Birth Record of Kerstina Jönsdotter, 1834

Today, I pieced together a few more facts about my Swedes, using Ancestry, FindAGrave, and the family history I have transcribed and posted on this website.

My great great grandmother, Kjerstin Jönsdotter, was born 6 February 1834, according to the “History of Swan Johnson Family or Nance County Nebraska” written 102 years later by the eldest child of her eldest child.

I have now seen the record of this birth, on Ancestry (which recently incorporated “Sweden Church Records, 1500-1937” from their acquisition last year of Genline).

This record also tells me that her father’s name was Jöns Westersson, her mother’s appears to have been Elna Nilsdotter. Kerstin was christened three days after her birth, on 9 February 1834 in Gustav Adolf (Viby), Kristianstad län, Sweden. Her godparents appear to have been Anders Martinsson and Karna Westersson.

The family history lists a sister, Karna, who immigrated to America thanks to her brother-in-law (Swan, my great great grandfather). Swan sent money not only for her passage, but also for that of her husband, Nels Ahlm, 3 daughters, and son. In the Valley View Cemetery listing for Karna Ahlm (FindAGrave), her birth date is given as May 1841. Going back to the Swedish records on Ancestry, I find her in the listings as being born to Jöns Westersson and Elna Nilsdotter, 11 May 1841, and baptised on 13 May, both events happening in Gustav Adolf (Viby), Kristianstad län, Sweden.

I can tell already that these Swedish records are going to provide a great deal of information. I have yet to really delve into the household examinations, which are like census records, but kept by the church on an annual basis….

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Custom Search from the Chrome Omnibar

Google Chrome
Google Chrome Download Page

Google Chrome is quickly becoming my browser of choice.

One of the most powerful features is the Ominbar, a single place to type URLs and searches. I remember the first time I saw the Google search field in Safari: It made me realize two things: first, how important Google was to everything I was doing, and second, how innovative Apple was. It was so much simpler to search from the browser itself instead of navigating to Google, and then searching.

In Chrome (and also in Firefox, though I will cover that in a later post), you can configure your own set of browser search engines. In Chrome, you can run these custom queries from the Omnibar, without using a mouse.

NARA ARC SearchLet’s say you do a lot of work material at the National Archives, and you regularly need to read up in the Archival Research Catalogs. Instead of navigating to the Archives site, and searching for your ARC entry, which might point you to articles in NARAtions or The Prologue about the ARC entry, and not the ARC entry itself, you can take your search and configure your browser to perform it.
Yesterday, I looked at the Korean War-era Command Reports, which are covered in ARC 596349. The path to the ARC description is at:

To help you quickly get to this ARC entry, or any other for which you know the number:

  1. In the Ominbar, right click and click “Edit Search Engines.”
  2. Click the plus button to create a new search.
  3. Name the search anything you would like.
  4. Add a short, memorable keyword. I used “arc.”
  5. Add as the URL the path, with the search term replaced by %s. In our example, this would look like:
  6. Click OK.
  7. Test it out. Go to the Omnibar and type in your keyword followed by a tab and then a search term. In my example, this would be: arc [tab] 596354

Library of Congress Chronicling America Search

Here’s another example. To search the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America Newspaper project (previous posts: Chronicling America API and Chronicling America)on a statewide basis, to see what papers are available, the search looks like:

To make a custom search for this in Chrome, right click in the Omnibar, click “Edit Search Engines,” and then click the plus button to create a new search. Name the search what you would like, add a memorable and brief keyword, and then enter the following as the URL:

Now, whenever you are working on a new state, where you might want to take a look at some of the digitized newspapers for articles, ads, and obituaries, you can simply type your keyword, a tab, and then the name of the state. In my example, this would be:

loc-news [tab] nebraska

This would take me to:

Happy searching!

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NARA: Korean War-era Command Reports

I mentioned the fire National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri (Wikipedia | NARA) in a recent post, eVetRecs — Requesting a DD 214 Online.

Today, in NARAtions, the National Archives blog, an article appeared about alternative records for Korean War era veterans. The entry, Family Tree Friday: Korean War-era Command Reports, describes “Record Group 407, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1917-, particularly … ‘Army-AG Command Reports, 1949-1954’ (ARC ID 596354)” as providing opportunities for genealogical research. The piece describes this collection within RG 407 like this:

the Command Reports include historical reports, operations journals, staff studies, and other documents produced by Army commands, staffs, and units during the Korean War era. Of even more use, within this series there are more than 25,00A0 file unit items ….

