Thursday, November 29, 2018

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

School Records: Another Source of Information and Context

Remember when you started elementary school how your parents had to provide information about you, such as full name, date and place of birth, and other details as part of registering you for school? Many schools maintain their records indefinitely, usually in some records retention facility. Registration, grades, yearbooks, and all sorts of other information may still exist. There may even be school census records which were compiled and have been preserved.

Old school desks.
(Royalty-free image from 
If you can determine the location of the school that your ancestor or relative attended, and the county it is/was in, chances are that you may be able to obtain copies of school records. Contact the county school board to determine what years' records might still exist and how you can obtain copies. 

Also, don't overlook colleges and universities that your ancestor attended. Registrars’ offices can be contacted for academic records, and alumni associations may have subsequent addresses that can help trace missing relatives. 

Yearbooks are usually a permanent part of the institution’s library so be sure to check them for details about your ancestors’ extracurricular school activities. Be prepared, however, to provide proof of your relationship in order to gain access to or copies of some of the academic records. And be prepared to pay for the services of pulling records from storage and making copies.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Consider Money Used in Colonial North America

Money and goods were essential commodities for conducting commerce in colonial America, just as they are today. As you research pre-colonial documents such as deeds, bills of sales and receipts, you often see references to English and Spanish currency, bills, notes, and other documents of trade. You may also encounter references to money issued by and used in specific colonies.  What did all this mean to your ancestors?

Connecticut 40 Shilling Note (1777).
National Numismatic Collection
at the Smithsonian Institution.
Used through Creative Commons license.
The Colonial Currency Web page at provides detailed information about the currencies used in colonial America.  The Web page is created by Louis Jordan and details a Project of the Robert H. Gore, Jr., Numismatic Endowment at the University of Notre Dame. The site contains detailed essays about colonies' and states' currencies, Continental currency, colonial lottery tickets and more, along with excellent photographs of many examples of these currencies.

New Jersey 12 Shilling Note (1776).
National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Used through Creative Commons license.
Some colonies issued currency notes that stated their value in both dollars and English pounds. The National Numismatic Collection of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History ( holds a massive collection of colonial money.

Rhode Island Note One Dollar Note (1780).
National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
Used through Creative Commons license.

Understanding what currency was used when and what its value was may provide you with insight into the financial circumstances in which your ancestors lived. And the more you understand you ancestors, the better able you will be to make educated assessments of the details of their lives.

A frequent question is, "How much is that colonial amount worth in today's currency?" Then as now, exchange rates influenced the values. Again, The Colonial Currency Web page cited above one of your best reference resources.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What Day Was That?

Have you ever wondered on what day of the week your great-grandmother was born?  Or have you wondered whether someone famous was born on the same date as your father?  An excellent perpetual calendar resource on the Web can be found at's 10,000 year calendar Web site at  Here you can select a century, a year and a month and click to display a calendar.  Then, click on the day of the month if you want to learn the moon phase, historical events on that date, the names of famous people born on that date, and much more information.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Online Library Reference Resources

Some libraries also have made their reference sheets about their collections, sometimes referred to as "pathfinders," available on the Internet. Others may have produced one or more brochures, such as the one for the Allen County Public Library's impressive Genealogy Center (see brochure here) to highlight their collection. Other libraries may simply provide an informative webpage such as the one for the Florida History and Genealogy Library's collection at the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library.

Archives like the US Library of Congress showcase special collections as individual components of their website. Others, like the National Archives and Records Administration (a unit of the US federal government) provide an entire Resources for Genealogists webpage to help you use their vast collections. And FamilySearch, the venerable Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City provides its helpful online resources in the form of the FamilySearch Research Wiki with more than 88,000 articles as of this writing.

All of these may include instructions for locating materials in the collection, bibliographies by document type, online images, special collections, and aids for items that may not have been added to the electronic catalog.

These informative resources be conveniently accessed on the Internet from your home computer 24/7. They also can help you learn in advance of a research visit what materials they hold in their collections so that you can prepare yourself for a more effective research trip. When visiting public and academic libraries' and archives' Web sites, don't forget to check on the availability of online, electronic materials.

Take some time to learn how to effectively use the facility's online catalog. And don't be shy about contacting and asking questions of the reference librarians.

Royalty free mage from Pik Wizard.