On the Radio This Saturday

Federation of Genealogical Societies logoThis Saturday, 27 August, I will be the “FGS 2011 Conference Speaker of the Week” on the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ My Society radio show. The show begins at 2:00 ET/1:00 CT. My portion will begin at approximately 2:30 (1:30 central). I’ll be talking about my sessions at the upcoming FGS conference as well as some of my other genealogical activities.

FGS My Society is an Internet radio show. If you have an Internet connection, you can listen! There is a chat room that runs simultaneously with the radio show. If you want to participate in that, you need to register. It’s free to register; you can also register through your Facebook account.

So tune in this Saturday for fun, excitement, genealogy, and my dulcet tones!

Treasures in a Random War of 1812 Pension File

Footnote.com recently released the first 1,400 images of the War of 1812 pension files, as part of its partnership with the Federation of Genealogical Societies and the National Archives. (You can read the full announcement here.) As promised, these images are free — no subscription required!

What’s so great about War of 1812 pension files? They can contain details not only of the veteran’s service, but his marriages, children, residences, and more. I decided to pick a random War of 1812 pension file and see what all I could glean from it.

Veteran: James Abbott of Ohio. You’ll notice on this page that many of the details contained in the file have been summarized. (No, I didn’t read this page and then choose him for my subject!) Even if the pension file you’re interested in has a summary page like this, read the entire file. You never know what else is in there (or what mistakes might have been made when that summary sheet was created).

Service: Captain Patrick Shaw’s Company, Ohio Militia. Enlisted 6 February 1813; discharged 6 August 1813. (page 6 and page 47). Drafted at Lebanon, Ohio (page 14)

Pension: Granted a pension of $8/month, 18 November 1871 (page 6), certificate number 8404 (page 2)

Bounty Land Warrant: 10713-160-55 (page 8 )

Residences:

  • Warren County, Ohio (page 21)
  • Miami County, Ohio (page 21)
  • Niles Township, Delaware County, Indiana “for 24 years” (stated 21 March 1871) (page 14); Moved to Delaware County, Indiana in 1846 (page 21)
  • Delaware County, Indiana (Granville post office), 25 March 1871 (page 6)

Born: circa 1794 (was 77 in 1781) (page 14) in Clermont County, Ohio (page 21)

Died: 14 October 1874 (page 8) at Delaware County, Indiana (page 21). See also page 52.

Physical Description (age 18): 5′ 9″, dark hair, blue eyes, light complexion (page 21)

Occupation: “Carpenter, and farming until within the last fifteen years he could not farm on account of age,” 21 March 1871 (page 14)

Widow: Rosa, received $8/month pension, certificate 13344 dated 19 December 1878 (page 5)

Marriages:

  • Rosa Keenan, near Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio, 19 June 1824, by Mahlon Roach, JP (page 21 and page 33)
  • According to Rosa, neither she nor James had been married previously (page 21)

Children:

  • Son William, age 44 (stated 27 March 1878) residing in Muncie, Indiana; his wife is F. Martha Abbott (page 22)

Witnesses:

  • John C. Matthews and William H. Stewart, both of Delaware County, who had known James for 20 years, 21 March 1871 (page 14 and page 15)
  • William and F. Martha Abbott (page 17)
  • Thomas J. Sample and William Abbott (page 21)
  • William H. Stewart and Amos L. Wilson, stating that James Abbott never aided in the rebellion (Civil War) (page 23)
  • Jacob F. Peterson and Henry Shaw, testified to death of James Abbott and that Rosa Abbott had not remarried (page 52)

Preserve the PensionsSee what a great resource War of 1812 pension files are?! These pension files, which had never even been microfilmed before, are being digitized thanks to the Preserve the Pensions project. This project seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize and post online the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files.

You can help! Each dollar donated will digitize two images. Please visit the Preserve the Pensions page for more information. Preserve the Pensions is also on Facebook and on Twitter.

Bringing Genealogy Societies into the 21st Century: Recap

Federation of Genealogical Societies logoI just finished listening to the very first episode of “My Society,” a free weekly Internet radio show sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This week’s episode featured Curt Witcher, speaking on the topic of “Bringing Genealogical Societies into the 21st Century.” This fits very well with his keynote presentation at RootsTech: “The Changing Face of Genealogy.”