The entry for the main series (ARC ID 596354) in ARC — the Archival Research Catalog — contains file unit descriptions. There is also a unit-searchable database and an “Index to Command Reports, 1949-1954” (ARC ID 596349).

In my case, I will want to look up my uncle Walter “Walt” Calvin Jones (1929-1959), who served as a Private First Class in the US Army in the Korean War, and came back to serve in the Honor Guard at the White House.

JFK Library Opens Digital Collections

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the JFK Presidential Library today announced the opening of “the nation’s largest online digitized presidential archive.”

The details were presented in the Archivist’s Reception Room in the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. by David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (bio | blog), and Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. (The JFK Library is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration.)

A little more than four years ago, on June 8, 2006, Senator Edward M. Kennedy announced the digitization project. According to the press release:

“At launch, the archive features approximately 200,000 pages; 300 reels of audio tape, containing more than 1,245 individual recordings of telephone calls, speeches and meetings; 300 museum artifacts; 72 reels of film; and 1,500 photos. The sheer volume of digitized materials is unprecedented for presidential libraries whose collections were not born digitally.”

Just as in any digitization project, the initial release includes only a fraction of what is in the library itself. As the press release notes, the JFK Library’s holdings:

“currently include more than 8.4 million pages of the personal, congressional and presidential papers of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and more than 40 million pages of over 300 other individuals who were associated with the Kennedy Administration or mid-20th Century American history. In addition, the archives hold more than 400,000 still photographs; 9,000 hours of audio recordings; 7.5 million feet of motion picture film; and 1,200 hours of video recordings. Digitization efforts are ongoing and additional material will continue to be added to the archive as it is scanned and described.”

While many genealogists may jump to the conclusion that their family is not in these records, so they do not matter to them, I think the point is that this will be a powerful resource for scholars of all types, especially historians and family historians who seek to put the families they research into an historical context. The success of this project will add to the even larger Google Books and Europeana projects, and serve as a guide and as persuasion for many other kinds of libraries, archives, and repositories to digitize their materials.

The popular media (and and its competitors) imply that more genealogical records have been digitized than in fact have been. Nevertheless, I say: The more digitization, the better. The benefits of digitization can be summarized as follows. Digitization:

  1. Creates a backup copy of the original document.
  2. Allows archivists to limit handling of rare and fragile documents, since a digital copy can be made available instead for most purposes.
  3. Makes materials more widely available, with less concern for time and space, 24 hours a day, over the Internet.

To clarify the state of things with digital genealogical records: Yes, many records have been digitized; no, the vast majority of records have not been digitized. So, I welcome the launch of the JFK Library digital archives, and of any digitized records, as another brick in an edifice that will never be fully constructed.

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Digital Libraries

I am back from the hospital, recuperating at home ….

I clipped into Evernote the link to a fascinating story from this Sunday’s business section, and only had a chance to look at it today. The Times writes about digital libraries, and how America has fallen behind in this advancement: “Playing Catch-Up in a Digital Library Race” by Natasha Singer.

Ms. Singer points out that the US does not have a comprehensive strategy for turning physical books, some of which might be incredibly rare, into electronic editions that can be copied as widely as licensing restrictions and library policies would allow.

The story compares our lack of a strategy for digitization to the strategy of the National Library of Norway. In 2005, the Norwegian library announced that it would be digitizing its entire collection. The library has completed digitzing:

  • 170,000 books
  • 250,000 newspapers
  • 610,000 hours of radio broadcasts
  • 200,000 hours of TV
  • 500,000 photographs
National Library of Norway: The Promise of America
National Library of Norway: The Promise of America

Some of this digitized information covers the topic of emigration from Norway to America. Some of this material can be found on the library’s page “The Promise of America.”

This microsite includes a timeline, articles and books, letters home, photos and prints, video and audio, bibliographies, maps, links, and “Viking to Chicago,” a collection of newspaper articles about a viking ship that way sent to the 1893 World’s Fair and Exposition in Chicago.

