Quick tip – Was the Index Scanned?

Long before computer databases were invented, people created indexes. Examples of such "manual" indexes include: A list of names at the end of a book or register An index volume (repertorium) with abstracts of records created by a notary A list of grantors and grantees in the back of a deed register A register with muster roll numbers of soldiers in a regiment A list of incoming and outgoing letters of a government agency, organized by sender or recipient A card catalog … [Read more...]

Quick tip – Are There Scans of that Unindexed Record?

If you can't find a record for your ancestor by searching for their name, see if the records have been scanned but not indexed yet. It's much quicker to scan a record that it is to index it. Indexing requires people to read the names and type them into a database. This is time consuming so millions of records have been scanned without being indexed yet. Unindexed scans can be found via the online finding aids presented by the archives where the records are kept. See the Digital Resources … [Read more...]

Column – Robot genealogist

For years, we've heard about arm chair genealogists; researchers who do their family trees from home without going to repositories. The suggestion that this can't be a good researcher is no longer valid, considering the wide variety of sources that are available online. New is the robot genealogist, a computer program that analyzes sources and draws its own conclusions. The hints that genealogy programs and websites give about possibly relevant sources can be seen as a first incarnation of … [Read more...]

Column – Unnecessary

Many archival collections in the Netherlands have been cataloged in finding aids according to the principles of the nineteenth-century archivists Feith, Fruin, and Muller. Their Handleiding voor het ordenen en beschrijven van archieven [Manual for orderning and describing of archives] from 1898 states that a finding aid should merely provide an overview of the records, but should not discuss their contents. A finding aid should not make consulting the records unnecessary. A finding aid … [Read more...]

Column – Everything online?

About twenty years ago, I gave a lecture about internet genealogy. Internet was in its infancy. I could answer the question "Do you think archives will ever put everything online?" with a negative. The hundreds of miles of archives would be too extensive to digitize. I also figured that repositories would be hesitant to give up their monopoly on records access. Thankfully, I was wrong. That is not to say that everything is available online, far from it. But we have made great strides and … [Read more...]