You can listen to the archived version for free at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/mysociety/2011/04/23/bringing-genealogy-societies-into-the-21st-century

The recurring theme through the episode was “high tech, high touch.” If societies want to be successful, they need to find ways to touch more people with their mission-centric activities. Technology for technology’s sake isn’t the answer, according to Curt. Taking what you’re good at and what is tied to your mission — whether it’s queries or publications, etc. — and using technology to touch more people with it is what will drive success.

Societies need to remember two things, according to Curt. When people engage in an activity, they want two things:

  1. They want to be successful.
  2. They want to enjoy themselves. (Yes, people want to have fun with genealogy!)

The Indiana Genealogical Society was given as an example. They publish news items and queries on their blog. They started a digitization program with a probate court; this project brought in over $2,400 in donations and grants. (What society wouldn’t like to have a project that brings in money?!) Their “biggest” success, in terms of bringing in new members, has been their “2 for 92″ program — where they set a goal of having on the IGS website at least 2 databases for each of Indiana’s 92 counties. They’ve met this goal and have 565 databases on their website! As Curt said, your society has to have a meaningful presence 24/7. It allows members to be successful and to enjoy themselves. With that much data, the Indiana Genealogical Society certainly does that!

One of the phrases used by both Curt and by Thomas MacEntee, the host of My Society, was “If you’ve always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” (Which Curt added the follow-up: “And how is that working for you?”) “Always” and “never” should be red flags for things that need to be explored. Clearly, societies cannot keep doing things the same way they always have. This isn’t to say that everything needs to be dumped. (“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, certainly, but the bathwater does need to be changed” was how Curt put it.)

So how do we get our societies to change? First, you need new talent. Relying on the same core volunteers for everything only burns them out. Curt recommended looking beyond your society. Tap into other networks, whether it is your church, local convention and visitors bureau, local schools, etc.

One point that struck a chord with me was his observation, “We can’t allow perfection to be the obstacle of progress.” It will never be perfect. As soon as we embrace that fact, we can move on and have progress. Yes, things will need to be changed, but that’s ok. Along with that thought was one of my favorite quotes: “It will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.”

I think Curt and Thomas did an excellent job getting “My Society” off to a strong start.

My Society airs on Saturdays at 2:00 Eastern/1:00 Central.

(Disclosure: I am the webmaster for the Federation of Genealogical Societies. This post was written on my own time; I will receive no compensation for this post, nor was I asked to write it.)

Digitizing War of 1812 Pension Files

From the 12 April 2011 press release by the Federation of Genealogical Societies and iArchives:

iArchives today announced a collaboration with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) to digitize 180,000 pension applications, or an estimated 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 Pension Applications and Bounty Land Warrants. The collection will be available on iArchives’ military records website, Footnote.com, home of more than 72 million historical records.

The multi-year project will consist of scanning the pension files at the National Archives in Washington D.C. and creating a searchable index to the digital images. FGS has targeted the War of 1812 Pension Applications as a high priority project based on the value of the content for genealogists as well as the importance of preserving the fragile records.

“Our goal with any collaboration is to honor our nation’s heritage by preserving the records of our past,” said Patricia Oxley, President of FGS. “In the specific case of the War of 1812 pension records, there is an added priority due to their frail state where not acting may mean sacrificing these for future generations.”

With the burden of proof on the applicant to qualify for a pension, those applying proved participation in the war by including dozens of vividly descriptive pages.  Details recorded include military battle stories, service dates, mentions of fellow soldiers, family relations, marriages, widows’ maiden names and many other clues significant to researchers. The breadth of information allows the pension files to tell the richest story of that time period.

“The most popular database on Footnote.com today is the Revolutionary War Pensions which is very similar content,” said Brian Hansen, General Manager at Footnote.com. “Our users have been asking for the War of 1812 pension records for some time, and I expect this collection to be very popular based on the rich war time detail it contains.  We are pleased to make these records available for free on Footnote.com as a result of FGS fundraising efforts to subsidize the production cost.” [emphasis added — ajc]

FGS is proud to be leading the national fundraising to support this project and is actively seeking donations from genealogical and historical societies, patriotic and military heritage societies, as well as interested corporations and individuals.  iArchives is providing a dollar-for-dollar match of each donation through a provision of services. To learn more and contribute to the project, visitwww.fgs.org/1812.