The National Library of the Netherlands, the article continues, plans to digitize all magazines, newspapers, and books in Dutch from 1470 onward. (Me, I would start with the oldest known books, including illustrated manuscripts, but of course, this is an amazing project.) The over 40 countries of the Council of Europe have put together The European Library, a single search engine for digitized European cultural artifacts. The European Commission has created Europeana,  site containing 15 million digitized artifacts.

Ms. Singer points out that the US does have the Library of Congress and it’s American Memory portal, with 16 million digitized artifacts. However, Ms. Singer notes, the Library of Congress has another 100 million artifacts that have not been digitized. And there is no comprehensive national strategy.

The good news is that a comprehensive strategy that would link the electronic resources of a number of university libraries, the Library of Congress. Many of the holdings of these institutions have already been digitized by Google for Google Books. The libraries would probably need to negotiate for the rights to use these digital versions of the items digitized out of their holdings.

I, for one, will be staying tuned to see if these major institutions can address the legal and technical issues and deliver a comprehensive electronic American library.

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Economic History and Genealogy

Tonight’s post will be brief. I am lying in a hospital bed alternately dictating into my cell phone and tapping text on its screen. I trust I will be home tomorrow, and feeling better every day thereafter.

As I prefer reading to television, and as I thought to bring my Kindle, I gave been reading two books that have been on my mind of late: Vilhelm Moberg’s The Emigrants and John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash of 1929.

Neither, of course, is a cheery book. Moberg writes of the privations and famines in Sweden that sparked emigration from that country to North America; Galbraith writes of the crash of 1929, its causes and its aftermath.

Both books, however are important for genealogists. They remind us of the times in which our ancestors lived. Difficulties such as the recurring Swedish crop failures and  periodic speculative market bubbles are what pushed our ancestors to cross great oceans for opportunity, nay even survival.

Even within the United States, events such as the Florida land speculation of the 1920s or the crash of railroad speculation in 1873 caused financial hardships that sometimes made our ancestors itinerant. (Both of these events are briefly described in Galbraith’s book.)

I plan to add to my bag of genealogical tricks a timeline I can set against migration patterns in my research to see if I can learn more about what might have fueled a desire to move west and ever west. This practice, whether or not it leads to specific revelations about particular ancestors, will no doubt prove an important method of putting my research subjects in the context of their times. I am looking forward to it, and to getting out of this bed.

eVetRecs – Requesting a DD 214 Online

The National Archives provides the ability to request veterans records (DD 214) for veterans who served in the US military between WWI and the present, using Standard Form 180 (SF-180).

This can be done either online or entirely on paper. One can also request replacement medals and other documents. The online form is available at:

For “online” requests, a paper copy must be printed (or a handwritten document must be prepared) in order to sign the affirmation that you are entitled to this information.

To submit the request, you will need to have a fair amount of information handy, including the veteran’s full name, social security number, service ID number, birth date and place, and approximate date of separation from service.

A helpful video on the process is available on the site, as well as embedded on this page. 90% of requests are processed within 10 days, according to NARA.

eVetRecs Online submission form
eVet Recs Popup

You can also simply write for the record. Is so, NARA requests the following information:

  • The veteran’s complete name used while in service
  • Service number or social security number
  • Branch of service
  • Dates of service
  • Date and place of birth may also be helpful, especially if the service number is not known
  • If the request pertains to a record that may have been involved in the 1973 fire, also include:
  • Place of discharge
  • Last unit of assignment
  • Place of entry into the service, if known.

The service is free in most cases, and NARA will contact you if your request might have a fee. A fire in 1973 (Wikipedia | NARA) destroyed many records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, notably:

Branch Personnel and Period Affected Estimated Loss
Army Personnel discharged November 1, 1912, to January 1, 1960 80%
Air Force Personnel discharged, September 25, 1947, to January 1, 1964
(with names alphabetically after Hubbard, James E.)

However, NARA continues to recover and restore records, so do not get discouraged, and consider requesting a coveted record again in a couple of years, as it may yet be recovered.

NARA’s Online Public Access: A First Look

NARA's Online Public Access
NARA's Online Public Access(Click to Enlarge Image)

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is in the process of striving to make the records they hold, and their documents describing them, more accessible to researchers.

