterian Church Records: SCMAR Vol. 13
3. First Presbyterian Church records: SCMAR Vol 35, 36

As readers of this blog (as well as my “National African American Genealogy” and “Baltimore Genealogy & History” columns on Examiner.com) know–I am a stickler for full, accurate, and consistent source citations. Here are reconstructed citations, based on what little information I have to go on. Details for the “SC Marriages” book are from the catalog of the Library of Congress. What few details could be discerned for the journal articles were taken from Brent H. Holcomb’s webpage for the South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research. Of course the specific details, where unknown below, should be added.

  • Holcomb, Brent H., compiler. South Carolina Marriages, 2 vols. Baltimore : Genealogical Pub. Co., 1980-1981.
  • Holcomb, Brent H., compiler. [article title unknown, but possibly "Marriages Performed by the Rev. A. A. James, Union County (1851-)"]. South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research 13 (1985): [pages unknown].
  • Holcomb, Brent H., compiler. “[article title unknown].” South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research 35 (2007): [pages unknown].
  • Holcomb, Brent H., compiler. “[article title unknown].” South Carolina Magazine of Ancestral Research 36 (2008): [pages unknown].

Despite these few weaknesses, however, we are still provided with free access to a much-needed resource for information on slave marriages!

Thanks Debbie and the librarian who compiled this index (not Deb), for making this information available! I certainly wish that others would do the same.

SOURCE:

[1] Debbie Bloom, “Dangerous Dead Librarian,” The Dead Librarian blog, posted 18 October 2011 (http://thedeadlibrarian.blogspot.com : accessed 22 Oct 2011).

When the weather is bad…

I was evacuated from the Maryland State Archives during a 5.8 earthquake on Tuesday. I had to go back to the Archives on Thursday to pick up my belongings from the locker, and then return home to tornado warnings. As I write this from my home in Delaware, I am waiting for the worst of Hurricane Irene to arrive and praying for it to move past quickly.

Some week.

Thinking about the past, I wonder what extreme weather may have affected my ancestors’ lives. The website GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives collects and compiles weather and accident-related events of the past.

Back in August 1884, an earthquake was felt from Baltimore up to Maine. Certainly my ancestors in the counties surrounding Albany, New York, felt it. According to the newspaper report transcribed on the GenDisasters site,

Last Sunday afternoon there was an earthquake shock in this country, which was felt as far south as Washington and as far north a Maine, and in the intervening territory.  In Baltimore the sensation was as a wavy tremor.  It was not near as pronounced as elsewhere, but was sufficient, in a number of cases, to arouse people form their afternoon naps, crack plaster, slam doors and toss furniture about.  From other parts of Maryland there are reports of similar character.  No one was hurt but the shock occasioned considerable excitement. … [1]

More recently, in September 1944, there was another hurricane wreaked havoc up and down the Atlantic coast. Among the news reported on GenDisasters:

Winds up to ninety miles an hour battering the Atlantic Coast last night as a severe hurricane sped toward New England forced many seaside residents to flee for safety, dashed a 250-foot freighter upon the shore and caused widespread damage.

The ninety-mile-an-hour reading was recorded at the Coast Guard station at Manasquan, N. J., about eight miles south of the resort city of Asbury Park. Winds as high as 83 miles an hour were recorded earlier on the Virginia coast.

Water five to six feet deep, all from rain, blocked highways in the vicinity of Hicksville, a Long Island community in an area hard hit by the famous hurricane of 1938. …

The Homestead restaurant on the Ocean Grove, N. J. boardwalk near Asbury Park, was washed into the sea. The restaurant had a capacity of 300 persons, but was believed to have been unoccupied when it was destroyed.

A pier was reported washed out at Asbury Park, but details were unavailable.

Many residents of Fire Island, off Long Island’s south shore fled their homes Wednesday. Four large Long Island airplane plants halted operations last night. …

Gov. LEVERETT SALTONSTALL of Massachusetts broadcast an appeal to shore dwellers to leave their homes for safer places and Rhode Island state police issued a similar warning.

Two vessels described as coal barges ran aground at Rehoboth Beach, Del., and were being battered by a severe gale. Whether crews were aboard was undetermined.

Power and telephone lines were downed in some areas.

In Atlantic City, N. J., the weather bureau reported wind velocity of 65 miles an hour. A report stated Atlantic City’s famous Steel Pier was split in half by mountainous waves, the Heinz Pier had been washed away and parts of the million dollar pier have been destroyed.[2]

The reports sound familiar on both accounts to what I have been listening to over the last five days.

The GenDisasters website can be browsed by disaster, by state, or by year. Within in each state, you can browse by disaster, to find, for example, an earthquake in Maryland or a hurricane in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, you cannot browse each state by town or county–which would be an easier way to locate information relevant to a particular area–or browse each state by year. When browsing the results also do not appear in any chronological order by disaster, so you often have to move through dozens of pages of disasters in no particular order.

There is a Google search box that can be used to search for specific place names or surnames. This can ease the search process significantly.

GenDisasters is a unique site. No other single site offers this sort of information for locations around the United States. The only other way to locate this information (and not a bad idea for thorough researchers) is to manually search through historic newspaper collections. Using GenDisasters, this process can be significantly shortened.

SOURCES:

[1] Jenni Lanham, “East Coast Earthquake, Aug 1884,” on GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives, posted 27 Dec 2009 (http://www3.gendisasters.com/ : accessed 27 Aug 2011).

[2] Stu Beitler, “East Coast, VA, DE, NJ, NY, MA, RI, CT  Hurricane,  Sept 1944,” on GenDisasters: Events That Touched Our Ancestors’ Lives, posted 31 Jul 2008 (http://www3.gendisasters.com/ : accessed 27 Aug 2011).

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