Page from War of 1812 Pension of Henry Lightner, Pennsylvania. Image at ACPL Genealogy Center.

That’s pretty exciting stuff! I’ve used War of 1812 pension files and they can be fabulous resources. There are two things I’d like to point out:

  1. Did you catch that part about the images will be free on Footnote? Free. As in you won’t need to pay to see them.
  2. FGS is raising funds to pay for the production.

According to the “Preserve the Pensions” page on the FGS website, each dollar raised will digitize two images.

That’s already a good deal, but you can make each dollar of your donation digitize four images! How? Donate through the Indiana Genealogical Society. IGS will match donations between now and June 30, 2011 (up to a total of $10,000). So if you donate $10 through IGS, they’ll match it — making the total donation to Preserve the Pensions $20. Donate $100 and IGS will match it, for a total donation of $200.

Working together — it’s a wonderful thing!

Societies and Technology at FGS 2011

Federation of Genealogical Societies logoSince the recent RootsTech conference, a lot has been said about genealogical societies and their use (or non-use) of technology. Joan Miller has recapped Curt Witcher’s presentation at the Federation of Genealogical Societies luncheon on her blog. (Basically, societies must embrace technology or they’ve sealed their fate.)

The upcoming FGS conference in Springfield, Illinois (7-10 September) features a entire day devoted to society management topics. Several of this year’s society offerings address technology:

  • “21st Century Marketing Techniques for Genealogists/Genealogical Societies” ~ Thomas MacEntee
  • “Building an Effective Society Web Site” ~ Amy Johnson Crow
  • “Internet Collaborative Tools for Genealogical Societies” ~ Jane G. Halderman
  • “How to Manage a Large Genealogy Database Project” ~ Laura G. Prescott
  • “Engaging a New Generation of Genealogists” ~ D. Joshua Taylor
  • “Finally, a Society Website Anyone Can Manage” ~ Robert Raymond
  • “Printed vs. Online Publishing for Societies” ~ Donna M. Moughty
  • “Energize Your Society with an Indexing Project” ~ Jake Gehring

Join us in Springfield, Illinois for a great conference!

(Disclaimer: I am the FGS Webmaster and am a speaker at the 2011 FGS conference.)

Celebrating the 2nd War for Independence

While celebrating Independence Day this weekend, think about not only the American Revolution but also the 2nd War for Independence: the War of 1812.

Although England agreed to withdraw her troops as a condition of the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolution), British troops remained in territory claimed by the United States. Most were positioned near and around the Great Lakes, in places such as Detroit and present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh was successful in forging a pan-Indian confederation which worked with the British against the Americans. War was finally declared in 1812.

Ohio was key in the War of 1812. Not only was it the site of the pivotal American victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, but she also supplied numerous troops to aid the U.S. effort.

Surprisingly, the National Archives has never microfilmed the War of 1812 pension files. They are among the most-often requested records, with approximately 3,000 of them requested every year.

Preserve the PensionsRecently, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced a program — Preserve the Pensions! — which seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize these 7.2 million pages. The files have been prepared and the digital cameras are ready to roll. The only thing the National Archives needs is the funding.

You can help. Each dollar donated to Preserve the Pensions will digitize two pages of War of 1812 pension files. Further, FGS has reached an agreement with the National Archives so that the digitized images will be freely available on the Internet — not “trapped” in a website that you need to pay for.

So as you’re celebrating Independence Day, celebrate both of the wars for Independence and consider making a tax-deductible donation to Preserve the Pensions.

FGS Conference registration deadline — Friday!

The deadline to register online or by phone for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2008 Conference is this Friday, August 22 at 5:00pm CDT. After that, you will need to do a walk-in registration at the conference.

The conference is in Philadelphia, September 3-6. Details about the conference as well as online registration can be found at www.fgsconference.org.

See you in Philadelphia!