A key part of this access project is a new search, which is called “Online Public Access,” and was announced (as a prototype), on 28 December 2010 on NARA’s NARAtions blog.

About Online Public Access — which is available at — NARA notes:

“The Online Public Access prototype includes:

  • “Access to information about our records that is currently in the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) and on, and selected electronic records from Access to Archival Databases (AAD) and the Electronic Records Archives (ERA) – all through one search!
  • “Search Refinements and Topic Clusters to limit your results in a variety of ways, such as by date or location, or focus on a topic of interest”.
NARA Open Public Access Search: Civil War
NARA Open Public Access Search: Civil War (Click to Enlarge Image)

On the homepage for the OPA, NARA writes:

“The Online Public Access prototype is our first step to providing a single search to our records from several of our current systems, including the Archival Research Catalog (ARC)Access to Archival Databases (AAD), and the Electronic Records Archive (ERA). As part of the National Archives’ flagship initiative in our Open Government Plan, our new search is intended to make the permanent records of the federal government easier to find online. We want to get your input as we continue to develop this search portal. Contact us at, and let us know what you think!”

I tried a couple of searches, to evaluate the results at this state of the NARA prototype. Entering the search term “Civil War” (without quotation marks for the purposes of the search), yields “28454 results.

(It would be handy if the page rendering placed commas in the customary locations for longer numbers, to increase the readability.)

Over 28,000 results might seem overwhelming, but NARA has organized them.

First, on the left is an expandable hierarchical list of topic clusters:

Top 15 Clusters
Archival (9)

Archival Descriptions (6)

Image (3)
Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (2)
Other Topics (1)

Electronic Telegrams (3)

Authority Records (3)
Discovering The Civil War (2)
Other Topics (1)

This is followed by refinements by data source (, Archival Descriptions, Archival Descriptions with Digital Objects, Authority Records (in other words, record relating to NARA’s authorization to manage particular records classes), and Selected Archival Records).

There is then a refinement available by Level of Description (Collection, File, Item, Record Group, and Series). Refinements are also available based on date ranges, file format, and location within the NARA facilities.

So, let’s say I wanted to find descriptions of records groups about the Civil War. I could perform this search, then select the date range “1860-1869,” followed by “Data Source: Archival Descriptions.” Doing this, narrows down the field to consider from 28,000+ records to two records:

  • “Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), 1861-1965”
  • “Records of Civil War Special Agencies of the Treasury Department, 1861-1868”

This may be too narrow, and I may need to refine my search. I can refine the search on that page, or perform an “Advanced Search” using the link that is available right there.

A good quick introduction exists in the form of a YouTube video. Additionally, a guideline for using the search is available at However, if you have a search that yields no results, you get a help page, which links to an invalid URL at

It’s a prototype site, let’s not forget. As such, there are some rough edges, but overall, this is a promising and exciting development.

There’s an App Store for That …

Macintosh App Store
Apple's Macintosh App Store

Apple unveiled its App Store for the Macintosh today.

Users of Apple computers, running Snow Leopard (Mac OS X, v.10.6), can download this application by selecting “Software Update …” from the Mac Menu. Additional information is available at: The point of the App Store is to help Mac users find, purchase, download, install, re-install (if necessary), and update software. Apple says that applications purchased at the App Store install automatically, without an Administrative login, and can be more easily updated through notifications sent to the user in the App Store.

So, the App Store is designed to pick off where iTunes and the App Store for the iPhone left off. With the iTunes store, people can buy music, video, and audio books. With the App Store for the iOS products (iPhone and iPad), people can buy apps for these mobile devices. These stores have been phenomenally successful, with the iTunes store now virtually dominating the music scene that is becoming increasingly digital. (Other stores for music exist, most notably Amazon, but Apple’s iTunes is considered to be the largest, based on the data that has been released.)

Genealogy Titles in the App Store
Genealogy Titles in the App Store

Apple is in the process of taking everything it can learn from its experience with the iPhone and the iPad and bringing it to the desktop. The Macintosh App Store is part of this, but so is the forthcoming OS X release, Lion, which releases this Summer. The focus is on ease-of-use, simple interfaces, and quick ways to get what you want. This not only serves the desires of its customers, it also promises to provide Apple with more revenue.

Apple has firmly entrenched itself at the center of the impulse purchasing methodology. With the App Store, they are putting computer users a click or two away from software purchases of which they stand to make 30%. Since it’s easier for customers, they may gravitate to it, and may even make more purchases than they would have otherwise. In many cases, these purchases are shifting from the vendors’ own sites to Apple’s App Store, meaning there had been no markdown for a middleman, and now there will be one. However, the App Store puts ones product in front of more eyes, so it may net positive for most software vendors.

Date Calculator in the App Store
Date Calculator in the App Store

In the genealogy world, there are a couple of apps of note already in the App Store:

  • Mac Family Tree (links to the App Store) — This is one of the industry leaders on the Mac platform, now at version 6.0.10. They are running a special: 50% off (or $24.99) in the App Store until January 13th.
  • Family Tree Maker for Mac (links to the App Store) — The best-selling genealogy software in the world, FTM is a package that many genealogy purists hate, but its increasing integration with the Ancestry databases makes it very attractive, and many professionals like its interface or its reports. It is newly available for the Mac, and available at the App Store currently for $99.00.
  • Date Calculator (links to the App Store) — This one was a new one for me, which is probably precisely why they wanted to be in the App Store as early as they are: To gain mind share. They bill it as “a date utility for genealogists” which converts “any date … between Gregorian, Julian, Hebrew, and French Republic calendars and find its day of the week.” It also calculated the time between two dates, and also works with “fuzzy dates,” say a month or a year. $9.99.

The App Store and the upcoming Lion release of the Mac OS, are Apple’s play to keep their perceived leadership position products and technology. While they charge a premium for their computers, tablets, and phones, their argument is that people are paying for value. Love or hate the Apple model, iTunes and iOS App Stores have defined a new model of electronic mass distribution with a boutique feel. The iOS App Store has an amazing array of Apps, but it’s definitely a juried list. While Apple takes some flak for this, the fact is that the store is more family oriented and less likely to offend, and this helps Apple gain trust and sell products. It’s a store, not a library, so it’s difficult to say that they are engaging in censorship.

As for the future of all of these purchases on the App Store, there are a few questions I have. I will be able to get updates to my apps on the App Store, but what if I migrate away from the store, or even close that account. I am assuming that my purchase history would be wiped out, and there would be no way to “re-download” or get a supported upgrade for my product. Will there be a returns policy that will allow someone to “return” software that clearly does not work as advertised?

I like the idea of managed upgrades, and I’m comfortable with purchasing software online. (Who needs to have a box shipped halfway around the world only to gather dust on top of my book case?) But this kind of purchase always has some level of risk in that the installation package only exists during the installation, and then it is erased. Is it possible that the touted re-installation might not be available when I need it? Just things to consider as one ponders the future of software sales.

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The Winter 2011 FGS Forum

If you get a chance, you should read the latest FGS Forum from the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

The magazine has had as its helm for 22 years Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, and with this issue she retires and is fêted. (Prior to her stint as Editor, Ms. Luebking spent 3 years as an Assistant Editor to Loretto Szucs, so it’s a true silver anniversary she is celebrating.) My hat’s off to Sandra, whom I have only met and chatted with in passing, but who is known in the community for her kindness, generosity, and the high quality of the FGS Forum.

Member societies receive copies of the FGS Forum, but individuals can also subscribe. There is currently a special on: One year for $15 or two years for $25. The Forum is always full of good articles and news. It’s always worthy of a read.

In addition to fulsome appreciation for Ms. Luebking on the occasion of her retirement, the Winter 2011 issue also includes:

  • Thomas MacEntee on “FGS 2011: Springfield, Illinois” — In addition to covering the event itself, Thomas describes local attractions and repositories genealogists might want to visit. He considers local broadly: Springfield, Chicago, yes, but folks may not have thought about St. Louis, Wisconsin, and Indiana. (I know, for example, that I will be finding a way to get to the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.)
  • Margaret Cheney, a Trustee of the Ohio Genealogical Society on that Society’s library, which opened in July 2010.
  • An update on records preservation and access issues by Linda Caldwell McCleary.
  • Randy Seaver on why we shouldn’t get seduced by online resources.

The issue is rounded out by a series of book reviews by Paul Milner.

Take a look, and consider subscribing.